National Federation of the Blind Presidential Release # 505


National Federation of the Blind
Presidential Release # 505

May 3, 2021

7:45 p.m. – 9:02 p.m. ET

Remote CART Captioning Provided By:
Ennis Captioning Solutions, LLC
Natalie C. Ennis, CRC, RPR / CI and CT

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This file is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

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(Musing playing:  "Stay Gold" by Stevie Wonder)
(Music playing:  "Try Everything" by Shakira).
PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everyone.  Welcome.  We're so happy you're with us tonight for our May presidential release.  We will be beginning soon at 8:00 p.m. eastern.  Thank you so much for being here tonight.  Just a reminder that everyone is on mute as we are gathering in.  You can submit your questions through our Q&A feature or through any of our social media channels or send an email to [email protected].
We are utilizing captioning in zoom as well as at 1CapApp.  The link is available in the chat.
We have two poll questions tonight and we encourage everyone to participate who is utilizing Zoom.  In honor of May the 4th be with you, we're wondering who your favorite Star Wars character is, and we have lots of great choices.
And our second poll question for our 2021 convention that's coming up very soon, we're wondering your thoughts on hosting a banquet party.  So please join in our poll.  We're so happy that you're here.  We also for our Spanish access tonight, we're utilizing the Zoom interpretation feature.  And here are our instructions on accessing.
(Announcement in Spanish).
(Music playing:  "Convention Time Rhythm of the Movement").
(Music playing:  "Cicadas Invading Maryland Song").
(Music playing:  "Live the Life you Want").
PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our May presidential release.  We are so happy you've joined us tonight.  Thank you so much for being here, and it is now my pleasure to welcome President Riccobono for his remarks!
MARK RICCOBONO:  Good evening, Pam.  How are you?
PAM ALLEN:  I'm great.  How are you?
MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm doing well.  Doing well after shot 2.  
Did you like our little nod to the Maryland cicadas there?
PAM ALLEN:  I did.  That song was interesting.
MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm sorry you're going to miss it.
PAM ALLEN:  It sounds like quite an event.
MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah, you're starting to come out now that it's been warm.  It's too bad you won't be here to experience it.
PAM ALLEN:  Well, you have fun.  Enjoy.  We'll think of our friends in Maryland.
MARK RICCOBONO:  We'll record something for our next release.
All right.  Let's get started.  You ready?
PAM ALLEN:  Sounds great.  We're ready.
Greetings, fellow Federationists.  Today is Monday, May 3rd, 2021, and this is presidential release 505.  I can't believe May is here already.  And in Maryland and other nearby states, we're getting ready for the 17-year cicadas to come out in addition to many other things.  And we're very excited here at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute today because many of us, including myself, and our staff, received shot 2 of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.  So we're very excited to be on the road to being fully vaccinated.
In honor of that, I have here in front of me on the table our Dr. Anthony Fauci bobble head which many people got to take a picture with today when they got shot number 2.  So I'm really grateful for the resources that are being mobilized across the country to keep all of us safe, and for the network of the National Federation of the Blind that has helped many, many people, including myself, get access to the vaccine in a timely fashion.
And speak of getting access to the vaccine, our efforts in that area continue.  We have sent letters to some organizations whose websites are not accessible and are preventing blind people from getting full access to testing and to vaccinations.  But we're also partnering with folks to help get blind people to get their vaccinations.  Our primary partner there is Lyft, rideshare company, through their LyftUp Vaccine Access Program.  They are providing access to free rides to members of the National Federation of the Blind to get their COVID vaccines.  And we announced this previously, and we said that the codes, the free codes from Lyft would be available through April 30.  Well, we've talked with Lyft and they have now extended the availability of these free Lyft codes to help blind people get out and get vaccine shots to June 30, 2021.
There are two different codes, for dose 1 and dose 2.  These codes are not being publicly distributed.  They are distributed through NFB affiliate Presidents.  So if you have a need to get assistance getting to a vaccination site, please reach out to your affiliate President for more information.  We do need to collect some data about how these codes are used, which is why they're not just publicly available.
