November Perspective From The President: Milestones, Authenticity, Giving thanks, And More

Mark Riccobono stands in front of the entrance to the Jernigan Institute.

November Perspective From The President: Milestones, Authenticity, Giving thanks, And More

By Mark A. Riccobono

Greetings, fellow Federationists,

November 16 is the eighty-third anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind—an important milestone. This is an opportunity for us to look back on our progress and accomplishments, and to use those as inspiration for what we want to do going forward. Happy anniversary to all Federationists. I hope you take time to study the history of our movement and our accomplishments.

Netflix officially released "All the Light We Cannot See" to the public. It was originally a book, which they transformed into a four-part miniseries. What's really significant about this is that the Federation has been pushing for authentic representation of blind people on the big screen for some time. Netflix heard what we had to say, and they cast a blind person in the lead role for this miniseries. We have celebrated Netflix at our convention before, but I think this is a really important moment for authentic representation of blind people. I previewed all four episodes featuring Aria Loberti, the blind individual who plays the lead character. There are some other blind individuals involved in this as well. I encourage you to watch it. I think you will be impressed with the authentic representation of blind people and how Aria was able to influence the development of how the character was portrayed. A really great moment for us. There’s much progress to be made in terms of blind people in the performing arts, but I think this is a great one to celebrate.

We had some other great moments in October, which was Blind Equality Achievement Month. On October 17, Karla Gilbride was confirmed as the general counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She was confirmed by the United States Senate. Karla spoke at Convention this year. She's been a member of the National Federation of the Blind. She was one of our national scholarship winners, and I like to promote that she was, in her earlier days, a winner in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. When we talk about the fact that Braille readers are leaders, Karla is a living example of that and we wish her well. She will do a great job in representing the interests of blind people at the EEOC.

Our advocacy work also made great progress in October, but we still need to keep the pressure on to promote all of our bills in Congress. Let your members of Congress know about our legislative priorities and follow up with them to secure their support for our legislation. The more cosponsors we get, the better.

An op ed that I authored on voting accessibility was published in The Hill. Those concerned with voting security—and we all should be—often use security as an argument against full accessibility for voters with disabilities, especially when we talk about electronic ballot delivery and return. We believe that security and accessibility go hand in hand. Both are achievable in a nation that prides itself on technology innovation. I call out that op ed as something Federationists can use to advocate for voting accessibility in states and local communities.

I also want to thank all of our members and family members who have served in with the United States Armed Forces. A special thank you to our division: the National Association of Blind Veterans. They do a great job of connecting blind veterans and helping ensure that we continue to protect their rights and dignity. Learn more about our division here. Happy Veterans Day to all in our Federation family community who are veterans of military service.

This month we honor teachers through American Education Week. This is an important time in the Federation—we get to reach out to educators who support our blind children, professionals working in the blindness field, and celebrate the great work that they do. This includes our NFB training center staff. Thank you to those serving in those places for American Education Week.

Of course, as we get to the end of the month, we have the Thanksgiving holiday—an important time to reflect and come together. The Federation family is in my heart. It’s incredible that we’ve built this extended community of diverse individuals across the country who support each other. We can find support wherever we go. I encourage us to use this time of Thanksgiving to come together to reflect on this blessing.

You can access the full November Presidential release here.