2024 Presidential Report

An Address Delivered by 
Mark A. Riccobono
National Federation of the Blind
Orlando, Florida
July 6, 2024

Over the past year, we, the nation’s blind, have accelerated our march toward equality in society. Thousands of active members on the local level have joined in hundreds of chapters within our fifty-two state affiliates, unified in a coordinated nationwide movement with a momentum that is impossible to stop. As we gather to review our progress, we celebrate the infinite possibilities born from the pledge to work together to create a world where blind people can live the lives we want as valued and respected members of society. While the work ahead can feel daunting and the barriers in our way may appear immovable, we know that success will not come from the charity of others but from the momentum of our own united efforts. Our vehicle for acceleration is the National Federation of the Blind.

Despite the great strides we have made since 1940, society still does not completely believe in the full capacity of blind individuals. We are often tolerated, but not included, and are told what we can and cannot do because society expects less of us. In building our movement, we organize around five key values, which will serve as the basis of my report. 

The first of these values is that we unapologetically believe in blind people. We take action to advance the aspirations of the blind, and we create a loving community where we learn to be our most powerful selves. Our faith in the capacity and dignity of blind individuals is at the heart of our mission.

One of the most important ways we carry out our belief in blind people is through our efforts to support blind children and their families. Unfortunately, the American education system continues to fail these students, but we are pushing back. The key tool for ensuring blind children receive appropriate educational services authentic to their learning is the Individualized Education Program (IEP).

At the beginning of June, we held the first of our IEP Advocacy Academies. Supported by the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, the goal of this program is to increase the number of advocates available to help families through the IEP process, but equally as important is to connect them with the lifelong network that is the National Federation of the Blind. There is a great demand for this support among families. We trained sixteen individuals from fifteen of our affiliates in our first cohort, and we will be investing in additional cohorts soon. We believe that putting a successful blind adult into these meetings is one of the most effective tools we have for raising expectations.

One example of our success comes in a school district in Alabama. We got involved in the IEPs for a ten-year-old who could only write the alphabet in uncontracted Braille and a nine-year-old who could only write half of the alphabet. Neither of them could read. Neither of these young girls, both curious and eager to learn, had any access technology or access technology instruction. Neither of them was receiving substantive mobility services, thus denying them age-appropriate independence.

In school, they relied exclusively on paraprofessionals to serve as readers and guides. With the intervention of the Federation, both girls’ IEPs were rewritten to include integration of blindness skills training into the general curriculum; age-appropriate Braille, mobility and technology goals; reduced reliance on paraprofessionals; and daily reinforcement of all instruction. Our Alabama affiliate now stands ready to ensure that the IEPs are followed so these girls receive the free and appropriate public education they are guaranteed by law.

There are times when our local advocacy is not enough to overcome systemic discrimination. We filed administrative complaints with the Louisiana Department of Education regarding the failure of two parishes to provide appropriate assessments and effective instruction in Braille. Due to our support, the department found violations of the law and ordered compensatory Braille instruction, training for parish staff on appropriate services for blind students, increased participation by teachers at team meetings, and new assessments for the blind students. These complaints got the attention of state and local professionals who now know that our Federation is standing by to ensure they give blind students the education they deserve in compliance with the law. We believe in blind people, and with that belief we are unstoppable in our pursuit of equality.

Another value is our commitment to lead courageously. Our members and partners count on our expertise and our resolve. We will never shy away from the effort to surmount obstacles and raise expectations in pursuit of richer, fuller lives for all blind people.

After nine years of litigation before the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board and in federal court, we received a historic victory in our fight against Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Earlier this year, the federal court affirmed that our clients are not disabled for the work they perform at Seneca Re-Ad in Ohio and cannot be paid subminimum wages. Shortly after the ruling, the sheltered workshop agreed to pay our three clients every cent they were owed in back wages and liquidated damages. This may be the most significant wake-up call we have ever delivered to the employers abusing the labor of disabled workers. 

The momentum is clearly on our side. Sixteen states have passed legislation or promulgated regulations to phase out subminimum wages, two additional states have implemented restrictions, and we are gaining support for federal legislation. In May, another milestone was reached when a joint letter signed by the president of SourceAmerica and me, as the President of the National Federation of the Blind, was sent to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Labor Committees in support of the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act. This is the first time SourceAmerica has joined the blind in urging Congress to eliminate unequal pay provisions in federal law. In addition, we continue to monitor and advise the AbilityOne Commission as it undertakes significant reform to raise expectations in employment for people with disabilities.