We're coming up this month on Global Accessibility Awareness Day.  And this year that will happen on May 20th.  And we have a number of things going on related to Global Accessibility Awareness Day, or GAAD, as it's called.  And the first, I'm very excited to announce that thanks to a generous donation from Deque Systems as well as an anonymous donor, we're going to have a matching gift period during the week that includes Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which again is May 20th.  So every dollar that you donate during that week will be matched up to a total of $25,000 during the week of May 16-23.  We had a very successful giving day last May, and I think we can do even better this year advance the National Federation of the Blind during this Global Accessibility Awareness Week, really, by making donations.  Your donations during that week will also count toward our Give 20 campaign for 2021.  So not only can you double your gift by contributing during that week.  You can get your gift included in the Give 20 campaign drawing for this year.
More details will be coming out soon on our listservs and in our social media and other communication channels, but please consider making a gift or encouraging friends, family, others to make a gift during Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and that week, because we want to get those matching dollars.  And thank you again to Deque and our anonymous donors for helping to make that possible.
Also on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the NFB's Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access to education, public information, and commerce will be hosting a seminar to highlight the tremendous partnership and work that we have been able to do with the Maryland Department of Disabilities under a nonvisual access project which we have been running with the department now for many years.  For more information, can you visit at our website for more information.  You'll find how to log on and how to register for our Global Accessibility Awareness Day event.
Spring 2021 is a time when many high school students are thinking about taking exams offered by the College Board, especially the advanced placement exams.  And Federationists will remember that this time last year, we worked with blind high school students who were really being shut out of equal access to the advanced placement exams.  The College Board simply said we're not going to figure it out for students, especially who need Braille.  And led by some blind students, with our effort, we got them to change that decision and got those students access.
We would like to hear from high school students who encounter barriers this year in the spring of 2021 in trying to take the College Board advanced placement exams and getting accommodations in Braille or Tacto Graphics and that kind of thing.
If you are one of those individuals or know of one of those individuals or are a teacher of one of those individuals, please reach out to Valerie Yingling here at our national office.  And I'll give you her contact information in just a moment.
Another effort that we need you to reach out to Valerie about is the National Telecommuting Institute.  The NFB, on behalf of itself, an NFB member, and all similarly situated blind individuals has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts commission against discrimination against National Telecommuting Institute, or NTI, for NTI's discrimination against blind job applicants who use screen access software and other assistive technology.  If you have applied for a job through NTI or similarly have been denied employment because you use speech access software, or if you wish to work from home doing customer service work and are willing to apply to NTI, we would like you to reach out again to Valerie Yingling.  So one more time, if you have applied to NTI and have been denied employment based on your use of access technology or if you're interested in applying and use access technology, please contact Valerie Yingling.  The legal program coordinator here at our national office.  Her email address is [email protected].  You can also contact her via telephone at our national office.
We're getting ready for the National Federation of the Blind Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy in-home edition 2021.  The deadline is coming up for our first session.  The first session will kick off on June 7.  So if you want to get your blind child or if you know of blind children that might want to get into this session, the deadline for applying is Friday, May 7.  However, we do have two other sessions.  We have a session that starts on July 19.  The application deadline for that session is June 19.  And our final session starts on August 9th, and as you might imagine, the deadline will be July 9 to apply to that program.
Options are available for beginning Braille readers, intermediate Braille readers, and those who already know the entire Braille code.  You can visit for more information or to apply.  I do encourage you to get the word out about our BELL Academy.  It's fantastic.  In-home edition is really helping to create some innovative new program.  We're getting ready to pack boxes and send them out for the first session.  You won't want to miss it.  Please help reach out to families about this important Braille literacy program.
I want to tell you now about an important pilot project that we're running from the national office.  This is a pilot project to run an internet radio station using Federation content, and we would like you to participate if you're interested.  We're exploring the potential of putting together this pilot streaming project based on the suggestions of a number of members who would like to see some more dynamic access to the large store of audio content that we have in the National Federation of the Blind.  So this pilot project, you can think of it very much like an internet radio station.  Initially it will be based on existing audio content that we have in the Federation.
