The American Council of the Blind
(ACB) is a nation wide organization in the United States. It is an organization mainly made up of blind
people who want to achieve independence and equality (although there are many sighted members with common aims).
The American Council of the Blind was formed out of the dissolution of the Braille Free Press
Association in 1961
. Braille Free Press had been set up in 1959
and had probably been the widest-read publication for the blind. It was highly critical of the American Foundation for the Blind
, and the ACB was formed as an alternative to it. The ACB was also very critical of the National Federation of the Blind
which many of its first members had also originally belonged to, and relations between these two organizations have been strained since then, so much so that they have put their conventions at the same time some years in order to prevent people from being active in both organizations.
The ACB says its membership is in the "tens of thousands". Most of the membership came from affiliate organizations of which there are 71, although there are many direct members. Membership is open to any citizen/resident of the USA as well as interested peoples in other countries. The ACB says it "welcomes diversity" in its membership and it "is not restricted in any way." Each year, many of its members gather in a major American city for a convention. In 2006 it was held in Jacksonville, Florida
and in 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
The ACB has worked towards full civil rights
for the blind and has acted to achieve this. It prefers to act through negotiations but its members have taken part in demonstrations, marches, and other public acts to draw attention to the problem. Representatives from the ACB took part in the Solidarity March for labor and the national march in support of the Equal Rights Amendment
for women. They have marched with other disability rights groups down Pennsylvania Avenue
in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act
. The organization gives out scholarships to college students each year.
Lawsuit to make U.S. currency accessible
One example of the differences between the ACB and NFB concerns the question of making U.S. currency more accessible to blind persons. In 2002 the ACB filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury alleging it to be in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act on account of the Treasury's "repeated and continuing failures to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired people."
The National Federation of the Blind opposed the lawsuit, asserting in its Resolution 2002-25 that "blind people are apt to suffer great harm from the attendant publicity surrounding this suit, fostering and reinforcing the notion that the blind cannot easily handle currency as it now exists and, for example, needlessly creating an albatross around the neck of any blind person seeking employment in any position involving handling money."
On November 28, 2006, Judge James Robertson, trying the suit in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in the ACB's favor. Judge Robertson directed that a status conference be held in which the Treasury and the ACB would work together to devise a remedy. The Treasury appealed the decision.
On December 12, 2006, the NFB responded to the ruling with a press release asserting that "United States currency does not discriminate against blind people" and calling Judge Robertson's decision "dangerous and wrong."
On May 20, 2008, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld Judge Robertson's decision, ruling 2-1 that the United States does discriminate against blind people because its paper money consists of bills that are all the same size regardless of denomination. The ruling received widespread media coverage. The government may choose to appeal the decision to the full complement of D.C. Circuit judges, or it may appeal to the Supreme Court.