We continue to hold the government responsible when agencies discriminate against blind employees. Frequently this relates to the failure of agencies to meet the information technology accessibility standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. One example is the Department of Veterans Affairs, which rolled out Cerner’s electronic health records software knowing it was inaccessible. It is worth noting that we raised concerns about Cerner’s contract with the Department of Defense in 2015 before the implementation began. On behalf of Laurette Santos, a blind employee of the VA, we have filed suit in federal court for the agency’s failure to accommodate. This case will build on our prior legal victories and help establish the remedies for relief under Section 508. We seek equality of opportunity, not to simply be paid as charity cases for doing nothing.

Another area that takes our organizational and personal courage is our advocacy to counteract the discrimination that blind people experience from drivers in the rideshare industry. I will make this really simple: both of the leading companies, Lyft and Uber, are failing to meet their obligations to ensure that blind individuals are not discriminated against. While we continue to hold regular meetings with both companies in good faith to improve their policies and practices, there is rarely a day that goes by when we do not learn of another ride denied to a blind person.

One example is a recent call I received from Jessica Beecham, a member of the Federation’s national board, who happens to use a guide dog. She was in an Uber, but the driver refused to transport her. The Littleton police were on the scene, and they were treating Jessica like the criminal. They got increasingly forceful as Jessica kept her cool and attempted to educate them about the specifics of the Colorado statutes. While Jessica left the car with her dignity, she had no ride and had all of the stress and frustration of having her rights denied.

The following day Jessica received an apologetic phone call from the officer who was in charge on the scene, but any blind person knows this was too little, too late—the damage was already done. We will take all of the courageous steps necessary to stop this second-class treatment from both the rideshare drivers and law enforcement officers. We strongly encourage all blind people to continue to share data with the Federation about these incidents and to file complaints through the ADA.gov website.

Another area of our persistent advocacy relates to the unequal treatment blind people receive during airline travel. We have continued to press the US Department of Transportation regarding our objection to the service-animal-attestation forms used by airlines. In addition, we drafted new sections for the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, including a demonstration program for service animal users, greater training for airline personnel, and access to websites and in-flight entertainment systems. On May 16, 2024, the president of the United States signed the reauthorization act into law, including our accessibility priorities. The actions of Federation members make all the difference in leading courageously. A special thank you to Al Elia of New York, who has been a critical leader in our advocacy work on behalf of guide-dog users.

Leading courageously requires us to put our own ideas to the test, and we do that through innovative programs coordinated by our staff at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore. We are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of our program expansion, and the difference we’ve made is found in the blind people, employers, rehabilitation and education professionals, disability rights advocates, and technology developers who have been positively influenced. The expertise and authentic experience of Federation members is what makes our efforts uniquely effective. During the past year, in collaboration with our National Association of Blind Students, we began building a new model for regional student seminars. Our Midwest and Rocky Mountain Seminars provided an informative and fun platform for nearly one hundred students to build a community together while learning about how blind students successfully navigate college. 

In the area of employment, we have been building community resources with the support of our Employment Committee. During the past year, we hosted events connecting over four hundred blind jobseekers with fifty employers offering competitive integrated jobs. We supported these efforts with our quarterly Where the Blind Work webinar series, which aims to shatter misconceptions about blind people in the employment arena. In the coming year we will complete and launch several training modules, grounded in Federation philosophy, designed to inform and train vocational rehabilitation counselors on how to best work with their blind consumers. This work incorporates the expertise of our National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals. These resources will be made available to Federation affiliates to facilitate training within state vocational rehabilitation agencies.

Through our Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access, we work with everyone from developers of new technologies to the largest technology companies in the world. Our staff test and track the accessibility of products and perform training along with strategic partners. Our technology staff hosts monthly ninety-minute sessions and quarterly four-hour presentations on various accessibility topics for Federation members and our allies. Through our Blind Users Innovating and Leading Design (BUILD) program, we ensure that technology partners utilize the talents of blind people in their testing efforts and that they pay users for their time. We continue to advance a culture of accessibility in higher education through our Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship program in the state of Maryland. In order to more effectively track trends and empower Federation members to engage with companies regarding accessibility issues, we recently launched a Self-Advocacy Toolkit for Nonvisual Accessibility. 