Federation members who have technical expertise to offer, content ideas, and/or really just are simply interested in helping as a participant in this project to steer it on kind of an ad hoc group can reach out via email to communicationsteam, with an S, or I kind of think of it as communication steam.  [email protected].  When you reach out, please include any relevant background about you, why you think this project would be helpful in building the Federation, what state you're a part of, and any other relevant information and recommendations you would have.  So please, if you're interested in helping out, write to [email protected].  I think this is an exciting new project for us to undertake.
As you know, we continue to do work that is led by our survivors task force in the National Federation of the Blind to make sure that our organization is safe and is as strong as possible.  I call your attention to a letter that I published on April 15, giving a number of updates about work that we are doing.  And subsequent to that letter, which can be found at our website, the special committee which is looking at the past work of the Federation in this area and will be delivering an independent report to the organization has also posted some announcements to our website.
Here to give us some updates from our survivor-led task force from the great state of Indiana, here is Sarah Meyer.
(Music playing:  "This Girl is on Fire").
SARAH MEYER:  Wow, I love that song!  Thank you.
MARK RICCOBONO:  Welcome, Sarah.
SARAH MEYER:  Thank you.
Hi, everyone.  My name is Sarah Meyer.  I am really honored to get to be with you all tonight.
I am here to share some updates as well as the latest on our accountability journey as a task force.  So let me start with accountability.  As a question that was asked of us a few months ago and has been brought up from multiple people and it's something that we've been deeply committed to.  So just wanted to provide an update.
So full accountability is an essential component that ensures that the Federation transforms and continues to become a more safe and welcoming community.  Each member of the survivors task force agreed to commit to the value of shared accountability.  This was one of our core values ever since the inception of the task force.  And we remain steadfast to this commitment.
We occasionally need to change how we implement accountability amongst the six us to assure that we are practicing accountability with integrity and without causing additional harm.  We have definitely been on our own journeys, and it's something that we are really reflecting on and working on.
To this point, some individuals have communicated concerns or potential harms by task force members to President Riccobono or to another task force member.  We realize that some people may feel unsafe or uncomfortable with either of these options, so we are identifying a third party for people to submit their concerns.
This is one example of how we have modified our process to enhance its effectiveness, our appreciation and comprehension of the difficulty involved in approaching situations with authenticity, care, respect, and the need to seek resolution has grown exponentially.  We are collaborating with members of the diversity and inclusion committee, and outside resources, so ensure that our approach to being accountable to survivors and our community at large is thorough, trauma informed, inclusive, and ethically sound.
We will be releasing a more comprehensive statement on the exact process that we are adopting for accountability in the coming weeks.  So stay tuned.
And as always, we definitely welcome and greatly value any feedback, as we are all deeply invested and committed to supporting survivors and amplifying their voices while working to bring healing and restoring safety to our community.
So now for some branch updates.  As you may know by now, we have three branches within our survivors task force, and we are so grateful for everyone who has been getting involved and really deeply appreciate everyone's feedback and support, because we definitely cannot do this alone.
As a part of the training and culture branch, we are working on developing phase 2 of training plans.  So up until this point, we have completed phase 1 of training that RAINN has provided to about 1,000 of our leaders.  So we are exploring what phase 2 is going to look like including who is going to be involved, how frequently it will take place, and so forth.
We're also discussing the long-term structure and survivor support and advisement and what that will look like following this year's convention.
This branch is also securing training for BELL coordinators and volunteers as well as for youth programs across the board.  Our team is also looking forward to focus groups with RAINN, where we will get leaders, members, staff, and training center students into various sessions for guided conversation to influence upcoming changes and implementation.
As part of our efforts for communications and engagement, we continue to publish our monthly blog as well as attending several chapter meetings and state conventions to spread the word that improve our overarching organizational culture shift.
Our task force has been working closely with Tonya Bana, the third-party investigator, to understand the ins and outs of the process, her investigatory process, and we are also meeting with training center directors to ensure that our efforts are cohesive and holding accountability and support for survivors and healing.
