May Perspective from the President

May Perspective from the President

By President Mark Riccobono

Greetings, fellow Federationists,

It's hard to believe that it is already May.  So many great things happening in the National Federation of the Blind. Our scholarship committee met recently at our national headquarters in Baltimore, and there are numerous activities planned across the Federation this month.  

I'll extend an early happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day.  I know Federation events are happening that day in support of—amongst other things—our efforts to ensure that all websites and mobile applications are accessible to blind people. This is to share a piece of the most recent Presidential Release. You can access the full May Presidential Release for all of the recent updates and upcoming events

As a reminder, the Federation is active across prominent social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube. It’s time for us to extend in some new directions.  
Our goal with social media, like with our other communications tools, is to reach blind people, individuals who don't yet know us, to engage the members of the Federation, and to some extent to reach the general public. We've been on Twitter for well over a decade, and for the past 6 months, we’ve been very concerned about what is happening with this social media platform. Twitter has taken specific actions that really give us pause and have caused us to think that it may not be an appropriate platform for us.  

Last fall, Twitter laid off a number of staff, including all of their accessibility team.

Most recently, Twitter has changed its APIs, which has caused blind people using some of the specialized alternatives to the Twitter mobile application – applications built specifically for equal access–those have all been broken because Twitter changed its API.

In the last month, Twitter also changed its process. The Federation has had a verified account for years. When you saw tweets from the National Federation of the Blind, you knew they were from the Federation.

They are now inviting us to pay for a verified account instead. These factors and more have really given us pause.  We believe that Twitter is no longer an appropriate platform for this organization to support, especially because they are shutting blind people out.

We don't want to abandon our supporters and members who continue to use Twitter, so we're not abandoning it completely. We are going to start actively engaging with Federation resources and building a new community on Mastodon. 

I invite all members of the Federation family to join us in this new venture, to launch what we call on Mastodon.  More importantly, I ask Federation members to help us shape what we want this community to be. Mastodon is a social media networking space. It’s decentralized, so it’s not controlled by any particular company. It has been around for a number of years, actually, but has really gotten into the news with what has happened at Twitter.

We are launching an NFB Mastodon account with our own branded server,  If you are already on Mastodon, or thinking of joining, all you have to do is follow the National Federation of the Blind by finding [email protected].  This recently established account is our initial foray into the Mastodon world. Please consider following @[email protected] as well to engage with my content on the NFB Mastodon server.

We want to know, though, what ideas Federation members have for how we can use Mastodon to build the Federation community. Share information about what your experience has been in Mastodon.  What are your favorite mobile or web-based applications? What tips and tricks do you have, and how would you like to see the Federation use this social media networking tool?  You can email us at [email protected] to share your ideas.

I'm excited about how the blind of America will shape our engagement as a movement in Mastodon. It's important that Federation members guide how we use these new tools to build our awareness, to reach new people, and to establish new connections in the 21st century.

Right now, no one can have an account, but we would like to hear from members. Would you want an account? How would you use it to build the National Federation of the Blind?  We're going to give that some thought, see what our members say about what we should do, and make some decisions from there. Take some time to get familiar with Mastodon. I'm exploring it myself.  And let's see how we can use it to build opportunities for the National Federation of the Blind.

Beyond social media, we have a lot of National Convention prep activities, in and amongst all of the other work we're doing for the Federation. Our hashtag for National Convention is #NFB23. 

Lastly, I will be going to New Zealand to the World Blind Union (WBU) Executive Committee meeting at the end of this month, which is why the June Presidential Release is actually on May 31st.  Well actually, for me it will be June 1st, so technically it's the June Release.  But many other things are happening, including Global Accessibility Awareness Day.  

Lots of Federation activities leading up to the Convention.  I'm excited about the work that we're doing now, and the work that we're going to do leading up to National Convention, where we're going to celebrate a lot of great victories.