December Perspective from the President: Internships, Washington Seminar, and More

Mark Riccobono stands in front of a mosaic of the National Federation of the Blind logo and tagline live the life you want.

December Perspective from the President: Internships, Washington Seminar, and More

By Mark Riccobono

Greetings, fellow Federationists,

December at the Jernigan Institute is busy each year. We had our Board of Directors meeting, and the Board of Directors of the Jacobus tenBroek Memorial Fund. We had a celebration for our supporters. We also hosted the Maryland affiliate holiday party, and we have the training for our NFB STEM2U program coordinators. Suffice it to say that we have a lot to do before closing out a very successful 2023, and starting to implement our active plans for 2024. That extends to each and every one of you in the Federation, because we have some opportunities before the end of the year. I want to start with that.

We have just learned that there could be an opportunity here at the end of the year for a tax package to be advanced through Congress and be included in the National Defense Authorization Act. And this presents a great opportunity for us to attach the Access Technology Affordability Act to this package. In order to do that, we will need to take some immediate action to increase the number of cosponsors in both the House and the Senate so that it will get noticed and be top of mind when that package is put together. Our champions in Congress are for it, but having a robust number of cosponsors will help. The bill number in the House is H.R. 3702. And in the Senate, it is S. 1467. We should do what we can as soon as possible to get our members of Congress to cosponsor this bill before the end of the year and before this tax package is considered.

The Access Technology Affordability Act creates a $2,000 refundable tax credit for the use over a three-year period to purchase personal access technology. Of course, you can find the details on our website about the bill and our advocacy work for it. If you have questions or want to know some approaches you can take, you can reach out to Jeff Kaloc on our team here at the national office with those questions. Jeff can be reached at (410) 659-9314 extension 2206, or by email at [email protected].

Let's see if we can get a bill passed through Congress before the end of the year! That would be a nice New Year's wish.

Now, we are looking ahead to 2024, and in 2024, I'm happy to say that the National Federation of the Blind will be bringing back our summer internship program. It's been a number of years and we're really excited to be preparing to host interns in the summer of 2024. It's a tremendous opportunity to gain some valuable experience while contributing to the mission of the National Federation of the Blind right here at our national headquarters. Internships will run from June 3 to August 9th. That's ten weeks. And it will include work at our national convention in Orlando, Florida.

Applications will be due by March 15, 2024. Materials will need to be turned in in an accessible format. You will need a cover letter expressing why you are uniquely qualified to participate in an internship with the Federation.

We will also need a resume to be included with your current contact information, and we'll need at least two references and the email and phone number for those references so we can reach out to them. A condition of the internship is you will have to pass a successful background check. If you want more details about the internship, they will be posted to our website in the coming weeks and into January. But if you have immediate questions, you can contact Anil Lewis at [email protected] or at extension 2374 here at our national office. We anticipate selecting our 2024 summer intern class by April 12. Really looking forward to that. The interns always ask some great questions and get us thinking about new ways to carry out the mission of the organization.

Let's dial it back even further. The first big thing in 2024 is our 2024 Washington Seminar! The 2024 Washington Seminar officially begins on Monday, January 29, 2024, with our annual Great Gathering-In meeting. Hotel reservation information can be found on our Washington Seminar page. Be sure to get your reservations in as early as possible, as rooms may fill up and you don't want to be left out. I know a lot of affiliates are already planning their delegations and the work of their delegations. Information on this year’s national legislative priorities will be posted to the website soon.

We take on advocacy in a number of ways. Everybody is cooking during the holidays, including blind people. And so we would like to take advantage of the newest appliances that make cooking easier or help create a culinary delight. However, too many of the new cooking appliances are inaccessible. The NFB In The Kitchen Group is launching a campaign to increase the accessibility of these emerging kitchen appliances. First, we would like to find out what accessible, or newly accessible devices, blind people are using. Starting in December 2023 and continuing through January 2024, the group is asking for blind people to share the names and manufacturers of kitchen devices they know are accessible.

In February 2024, the group will begin a campaign of identifying inaccessible appliances in order to encourage those manufacturers to work with us to make sure those devices are accessible. I love this. Let's start with the positive, what works, and use that as a motivator for those that don't.

You can be a part of the campaign by joining the NFB in The Kitchen Group listserv, which you can find on our listserv page. Or you can send an email to [email protected] and leave the subject and message body blank. You can also reach out to Regina Mitchell, the group chair. Her email address is [email protected].

This is a cool initiative and I would encourage you to participate. As someone who likes to cook, I'm always looking for new accessible gadgets. I think this is a great example of where the wisdom of the blind community can really make a difference in moving accessibility…

As we close this year and think about the next chapter that we're going to write in 2024, I would encourage us to focus on that positive energy that we are creating and use that as a source to document, write, record, amplify, post our stories so that we can take the normal that we set here and make that the normal for the rest of society in 2024. With that, I want to wish you the happiest of holidays, a fantastic new year, and let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.

You can access the full Presidential Release, including audio, Spanish translation, and transcript on our website.