So now for some announcements.  We will be holding another open call to gather Code of Conduct feedback on Sunday, May 23rd, at 8:00 p.m. eastern.  Because we got so much feedback, so much great participation in the first two that we know we need to do another one.  So we will also facilitate a call with Tonya Bana, again, the third-party investigator, on Sunday, June 6th, at 8:00 p.m. eastern.  So stay tuned for that.
Both Zoom links can be found on our website later this week.  That website is
If you have any access needs in order to participate in any of these events, please email us at [email protected], that's survivors plural.
And lastly, as mentioned in the April 15th open letter from President Riccobono, RAINN is partnering with us to gather feedback from the blind community including NFB members and nonmembers in a climate assessment survey to help inform recommendations for further sexual misconduct prevention and response programming.  This effort will assist in in determining additional and continuous training which will ultimately provide consistency across the organization.  This is a baseline measurement to target our future efforts and will continue to be assessed as a component of our accountability measures.  All responses will go directly to RAINN and are completely anonymous.  RAINN will then deliver a report detailing findings and implications that will be shared at the time of our 2021 national convention.
The link to this climate assessment survey has been emailed out through our various listservs.  So check your email.  Or you can also find it on the home page of our website or on the website or you can access it over the phone by calling (229)632-7878.  
And again, I just want to say thank you so much to everyone who has been providing constructive and encouraging feedback to all of these efforts.  We really are grateful.  So thank you so much, President Riccobono.
MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Sarah.  I appreciate the work of our task force and those who have been participating in the task force activities and workshops and different things that we're doing around the community.  Look, these are often emotional, difficult decisions, and we're working to raise the standard really across the field of blindness.  This is very important work, and we appreciate so much the work of the task force and those other individuals who are really digging in and helping with these difficult and important conversations.
I do want to raise up the climate survey and especially the telephone aspect, because this is really I think significant, that we have put together a system that we can use in the future for members to call in and participate in surveys like this, using your touch tone telephone.  This is great because most of the surveys we've launched in the last few years have really been focused on filling something out on the web.  We all know the barriers that that presents.  We in local chapters have helped people fill out these surveys, but especially with a sensitive survey like this, we want blind people to be able to fill them out privately and independently.  And so if you do need that, I would encourage you by May 12, dial (229)632-7878 to fill out our climate assessment survey.  It will make a big difference.
Now by the way, on the survey, if you do fill out the telephone survey, also please give us your feedback about the experience.  This is a system we built and we would love to have your notes about the experience.  Jot them down, send them in to us at the national office.  We would like to continue to make it better just like we do with all of our programs.
Now, we do have a national convention coming up from July 6-10 being hosted anywhere and everywhere by our National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.  Here is our host affiliate to tell us about the convention!
SPEAKER:  Good evening, fellow Federationists.  My name is Ronza.  I serve as the President of Maryland division.  Maryland is so excited to serve as the host of the 2021 NFB national convention, located anywhere and everywhere.  We want to remind everyone to please register for the convention by May 31, 2021.  You can do this by visiting or use the registration form in the Braille Monitor and mail it back.  If you want to submit a resolution, please send it to chairperson Sharon, who also happens to be from Maryland, by June 7.  She can be reached at [email protected] or (410)715-9596.  We are excited about the tours we have planned as part of the convention and will be sharing more information about this soon.  But we urge you to visit the NFB national convention website,, for updates.  The Braille Monitor will also have a ton of information as well.
Last month we held a contest on this release.  Well, the contest is still open because no one has yet been able to correctly identify all of the songs and all of the speakers.  We are going to keep the contest open until someone wins or until the July national board meeting, whichever happens first.  You can visit to listen to the contest again.  The recording describes how you can submit your responses.
We're also launching a blog in connection to the national convention.  You can find out fun things at, including reading our blog posts.  We'll be posting information and articles regularly, so be sure to visit often.
This year we have decided to bring laughter to the convention.  Actually, there's always plenty of laughter at the convention.  But we thought we would bring some more and make it official.  For the first time ever, LOL comedy night will be part of the NFB national convention.  You don't just have to sit in the virtual audience either.  We are looking for talented individuals to strut their comedy self on the stage.  Maybe you are a budding stand-up comedian like this guy.
