Guide Dogs for the Blind and The Seeing Eye Create Video to Help Airlines and Airports Assist Travelers Who Are Visually Impaired

Tue, May 18, 2021, 9:00 AM·6 min read
–Video with Pandemic Focus Supported by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) and The Seeing Eye (TSE) of Morristown, N.J., two of North America’s leading guide dog schools, have joined forces to create a training video to help airline and airport employees better assist travelers who are visually impaired, with a special focus on how to address the social distancing guidelines during the Pandemic.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

The video includes best practices and tips for assisting travelers who are blind or visually impaired, including navigating the airport and TSA while social distancing.

COVID-19 has been especially isolating for people who are blind or visually impaired, largely because the rules and aids for socially distancing have been communicated through directional arrows, signage, or taped-off measurements that guide dogs don’t understand or white canes can’t feel. This has made air travel exponentially harder for those who are blind or visually impaired, so GDB and TSE stepped in to help improve the travel experience for travelers who are blind by creating an instructional video for airlines and airports to train their employees.

The video includes best practices and tips for helping travelers who are blind or visually impaired, including:

  • How to provide superior service while interacting with them and their guide dogs
  • How to assist them in navigating the airport, while social distancing
  • How to help guide dog teams navigate TSA screening
  • How to provide guidance for boarding and exiting a plane
  • How to provide physical assistance that doesn’t violate social distancing guidelines

“Since the air travel industry already had so much to contend with during the pandemic, we wanted to share our expertise in a way that would help provide a safe and positive travel experience during and after the pandemic — not only for travelers who are blind but also for the airline and airport employees who serve them,” said Christine Benninger, president and CEO for Guide Dogs for the Blind. “This video is another example of how we have pivoted as an organization during the pandemic to better serve the blindness community.”

“This collaboration across industries is an important step in ensuring continued accessibility for travelers who are blind and visually impaired,” said Glenn Hoagland, president and CEO of The Seeing Eye. “As the response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we expect this educational video will be a lasting way to help facilitate the comfort and safety of both travelers and the professionals who work with them.”

In creating the video, GDB and TSE enlisted input and participation from guide dog users, as well as from employees at Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, the Port of Oakland, the Port of Newark, and the TSA teams at Oakland International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport. Alaska and United plan to begin sharing the video with their employees this summer.

“We are committed to providing the best service to our guests and appreciate the opportunity to work with Guide Dogs for the Blind and The Seeing Eye on this important video,” said Wayne Newton, vice president of airport operations and customer service, Alaska Airlines. “This video will be used to train our employees and ensure we are continuing the support of our guests who are blind and visually impaired in the best ways possible.”

“United strives to create an inclusive and accessible environment for our customers, employees and all those we proudly serve,” said Jessica Kimbrough, the airline’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. “The pandemic has reshaped travel in many ways and working alongside organizations like Guide Dogs for the Blind and The Seeing Eye helps ensure our customers will continue to have a safe and enjoyable experience.”

About Guide Dogs for the Blind

Headquartered in San Rafael, Calif., Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) is the largest guide dog school in North America. It is a passionate community that prepares highly qualified guide dogs to empower individuals who are blind or visually impaired to move through the world more safely and confidently. More than 15,000 guide teams have graduated from GDB since it was founded in 1942. GDB not only improves mobility for its clients, but it also furthers inclusion and advocates for policy reforms that change how the world views blindness. All of GDB’s services are provided free of charge, and it receives no government funding. The organization was the subject of an award-winning 2018 documentary feature called Pick of the Litter, which was developed into a television docu-series by the same name that debuted in 2019 on Disney+. For more information, visit, or call 800.295.4050.

About The Seeing Eye

Established in 1929, The Seeing Eye provides specially bred and trained dogs to guide people who are blind. Seeing Eye dog users experience greatly enhanced mobility and independence, allowing them to retain their active lifestyles despite blindness. The Seeing Eye is a 501(c)3 non-profit supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, bequests, and other planned gifts. The Seeing Eye is a trademarked name and can only be used to describe the dogs bred and trained at the school’s facilities in Morristown, N.J. If you would like more information on The Seeing Eye, please visit the website at, call 973.539.4425, or email

About Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and its regional partners serve more than 120 destinations across the United States and to Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica, providing essential air service for our guests along with moving crucial cargo shipments, such as food, medicine, mail, and e-commerce deliveries. With hubs in Seattle; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; and Anchorage, the airline is known for low fares, award-winning customer service and sustainability efforts. With Alaska and its Global Partners, guests can earn and redeem miles on flights to more than 800 destinations worldwide. Learn about Alaska’s award-winning service at and Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air are subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK).

