It has been nearly three years since the members of the National Federation of the Blind have come together for an in-person national convention. While the impact of the pandemic on our daily lives gradually abates, the world is still a different place from when we were last in person at our 2019 National Convention. In establishing this policy, the NFB Board of Directors has prioritized the well-being of Federation family members as well as recognized that the virus has had a more harmful impact on those members who are at greater risk. The foundation of these policies is the long-standing commitment of each Federation member to do their part to make the convention a welcoming, safe, and respectful place to be. We have not been together in-person for some time, so we should all recognize that patience and understanding will be important as we work to make our convention community the empowering experience we have always known while implementing new systems to ensure the safety of all involved.
To this end, the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors has approved the following health and safety measures to ensure that convention attendees are protected, to the greatest extent possible, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. These policies reflect federal health guidance and best practices and take into consideration measures the Marriott and Sheraton hotels have established.
These policies are the minimum requirements for attending the 2022 National Convention. Should an attendee wish to undertake additional personal preventative measures, they are welcomed and encouraged to do so. If changes to this policy are made prior to the convention, those changes will be communicated on the convention website and in email to registered participants.
COVID-19 Testing Policy
In order to participate in the 2022 National Convention, all attendees will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test from no more than 72 hours prior to arrival onsite. Attendees are encouraged to take a COVID-19 test prior to leaving for New Orleans. Results may be emailed to [email protected] or presented in person at the hotel. Attendees unable to secure test results prior to arrival may take an NFB-provided test at the convention headquarters hotel upon arrival. Confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test result is required to pick up registration materials and to participate in any and all convention activities. You are encouraged to read more about our COVID-19 testing protocols in advance of convention.
While not required for participation, the National Federation of the Blind strongly encourages its members to follow CDC guidance on vaccinations and boosters. Information can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.
All attendees are to be fully masked (mask covering the nose and mouth and properly fitted to the face) in all meetings, the exhibit hall, and other public hotel spaces when not actively eating or drinking. Disposable face masks will be provided at various locations during convention for those who do not have one.
Speakers and presenters are permitted to remove their masks during their presentations and any Q&A portions of the event, but they are to replace their masks when not speaking.
The NFB will continue to monitor local, state, federal, and CDC guidelines and recommendations regarding masks. Any necessary modifications to the mask policy will be communicated accordingly.
All attendees are encouraged to practice social distancing whenever possible throughout convention. The National Federation of the Blind will work with the Marriott and Sheraton hotels to set meeting rooms, when space allows, to provide extra room around convention-goers, enabling some degree of distance between speakers and attendees and among individuals in the audience. The NFB may limit the maximum number of attendees in some events such as the exhibit hall. Other rules and/or limitations may be imposed to augment social distancing efforts.
The NFB urges attendees to be respectful of their Federation family’s comfort levels. Be thoughtful about preferences for hugs, handshakes, elbow bumps, or simple verbal greetings; leave seats open between each other where and as space allows; and accommodate your neighbor’s personal space preferences.
While six feet of separation will not be possible at all times, vaccination and masking policies will significantly aid in keeping indoor spaces safe for interaction. Additionally, hand sanitation stations are plentiful throughout the hotel and the NFB will ensure plenty of sanitizer is on-hand for attendees’ use.
COVID-19 Symptoms Guidance
The National Federation of the Blind follows CDC guidelines regarding those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Self-monitoring is critical for ensuring the health and safety of both you and those around you. Should you experience symptoms of COVID-19 within five days prior to your arrival at convention, please stay home and recover. Join us as a virtual attendee. Your Federation family will thank you.
If at any time during convention week you begin to experience symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please self-isolate, notify NFB staff, and get tested yourself. And finally, if you test positive for COVID-19 within five days after leaving convention, please inform NFB staff.
New Orleans City Service Locations
A list of emergency services, dialysis centers, hospitals, and COVID-19 testing facilities in New Orleans is available.
Flexible Refund Policy
Registered attendees who are unable to attend convention due to a positive test COVID-19 or exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 may request a refund of registration fees and any banquet tickets purchased. Refund requests with supporting documentation must be received in writing or via email by Friday, July 22. An attendee’s hotel room deposit may also be refunded in full if email or phone notification is received forty-eight hours prior to scheduled arrival.
Requests for Modifications
With respect to requests for modification of NFB’s Convention Safety Protocols requiring COVID-19 testing and the requirement to wear face masks, the NFB will consider granting exemptions to its policies to accommodate a disability or a sincerely held religious belief pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended. Each request will be assessed on an individual basis.
If a request is based on a disability, the NFB will ask that medical documentation be provided substantiating the request. If a request to be exempt from the facemask requirement is granted, the NFB may require the requesting individual to wear a face shield instead and may require that the individual provide proof of additional negative COVID-19 testing.
If a request to be exempt from NFB’s Convention Safety Protocols is based on a sincerely held religious belief, the NFB will require that the requesting individual provide a written justification for the exemption. Such justification should explain how adhering to NFB’s safety protocols will violate a major belief of the individual’s religion. Supporting justification from a religious official is welcome and encouraged.
With respect to all requests, the NFB may ask all requesting individuals to sign an acknowledgment that not following NFB’s Convention Safety Protocols may place a person at greater risk of catching COVID-19. Additionally, NFB will provide each individual receiving an exemption from the Convention Safety Protocols a written acknowledgment that the person has been exempted from the safety protocols based on a disability or sincerely held religious belief. Any person in charge of a convention event or responsible for convention facilities may ask to review the written acknowledgment exempting an individual from a safety protocol.
Please Submit Requests in Writing
Any request for an exemption must be submitted in writing to Scott Labarre, NFB’s General Counsel, at [email protected]. Please submit requests prior to arriving in New Orleans.