SPEAKER:  We call it a phone and don't use it as a phone.  Nobody is talking on the phone.  Once they give gave you the option to talk and type, talking ended that day.  It's over.  Talking is obsolete.  It's antiquated.  I feel like a blacksmith up here sometimes to tell you the truth.  I can text you this whole thing and we can get the hell out of here right now!
SPEAKER:  Or maybe impersonations are your thing.
SPEAKER:  Good evening.  I'm your moderator, Chris Wallace.
And I think I'm going to do a really good job tonight.
First I want to lay out the rules.  Each candidate will have two minutes uninterrupted --
SPEAKER:  Boring.
SPEAKER:  Mr. President, I haven't even introduced the candidates yet.
SPEAKER:  Tell that to my Adderall, Chris, now let's get this show on the road.
SPEAKER:  And did you take the COVID test you promised to take in advance, correct?
SPEAKER:  Absolutely.  Scouts' honor.
SPEAKER:  Or maybe you could get some friends together and do a comedy skit Saturday Night Live style.
SPEAKER:  Auditions will take place mid-May.  To sign up, send an email to [email protected] or call (443)426-4110 by May 10th, 20021.  Be sure to tell us if you would prefer to audition on Saturday May 15 at 5:00 p.m. eastern or Monday May 17 at 8:00 p.m. eastern.  NFB LOL comedy night will take place in connection with the national convention.  Check the convention page for date and time.  You won't want to miss it because not only will you be entertained but the audience will be voting for the winner.
If you like contests more than comedy, we have six Jeopardy clues in the category famous Marylanders.  The first person to get all of them right will receive a fabulous prize.  Don't forget to answer in the form of a question.  Send your answers to [email protected] or call or text (443)426-4110.  Here we go.  For 100, this actress married the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  For 200, this journalist and talk show host anchored the 6:00 evening news in Baltimore before becoming one of the wealthiest women in America.  For 300, this person was the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice.  For 400, this person is the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals.  For 500, this author created the Eve Dallas series and was the first author to be inducted into the romance authors of America.  And for 600, this person created the Muppets.  Remember, send the answers in the form of a question to [email protected] or call (443)446-4110.  The first person to answer all questions correctly will win a prize.
And as a final thought from us, back to comedy.  Virtual conventions do have their advantages.  You don't have to pay for a hotel room or put up with any of these common hotel issues, like, for example, welcome to hotel inn where our priority is to make sure your stay feels exactly like staying in a hotel.  You will always be welcomed by our friendly check in agents who will happily press a lot of buttons really fast and overexplain every single detail of every single amenity our hotel has to offer.  And then some.  Each guest will get up to three key cards that probably won't work the first time.  And you're going to love your room that you can hardly tell the last person smoked in.  Each one comes equipped with a cozy corner chair for your suitcase, an unstocked mini fridge, an alarm clock for you to unplug so you can charge your phone, a thermostat that turns on as soon as you set it to 60 degrees.  A bedside lamp with a switch located somewhere.  And of course a bed with an elegant down comforter that you might want to avoid touching if possible.
In each one of our luxury bathrooms, you'll find a wide assortment of lotions and gels that you don't need, a freshly bagged air dryer, and a fantastic shower, if you're able to get the water temperature right.  And if you're under 5 feet tall.  Our in-room entertainment offers you movies that are still showing in theaters for the price of going to a theater.  Enjoy a $19 grilled cheese sandwich and glass of water delivered in Saran wrap, delivered by a guy who will walk all the way in.
Remember, you need to register for convention by May 31st to be sure to get the most out of the event, including eligibility for voting.  Just visit our website to register.  See new July.
MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you very much to our host affiliate for that, and I encourage people to not just register but participate in the preconvention fun.  I'm looking forward to the LOL, the new event, as part of our convention.  It's going to be pretty exciting.
Assuming we survive the cicadas here in Maryland, we have the convention to look forward to.
Tracy Soforenco is the President of the NFB of Virginia and serves as chairman of our Kenneth Jernigan committee.  And he's given me an announcement that says announcing the 2021 national convention first timers concierge service.  Our Kenneth Jernigan committee would like to help all first timers to the convention make the most of their experience with the national convention.  The 2021 first timers should not just register like Maryland said, but you should also request an experienced convention guide from the Kenneth Jernigan committee.
To request a mentor, simply send an email to [email protected].  Provide your name, contact info, your state, and a little about you and your interests.
The committee will match you with an experienced convention attendee from the committee's membership who will assist you in navigating the agenda connecting within the Federation network and answering questions you might have about the convention.  In addition to sending an email or instead of I should say, can you leave your information as a vote mail by calling (410)659-9314 and dialing extension 2020.  Requests for first timer concierge support from the Kenneth Jernigan committee must be in by June 15, 2021.  So get your requests in and thank you to the members of our Kenneth Jernigan committee for putting together this new service for our second virtual convention.
I have a number of Federation family notes to share with you this evening.  I regret to have to let you know about the passing of two members from our New Orleans chapter in Louisiana, Taneesha Walker and Georgiana Chatman.
From our Houston chapter, I regret to have to let you know about the passing of Tijuanna Clemens, who died on April 3 from cancer.
Betty Wilson, a member of the greater Baltimore chapter, passed away.  Betty was a senior citizen with a real spirit for maintaining her independence.  She lost her battle with cancer on Thursday, April 8.
The San Joaquin chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California reports the death of a founding member of the chapter, Velvet Volonte.
And I regret to also inform that you Patty Hamm passed away on April 24.  Patty was living in Tempe but had been an active member of the Kansas City chapter of the National Federation of the Blind for many years.
And finally, I regret to share with you the passing of Bridget Worley of Colorado, who passed away on April 27.  She was one of our blind at heart sighted leaders in the National Federation of the Blind.  I believe that she first joined the Federation participating in a convention in the late 1980s, and among the many things she brought to our movement, she was particularly passionate about helping the youngest members of our movement providing them with mentoring opportunities and especially helping them connect with employment opportunities throughout the community, especially utilizing the skills and resources of Worley Enterprises.  And by the way, that includes firing blind people when they weren't cutting it, which as we know can be just as valuable as getting a job.
I would encourage you to keep Kevan and Nijat and all of our Federation family in Colorado who have been deeply impacted by Bridget's passing in your thoughts and prayers, as well as these other members and those I may not know about who have left us in the past month.
I do have a number of joyous items to share with you on this release, and congratulations needs to go out to the newest first couple of the Federation, Scott Van Gorp, who is President of our Iowa affiliate, and Chelsea Page were married on April 3rd, 2021.  They point out that that's 4/3/21.  They say that was not intentional.  But a pretty cool date to start their journey together.  And they were very figured out have a number of Federation family members take part in their joining together.  Congratulations to the Van Gorps on become the newest married couple of the National Federation of the Blind.
Also have a birth to tell you about.  Katelyn MacIntyre reports that she and her husband Luke welcomed Edmund Alexander Serafin into the world on April 8 at 12:23 p.m., weighing in at 3 pounds 6 ounces and 16 and 3/4 inches long.  Even though Edmund came early at just 32 weeks, he and mom and dad are all doing very well and they're looking forward to the day when Edmund will come home from the hospital, needing to stay in the NICU for a while, a number of weeks yet.  So congratulations to Edmund, and welcome as being the newest member of the National Federation of the Blind.
And congratulations also are in order for Greg and Anna Aikens of Georgia who completed the adoption process on April 29.  Greg, as you may know, say leader in our Georgia affiliate and formerly served as President of our affiliate there.  They are now the proud parents of Gabe, who is 12 years old and in fifth grade.  So welcome to Gabe as the newest member of the Federation.  I believe Gabe is also blind, and I look forward to meeting Gabe and Edmund as soon as I get the chance to.
Those are the immediate things I have, Pam.  I'm going to turn it over back to you for our Q&A.  And I hope you're like me, Pam, and getting really excited about the convention.
PAM ALLEN:  Yeah, I can't wait.  I can't believe it's just around the corner.  So hope everybody is getting registered.
MARK RICCOBONO:  The only bad thing is, I recently told my suitcases that they wouldn't be going to the convention because it's a virtual convention.
PAM ALLEN:  You did.  Really?
MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah.  Yeah.  And I don't suggest it.  Just leave them in the dark on this, because now all I'm dealing with is emotional baggage.
PAM ALLEN:  All right.  Moving on to our poll results.  I think you're auditioning for the LOL comedy night.
MARK RICCOBONO:  That's right.  That's right.  Consider that my tape.
PAM ALLEN:  All right.  Well, we'll see what the judges think.
So thank you, everybody are for participating in our polls tonight.  A lot of people are getting excited about convention and our first poll asked about would you be interested in hosting a banquet party, and our top result for that poll 42% of participants said they are not interested in hosting but they would love to attend a party.  And we have many people who are planning on hosting.  So 20% are already planning on it.  And 14% are planning on it and want more guidance.  So we'll be looking forward to that.  It will be here before we know it.
And in honor of May 4th, who is your favorite Star Wars character, our top vote getter is -- and this may not surprise people, but Yoda is our top vote getter for a favorite character.  So we did have several people in the chat and other ways say they were lobbying for Han Solo.  So I just want to throw that out there, Han Solo was not an option but apparently he is well loved.
We hope everybody had fun with our polls and we appreciate everybody participating and enjoying that.
We are going to move on to our questions.  We thank everybody for the questions that have been submitted to Chris Danielsen and also via the chat and/or other social media channels.  We appreciate our communications team so much.  And our first question, we have someone who is interested in learning about what NFB-NEWSLINE is.
MARK RICCOBONO:  Oh.  Great question.  Well, the National Federation of the Blind NEWSLINE service is a system that we created as blind people now, gosh, 25 plus years ago to provide access to printed information to blind people.  Typically this has been newspapers, and we do have over 500 local, national, international newspapers.  But we also now have magazines, breaking news content.  Also television listings.  You can get weather alerts.  I'm sure I'm forgetting the whole list.  But this is a free service that's available to blind people.  You can sign up, you can visit our website, you can talk to your affiliate.  It's free.  You can access it using a touch tone telephone, a smartphone, using the phone feature or app.  You can get it via the web.  You can ask your Amazon device to call up the NEWSLINE content.  You can get it via email, on Braille displays, on the victor reader stream.  I'm sure there are other ways.  It’s a great service and it's free.  And you can get access to a lot of great content through the iPhone app.  You can get access to the core technology to be able to take pictures of thing and read things.  You should sign up and become a part of getting access to all this content.
PAM ALLEN:  Excellent.  Yeah, it is an awesome service.  So thank you so much for that question.
We have another question that is asking about how the NFB is working and what kinds of things we have available for those individuals who are neurodivergent, including people with learning and intellectual disabilities.
MARK RICCOBONO:  The first thing of course is we want to make sure that all of our programs and services are available to all blind people regardless of additional disabilities.  So we always start from that prospect.  Our programs are guided by blind people.  If there are programs we should be putting in place to help be more inclusive, please let us know.  I know that our diversity and -- equity and inclusion committee is having more conversations about what more we can be doing as a movement to make sure that all of our spaces and services and programs are increasingly inclusive of individuals with a variety of backgrounds.  So I would encourage you to share your ideas into that committee regarding what you want us to do.  We don't have any specific initiatives pointed in that direction, so I think our diversity committee is really the best place to lead that.  But any of the spaces you want to be in, if you feel there are things we can do, whether it's a division or a local chapter, have those conversations.  Bring those issues up, and I'm sure members of the Federation will respond with welcome arms and an attempt to do what we need to do to make it easier for you to participate fully in the work of the Federation.
PAM ALLEN:  Excellent.  Thank you so much.  And our next question is wondering about an update or any news with the U.S. Department of Justice, when they will initiate a rulemaking process on whether the ADA applies to websites and mobile apps.
