News & Upcoming Events

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:

NFB of PA White Cane Coffee Fundraiser

Helping the affiliate has now become as easy as drinking your morning cup of coffee!! As featured at the 2019 State Convention, White Cane Coffee and the National Federation of the Blind of PA are working together.

Purchase your coffee here:

10% of the sales will come back to us – the NFB of PA – so we can continue to help our fellow blind and increase our programs for our seniors, students, and children!

Spread the word!

Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services (BBVS) Position Paper

A few months ago, a group of people representing the blindness-related organizations in Pennsylvania, led by Steve Pennington of the Client Assistance Program, wrote a position paper for keeping the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) strong and independent. This paper presented the arguments against merging BBVS into the general disability vocational rehabilitation program. For those of you who will be attending the NFB of Pennsylvania convention in person or via the stream, Steve Pennington will be referring to this position paper in his presentations about how to help BBVS accomplish its purpose of helping blind and visually-impaired individuals attain employment.

NFB 4th Annual Blind Womens Empowerment Conference

“Sister to Sister, Heart to Heart”


Bringing to you an awesome panel of diverse blind women along with dynamic keynote speaker, Denise Avant. These talented sisters will be telling it to you from their hearts to your hearts. Get ready to be dazzled, rejuvenated, and inspired to live the life you want.

                        Pepco Edison Place Gallery

Thursday, October 31, 2019
10:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
Ticket Price: $25.00

702 8th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
[Nearest Metro Station is Gallery Place 9th & G St.]

All Women Are Welcome

  • To RSVP or for more information contact Libra Robinson at (202) 427-3600 or email no later than October 24, 2019
  • All sales are final/no refunds

NFB4th Annual Blind Womens Empowerment Conference flyer (Word Document)

2019 NFB of PA State Convention Announcement

National Federation of The Blind of Pennsylvania
2019 State Convention
The Radison Hotel and Conference Center
1150 Camp Hill bypass, Camp Hill, PA 17011
800 – 333 – 3333

Friday, November 1 – Sunday, November 3, 2019

Reserve your room at the hotel now! Call the hotel at (800) 333-3333
A special room rate of $89.00 is available for convention attendees from Wednesday, October 30th through Sunday, November 3rd
FOR MORE INFORMATION call Joseph Drenth, Convention Chair, at (215) 827 7787 or e-mail
Please register online at


Friday Events:

  • Technology Seminars, Roundtable Discussions, and Breakout Sessions
  • Exhibit Hall
  • Meetings of Blind Students, Parents of Blind Children, Deafblind/Hearing-Impaired, and Guide Dog Users.
  • Resolutions Committee Meeting
  • State Board Meeting
  • Hospitality
  • Auction (donations requested)

Saturday Events:

  • Report from the National Representative (TBD)
  • Interesting speakers, presentations, and panels
  • Banquet Saturday Evening

Sunday Events:

  • Chapter Sharing Breakfast
  • State Business Meeting
  • Adjourn at Noon

Convention Online Registration

You can now register for the 2019 NFB of Pennsylvania Convention. If you register before midnight on September 30, the price of registration is only $15. On October 1, the registration price rises to $25, so do not delay. The meal prices will remain the same. For detailed information about the convention, please visit the Convention page. Register Now!

CALL TO ACTION to preserve independent blindness services in Pennsylvania

We need your help right now to preserve blindness services in Pennsylvania. The Secretary of Labor and Industry is considering doing away with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and rolling those services into the general disability services bureau. If this happens, all of the services now provided by BBVS will be in jeopardy, including individualized vocational rehabilitation, Independent Living Older Blind, Business Enterprise Program, and specialized services for children and adults.

Please email the Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry, Mr. Jerry Oleksiak, at to request that he immediately stop considering this merger and that he not ignore the unique needs of blind and visually impaired individuals. You can also say that the blind and visually-impaired community of Pennsylvania does not deserve to be treated like second-class citizens

When you email Secretary Oleksiak, please copy Joe Drenth, on the email.

Also, please contact Governor Tom Wolf to express the same sentiments. You can call his office at 717-787-2500 or you can complete an online form to submit your comments electronically at

Finally, you should also contact your state representatives to tell them about this issue and to ask them to do everything in their power to preserve independent blindness services. Meeting with them in person is the best way to reach them, but commenting on their social media channels and sending them phone and email messages are good ideas, as well.

Thank you for taking action on this important issue right away. You should contact these people as often as possible, even every day, so they cannot ignore the problem.

Here is more background information:

The idea of doing away with Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) and lumping those services under the general disability vocational rehabilitation services bureau (BVRS) has been mentioned several times recently by the Secretary of Labor and Industry and by the Acting Executive Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), under which BBVS and BVRS currently exist as independent bureaus.

This idea of merging the bureaus has been around for a long time, but it is being talked about by these individuals and a few others more and more frequently over the past months, such as at State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation meetings, Blindness Enterprise Program meetings, and several other events. Their increasing focus on this plan is alarming and should not be allowed to continue.

Although OVR’s official position is that no decision has been made to merge these services, they are doing more and more planning behind the scenes in preparation for taking this drastic step. They use the argument that this change would save money, but no reports or information is available that backs up this claim. Even if it saved a little money, we cannot allow them to continue considering this option in their numbers game to get OVR out of its budget shortfall. There are many other ways to save far more money that do not damage the lives and livelihoods of thousands of blind and visually-impaired Pennsylvanians.