A core aspect of our leadership is being there when individual blind people need us the most. During the past year we strengthened the technical support efforts we provide to blind people through our general information, legal, and advocacy support programs at our national office. We have increased our investment in counteracting the problems that result from the bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration. We first aim to support the self-advocacy of individual Federation members, but sometimes a stronger intervention is required. One example from the past year is Allison Depner, a leader in our California affiliate, who received a notice from the Social Security Administration in December 2022 informing her that she had been overpaid.

According to the letter, her SSDI benefits would cease, and she would be responsible for repaying approximately 40,000 dollars. Allison knew the program rules, she was confident she had followed them, but the agency continued to give her conflicting information. She asked for help from team NFB, and we worked closely with her to fight the agency. After a full year, during which time she received no benefits, the Social Security Administration finally acknowledged their error. They restarted Allison’s benefits, gave her more than $21,000 in missed payments, and issued her a formal letter of apology. To quote Allison, “it pays to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind.”

One of the most obvious of our core values is that we champion collective action. The power of our membership acting through the democratic process, along with the support of our partners, enables collective action toward full participation in society by blind people. We achieve much more when we work together.

This is observed in our increasing influence in Washington, DC, with members of Congress and among leaders within the executive branch. Our Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act has more cosponsors in the House than ever before. Our Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act was introduced in the United States Senate for the first time, and our companion bill in the House of Representatives has a growing list of cosponsors. Our effort to empower blind people to secure personal technology through the Access Technology Affordability Act continues to be championed by all sides within both chambers of Congress. And just days ago we celebrated the introduction of our Blind Americans Return to Work Act, H.R. 8878, which would eliminate the earnings cliff in the Social Security Disability Insurance program and create a true work incentive for blind and disabled Americans. We will continue to have our collective voice heard in the halls of power.

After more than a decade of our persistent advocacy, on August 4, 2023, the Department of Justice finally published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking related to websites for Title II of the ADA, however it included seven exceptions. We seek equality, not a second-class version of the rights of other Americans. The National Federation of the Blind responded to the NPRM with thorough comments, including our vehement objection to the proposed exceptions. When the final rule was released in April 2024, the two most egregious exceptions had been removed.

In May, we were equally successful with new regulations regarding website accessibility under Section 504 of the Rehab Act issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. While we now have more tools to hold state and local governments accountable for providing us with equal access, we still demand the proposed Title III ADA website regulations that we were promised nearly fourteen years ago. All public accommodations must meet an equal standard of access in the twenty-first century, and the momentum of our collective action will make it a reality.

Our collective action is effective because it is also concentrated locally. We assist our state affiliates in advancing model legislation that strengthens our equality in local communities. In our effort to protect the rights of blind people to be parents and caregivers, we secured legislation in Minnesota, adding that state to the list of twenty other affiliates that have already secured these protections. We have advanced equal access to prescription drug labeling with a new law in Colorado—making it the ninth of our affiliates to achieve this milestone. We continue to work on pay protections, educational standards, public accessibility, and many other initiatives that are advanced on the local level but supported through our national advocacy program.

One of the most important areas is expanding equal access to all forms of voting. During the past five years, we have made considerable progress in expanding the availability of accessible electronic-ballot delivery to blind people, which is now law in thirty-four states and the District of Columbia. In thirteen of those states, we have also secured the ability to privately and independently return the ballot electronically. 

Using the strength of our collective action, we have also taken to the courts to enforce our equal rights in the voting process. In Alabama, we have filed suit against Tuscaloosa, Mobile, and Jefferson Counties for their failure to provide accessible electronic absentee voting to blind and print-disabled voters. We seek a permanent remedy that provides equal access. In March, we supported our California affiliate in filing suit against the California Secretary of State under the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

This suit seeks to require California to allow blind and print-disabled voters to return their ballots electronically. Our request for preliminary injunction seeks the ability to return ballots by fax, as the state already provides this option to California’s military and overseas voters. Meanwhile, we continue to provide technical assistance under the Help America Vote Act to all voting officials and advocates interested in meeting the highest standards of nonvisual access to the voting process. We will pursue equal access whenever it is systemically denied to us, and we will continue to call out any harmful opposition to our collective equality.

Our fourth value is a commitment to fostering inclusion. We recognize the diverse strengths, talents, experiences, and perspectives of our members, staff, and friends; and we cultivate an environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all. We seek that same level of integration into society on terms of equality.