MARK RICCOBONO:  This is an interesting question.  For background, the Obama Administration was basically a whisper away from making regulations related to websites and mobile apps under the Americans with Disabilities Act when the administration went out of office.  They didn't get it over the finish line.
We have not heard of any efforts to move that forward since then.  Nothing happened in the last administration on this topic, and it has been raised a number of times with the Biden Administration and the transition process, and certainly we will continue to raise it with the White House as something that we would like to see the administration do.
We don't have any specifics to on when that might happen, but we will continue to track this.  We also are going to continue to push for legislation on this effort because we think the more avenues we have to demonstrate that nonvisual access especially to websites and mobile apps is a fundamental right that blind people should have is important.
So we don't have any updates on when the Department of Justice might act, but you can be assured that if we see that this effort has the possibility of moving, we will mobilize to let the Department of Justice know we're interested.  We want to help.  We want to push it forward.  And if we need people to put the pressure on, we will encourage you to do so.
PAM ALLEN:  Speaking of conventions and registering, we had a question just if you could clarify, we had a question about the $20 donation, the Give 20 campaign.
MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah, so Give 20 is just an effort to encourage contributions to the National Federation of the Blind.  And when you make a $20 contribution, we will enter you into a special drawing.  We did this last year leading up to and as part of our national convention, and it helped to put some important dollars into our coffers so that we could pursue the great work that we did last year.
So we need the same effort this year.  So it's just an effort to encourage you to make a general donation to the Federation.  It doesn't have to be limited to $20.  It can be more.  But we want you to donate.  We need dollars to do all of the things that we do as an organization.
You'll be seeing more on this as May and June go forward through our communication channels, and I do hope that you consider a contribution, especially during the week of Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
PAM ALLEN:  And we have a question about the exhibit hall at convention.  Will there still be an exhibit hall?  And how will people be able to purchase items?
MARK RICCOBONO:  Ah, well, you know, purchasing items I'm not sure about.  There will be an exhibit hall online, similar -- well, exactly like we had last year.  And we are working with distributors to make sure that they're as equipped as possible to interact with customers through our platform, our online platform.  We will also be again using the cloud compass platform, and we've been continuing to talk to the company about full accessibility of the cloud compass app.  So there will be an exhibit hall.  Obviously, it's more limited in the online environment, depending on the resources and facilities that the distributors have, but we want people to be able to connect with our distributors.  It's an important part of our convention.  We have a very good number of sponsors.  I think we're ahead of last year.  And a number of distributors.  So there will be an exhibit presence at the convention and we'll definitely be getting information out to everybody about that.
PAM ALLEN:  Excellent!  Well, thank you again, everybody.  We had a lot of great questions submit and great discussion in our chat.  So we really appreciate if we didn't have a chance to get to your question this evening, our fabulous communications team will be following up.
So thank you again so much for your submissions, and we will look forward to our next presidential release June 1st.  So I will pass it back to you, President Riccobono.
MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Pam.  As always, so great to be with you again.  And May the 4th be with you tomorrow.
PAM ALLEN:  Thanks!
MARK RICCOBONO:  And I heard Pam say earlier she needs to catch up on the Star Wars films.  Maybe in your free time coming up.
Well, it's been great to be back together with you, Federation family.  We have a busy month of May ahead, and into June, getting ready for a fantastic national convention.  So I'm going to leave you with our customary endings and say:  Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.
SPEAKER:  Hi, I'm going to tell you a joke.  What's the similarity between my mom and Darth Vader?
SPEAKER:  We're both grumpy in the morning?
SPEAKER:  No.  You both like your chocolate on the dark side.
SPEAKER:  Hi, I'm going to tell you a joke.  What kind of flowers do you give moms on Mother's Day?
SPEAKER:  I don't know.  What?
SPEAKER:  Mums, of course.
SPEAKER:  Hello, I'm Austin Riccobono and I'm here to tell you a joke.  Why were the Star Wars movies released out of order?
SPEAKER:  Because they felt like it?
SPEAKER:  No.  Because directing them Yoda was.

The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind.  [email protected], (410)659-9314.
Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.