Education Programs

The National Federation of the Blind of Illinois (NFBI) is sponsoring its 2023 BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy & Learning) Academies.

The NFB BELL Academy—which stands for National Federation of the Blind Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning®—helps blind and low-vision children, ages four through twelve, develop the literacy skills that will empower them to achieve their academic goals and live the lives they want. Receive Braille instruction and other nonvisual blindness skills through fun, hands-on learning. Take advantage of this opportunity for your child to connect with blind role models, students, and more!

BELL Academy Locations

Location 1: Chicago

The Chicago Lighthouse
1850 W. Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60631

July 17-28
8:30 AM – 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday

The NFB of Illinois will hold NFB BELL Academy at the Chicago Lighthouse July 17-28 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The registration fee is $50 per child. No transportation is provided, other than for field trips, parents will be responsible for transporting and picking up their child(ren) each day. Lunches will be provided. We plan to go on two field trips per week.

Location 2: Springfield

Venue Location TBD

July 31 through August 4, 2023
8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday

The NFB of Illinois will hold a NFB BELL Academy July 31 to August 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The registration fee is $50 per child. No transportation is provided, other than for field trips, parents will be responsible for transporting and picking up their child(ren). Lunches will be provided. For families who live outside the Springfield area, this is a residential program. Parents and their child(ren) will be provided with accommodations at a nearby Springfield hotel (close to the venue) at the expense of the NFB of Illinois. Parents will engage in activities during the day while their child(ren) participate in NFB BELL.

2023 BELL Academy Flyers

BELL Academy Newsletters

To read the BELL Academy newsletters, please visit the BELL Academy Newsletters page.

hear from one of our BELL parents

Dear BELL Contributor,

Thank you so much for your support of the BELL program. This was the third year we attended with our daughter, who is completely blind, and every year we take away something new to be better parents and teachers to her. We are so fortunate to be able to participate in this amazing program and learn first hand about new technology, preparing for college, getting a guide dog, and so much other invaluable information from sources we normally wouldnt have access too. Every year our family looks forward to returning and seeing the mentors and friends we’ve made over the years during this journey. Thank you again for all you do and for giving us this wonderful opportunity.

Ash-lee and Family

Thomas Howe’s BELL speech given during 2019 NFBI State Convention

Hello, my name is Thomas. I am a sixth grader and I am visually impaired, I have a rare disease called Retinoschisis. It’s a macular degenerative disease.

This is my third year attending the WONDERFUL Bell Academy. I have really enjoyed it every year I come. I always learn lots of new things (Braille/O&M). It teaches unfamiliar ideas to me and I love it! I really do love to learn.

Bell has given me the confidence to show others how much I enjoy learning (Braille and Print). My favorite part of Bell has always been the blindfolded activities. I also love the field trips we do every year. Of course! Without Bell I would not be as confident with my cane, braille, and street crossing skills. Bell Academy has helped me achieve goals in braille and discover new things about myself, I didn’t even realize. And make new, great friends.

Thank you Ms. Amy and Ms. Lauren for continuing this extremely fantastic program, and all the excellent, dedicated volunteer mentors, Mr. Bill, Katie, Sara, and Alyssa. You guys have made things possible that I didn’t know were options.

NFB Code of Conduct & NFBI Sexual Abuse & Molestation Policy

The National Federation of the Blind Code of Conduct and the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois Sexual Abuse & Molestation Policy will apply to our gatherings during the BELL Academy.

BELL Academy Sponsorship Request for 2023

You Can Help Sponsor This Summer’s BELL Academy
From Ice Cream to T-Shirts, Braille Paper to Pizza

Please consider the opportunity to help sponsor some part of the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy this summer in Chicago and Springfield.

The BELL Academy is a one to two-week program for vision impaired and blind children ages 4 through 12, many of whom have had minimal exposure to braille. The program presents opportunities to enhance braille and blindness skills. Instruction in activities of daily living furthers the children’s independence and self-sufficiency. Blind mentors and volunteers provide excellent role models, keeping expectations high and proving that blindness is not the characteristic that defines one’s future. All BELL Academy children receive a free white cane and a free slate and stylus from the National Federation of the Blind.

Please review and consider the following list of sponsorships. Thank you.

  • $200 Tee shirts for all participants
  • $200 Supplies for arts and crafts
  • $150 Christmas in July party with Santa
  • $100 Louis Braille birthday party
  • $100 Various games: Twister, Bingo, etc.
  • $30 Mid-week pizza party
  • $30 Braille paper
  • $20 Dark lined paper
  • $15 20/20 pens
  • $10 Snacks per day
  • $5 Water for each day

Sponsorship for Tactile Graphic Products

Competence in understanding and using tactile/raised-line illustrations is critical for blind children both for academic and expressive needs. Thanks to the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, each BELL Academy program will receive an InTact Sketch Pad electric eraser and all of the students will receive inTACT Sketchpads. The following three items promote this important but often less-recognized subject area.

  1. 4 or more Sensational Graphics Blackboards at $49.95. Here’s a short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxHt_QYMg8E
  2. 3D Doodler Pens, $100 each with “ink” strands. More packs of “ink strands” cost $12.00 for a 25-pack.
  3. InTact Sketch Pad paper: 100 sheets for $24.00

Note: We have received several sponsorships prior to this posting, and we thank those that have made the donation.

Once again, thanks for your interest and support to drive the BELL Academy vehicle along the road to literacy and learning for blind children. Together, with love, hope and determination, we transform dreams into reality.

Please make checks payable to NFB of Illinois and mail to:

Michal Nowicki, Treasurer
5128 N. Oak Park Ave.
Chicago, IL 60656

In the memo, please write “BELL.” Any sponsorship in any amount will be appreciated.

If you prefer to donate online using your credit/debit card or a PayPal account, please visit our Online Donations page.

Additional Information

To learn more about the NFB of Illinois BELL Academies and to register, visit the BELL Academy website. Or please contact Deborah Stein, our state BELL coordinator, at dkent5817@att.net or by phone at 773-203-1394.