Braille Monitor                         November 2020

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Washington Seminar 2021: Our First Virtual Week on the Hill

by Kyle Walls

Kyle WallsThe Washington Seminar and Great Gathering-In are both decades old traditions of the National Federation of the Blind. These events are the first major dates on our legislative calendar at the beginning of each year. For the government affairs group at the Jernigan Institute, the Washington Seminar is the most important time of the year after convention, and we know many members feel the same way. We know you get immense enjoyment from being surrounded by five hundred of your closest friends and advocating for issues important to the lives of all blind Americans. We know there is a unique thrill in talking to your members of Congress about legislative priorities that will improve educational, employment, and transportation opportunities for millions of blind people. We know that there is absolutely nothing else like it.

That is why we are excited to announce that, even in the face of a pandemic, Washington Seminar 2021 will take place virtually from Monday, February 8, through Thursday, February 11! That’s right, our work must go on because the barriers faced by blind Americans all across the country have only increased during this pandemic, and we cannot afford to just sit on the sidelines. Of course, the safety of our Federation family is paramount, which is why we will be conducting all large group gatherings, trainings, and congressional meetings virtually.

Many logistical details for the Virtual Washington Seminar are still being worked out, but we will update your affiliate presidents frequently. Please be sure to check with them periodically with questions. What we know for certain at this moment is as follows:

Date: February 8–11, 2021
Great Gathering-In: Monday, February 8, from 5:00–7:00 p.m. EST

A series of trainings will take place throughout January to partially replace some of the legislative priorities training that typically happens on the Monday of Washington Seminar.

Affiliates will still be responsible for scheduling their congressional meetings, but instead of keeping track of a building and room number, you will have a virtual meeting ID number. Most affiliates already have a Zoom license, and we anticipate that only a few affiliates will need more than that one license to handle the number of meetings. We strongly encourage all affiliates to spread out meetings across all three days (Tuesday, February 9–Thursday, February 11) in order to prevent any double-booking of the license.

These are the most important details we have so far. As mentioned previously, we will be in frequent contact with affiliate presidents, so you should check in periodically with them if you have specific questions. As we did with this year’s virtual convention, we hope to make the 2021 Virtual Washington Seminar our largest and most productive ever, and we hope you’re there for every historic moment of it.

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