I opened my 2023 Presidential Report delivered to our National Convention on July 5 by saying, “during the past year, the warmth and strength of our blind people’s movement has been felt in increasing intensity throughout our nation. While our mission to achieve equality, opportunity, and security is rooted deeply in our souls, it is the commitment we make to work together, to have each other’s backs, that drives the collective heartbeat of our movement.”
I observed that commitment throughout the convention and came home energized and excited to do the work we will do together. The single biggest factor in accomplishing our work is what individuals contribute. We shared our strategic plan during the convention, and I urge you all to become familiar with it and to think about how we might implement it going forward.
You can listen to all of our convention general sessions including the 2023 Presidential Report and the presentation of our strategic plan on YouTube. Thank you for being part of our movement.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
During the 2023 National Convention this July the National Federation of the Blind piloted our new Career Quest Program. Vocational rehabilitation clients participated in a week-long adventure focused on pre-employment transition services. The program combined the magic of a National Federation of the Blind convention with a series of pre-employment seminars focused on preparation, with self-advocacy, career exploration, and blindness skills development at the forefront.
Participants shared their impressions during convention:
“I have grown so much from this experience. It’s programs like this that are beginning to help me shape my path for the future.”
“I cannot wait; I’m so excited for the major banquet speech, the national scholarship awards and an evening of celebrating this convention.”
“I’m studying to be a sign language interpreter, and while here in Houston, I had the opportunity to engage in some one-on-one deaf-blind tactile interpreting. It was really an amazing experience and opportunity.”
The employment rate of blind people is staggeringly low, but programs like Career Quest can prepare blind people to succeed in the work world. The convention seminars and career fair are important, but the opportunity to network, develop mentoring relationships, and make friends will impact participants for a lifetime. Career Quest is just one initiative of our Center of Employment Opportunity which encompasses our career fairs, Where the Blind Work webinars, career mentoring, and more in addition to Career Quest. You can read more about employment initiatives in the Braille Monitor.
Route 66 Ride for Literacy On the Road
The National Federation of the Blind is excited to partner with Dan O’Rourke for a journey of strength, dedication, and connection. Dan took off on July 27 from Santa Monica, California, and will ride his bike more than 2,000 miles on the famous U.S. Route 66 ending in Chicago, Illinois in September to help raise public awareness and funds.
Scholarship Awards Presented at 2023 National Convention
Thirty outstanding blind scholars received National Federation of the Blind scholarships at the convention banquet. Each were awarded $8,000. The prestigious Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship was awarded to Trisha Kulkarni of Ohio, who had the opportunity to address the convention during banquet.
2023 Strategic Plan Adopted
Over the last year, the National Federation of the Blind went through several stages of the strategic planning process. Your feedback and your voice during the process made a significant difference—thank you. Now we move into the implement stage. We are excited to share the strategic plan framework. While the priorities of the national convention continue to drive our yearly work, this plan is the high-level framework that our Board of Directors will use to strengthen the broader capacity of our movement.
Sixteenth Annual Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards Presented
Congratulations to Accessible Pharmacy Services, which provides solutions to make medication and diabetes management information accessible to blind patients; AstroAccess, which seeks to train individuals with disabilities for space travel; the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, for a program to involve blind youth and their families in outdoor activities in state parks; Peggy Chong, known as the Blind History Lady, to help inaugurate a new research project; Sharon Maneki, in recognition of her over thirty years leading legislative advocacy that has improved the lives of blind people in her home state of Maryland and beyond; and to Neil Soiffer, the developer of MathCat, a free, open-source tool to make math content accessible to screen readers used by blind and deafblind people or display it on a connected Braille device.
Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Awarded to Krystal Guillory
During the 2023 National Convention, the National Federation of the Blind presented its annual Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award to Krystal Guillory, who serves blind students throughout Lincoln Parish, Louisiana.
Throughout our local chapters and state affiliates to our national headquarters and diverse committees, the National Federation of the Blind is an organization of collective action. Here’s what you can do to get involved this month.
- Please thank all of the 2023 National Convention Sponsors who support the work of the Federation. You can also watch the 2023 Sponsor Preview Virtual Showcase. Just input passcode 3?Ur2^Nk to access the recording of our sponsor showcase.
- Read more about the 2023 National Convention in the August-September issue of the Braille Monitor.
- Follow the progress, support, and share the Ride for Literacy with NHL referee, Dan O’Rourke as he rides his bike the entire length of Route 66.
We certainly are a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events.
- Fall 2023: Fall State Convention Season – contact your state affiliate for details
- September 7, 2023: Presidential Release live from Chicago, IL, 8:00 p.m. ET, CC and Spanish translation available
- September 8, 2023: Ride for Literacy completion celebration, Chicago, IL
- October 2023: Blind Equality Achievement Month