August Perspective from the President
Greetings, Fellow Federationists,
We have a plan for the Federation coming out of our national convention, which I think was one of our best yet. We have so much momentum. Last month flew by—we were involved in so many events and activities.
Fifty-four of our Federation staff were at convention, and I want to thank them for their work. They’re essential to making the convention what it is, and a lot of the behind-the-scenes work happens because of them.
Convention couldn’t happen at the scale it does without the hundreds of members that jump in to help, whether by serving as talking signs, helping out in the hallways, working in the exhibit hall, helping with crowd management, assisting in and around the ballroom, running door prizes, and answering questions from first timers. The hundreds of members jumping in as part of the work team at national convention make it a success.
I want to give another very heartfelt thank you to our Texas affiliate; they brought hospitality to a new level. So much work went into hosting the convention. Our Texas affiliate did a great job, and I can't wait until a future opportunity to go back.
If you participated in convention—either in-person or virtually—I urge you to fill out our Convention Feedback Survey (Encuesta en español). You can also access it via our touch-tone telephone system. To complete the survey by phone, call 229-623-7878. You’ll need to fill out the survey in one session to submit it. You can use the keypad to pause your session for up to five minutes, and you can also get help through the keypad system. If you're unable to get to the survey online, I encourage you to fill it out via phone. Get your feedback in this month so that it's fresh in your mind. We’ll use that data to plan for our 2024 National Convention.
The 2023 National Convention highlights are available on our website, at NFB.org/convention. There were so many great presentations. If you missed any of them, you should go back and look them up. You can also find them on our YouTube channel.
We announced that our 2024 National Convention will be happening in Orlando, Florida, at the Rosen Center July 3-8. I look forward to being with you all again in Florida next year for another outstanding convention.
Norma Crosby, our Texas affiliate president, asked me to represent the Federation by throwing out the first pitch at an Astros game on July 7—the day after convention. Having so many Federationists in attendance and publicly recognizing the organization was great. I heard our section cheering from the field there at the Juicebox in Houston. Here’s how the first pitch announcement sounded from the PA system at the ballpark. We’ve enriched it with a little embellishment from our own Will Schwatka.
On Tuesday, July 25, the United States Access Board conducted its quarterly meeting and public commentary session at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. It was open to the public, and we had a very full house. We gave them a tour of our national headquarters and discussed our priorities and what we need them to push on related to equal access. The Access Board meeting and town hall were recorded and are available on the United States Access Board's YouTube channel.
We talked about rideshare discrimination at convention, and Uber talked to us about the commitments they’re attempting to make. We had members of ours denied by Ubers in Houston. On July 27, Uber held a listening session with members of the Federation regarding members’ concerns. There will be another one on August 16, 8:30-9:30 p.m., eastern.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has significant enforcement power under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We want our members to use the DOJ’s power to help push rideshare companies to end discrimination. We encourage members who are denied rides to file complaints with the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ for each separate incident. We create change by documenting what is happening and need you to consider and file complaints for each incident. You can do that by filling out the DOJ form.
When you finish this multi-page complaint form, you should download or print the confirmation page. It will contain a record number and your responses to the questions. The email confirmation doesn’t contain your responses. We ask members to forward the email confirmation of the complaint, along with the record number, to [email protected]. We are talking with both the DOJ and the rideshare companies about discrimination against blind people. Clear documentation allows us to be more effective when holding these companies accountable and will encourage the DOJ to use its muscle in affecting change. Your actions make a difference, even if you don’t feel it immediately.
Also on July 25, the United States Department of Justice announced that it has sent a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) related to the ADA and Title II website regulations. We’ve been asking for these regulations since 2010, and they’re finally coming out in the Federal Register. We’ll review them and will file official comments related to the Title II website regulations.
This does not mean we should stop our advocacy in Congress. We should definitely keep the heat on. But we're also going to be actively involved in this effort. If you have expertise in website accessibility, and if you want to provide input as to what our comments should be, please reach out to John Pare, our executive director for Advocacy and Policy at [email protected].
July 26 was the anniversary of the ADA. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Innovation held a public hearing about autonomous vehicles. I was honored to testify on the perspectives of the National Federation of the Blind. I talked about the importance of accessible autonomous vehicle technology and the impact of that work on people with disabilities. I was the only individual with a disability on that panel. The representatives asked thoughtful questions about the frameworks that Congress should put into place to guide the development of this technology. You can access the full hearing here—my remarks start at about minute 46. The hearing goes on long after that.
Also on July 26, John Pare represented us at the White House while discussing website accessibility and talking a little bit about the importance of the release of the NPRM.
I encourage chapters and affiliates to start gearing up for our activities happening in October—Blind Equality Achievement Month. It's a great time to concentrate our energy on educating the public about blindness. You can get your ideas and inspiration from all over the Federation. If you need one source, nfb.org/blindmonth would be a good place to start. Our chapters come up with very innovative ways to spread the word about the Federation and our work. Our future Museum of the Blind People's Movement could be a source of inspiration for this year's Blind Equality Achievement Month. It's a great time to gather and tell stories of the blind people who have made this movement what it is, who have impacted local communities.
I look forward to our next opportunities to be together. The fall state conventions are already starting in a couple weeks, so it will be a busy time leading to the end of the year. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!