Appropriation for the Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA) to Education, Public Information, and Commerce

To: Members of the Maryland General Assembly
From: Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland

Contact: Sharon Maneki, President
National Federation of the Blind of Maryland
9013 Nelson Way
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: 410-715-9596

Subject: Appropriation for the Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA) to Education, Public Information, and Commerce
Date: January 18, 2018


The Maryland General Assembly should keep the $250,000 appropriation in the Governor’s Budget for the CENA to Education, Public Information, and Commerce.


In 2014, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) founded the NFB Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA). The CENA is a center of expertise, best practices, and resources that enables business, government, and educational institutions to more effectively provide accessible information and services to blind citizens. The State of Maryland, through the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), partners with the CENA to support a series of projects under the Nonvisual Accessibility Initiative (NVAI) with an aim to establish Maryland as a leader in nonvisual accessibility.



The “Final Report of the Study on Accessibility Concepts in Computer Science, Information Systems and Information Technology Programs in Higher Education,” was submitted to the governor and to the General Assembly on August 8, 2017. This report recommended that three annual fellowships be awarded to instructors that include accessibility concepts within at least one course offering in their institution. The NFB will administer and coordinate the Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship program.


The NFB will coordinate and host a multi-day hackathon (a forum where groups of individuals come together for creative problem solving) focused on accessibility and consisting of coding projects, innovative integration of assistive technologies, and accessibility policy. The goal of the Accessibility Hackathon is to provide an opportunity for the community of individuals committed to accessibility to learn new strategies and techniques, while fostering innovation.



The HathiTrust is a consortium of institutions offering more than eleven million titles digitized from around the world. The NFB will build on the information gathered from the initial pilot project to determine how to expand and better deliver the content offered through the HTDC (HathiTrust Digital Consortium). We will explore partnerships toward the development of policies and standards that will allow the sharing of this content.


The NVAI has contributed to a number of informal accessibility-specific boutiques and training seminars. The boutiques are several hours long and are open to the public at no cost to Maryland citizens. The larger training seminars are more intensive and can take place over several days. The intended impact is to increase accessibility awareness and the knowledge of educators, government administrators, businesses, and others about the tools and training they can use to better provide nonvisual access to their programs and services.


The Accessibility Switchboard is a dynamic online accessibility portal that provides up-to-date information to consumers about accessible websites, emerging technology, and frequently encountered accessibility problems/solutions; and also provides information specific to government, corporate, and educational institutions on building accessible websites. The NFB will continue the development of this resource.


Emerging nonvisual access navigation or wayfinding technologies offer orientation and information solutions to a variety of public and commercial venues, including public transportation information. As Maryland reinvests in its infrastructure the time is right to ensure nonvisual access to public spaces for its diverse populace by implementing the use of nonvisual wayfinding technologies. In FY2019, we will be assisting with the installation of preferred wayfinding solutions in a variety of public spaces.


Access to information remains one of the greatest barriers faced by blind persons. To reduce these barriers the National Federation of the Blind established the CENA to provide information about best practices and to develop innovative techniques for achieving nonvisual access. The Maryland General Assembly should allow this state-of-the-art program to continue by approving the $250,000 appropriation in the Governor’s Budget under the Maryland Department of Disabilities.