Our movement is built on active participation from members across the nation, and we have continued to strengthen our tools for communicating with and connecting members of the Federation with resources. In September, we launched the Member Profile. This self-service tool allows members to update contact and demographic information at their convenience. Our Member Management Module has streamlined the process of updating and tracking membership status across our chapters, state affiliates, and national divisions. Through our regular meetings with chapter presidents, our communication channels with affiliate leaders, and our NFB Portal online, we are developing new ways to share best practices and basic tools for advancing the work of the organization at all levels.

We continue to seek best-practice recommendations from our Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to improve our program and outreach efforts. In order to create greater consistency across all of our state affiliates, our national board has required every affiliate to adopt and maintain an accessibility policy and to coordinate practices with our national office. During the past year we have piloted the Disability Inclusion & Accessibility Program tools as part of our effort to ensure our events, like this convention, meet or exceed the highest levels of accessibility and inclusion. This program was developed by the disability advocacy community, including Federation leaders, in order to provide a framework for companies to guide their efforts to be inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. We believe that we should meet the standards we expect of others, and we are prepared to continue in our own journey of leading and learning.

Our investment in emerging leaders is central to our commitment. This was the first year for our new Kenneth Jernigan Leadership-In-Service Program. Through this intensive training, we have invested in the development of fifteen emerging leaders from across the country. These individuals have combined their unique talents and diverse perspectives into a community of leadership practice while working closely with the Federation’s President. We expect to onboard a new cohort later this summer. This leadership development is in addition to our regular leadership seminars at our national office, affiliate-building seminars, and special projects to develop blind leaders to take on the many areas of advocacy that require our attention.

One example of advocacy is Lisamaria Martinez, a blind Federation leader from California, who dedicates her time to raising expectations for others. As part of developing her own life-coaching business in 2019, she needed to file a form in Alameda County—a form that was only partly accessible. When an employee at the Clerk-Recorder’s office in Oakland pointed out that she had made a mistake on the form, Lisamaria politely asked if they could assist her in making the necessary corrections—the county staff refused to help, even as they helped other visitors in the office. She attempted to explain her right to receive assistance under the ADA without success. Lisamaria returned home, hired a reader to fill out the form again, and paid for transportation back to the office simply to take care of one single paper form. Fostering inclusion often requires us to educate others, but sometimes that is not enough. When Lisamaria pursued a complaint process to protect other blind people from having this problem in the future, the county refused to enter into structured negotiations, declined the opportunity to amend its policy, and litigated the case for the next five years—all to deny assistance in completing one single paper form. Forced to fight for her rightful place in society, Lisamaria took the stand.

Her testimony, offered to a jury, a judge, and a courtroom full of Federationists, was no longer about one single paper form. With eloquence and grace, she shared how the National Federation of the Blind had made a difference in her life from a young age and taught her that she belonged in this society. She explained that she deserved her rights, and she knew the importance of knocking down barriers to prevent future discrimination against other blind people. The jury agreed with Lisamaria and found that Alameda County had violated the ADA as well as state law. They awarded her $30,500 in damages for the county’s multi-year, deliberately indifferent behavior over one single paper form, and our work continues to secure permanent policy changes. 

Other examples of our work to foster inclusion within society include pursuing equality in healthcare services. In Sarasota, Florida, we assisted a blind woman in reaching a settlement with Partner’s Imaging after it refused to assist her with its inaccessible registration system, forcing her to find a sighted person to accompany her to appointments. In Ohio, we have filed suit against ExactCare, an online pharmacy, for its failure to provide effective communication in the form of accessible documentation for medications. In Minnesota, as a result of our structured negotiations, CVS agreed to replace its existing inaccessible MinuteClinic kiosks with an accessible alternative within eighteen months. CVS will also collaborate with the Federation on the development and testing of the new accessible alternative.

We have made other progress with the Social Security Administration. In 2020, we began an effort to eliminate the agency’s practice requiring certain blind and print-disabled SSDI applicants to go through an inaccessible paper-based process when an accessible electronic process was available. While we pursue the litigation, the agency has temporarily committed to accepting electronic signatures with a back-up telephone verification process. We will continue to work to eliminate this additional barrier and make the process more effective for all applicants. Similarly, in April 2024, the SSA finished installation of new accessible visitor-intake-processing kiosks at all of its field offices nationwide as a result of a suit we previously filed. Although the timeline for completion was significantly delayed by the pandemic, we now celebrate the elimination of this barrier, and we appreciate the agency being at this convention to discuss the machines and its work to modernize communications. 

