Connecting Blind Students Nationwide
The evolution of the National Alliance of Blind Students (NABS) into ACB Students is a tale of determination, growth, and a steadfast commitment to empowering blind and visually impaired students across the United States. The journey began in the early 1970s, a time of social change and burgeoning advocacy movements, with a group of visionary students at the forefront.
In 1973, at the 12th annual convention of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) in Knoxville, Tennessee, a pivotal moment in student-led advocacy for people who are blind took place. Matt Reilly, who had been leading an unchartered national coordinating committee of blind students since early 1972, saw the fruits of his and many others' labor come to fruition. A group of students from across a dozen states convened with a singular purpose: to formally organize and create a platform that would advocate for the rights, needs, and aspirations of blind students nationwide. After rigorous debates and discussions, they drafted a constitution, marking the official formation of the National Alliance of Blind Students (NABS). Ed Bradley, Gary Marshall, Gail Duchmann, Bernice Kandarian, and Jim Dobie were among the first elected officers, embodying the leadership and commitment to change that would define NABS for numerous years.
The following year, at the 13th ACB convention in Chicago, Illinois, the newly formed NABS was warmly welcomed alongside other new affiliates. This recognition was more than a formality but signified the importance of the student-led movement within the broader advocacy efforts for the blind and visually impaired community.
As time passed, the landscape of advocacy and the needs of blind students shifted. NABS recognized the need to adapt and grow; at some point, NABS became the American Council of the Blind Students (ACBS). Under the transformative leadership of Sarah Conrad and Minh Ha, ACBS embarked on a rebranding and redefining journey. This transitional period was marked by introspection and a recommitment to the core values that had always underpinned the organization's efforts: empowerment, inclusivity, and action.
The transition from ACBS to ACB Students (ACB Students) was more than updating our name. It symbolized a new era of student advocacy that responds to the changing dynamics of education, technology, and society. ACB Students retained the foundational spirit of NABS. They expanded its vision to encompass a broader range of issues affecting blind and visually impaired students, from accessibility and technology to education and employment.
Under ACB Students, the legacy of student enfranchisement and support initiated by NABS continues to flourish. We have become a vital part of the American Council of the Blind, championing the cause of blind students in higher education and mentoring younger students. Through seminars, mentorship programs, and advocacy initiatives, ACB Students works tirelessly to ensure that blind and visually impaired students have the resources, support, and opportunities needed for success.
The story of how NABS became ACB Students testifies to the power of student activism and the enduring impact of a community who dared to dream of a better future for blind students. It is a tale of continuity and change, honoring the past while boldly stepping into the future. ACB Students stands on the shoulders of giants, carrying forward the torch of advocacy, empowerment, and change for blind and visually impaired students nationwide.
Written by Lorise "Rise" Diamond, ACBS Scholarship winner (2014, 2016) and ACB member.
Megivern, James J., and Marjorie Megivern. 2003. People of Vision: A History of the American Council of the Blind. Bloomington, IN: American Council of the Blind.
"ACB Students has provided me with a close knit group of peers and mentors who guide, support, and motivate me in my academic and professional endeavors."
- Anonymous ACBS Member 2023
- Mar 03, 2024, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM ESTZoom (link below)Join our very own Emily “Myles” Nelson, a dedicated ACB Students board member, who facilitates a engaging discussion with guide dog school owners within our affiliate. Whether you're considering getting a guide dog or already have one, learn a guide dog can enhance your college experience!