About United Airlines

United’s shared purpose is “Connecting People. Uniting the World.” For more information, visit, follow @United on Twitter and Instagram or connect on Facebook. The common stock of UAL is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol “UAL”.


Barbara Zamost, GDB
(415) 389-0210

Michelle Barlak, TSE
(585) 329-4317

2021 NFB of PA Silent Auction Now Open

Our NFB of Pennsylvania 2021 Silent Auction is Now Live! Come on over to our silent auction to bid on a number of outstanding baskets full of goodies, gift cards, and even a getaway!

If you are attending our convention in person then you can inspect these baskets first-hand during our talent show and silent auction from 7PM to 10PM on Friday, November 12. We will ship the baskets to winners who are not attending in person, so everyone is included in the opportunity to score big on these baskets.

The silent auction will close after the talent show on Friday, November 12, so do not delay checking out our auction and placing your bids. The money we raise will go toward our many programs that help blind children, students, parents, seniors, and others live the lives they want.

Here is the link to our silent auction web page:

Let the bidding begin!!!

Democracy Live In PA

Hello Fellow Blind Voters in PA,

Please Join Us For This Most Important Demonstration!!!

We are excited to share the below demonstration sponsored by Democracy Live. The Founder/CEO, Bryan Finney, and Director of Outreach will be hosting a demonstration for the OmniBallot on Thursday evening, at 8:00 PM, specifically for the state of Pennsylvania, as the voting process varies from state to state. Any blind voter living in Pennsylvania is welcome.

Requesting an accessible mail-in or absentee ballot:

Zoom Meeting

Topic: PA OmniBallot Demo
Time: Oct 15, 2020 05:00 PM Pacific Time / 8:00 PM Eastern

Host: Charlie Kinnune
Co-Host: Bryan Finney

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 973 5979 5580
Passcode: 333983

For Audio

    +1 253 215 8782 

One tap mobile


I am looking forward to seeing all of you at this Zoom presentation,

Lynn Heitz

2020 Election Materials NOW AVAILABLE on NFB-NEWSLINE

We are pleased to offer 2020 Election materials, available to all subscribers, including subscribers who reside in non-sponsored states. The section includes “Candidate 2020 Searches,” a collection of several searches for “Biden” and “Trump” which scan the top hundred newspapers, breaking news, international newspapers, and magazines, in addition to information collected from the websites of each candidate. It also includes the “States Voting Guide 2020” which lists voting procedures and deadlines by state. To access this information on a telephone, select option 1 off the main menu, followed by option 2 for the election 2020 materials. If you are using the NFB-NEWSLINE mobile app, first select “All Publications” followed by either “Candidate 2020 Searches”, “States Voting Guide 2020”, “Joe Biden Campaign” or “Donald Trump Campaign”.

For each candidate, there is a bio section, as well as sections relating to their platforms and issues, coalitions, and recent news. Also available are the NFB’s own Guide for Blind and Low Vision Voters and Voting Guide for Young People who are Blind or Visually Impaired. For subscribers using Web News on Demand, select “Publications Organized Alphabetically” and locate the one you are interested in.

We hope that you enjoy this new offering and it provides valuable information to you.

National Federation of the Blind | | 866-504-7300 |

U.S. judge orders last-minute ballot change to aid blind voters in Pa.’s primary election set for Tuesday

May 29, 2020 – 8:23 AM
By Matt Miller |

Just days before Tuesday’s primary election, a federal judge has ordered Pennsylvania officials to make a last-minute albeit “imperfect” change to enable blind and vision-impaired people to effectively cast their ballots.

U.S. Middle District Judge Jennifer P. Wilson ‘s decision requires the Department of State to provide “Accessible Write-In Ballot” forms that will allow those voters to cast ballots by mail and avoid going to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic.

That means visually impaired voters will have the same option as other voters who can avoid the polls and the risk of COVID-29 contagion.

Wilson issued her ruling a week after the National Federation of the Blind filed a civil rights suit against the state, claiming the mail-in ballots being provided for the primary were not adequate for blind voters and so breached their voting rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The federation said it had been warning state officials about the problem for months.

Wilson granted the group’s request for a preliminary injunction requiring the state to provide suitable ballots for its constituents. She did not, however, order state officials to use the ballot preferred by the federation.

The federation lobbied for use of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act ballot that is available to military personnel stationed outside the U.S. That ballot was used by Michigan when it had to make a last-minute adaptation for the blind during its primary last month.

Wilson said the tight time frame makes the Accessible Write-In Ballot the better option for Pennsylvania. “The court believes it is more equitable to order a feasible and moderately adequate remedy over no remedy at all,” she wrote.

The case isn’t over. Both sides will keep arguing before Wilson to come up with a long-term solution to the voting issue.