Our partnerships and communications strategies are also essential to our work to foster inclusion. Examples from the past year include our collaboration with United Airlines as it became the first to commit to installing Braille indicators for individual rows and seat numbers and signage for lavatories. United expects to include this across all aircraft in its entire mainline fleet by the end of 2026. We drew attention to the harm done by Sonos in releasing a new inaccessible mobile application, and we then engaged with the company to integrate more blind testers into their quality assurance process. Our concerns were featured as part of an article in the Washington Post on May 17, 2024. And let us not forget our work to get blind people included more in the fun stuff like video games and puzzles.

We teamed up with Spin Master, a leading global children’s entertainment company and owners of the Rubik’s Cube, to design an all-new cube to empower everyone in the blind community to learn to solve the most popular puzzle in the world. For the fiftieth anniversary of the puzzle, we worked together to create the Rubik’s Sensory Cube, reimagining the classic 3x3 puzzle with distinguishable tactile shapes on its surface to enable solving the puzzle through touch. The Federation worked with the Rubik’s Cube engineers advising on design and how to effectively incorporate Braille into the packaging. Later this year you will be able to buy this Rubik’s Cube through the Federation’s Independence Market online store, and other promotions will be planned for our 2024 Blind Equality Achievement Month. The Federation is certainly making moves to shift expectations throughout society.

The final value I want to cover today is the Federation’s commitment to empower our community to dream big and our determination to make those dreams reality. There are truly no limits to what we can accomplish together. During the past year, this has been observed in our annual NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academies where twenty-one of our state affiliates helped to spark the dreams of 242 young blind students in twenty-five programs in local communities. An additional seventy-two Braille learners from thirty-four of our state affiliates, as well as a military family stationed in Dubai, benefited from our at-home program in 2023.

These dreams start by connecting these future blind leaders into our Federation family. The effect of our work is found in the messages of hope we receive from parents after the BELL Academies. A parent in Virginia shared that their active six-year-old boy, who previously kept his head down, straining to keep his eyes focused on the ground, was walking confidently, his cane out in front, and his head held high listening to the birds and frogs. A mom from Louisiana says her dreams for her son are now bigger by emphasizing that “he is thriving because of you!” She goes on to share, “My only regret is not finding you all sooner…” This summer, our theme is “I Can Lead,” and I am certain we will unlock some big dreams in the hearts of these young Braille-reading leaders.

Dreams come alive in our STEM2U programs with the support of General Motors and the execution of programs in more than a dozen Federation affiliates where blind students are opened to the opportunities for discovery in science and the realization that vision is not a requirement for success. The foundation for dreaming big is built in our Teachers of Tomorrow program where, over the past year, fourteen teachers from ten states have spent time each month learning from the lived experience of blind people and being supported by previous program participants who are now giving back. As one participant said, “I was inspired because the NFB has fostered a community of members who come from all walks of life who choose to join together and invest so much of their time and energy to advocate for change. Real change. Change for themselves and for future generations of blind Americans.” We are building dreams through a community of high expectations. 

We also dream big by exploring partnerships with early-stage startups that have the potential to innovate solutions that will benefit all blind people. Partnership investments from the past year include Making Space, a disability-owned company driving change in employment and upskilling; XR Navigation, a blind-owned startup innovating new frontiers in tactile mapping and navigation; Purple, an entity raising expectations in inclusive financial literacy; and Be My Eyes, a previous winner of the Federation’s Bolotin Award and a company committed to blind-centered practices to leverage artificial intelligence for personal digital assistance.

Dreaming big starts within each member of our Federation—within our own stories and their connection to our collective action. We continue to develop the extensive archives housed within our Jacobus tenBroek Research Library on Blindness in Baltimore. We have added artifacts and personal papers from blind people who have made our movement what it is. We have put into place a new digital asset management system for tracking the extensive collection of photos, videos, and audio recordings that document our progress.

During the past year, we have increased our pace of researching, collecting, and preserving oral histories from blind people across this nation. And we are building partnerships to preserve other key aspects of our shared stories as blind people. As one significant example, I am pleased to announce that due to the efforts of Ron Brown, a longtime leader of our movement in Indiana and at the national level, we have agreed to make our headquarters in Baltimore the official home for preserving and hosting the National Beep Baseball Hall of Fame. I am confident this will not be the last homerun Ron Brown hits for our movement.

