Braille Monitor                         November 2020

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News from the Federation Family

Freedom Scientific Offers Generous Matching Gift Opportunity:

The National Federation of the Blind is grateful for the generous matching gift from Freedom Scientific in honor of Meet the Blind Month this October. Freedom Scientific, a Vispero brand and the maker of JAWS for Windows and Focus Braille displays, has pledged to match the first $50,000 in donations made to the NFB during Meet the Blind Month.

Double your contribution and help ensure that we fulfill this matching gift!

Three Ways to Give

This year our Meet the Blind Month activities are focusing on lived experiences in our local communities with problem-solving and self-confidence. Thank you to Freedom Scientific and all of our supporters for helping us continue this important work.

Watch and share the announcement video from President Mark Riccobono and Tom Tiernan, president & CEO of Vispero. Thank you for your support!

Federationist Receives Award:

Linda Melendez shares this with Monitor readers: I am proud to share the news that our fearless leader and NFBNJ President, Joseph Ruffalo, has been awarded the New Jersey 2020 Lydia Young Hayes Trailblazer Award. This award is given every ten years to outstanding New Jersey CBVI stakeholders and consumers who are selected by a committee after its review of the many nominations received.

His award will be presented during the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired virtual eleventh anniversary celebration at 3 p.m. on Friday, October 2, 2020.
Thank you to the affiliate board members who shared their personal and professional reasons why Joe should receive this award. A special thank you to Annemarie Cooke, who chairs the NFBNJ Communications Committee for gathering these facts to support Joe’s nomination.

It was my honor and privilege as the first vice president to submit this nomination on behalf of our membership. I am thrilled the nominating committee recognized the many contributions Joe has made to the blind community.

Congratulations Joe! You deserve this honor, and we love you dearly! Your tireless contributions to the NFB, NFBNJ, and Jersey residents for over three decades is much appreciated. You have made it respectable to be blind and empowered us to live the lives we want because You Care, You Share, You Help Us to Grow, and You Make a Difference!

Santa Loves Blind People, and Santa Loves Braille: 

Santa Claus has made the staff at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute honorary elves. He has asked us to help him send letters in Braille to very young blind boys and girls (those under the age of ten) in the United States. Between November 9 and December 16, parents can go online at and fill out a Santa Braille Letter request form. The form can also be printed and faxed to (410) 685-2340 or emailed to [email protected]. Beginning Monday, November 30, the Braille letters from Santa will start going out to boys and girls around the country. The Braille letter will also be accompanied by a print copy (for mom and dad to read) as well as some other fun Christmastime activities.

The deadline for letter requests is December 16, to ensure that a return letter in Braille is received before Christmas. For more information please visit our website at

A Meeting for Blind Stutterers: 

I did not watch either the Democratic nor Republican Party National Conventions this past August, but I did make it a point to go on YouTube and watch the video of Brayden Harrington, the thirteen-year-old New Hampshire boy who did not let his stuttering prevent him from speaking to an audience of millions during the Democratic National Convention. Though I am fairly fluent now to the extent that I make my living working in a call site, I still struggle with stuttering.

If you are blind and stutter, or if someone in your affiliate or chapter is blind and stutters, I want you to contact me. My name is Daniel Garcia, and I am currently the chair of the NFB of Missouri’s Personal and Career Development Group, the aim of which is to encourage people to find employment and develop their careers through personal growth strategies. I would like to have a meeting where blind stutterers feel safe and can discuss how they manage their stuttering and whether the twin challenges of blindness and stuttering has affected their employment prospects.

If you are interested in participating in this meeting, you can leave me a voicemail at 816-621-0902, or you can send me an email message at [email protected].


At its 2020 annual convention, the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina elected the following officers and board members: president, Jennifer Bazer; first vice president, Lenora Robertson; second vice president, Debra Canty; secretary, Shannon Cook; treasurer, Valerie Warrington; second district representative, Steve Cook; fourth district representative, JW Smith; sixth district representative, Marty McKenzie; member-at-large seat one, Demetrius Williford; and member-at-large seat two, Neal Sheth. All the best to the new board and the work that lies ahead.

NAMA Announces 2020 Industry Person of the Year
Nicky Gacos, Owner, Colorado Café Associates:

Nicky Gacos is the president of the National Association of Blind Merchants. He was recently recognized by the preeminent organization in food services. Here is what they said: According to the award nomination, “Nicky has, through his career, exemplified the very best of what American industry has shown the world: that the private sector can both reward the deserving individuals who risk their capital and deploy their hard work and ingenuity, and also serve the public good. No previous NAMA award recipient embodies this dual essential achievement more than Nicky, who has fostered partnerships across the industry and—critically—brought great talent into our industry from outside, while helping budding entrepreneurs earn business success and financial independence.”

In 1992 Nicky began his career as a vending operator with just one location. Since that time, he has been a tireless advocate on behalf of the entire industry, including Randolph-Sheppard entrepreneurs. In 2015 Nicky was elected to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of NAMA, the first blind person to have this distinction.

Nicky has served as the president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, for ten years. In this role he has spearheaded numerous annual multi-day leadership conferences attracting hundreds of Randolph-Sheppard entrepreneurs each year. He is past chair of the Middlesex County (New Jersey) Workforce Investment Board and member of the New Jersey’s State Employment and Training Commission. He serves as a board member for NAMA, as well as the Tri-State Automatic Merchandising Council, and is a member of both NAMA’s Government Affairs and Industry Communications Committees. In 2015 he was named a NAMA Advocacy Award winner.

About the Awards

A NAMA tradition, these awards recognize individuals who have served the industry and NAMA as leaders, innovators, and advocates. This year on July 9, winners will be acknowledged in a virtual celebration, including a video highlighting the vast achievements of each of the award winners.

The NAMA Industry Awards are presented to individuals that best exemplify support of the convenience services industry through a history of service and leadership throughout the industry and in their own communities. They must be innovative, possess a willingness to expand conventional practices, and follow ethical business standards in accordance with the NAMA code of ethics.

Founded in 1936, NAMA is the association representing the $26 billion US convenience services industry. With more than 1,000-member companies—including many of the world’s most recognized brands—NAMA provides advocacy, education, and research for its membership. Visit NAMA on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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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