Mail-in ballots spur fears in Pa. ELECTION 2020

Staff and wire reports | The Reading Eagle, May 29, 2020

Some county and state officials are warning that a flood of mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania, fueled by fears of in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic, will cause problems in Tuesday’s primary election that must be fixed before they cause a disaster in November’s presidential election.

They are warning that there will be no way to produce timely election results in November unless the law changes to allow counties to process mailed-in ballots before Election Day. Even in Tuesday’s relatively low turnout primary election, election night results might be unlikely in closely contested races, they say.

“No one wants to be in the situation where the U.S. presidential race is coming down to Pennsylvania and there is a week or two delay on us in delivering a victor,” said state Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia.

Boyle plans to sponsor legislation to give counties more time to process the ballots, starting the Saturday before the election.

Boyle, with support from county election directors, pushed for a similar change in March when lawmakers voted to delay the primary election by five weeks to June 2. However, it lacked support from Republicans who control the House and Senate majorities.

Of more immediate concern is the question of whether voters can mail their ballots back to county election offices in time to be counted in Tuesday’s primary election. The deadline in state law is 8 p.m. that night.

But some ballots are still in the mail to voters, less than a week before the primary election. A U.S. Postal Service spokesperson said most first-class mail is delivered in two to five days, but the Postal Service recommends that voters mail their ballots at least one week before the deadline to have them delivered to county election officials.

Montgomery County asked the state Commonwealth Court for an emergency order Wednesday granting seven additional days for ballots postmarked no later than Election Day to arrive and be counted. Other efforts to that effect in lower courts have failed.

Some counties are working to provide alternatives, such as posting drop boxes in strategic locations, to voters who have not mailed in their ballots.

Count unclear

More than 1.8 million voters have requested a mail-in or absentee ballot, according to state officials. More than 730,000 have been returned, state figures show.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s top elections official, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, said her estimate for the number of applications had been “blown out of the water” and that she at least hoped to work with lawmakers to change the law before the November election.

Lisa Schaefer, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, said county election directors had been unified in urging state lawmakers to let them process mailed-in ballots before election day, even before the pandemic hit.

“We need to adjust our expectations that it’s going to be possible to have final results in the same manner that we’ve become accustomed to, unless we change the law for the general and future elections,” she said.

Tuesday is the first election in Pennsylvania in which the option of no-excuse mail-in ballots are available to voters following a sweeping election reform law signed in October by Wolf.

Rep. Garth Everett, R- Lycoming, who chairs the House committee that handles election issues, said the primary election will have to serve as a test tube of sorts for how counties can handle all the mail-in ballots.

The idea to let counties process mailed-in ballots before Election Day has run into concerns from Republicans that vote totals would leak out early, Everett said.

Everyone may need to get used to a longer wait time to get an election result, Everett said, and any problems in the primary election may solidify support among Republicans to change the law before November’s presidential election.

“This is going to be our experiment to see what we may need to fine-tune for the fall,” Everett said.

Accessibility at issue

Also, the Pennsylvania Department of State announced Thursday that it will provide accessible write in ballots to voters with disabilities who request one, in order to allow “blind and low-vision voters to vote privately and independently in Tuesday’s primary,” according to a press release.

A U.S. District Court judge issued an order on Wednesday mandating that the department offer an accessible write-in primary ballot for voters with disabilities who request one, the release said.

The Disability Rights Pennsylvania organization said a lawsuit spurring the preliminary injunction “alleges that Pennsylvania violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act by denying equal access to the absentee and mail-in ballot process to blind voters. The paper ballots used by Pennsylvania do not allow blind votes to vote secretly and independently, like other voters, and instead requires them to rely on sighted third-parties for assistance.”

Voters with disabilities can use screen reader software to vote at home, print their voted ballot and return it to their county elections office, the organization said, adding that “plaintiffs will press for an online ballot system that is fully accessible to blind voters for use in all future elections beginning in November 2020.”

Blind Pennsylvanians Win Victory on Absentee Voting

State Ordered to Implement System Allowing the Blind to Cast Absentee and Mail-in Ballots Privately and Independently

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (May 28, 2020): A federal district judge has ordered the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to provide an accessible write-in ballot (AWIB) to blind Pennsylvania voters for the June 2 primary election. The ruling is a victory for Joseph Drenth, a blind Chalfont resident, who fears going to his local polling place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Drenth’s immune system is slightly compromised, and his wife and mother-in-law, with whom he lives, both have asthma and complicating factors.

