Braille Monitor                          July 2020

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The Room is Zoom: An Overview for Many of the National Convention Sessions

by John Berggren and Stephanie Cascone

Map of the United States with many brightly lit points connected in a raised 3D pattern; over the image, it says “NFB20, July 14-18, Anywhere & Everywhere.”From the Editor: Many of you know the name John Berggren as the man who has been in charge of convention organization and activities for several years. Many of you also know Stephanie Cascone, our director of communications and marketing. Here is what they have to say about one of the tools we will use to carry off our first virtual convention:

For a few months now we've been talking about the National Federation of the Blind hosting its first-ever virtual convention. This is the last issue of the Braille Monitor you will see before the gavel falls, so we want to give you a few tips about the way you can participate in the convention. This is not intended to be an extensive review of the convention format on Zoom, but a brief overview of how to access the platform and a couple of important commands. There is definitely more to come.

Many Ways to Access

The first thing to know is that Zoom is a service that offers people a way to communicate no matter the device they use. If the way you talk is on a touchtone telephone connected to the wall by a cord, you can participate in the convention. If you use a cordless phone, the same is true. If you have a computer and a headset, you can participate and will have even more options. If you have a smartphone, whether it uses the Android operating system or Apple iOS, you can communicate. If your communication device happens to be a tablet, again, Zoom is for you. When using the mobile app or a computer, the closed captions can be accessed with a Braille device.

Just as we find in any large meeting, a smooth and successful gathering depends on patience and courtesy. The need for both is amplified in a virtual meeting. On the Zoom platform there is what is known as a mute button. When pressed, you can hear what people are saying, but they cannot hear you, or more importantly what is going on around you. What you think of as a minor distraction in your environment such as the click of a keyboard, the bark of a dog, the shuffling of papers, or the movement of your smartphone on the desk is amplified using Zoom. When you consider multiplying these distractions by ten, fifty, or one hundred, you can see that listening to a presentation could be almost impossible. Some of you are old enough to remember the first two-way radios in which talking required the depressing of a microphone key, and listening required releasing it. When using Zoom, it is helpful to keep this analogy in mind. Unmute yourself when requested, and as soon as you have finished your comment, go back on mute.

Commands to Know

“Sorry, I was on mute” is a phrase many of us have heard or said a lot these past few months. Muting is made easy regardless of the way you participate. On a regular phone muting is accomplished with star six and unmuting is done in the same way. On a Windows 10 computer muting and unmuting is done using the key sequence alt+A. Using an Apple computer, the key sequence is Command+Shift+A. On a smartphone, whether iOS or Android, the mute button is located at the bottom left of the screen.

Asking for the floor is much like being in a classroom–you raise your hand. The way you will do this depends on the device you use to get into the Zoom meeting. If using a regular touchtone telephone, pressing star nine will raise your hand. The key combination when using a computer is alt+Y for Windows and Command+Shift+Y for Mac OS. With a smartphone the hand is raised by pressing the “More” button at the bottom right of the screen and then selecting the raise-hand option, which is one of the first commands on that screen.

This is certainly a very short introduction to what you will want to know before the first convention session starts. We will provide a list with key combinations for the various devices that can be used, and we encourage everyone to participate in the training sessions we will hold prior to the convention. By the time the gavel falls, we want each and every participant to be enjoying convention without the anxiety that can too often come with the use of a new application, program, or service.

More to Come

For more information and to learn about upcoming training sessions, continue to follow discussions on our various listservs, listen for updates from your chapter and affiliate leaders, and regularly visit the national convention information webpage at for updates. Let's meet in July and enjoy the virtually unlimited opportunities that come with our first-ever virtual convention.

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