Braille Monitor                          May 2019

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News from the Federation Family

How to Pay for Your Convention Hotel Stay:

This helpful information comes from Tony Cobb, who for many years served as a fixture in the lobby of our convention hotels. Here is an important warning for those who may be considering how to pay for their stay:

Every year at our national convention we have serious trouble with use of debit cards or cash payments at hotel check-in, and, having worked to solve these problems for years, I can tell you they can nearly ruin the convention week for those experiencing them. Planning to attend our national convention should therefore include thinking seriously about how to pay the hotel, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid using cash or a debit card as your payment method. Doing so may seem convenient, but you should not do so. If you do not have a credit card of your own to use instead, prevail upon a close friend or family member to let you use one just for convention. Here’s why:

If you are paying in actual currency, most hotels will want enough cash up front at check-in to cover your room and tax charges for the entire stay, plus a one-time advance incidentals deposit to cover meals, telephone calls, internet service, and other things you may charge to your room. The unused portion of the incidentals deposit may be returned at check-out or by mail after departure. Understand, however, that, if your incidentals charges exceed the incidentals deposit credited, you are responsible for payment of the full balance at check-out. The total can end up being a very large sum indeed.

If you use a debit card, however, you are really at a potentially painful disadvantage. The hotel will put a hold on money in your bank account linked to the debit card to cover the estimated balance of your stay—that is, for the entire week’s room and tax charges plus a one-time incidentals deposit to cover meals, movies, and so on charged to your room. You should be aware that the hold can therefore be a considerable amount of money and that you will not have access to that amount for any other purchases or payments with your card. (Hotels sometimes also put authorizations on credit cards, by the way, but those are not often a problem unless they exceed your card’s credit limit.)

Holds can remain in effect for three to five days or even a week after you check out. If you have pre-authorized payments from your bank account, for example your monthly mortgage payment, or if you try to make a purchase with your debit card and it's refused, the hold from the hotel can cause you trouble or result in very large overdraft fees for payments you thought you had money in your account to cover. I have seen this hit some of our members in the form of hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees.

This means that, if you use a debit card, you would have to be certain you have a high enough balance in your checking account when you come to convention to cover any debit card holds. This is a perilous practice since charges may exceed your estimate by a considerable amount. (Some frequent travelers even open a separate checking account used only for debits like these.) Remember, a hold is going to be placed on your debit card regardless of how you end up paying the bill, and the hold is not necessarily released right away, even if you pay with a credit card or cash when you check out of the hotel.

Planning ahead in this area can ensure an untroubled week at convention, leaving you free to enjoy fully the world’s largest and most exciting meeting of the blind.

Braille Book Fair 2019:

Calling all Braille readers, teachers, and parents!

It's that time again: Time to sort through all those boxes of Braille books and donate those gently used but no longer needed Braille books to the 2019 Braille Book Fair sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.

Our primary goal is to get more Braille books into the hands of children, youth, and beginning adult readers, so here's what we need most:

Children are so hungry for their very own books that every year, despite generous donations of books, most of our books for young children are gone in less than an hour. So begin your search through the boxes in your basement and spare room and get those books shipped.

We do not accept magazines, textbooks, or audio books at this time. Mail books you are donating to: 2019 Braille Book Fair, National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230.

Please note that you are shipping the books FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND; you do not need to pay any shipping cost for Braille items. Handwrite, stamp, or affix a label to the upper right-hand corner of the box which says: FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND, and take your package(s) to your local post office to mail.

Internal Revenue Service Forms and Written Communication:

The NFB is investigating the accessibility of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms and written communication. If you have requested or would like to request alternative format documents from the IRS­ such as Braille, large print, or audio, please contact Valerie Yingling, legal program coordinator, at [email protected] or 410-659-9314, extension 2440.

Resolutions for Convention:

Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB Resolutions Committee:

Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2019 National Convention, the Resolutions Committee meeting will be held on Monday, July 8. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. If passed by the convention, these resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization. To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Riccobono or to me by June 24, two weeks before the committee meeting. Since things are always busy leading up to the convention, sending them earlier will be appreciated. If you send a resolution to me by email and do not receive a response acknowledging your email in two or three days, please call or send it again.

If you miss the deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email at [email protected], or by mail at 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, MD 21045.

In Brief

Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.

Secretary Toulouse Oliver Awarded “Outstanding Innovations in Elections” by the US Election Assistance Commission:

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has received the 2018 “Clearie” Award for Outstanding Innovations in Elections by the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) for her implementation of a new electronic ballot software system that allows blind and visually impaired voters to independently and privately cast an absentee ballot.

“Every eligible voter deserves the dignity and convenience of being able to mark their ballot in an independent and private manner, which is exactly what our electronic ballot system does for blind and visually impaired voters,” said Secretary Toulouse Oliver. “I want to thank the US Election Administration Commission for this award, and I want to dedicate it to the determined efforts of New Mexico’s blind and visually impaired community who worked closely with me and my Office to ensure blind and visually impaired voters have fair and equal access to the ballot box.”

According to the EAC, the annual “Clearie” awards “recognize best practices in election administration and highlight exemplary models which can serve as examples to other officials and jurisdictions.”

"We are thrilled to recognize Secretary Toulouse Oliver and her team for their innovative approach to serving voters with disabilities,” said EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks. “We are proud to share details about this program with election officials across the nation, as well as the voters they serve."

Secretary Toulouse Oliver and her staff worked closely with the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico and the New Mexico Commission for the Blind to create the system that allows blind and visually impaired voters to independently mark, print, and return their absentee ballot. As KOB News 4 noted in 2018 as the Secretary of State announced the new system, “New Mexico is leading the country when it comes to making absentee voting more accessible.”

“The National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico deeply appreciates Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver,” said Adelmo Vigil, president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico. “Because of her work, blind voters in New Mexico, for the very first time in history, can now independently and privately mark the printed absentee ballot using the low-vision and nonvisual access technology of their choice. Secretary Toulouse Oliver worked closely with us to make this happen. She provided public testimony and support for the legislation that brought all of this about. She is a true friend of the blind.”

Greg Trapp, executive director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, added to Mr. Vigil’s remarks, saying, "Because of the efforts of Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver and of the National Federation of the Blind, blind and visually impaired citizens of New Mexico can now fully and equally participate in the fundamental right to vote. This is a tremendous step forward, and New Mexico can take pride in what the Secretary of State and National Federation of the Blind have accomplished."

More information about the US Election Assistance Commission:

The US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as administers the use of HAVA funds.

Monitor Mart

The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.

For Sale:

We have one Freedom Scientific Braille Blazer for sale. It has the following features: serial or parallel connections to a PC (a USB-to-serial cable may be used with these embossers on machines which don't have serial or parallel ports), built-in carrying case, and standard computer power cord. The Braille Blazer may be used as a speech synthesizer as well as a Braille embosser. It embosses on 8.5-by-11-inch fan-fold tractor feed paper; embosses standard Braille in portrait or landscape mode; embosses graphics; is supported by most Braille translation software, including Duxbury Systems, and configuration is accomplished through voice-guided instructions. The user manual is available at BrailleBlazerUserManual.pdf. Asking price is $300, contact Sheryl Pickering at 830-743-7655.

For Sale:

We have two Classic Electric Perkins Braillewriters for sale. One has a carrying case (asking $25 extra). Asking $300 each. Contact Sheryl Pickering at 830-743-7655

For Sale:

Romeo Braille Embosser by Enabling Technologies in carrying case. Excellent condition. $50 plus shipping if not Free Matter. Call or text Terry at 805-339-9853.

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

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