That brings us to our biggest dream—eliminating the persistent misconceptions and low-expectations within the average person about blind people, our equality, and our capacity. We seek not merely to effect minor changes but to accelerate significant shifts in society. Thus, we have taken on a big dream—one that will not be easy, will demand resources and new talents, and that will stretch our aspirations for the future—a dream that needs to be pursued even as we do all of the other work needed in our movement. This is our dream of building the Museum of the Blind People’s Movement.

This new dynamic space, physically in Baltimore but accessible everywhere through a robust digital presence, will be the only museum that is authentically and unapologetically blind-centered and designed to be inclusive, again reflecting the values of the organized blind movement. For centuries, blind people have been misunderstood and underestimated. We will invite the world to discover the authentic experiences and contributions of blind people—from the everyday to the extraordinary.

This year we have continued our development work on the themes for this museum, including moving from a broad concept design process into the schematic design phase where we will develop the detailed content and experience of the museum. This spring, we were notified that our museum was approved for appropriations at both the state and federal levels totaling more than 500,000 dollars. Yet, we have a lot of work to do to make our big dream a reality. We need to find ways to accelerate understanding about us and to solidify the truth of our dignity: we belong in the world, and we make it better. This effort will take all of us, and I am again calling on you to help. You can help by gifting your personal papers and artifacts to our Federation. You can assist by researching, writing, recording, and sharing the stories of blind people into our publications and archives.

You can prioritize approaching contacts within your personal circle of influence and asking them for a major pledge to our museum effort. And you can make your own pledge. While dozens of us have already made commitments, the Museum of the Blind People’s Movement will not happen without the support of thousands of blind people and our allies. When we challenge misconceptions, we create a world where we are included, respected, and valued. Our contributions make the world better. This is your museum, and together we can transform this dream into reality.

There are dozens of other accomplishments that I have not had time to cover in this report. These come from our education programs, our legal service work, our general information assistance calls, our media relations projects, our training seminars, our collaboration with community partners, our work to hold entities accountable for their programs and services affecting the blind, and our daily work to build a coordinated movement. All of these accomplishments have one single consistent and unbreakable bond—they happen through the hard work of blind people and our allies whose personal stories fuel our dedication to making the world better.

You, the active members of our movement who believe in blind people, lead courageously, champion collective action, foster inclusion, and dream big. You are the heartbeat of our movement, and you accelerate our progress.

Ten years and one day ago, I was humbled to first accept your affirmative vote to serve as your President. In accepting your support, I pledged to you my commitment to build our Federation with the same love and determination shared among our previously elected leaders, and I invited you to join with me in the effort. You answered my invitation by accelerating our progress, and not one day has passed without my feeling the gravity of humility and gratitude for what you have given to our shared movement.

I doubt any of us would have predicted many of the experiences we’ve shared together during the past ten years—and my thinning hair and its new grey highlights may indicate to some that the experience has been hard on me. But every time I have been confronted with difficult circumstances in the office of the President, I have found strength, hope, and wisdom in the bond of faith we share. Hundreds of times I have relied on the trust I have in all of you, and you have given me the guidance to do what was needed for our movement. In response, you have trusted me, helped to keep us on the best path forward, and have given me the courage to push harder and faster toward our equality in society.

Should you choose to invite me to continue in service of this movement tomorrow, you will have no less commitment, energy, imagination, and heart from me than you did ten years ago. And the truth is you will have all of that even if you decide something different. My trust in you and my commitment to our movement is unbroken. Thank you for the tremendous difference you have made in my life and for my family. During the past ten years, you have shown me the best of the human spirit, the strength of kindness, and the power of solidarity. I have done my best to reflect back to you all that you have given to me. If my continued service in the office of the President is your resolution, I am prepared to accelerate our progress toward equality.

I remain unsatisfied with our position in society as blind people, even as I am inspired by how the momentum of this movement raises expectations every day. I will never ask from you anything that I am not prepared to do myself. I will also never compromise the bond of faith we share with each other—a faith that can move mountains and mount movements. It is the efforts of all of us combined that give us power, love, and determination to go the rest of the way to equality. 

My Federation family, this is my report for 2024. This is how we accelerate progress toward a hopeful tomorrow. This is the future we build for ourselves with love, hope, and determination. This is the blind people’s movement.