The Honorable Jennifer P. Wilson, district judge for the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, issued a temporary restraining order after a Wednesday hearing in the lawsuit that Mr. Drenth and the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania (NFB-PA) filed last week. The court’s order requires the state to provide blind voters with a list of the candidates on the ballot for their voting district along with an accessible electronic form on which they can type in their choices for each office. Blind Pennsylvania voters who wish to use the AWIB must request the accessible form by no later than 8PM on Friday, May 29. Eligible voters must have applied for an absentee or mail-in ballot by the May 26, 2020 deadline, and not yet have submitted a paper ballot. The AWIB must be submitted along with a declaration and a valid identification number. Voters must return their AWIB materials by first-class mail or hand-delivery to the County Board of Elector’s office in the voter’s jurisdiction by no later than 8:00 p.m. on June 2, 2020.

More details are available in this press release from the Pennsylvania Department of state.

The lawsuit, which will continue in order to resolve the question of accessible absentee and mail-in ballot solutions for elections later this year, alleges violations of Title II of the Americans with disabilities act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973. The plaintiffs were represented by Disability Rights Pennsylvania and Brown Goldstein Levy LLP.

“Although this temporary solution is not ideal, we commend Judge Wilson for ruling expeditiously, for making it clear that commonwealth officials must respect the rights of blind voters, and for recognizing that the status quo was unacceptable,” said Lynn Heitz, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. “In light of this ruling and the judge’s clear direction at the hearing, we hope that the commonwealth will work quickly with us to identify and implement a fully ADA-compliant voting solution for future elections.”


About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at


Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

Blind Voters in Pennsylvania Win Court Challenge On Road to Fully Accessible Mail-In Voting and Receive Immediate Relief for June 2 Primary Election

Please Note:

When you send an email to the address listed below to request your accessible write-in ballot, please add the following as a carbon copy (CC recipient of the email:
We need to track how many individuals make this request. Thank you very much.

For Immediate Release

May 28, 2020

Harrisburg, PA | On May 27, 2020, a federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction requiring Pennsylvania to provide an accessible option to blind voters who want to vote by mail for the primary election on June 2.

The lawsuit, Joseph Drenth and the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania v. Secretary Kathryn Boockvar and the Department of State of Pennsylvania, 20-cv-00829 (M.D. Pa.), alleges that Pennsylvania violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act by denying equal access to the absentee and mail-in ballot process to blind voters. The paper ballots used by Pennsylvania do not allow blind votes to vote secretly and independently, like other voters, and instead requires them to rely on sighted third-parties for assistance.

This violation of blind voters’ civil rights is particularly harmful for the upcoming June 2, 2020 primary since blind voters, like many others, do not want to risk their health and that of their loved ones by voting in person in crowded polling places. Plaintiffs filed a motion to require Pennsylvania to adopt an interim solution to provide accessible absentee and mail-in ballots to blind voters so they can vote in the June 2 primary.

Following a hearing yesterday, the court determined that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits because they “have been denied the benefits of a public program – in this case the ability to vote privately and independently without being physically present at a polling location – because of their disability.” Mem. at 12. The court also held that plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury without a preliminary injunction “because they are effectively forced to choose between forfeiting their right to vote privately and independently or risking their health and safety by traveling to a polling place to vote in person.” Mem. at 13.

To obtain an accessible write-in ballot, an individual must:

  1. Be an eligible Pennsylvania voter who applied for an absentee or mail-in ballot by the May 26, 2020, deadline and has not yet submitted their voted ballot.
  2. Submit an email request to for the accessible write-in ballot by 8 p.m. on May 29, 2020 . Include in the email the voter’s full name, date of birth and address where registered.
  3. Complete an accessible declaration electronically sent to them by the department and authenticate the declaration with a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license, a valid Pennsylvania state personal identification number or the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number.

The department will electronically transmit via email to the requesting voter: (1) an accessible write-in ballot; (2) an accessible declaration form; (3) accessible instructions; (4) an accessible candidate list for the voter’s election district; and (5) a write-in envelope.

Using their screen reader software, voters with disabilities can then vote in the privacy of their own homes, print their voted ballot and return it to their county elections office. Their county must receive their voted ballot by 8 p.m. on June 2. A postmark is not sufficient.

The lawsuit will continue, and Plaintiffs will press for an online ballot system that is fully accessible to blind voters for use in all future elections beginning in November 2020.

Kelly Darr, Legal Director for Disability Rights Pennsylvania and co-counsel with Brown Goldstein & Levy, LLP for Plaintiffs, said that “We understand this is not an optimally accessible solution, but it is an option for blind voters to vote in secrecy and independently who otherwise might have had to vote in person – or forego voting altogether – during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania and their counsel expect to secure a fully accessible online ballot process in time for the November general election.”

For questions or comments, please contact: