An Address Delivered by
Mark A. Riccobono, President
At the Annual Convention
Of the National Federation of the Blind
New Orleans, Louisiana
July 8, 2022
During the past year, the strength of our determination and the power of our togetherness in the organized blind movement has transformed our challenges into opportunities. The blind of America have faced continued discrimination, limited access to critical information, and overwhelming barriers throughout society. These obstacles have persisted in a nation where all people have been isolated and where many systems have been significantly disrupted. But in the midst of these difficult times, the element that has made all the difference to the success of blind people has been our continued commitment to working together. We have not given up; we have continued to connect. We have not settled for second-class status; we have continued to protect our rights and responsibilities as Americans. We have not let others define us; we have continued to raise expectations. We are the National Federation of the Blind.
Our collective action has been essential in providing blind people with equal access as responses to the coronavirus have been developed. A primary example this year has been our effort to overcome the complete lack of accessibility to the Federal government’s COVID-19 at-home-testing program. Nonvisual access to COVID testing has been a persistent disappointment since March 2020. But when the president of the United States announced government support for free at-home tests in December 2021, we recognized an opportunity for change. We initially reached out to government agencies to determine if, for once, accessibility had been planned in advance. When we found that no agency had been given responsibility for the program, we wrote directly to the president on January 3, 2022.
In the meantime, we utilized Federation resources to provide immediate support to blind people. We quickly put government testing information on NFB-NEWSLINE®, along with the other COVID resources we have curated over the past two years. We purchased and evaluated the majority of the tests being distributed by the federal government, as well as other commercially available tests, and shared objective reports detailing the inaccessibility with the relevant government and industry leaders. Only two companies built some degree of accessibility into their products and actively engaged with us to make additional improvements. Let us raise a cheer for Cue Health and Ellume! Cue Health also made free testing units available to each of our Federation training centers and national headquarters so our blind staff could independently manage COVID testing in our programs. We subsidized the use of the Aira service for COVID at-home testing during the spring of this year. In addition, we assisted affiliates in leveraging resources of local health departments to advocate for accessibility.
Our letter to the White House was followed by many others that we sent to key federal agency officials and all of the federal contractors that we found were contributing to the program. Federation members and our partners also raised awareness of the issue in social media. The White House got the message and began regular confidential meetings with us to seek our proposed solutions for blind Americans. The first public statement from the White House on this topic was one released exclusively to the Federation for the Great Gathering-In of our virtual Washington Seminar in February. Our organization was asked to be a partner in the Disability Information and Assistance Line (DIAL) to guide their response in assisting with the free, government-provided at-home tests. One direct result of this work was that we evaluated and assisted with the launch of the first effort targeted specifically to blind Americans related to the distribution of at-home tests—which was made public just a couple of weeks ago. We have also been invited to serve as an expert contractor in the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx®) program at the National Institutes of Health, which seeks to speed innovation in the development, commercialization, and implementation of technologies for COVID-19 testing. Due to our efforts, accessibility is now a key value of their work. We will hear from the leadership at the NIH later in this convention. We can all be proud of these very positive results from our COVID testing advocacy efforts. By working together, we have forever enhanced the accessibility of at-home-testing products through the National Federation of the Blind.
When we join together, we accelerate the pace of progress, and we often shatter the perceived limits. Dan Parker is a member of the Federation who lives in Georgia. He was enjoying life as a racecar driver until March 31, 2012, when the car he was driving hit a wall at racing speed, which resulted in his blindness and a traumatic brain injury. Fortunate to have survived the crash, it was not long before Dan wondered if sitting at home was all that he could do. Learning about the Federation’s Blind Driver Challenge rekindled his dreams and encouraged him to get training in the skills of blindness. On March 31, 2015, he received his Freedom Bell, signifying his completion of the rigorous training program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
Dan’s Federation training and previous experience led him to imagine the possibilities for racing blind. He imagined setting a new Guinness World Record for fastest car driven blindfolded. He imagined the car and how he would build it. He learned from our previous work and developed a nonvisual interface that would work for him at high speeds, and he assembled a team to help transform his dream into reality—a team that included the National Federation of the Blind and our partners at Cruise. Through our work during the past dozen years, we have gained influence with many of the companies in the autonomous vehicle industry. Among those who have aligned with our message of early access for the blind, none have been more enthusiastic than Cruise. This spring, Dan arrived at Spaceport America in New Mexico with the car he had personally crafted for his mission and the team who believed in him. On March 31, 2022—exactly ten years to the day that an accident threatened to crash his dreams and seven years after being empowered with the philosophy of the organized blind movement—he represented all blind people as he clocked an average of 211.043 miles an hour driving his car with no sighted assistance. This significantly shattered the previous world record. Congratulations to Dan for putting the Federation philosophy into action and living the life he wants. We now have a second world record that is displayed proudly at our national headquarters, but, more importantly, we have the renewed energy that comes from once again raising expectations and transforming a dream into reality. This is the effect of working together in the National Federation of the Blind.
Our national leadership on equal access to voting for blind individuals continues. In the year leading up to the 2020 election, we worked to secure equal access to absentee ballots by the blind in nineteen states. Despite our ongoing efforts since that time, a number of states have continued to deny us equal access to our right to vote. Another election year has arrived, and we have not given up on delivering the access blind people deserve. During the past year, we reached agreements with New York, New Hampshire, and Illinois to implement remote, accessible, vote-by-mail ballot systems, which we are now monitoring. We have also filed complaints in federal court against Bexar County, Texas, and against the State of Alabama. We have further filed complaints with the United States Department of Justice against Connecticut, Iowa, and Missouri. In addition, we continue to support Federation affiliates that are pursuing voting reforms through state legislatures and boards of elections.
Through our Help America Vote Act project, we continue to monitor voting efforts around the nation, provide objective feedback on voting accessibility, and offer training to elections personnel. Central to this work is our effort to ensure that all blind voters are aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizen. During the past year our technical assistance and outreach activities have included meeting with voting system developers to ensure their technologies are accessible to us, creating videos to educate blind voters and poll workers about the accessibility features of ballot-marking devices, conducting trainings to improve poll worker interactions with blind voters, and continuing to share data we collect from surveying blind voters. We will leave no blind person behind in our quest for equality.
Our work together to confront the many persistent and unnecessary barriers that prevent blind people from full participation in education also continues. One example is a matter first shared in my 2020 report to this Convention. We filed suit against Duke University on behalf of Mary Fernandez for its failure to provide her with timely access to Braille, electronic, and tactile materials. In December 2021, we reached a settlement that commits Duke to retaining a consultant with expertise in providing accessible materials to blind students in higher education and to revising its policies and guidelines regarding the provision of these materials.
In another example, we continue to struggle with the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD). Our efforts go back to 2017, which is longer than most students would take to graduate. Why do they continue to fight equal access for their blind students? In August 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed that disparate impact disability claims are enforceable through a private right of action under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This decision preserved the right of blind students at the LACCD to seek relief for discrimination they are suffering at the school and has broader impacts for people with disabilities. In the balance of its opinion, the Ninth Circuit reversed the trial court’s decision in favor of the blind students and the Federation, citing various other legal errors in the trial, and sent the case back to the district court. LACCD responded by threatening to file a petition to the United States Supreme Court. Their hostility toward blind students sparked a vigorous campaign from the disability-rights community with a clear hashtag: #BackOffLACCD. In March, the LACCD Board of Trustees did back off, and we are now completing the final steps in this journey. Blind students in Los Angeles and across the nation deserve an equal opportunity to benefit from all of the best educational institutions, and we will not let them be bullied into second-class status. We are the National Federation of the Blind.
Some educational systems choose to work with us rather than against us. Just last month we amicably resolved a case I shared with you last year involving a blind elementary school child, who we referred to as KW, from the Berkeley California school district. During the pandemic KW struggled to access inaccessible remote learning and digital classroom technology used by the district. With the support of the Federation, Berkeley Unified has agreed to implement a new model accessibility policy pertaining to the procurement and testing of instructional technology. The agreement and the model policies are available on the Federation's website as an instructional resource to other school districts across the nation. We hope others will follow Berkeley’s lead. All of this is another lesson about the power of working together in the National Federation of the Blind.
Many testing entities put barriers in our way that challenge our determination to overcome adversity rather than measure our aptitude. An example from Florida is Jermesa Lee who has sought licensure as a mental health counselor. This license requires her to pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). In 2021 and in 2022, she requested a version of the NCMHCE compatible with screen-reading software. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) denied her accommodation request, each time offering her use of a human reader and scribe instead. The Federation has intervened and, on behalf of Jermesa and other members planning to take these counseling licensure exams in the near future, we demanded that NBCC provide a screen-reader-compatible version of the test. Due to our work together, they agreed to make the exam available in a screen-reader-compatible format this fall, and we will ensure their deadline is met.
We are working with blind people to overcome discriminatory barriers on other tests. These include the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure for Music, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination, the Society for Human Resource Management’s certified professional exam, and online exams administered by PSI for the California Department of Insurance. Let there be no doubt: we will pass the test for effective advocacy, because, when we work together as blind people, we cannot fail.
Health care is a critical place where we are denied equal access to information. For more than a decade, NFB member Tim Miles has repeatedly asked his health-care providers at UNC Health Care for all documents to be provided in large print. Similarly, Federation member John Bone asked for Braille documents during ER visits at a hospital affiliated with the UNC Health Care network. Only standard print was provided. When our attempt to establish a collaborative solution failed, we filed suit against UNC Health Care to require it to ensure effective communication with blind patients through the consistent and timely provision of accessible formats. In January 2022, we received a favorable decision from the magistrate judge finding that UNC had violated the law—both directly and by failing to ensure that its contractors and affiliated hospitals provided effective communication. This decision should send a strong message to other medical providers—you must plan for and ensure the timely provision of accessible formats to blind patients throughout your entire enterprise.
In 2020 we established an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service to create a new process for providing automated and timely notices in accessible formats. As of January that system is operating, and blind people can establish an alternative media preference for all IRS notices by completing the new Form 9000 or calling the IRS. Additionally, since our agreement was signed, the IRS has granted more than eight thousand requests by blind taxpayers for abatement of interest or penalties accrued because of the agency’s previous failure to provide notices in accessible formats. As blind people we know that working together pays.
We are unwavering in our work to secure full access to information on websites and mobile applications for blind people as a matter of right. Unfortunately, the Federal executive branch has failed to provide leadership in this area, giving businesses an excuse to shut the blind out, and the judicial branch has frequently gotten it wrong—requiring us to take action. In the Robles v. Domino’s Pizza case, the federal court in California initially held that businesses need not have their websites and mobile apps comply with the ADA due to a lack of federal website accessibility regulations. Concerned about the ruling, we intervened in the appeal. In 2019, we secured an important favorable decision from the US Court of the Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirming that the ADA applies to websites and mobile apps and making clear that businesses must ensure that their digital assets comply with the ADA. After Domino’s unsuccessfully attempted to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, the case went back to the trial court where we helped support the plaintiff’s legal team. Last summer, we received another victory: the court held that the Domino’s website was inaccessible and in violation of the ADA and California law. The parties have now amicably resolved this matter. Domino’s has confirmed its commitment to maintaining the accessibility of its website and mobile applications to individuals with disabilities through compliance with WCAG 2.0 level AA and by utilizing policies, procedures, and internal training. We will continue to use our expertise and our lived experience to argue the need for equal access in the courts across the nation.
The time has come for us to put significant pressure on the Federal legislative branch to demonstrate the leadership needed to secure our right to equal access in the digital economy. We have crafted the Website and Mobile Applications Accessibility Act, which would codify in law a mandated accessibility standard applicable to employers, public accommodations, and public entities. Our leadership in this work is informed and endorsed by nearly twenty disability advocacy groups. We expect this bill to be introduced before the end of the month, and we intend to use all of the tools to encourage Congress to act swiftly including social media campaigns, visits to Capitol Hill, letters to the editors of the nation’s top news outlets, and, if necessary, assembling the largest informational protest ever held by people with disabilities. It is time for equal access, not extraordinary excuses. Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the World Wide Web have passed their thirtieth anniversaries. We demand our right to equal access, and we will continue to work together to secure the protections we deserve from each branch of the Federal government. While this is our most urgent priority, it is only one of many in our advocacy program. A full report of our advocacy and policy work will be featured later in this convention.
More than forty years ago, we established Baltimore, Maryland, as the home for our national headquarters. Known as the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, this center of innovation belongs to blind people. While many components of Federation work happen at the building, the bulk of the work is implemented in local communities in every diverse part of this nation. The coordination and synergy that is found in all of these components working together is what makes us unstoppable.
Through our Center for Employment Opportunities initiative, we bridge the gaps leading to unemployment and underemployment among the nation’s blind. Examples of our work in this area include the NFB Career Mentoring Program, which provides transition-age blind youth with empowering training experiences, career resources, and a network of role models. During the past year we have delivered virtual pre-employment training sessions three times each month, on thirty-five different topics. During October, now branded as Blind Equality Achievement Month, we released the Self-Advocacy in Employment toolkit and launched a new Where the Blind Work webinar series featuring blind professionals in a range of careers. In February, we held a successful career fair during the virtual Washington Seminar that brought together 181 blind job seekers and 19 employers. An extensive career fair and related activities are also part of this convention.
This year we were a founding ambassador in the global launch of SmartJob, LLC and the SmartJob Fund hosted by Impact Assets. SmartJob is a unique global company dedicated to closing the disability wealth gap by catalyzing employment through innovation. We will hear from its founder later in this convention.
In addition to serving as a trusted advisor to SmartJob about the blind community, we have made initial investments in raising the expectations for blind entrepreneurs. One example is Synergies Work—a one-of-a-kind program designed to support microbusinesses run by and for people with disabilities and to provide business development support to entrepreneurs. Through our partnership with SmartJob, we have opened applications for a ten-week training program to incubate and provide business development support to a cohort of blind entrepreneurs. An additional example is our support to develop a six-week, venture-capital-readiness course for blind founders to learn the critical concepts for effectively securing financing for an early stage company. Through our partnership with SmartJob, this course will be available later this year and will strengthen the capacity of blind entrepreneurs to compete in the investment community. We anticipate other innovative impact projects by working together with similar strategic partners in the future.
Through our Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access, we have concentrated expertise, best practices, and resources that enables businesses, governments, and educational institutions to more effectively provide accessible information and services to the blind community. A long-standing partner in this work continues to be the Maryland Department of Disabilities. We continue to produce monthly ninety-minute boutiques and quarterly four-hour presentations on various accessibility topics as part of our outreach and engagement strategy. Our staff continue to perform technology evaluations and engage Federation members in providing feedback to manufacturers of hardware and software. Our technology efforts serve as a critical resource in carrying out policies passed by this convention. One example is our hosting a summit for overlay companies and access technology experts to establish strategies to move forward more collaboratively and eliminate the use of detrimental marketing tactics. In addition, we continue to work closely with product producers in the blindness field to evaluate and provide guidance on the development of their specialized tools.
Through our educational initiative we seek to create the strongest opportunities for the next generation of blind people. Our largest program is the NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academies. These powerful in-person educational sessions were converted to in-home virtual sessions in 2020, and our success allowed us to continue the in-home training in 2021. Last summer we provided instruction to 232 participants from 40 states during three, two-week programs and, significantly, half of those youth were completely new to the program. In addition to Federation staff, nearly one hundred Federation members worked directly with the youth as mentors, coordinators, or program volunteers. Per our extensive youth program protection policy, all of these individuals were background checked and supported to ensure the highest level of appropriate engagement in our programs. This summer, for the first time, NFB BELL will be offered both in-person in more than a dozen of our state affiliates, as well as in-home, allowing virtual participation from any state. While the in-home model allows us to connect with families that we might otherwise not be able to serve, many are energized by the opportunity to work together in person. For example, last month our Arizona NFB BELL Academy generated so much joy by bringing people back together that a spontaneous conga line broke out while the blind students and blind mentors were decorating canes. This is the power of our commitment to working together in the National Federation of the Blind.
We are also strategically investing in the development of the next generation of teachers of blind students. Through our NFB Teachers of Tomorrow program, we provide enrichment to early career teachers of blind students. Our goal is to connect participants with a professional community of practice through the blind people's movement. In 2021 we had twenty-two educators from thirteen states in the program, with most interactions happening through virtual monthly sessions. Shortly before this convention we invited twenty more teachers to our next cohort, which will start in the fall and will include more in-person interaction.
We have also launched an innovative teacher training model in partnership with the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. With support from the Maryland State Department of Education and the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, we established a cohort of individuals in the state of Maryland to receive coursework leading to licensure in teaching blind students. The cohort of thirteen individuals began online courses with Louisiana Tech University earlier this year and will continue through next spring before beginning their internships in the fall of 2023. Some of these individuals are here at this convention. It is our hope that this pilot project might be a collaborative model that we can use to develop outstanding educators of blind children in other states.
There are many other programs and services driven by the people of this movement that we do not have time to discuss in detail. Just a few of these include our work to train and certify Braille transcribers and proofreaders; our distribution of thousands of long white canes to encourage independent travel and hundreds of slates to support Braille literacy. We have continued development of the most extensive access to information system available, NFB NEWSLINE®, including the launch of parental controls to allow a more customized experience for blind children. However, our most important work is to build a movement of blind people.
We continue to invest in tools to onboard members, strengthen our network of chapters, and cultivate a diverse leadership across each of our state affiliates.
Lead by our Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), we continue to identify strategic opportunities to develop resources and forge a welcoming environment for broad participation in our movement. One example of a new resource is our five-year diversity calendar to assist in planning events at times that do not conflict with major holidays observed by those in our community. The Federation’s board of directors has initiated a strategic planning process that will take place over the next year, and our DEI commitment will be an important component of this planning. However, we are continuously reviewing all of our programs to determine if we can make them more reflective of our collective values. Examples include our December 2021 expansion of our Braille Letters from Santa program to provide a version in Spanish, and an option for a Braille Winter Celebration letter for those who do not observe the Christmas holiday. The effect was more than a 60 percent increase in participation over 2020 and more than 50 percent of participants being completely new to the program.
Similarly, for a number of years we have been evaluating our Federation scholarship program and its effectiveness. Upon review, the Federation’s board of directors substantially increased our investment in the program. We have raised the minimum amount of our merit scholarships from $3,000 to $8,000 and eliminated the previous tiered structure in order to provide each of our thirty finalists the same award. This change is particularly valuable in the intense time of inflation that we are currently experiencing. Most importantly, the program changes are intended to emphasize even further the mentoring and community building that has always been the core value of the program. Investing in the blind leaders of the future and supporting their dreams is among the most important elements of our movement.
Our work to strengthen our safety and support efforts has continued to make our organization better. After our last convention, we established our NFB Blind Survivors Group, the Federation’s Special Committee completed its detailed investigations and produced a final report released publically by our board in December 2021, and we updated the organization’s Code of Conduct based upon thoughtful feedback from members. We continue to administer those procedures and regularly review their effectiveness. We offered additional training to members on sexual misconduct, including updated scenarios that are more relevant to the Federation community. We are currently developing additional training modules to further increase the competency of elected leaders in a variety of critical topics related to power dynamics, organization culture, consent, and inclusive leadership. At the direction of this convention, the board established the Survivor Assistance to Facilitate Empowerment (SAFE) Fund to assist anyone we find has been harmed by members of our community. Before this convention, sixty-six individuals were invited to utilize the resources of this fund based upon our prior work to identify and heal the impact of misconduct by members of our movement. Although we hope that no person is harmed in the future by members of our movement, the SAFE Fund will remain as our standing commitment to anyone who might be. Let there be no doubt: we expect our community to be a respectful, open, and safe space for all blind people, and we will take the actions necessary to make that a reality. Federation SAFE will be the result of our commitment to working together.
The Federation’s hopeful message reaches further every year. Some highlights from our communications effort this year include launching new English and Spanish radio PSAs in October with a new landing page at blind.org to welcome people unfamiliar with our movement; participating in the initial launch of the .day domains by offering Braille.day and WhiteCane.day to promote independence and literacy; and establishing the nations_blind TikTok account on the world's most popular microvideo sharing platform. As of June, our TikTok presence included thirty-five videos, and our most successful had reached 4.8 million views.
We use our communications tools to lift up blind people in many ways, and the most important of the past year was mobilizing our movement in America to benefit blind people affected by the war in Ukraine. In partnership with Jonathan Mosen, founder of the online station Mushroom FM, and the World Blind Union (WBU), we collaborated on a global benefit concert of blind performers held on April 16, 2022. Through the “We’re With U!” effort, 114 performances provided almost twelve hours of powerful and loving entertainment including a cappella, three-part harmony, Mozart and Chopin, Cole Porter, and rap. By the end of the live stream of the concert, we had raised more than $80,000, and after an additional two weeks over $100,000 for the WBU’s Ukrainian Unity Fund. In addition to the many contributions from individual Federation members, our organization donated staff time and absorbed all of the transaction fees in collecting donations so that every dollar went directly to helping blind people affected by the war. We are proud to provide global leadership to the blind people’s movement in other parts of the world. We continue to send a message of love to the blind of Ukraine: we are with you!
At the center of our work are the individual stories of blind people and the power of bringing those lives together for collective action. Since 1940 we have been collecting the historical record of the blind people’s movement. We have refreshed these efforts by asking each Federation affiliate to have a designated historian to ensure we preserve the stories and the actions of the blind community. We have increased our efforts to capture oral histories, and this year we granted an internship to an American University undergraduate specifically to capture the stories of some of our Black leaders. Our ever-growing collection of historical archives now occupy 20,500 square feet of space at our building in Baltimore.
Now is the time for us to do even more. Our history is rich, but our stories are rarely known. Our actions are highly impactful, but our struggles to overcome society's low expectations are often overlooked. Our progress has been great, but our future must be greater. America has no cultural institution that centers the experience of blind individuals of diverse backgrounds and celebrates how those people worked together to rise above centuries of misconceptions. Who lives, who dies, who tells our stories? We do! We must!
Now is the time for us to pursue the Museum of the Blind People's Movement. We must do this while continuing to do all of the other work that advances our movement. We must do this because it is critical to our future. Our integration in society on terms of equality demands that we be elevated and celebrated for our contributions to the human experience. Our normalization in society requires us to open our stories to the public in powerful ways that affect both the hearts and minds of those who experience them. The Museum of the Blind People's Movement will be challenging to accomplish, but we have never backed down from working together to achieve our dreams. In this year when we have lost some of the most outstanding voices from our previous generations, the most meaningful action we can take in honoring their contributions to us is to celebrate and share that bond of service and use it to forge the future. Imagine a museum that is ours, that teaches all other institutions about inclusion and equal access, and that extends our message wider than we have ever imagined. We are calling on every blind person, Federation member or not, to bring your story, your aspirations, and your talents to the preservation of our shared history and advancement of our future by participating in the development of the Museum of the Blind People's Movement. You are all cordially invited to come to the grand opening of this museum before this decade is over. Imagine the celebration of the power of working together in the National Federation of the Blind.
I attended my first convention in 1996. I have observed the spirit of the Federation for more than a quarter of a century. The methods used by the Federation to conduct its business are fascinating to me, but the spirit is the heart of the organization. The overwhelming central element in the spirit of the organization is a precept in our Constitution that declares that the Convention is the supreme authority of the Federation. The people of the movement who come together in Convention assembled decide what the policies shall be and determine who will be selected to carry them out. The people of the movement are the deciding voice. You are the ones who determine what we shall do and where we shall go.
In our movement, with its extensive scope, the broad array of its demanding programs, and our determination to bring into being an understanding of our principles in all segments of our society, we inevitably encounter complexity. However, some principles of our movement remain straightforward. If we are to create the plan to make of our organization what we want it to be, we must have faith in each other. We must know that we can and will find the determination to change the negative factors that face us. We must know that we can muster the fortitude to believe even when challenged. We must know in the depths of our souls that Federation members are willing to share the burden and to give all that is necessary to make our future our own. I know from the innermost part of me that I trust this Convention. We will not fail. We will not permit doubt to deter us from our purpose. I know you, and I have faith. We will prevail.
I have had the honor of serving as your President for four terms, and it continues to be the greatest privilege, challenge, and joy of my life. At every moment, I have given to you, our members, all my best effort. I strive to reflect all of the high expectations that you demand of our leaders and to make each of you proud. The members of this movement—my chosen community of friends—will always have my deepest gratitude for the effect that you have on making me better and on making the changes that will ensure a brighter future for my own family. The decision as to whether I continue to serve you in this capacity is entirely yours. I am prepared to rise to your high expectations and represent you in all that we do together, if that is your choice. I will never ask of you anything that I am not completely willing to do myself. This movement will continue to have the best of my efforts regardless of where you want me to serve. This is the blind people’s movement, and you found me when I did not even recognize I was a blind person. First and foremost, I am a member in this movement; and my commitment will always be to link arms with you, share the bond of faith that brings us together, and march confidently in the direction that this Convention builds for our future. This is my commitment to working together for a brighter tomorrow.
My Federation family, this is my report for 2022. This is our progress in coming back together again. This is our bond as the blind people’s movement. This is the future we build with love, hope, and determination, by transforming dreams into reality.