Presidential Release #471: April 2018 Transcript

Greetings fellow federationists. Today is Tuesday, April 3, 2018, and this is Presidential Release number 471. Welcome to April. Welcome to baseball season. We've had opening day here in Baltimore and many places across the country, and it's a strong signal of spring. At least for me, even if the weather, at least in Baltimore doesn't seem very spring like, especially today. But welcome to baseball season anyway.

There is a lot of great things to talk about happening across the National Federation of the Blind, so I’m going to jump right in with a congratulations to the National Federation of the Blind of Washington State. The City of Seattle, thanks to the advocacy of the National Federation of the Blind has yesterday on April 2nd passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage in the City of Seattle.

This has been in the works for some time. The city actually stopped issuing certificates permitting the payment of other wages to people with disabilities back in September. This ordinance makes it law and eliminates it for the entire city. And the pledge now is to take that to the entire state of Washington, so that Washington might join as a state Alaska, Maryland, New Hampshire and Vermont as states that have completely outlawed subminimum wage payments to people with disabilities.

But this is a great step. Congratulations to Seattle, to our Washington affiliate and we look forward to seeing this come true in the rest of the state of Washington, and hopefully in other states across the nation. This should be good momentum for us to go to other cities, if not states, and get separate wages, different wages for people with disabilities outlawed in all of the places that we can. Congratulations to our Washington affiliate.

Alan Harris wants me to remind you that the deadline for the Kenneth Jernigan scholarships is coming up on April 15th, so you should hurry up and get your applications in. The Kenneth Jernigan scholarship program supports first timers to the National Convention. Our National Convention is right around the corner, and we should be helping first timers submit applications to be considered for participation, some financial support for our 2018 National Convention in Orlando.

If you want to submit an application please send it to K.J. Scholarships – that's plural – kjscholarships@nfb.org and you need to get information in by the 15th of April. If you have questions you can call Alan Harris at 205-520-9979. That number again is 205-520-9979. I'll look forward to seeing our first timers at the Rookie Roundup early in the convention.

The National Federation of the Blind has our Six Dot Dash race coming up in Baltimore on June 3rd, and I'd like to invite federationists who wish to come to participate and run or walk in our Six Dot Dash here in South Baltimore to do so. We like to say it's a race to the Braille literacy finish line. Proceeds supporting the Braille Literacy Program for the National Federation of the Blind. Or course if you aren't able to be with us in Baltimore for the June 3 Dot Dash race you can still make a contribution online at our website, nfb.org.

If you want to register for Dot Dash the registration cost is $30.00 before May 1st from May 1st to June 2nd, the day before the race. The cost is $35.00 and it's $40.00 to show up on June 3rd and participate in our Dot Dash. The Dot Dash will kick off at 8:00 AM on June 3rd and I'll be looking forward to participating, and I hope that many of you will think about coming. I know we have a team from our New Jersey affiliate that's planning to participate, and I would challenge other affiliates, certainly affiliates close to Maryland to come out and participate in our Dot Dash to support Braille literacy.

And we should think about having similar events across the country to continue to brand the Six Dot Dash as a fundraising vehicle for the National Federation of the Blind. June 3 is a great date. It happens to be the birthday of our immediate past president, Mark Maur. Also the birthday for Elizabeth Riccobono. So you can come wish her a happy birthday if you come.

I want to give you another reminder, that we are looking for mentors for the NBF Career Mentoring Program. We are expanding and developing our mentoring efforts. We have been doing mentoring in the National Federation of the Blind, well since 1940. And we have had a number of formalized programs over the last decade and a half since we opened our Jernigan Institute. The next iteration of it is called "Changing Attitudes Regarding Education, Employment and Rehabilitation." This is our Career Mentoring Program. You can sign up to participate in the program as a mentor by going to our website, nfb.org/mentorapplication. Please participate in our mentoring efforts in the National Federation of the Blind.

In thinking about the release today, I was reflecting on our Braille monitor this month, April, and an interesting set of writings about the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. And it occurred to me that talking to our chapters about philosophy is always a good idea. Our organization has developed a pattern of thought about blindness, and that is referred to often as the NFB Philosophy.

Throughout history blindness has been viewed as a tragedy, and it really was the National Federation of the Blind that began to focus energy on a new pattern of thought. The pattern wasn't completely new to the Federation, but the Federation helped give it focus, attention, and to really build the philosophy and all that comes with it. And that philosophy continues to evolve and shape what we do as an organization, what we do as individuals.

I call your attention to the article in the April Monitor about the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. I also urge our chapters to talk about what our philosophy is. What it means to us and how it continues to evolve. We have shattered the idea that blindness is a limitation and we need to continue to cultivate and evolve our understanding of blindness and challenge our own assumptions about blindness. And our chapters are critical in making those discussions come to life in debating their real life situations that we face as blind people and deciding is blindness the determining factor, or is it something else.

You know, we for a long time thought that with our philosophy, despite our philosophy, there were just simply things blind people could not do. Driving a car was one. Well we decided to challenge the idea that driving a car could not be done without vision and we tried to imagine and build interfaces for a blind person to drive a car. And we demonstrated that in fact, blindness might not be the barrier that people believe it to be. Maybe we can build technologies that empower blind people to drive. Now we've rolled that into our efforts to make self driving vehicles fully accessible and available to blind people.

There are other things that will challenge us as we continue to be in a society that evolves. There is a lot of questions about technology that we still need to answer. How much do we want to expect of the technology we use? How much does technology get in the way of our core fundamental skills as blind people? Or how much do we want to let it get in the way? Technology is used extensively by everybody in society much, much more than it was 10 or 20 years ago. How much does that or does it not interfere with our core beliefs about our capacity as blind people and the basic skills that we use?

I have sitting next to me here a Braille display that's connected to my iPhone. I use it all day, but I also have here in my pocket a slate and stylus where I take notes in Braille in meetings I'm in or thoughts that I have. I use all the tools. What does our philosophy tell us about the tools and how does it guide us in thinking about our everyday life? These are things we should be talking about in our chapter meetings.

The article in the Monitor discusses the idea of the elements of our philosophy that might suggest though shall not do this or that, and that just isn't my experience with the NFB philosophy. The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, in my experience, challenges us to continue to go father to figure out how we as blind people can challenge ourselves to go to the next level. To raise our expectations, and to think critically about what we do and what we do not need because of our blindness. And how we take responsibility for managing and directing our own lives.

The philosophy is in many ways an important bond of our organization, and what makes us really different, unique and effective compared to really any other organization out there that we continue to talk about the philosophy, challenge our assumptions, help each other understand what we've learned about being blind people in the world today and continuing to apply the philosophy in new places. And really making sure that we're not so set in our ways that we're not willing to expand our imagination to new areas.

These are things that our chapter should be talking about related to the philosophy of the Federation. There is lots of great literature that we have created. We're still creating it, much of it in the Monitor. Through the National Convention. I encourage our chapters to make the philosophy of the Federation part of every chapter meeting.

I wanted to also just give an update about the National Accreditation Council and the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired in the January Monitor. We published an extensive article about NACC, the National Accreditation Council, and AER is taking over the council and how it might simply be repeating history. AER promised that they would be back in touch in January. I've noticed that January has passed and February has passed. In March I called the executive director of AER, who said that the topic of the National Federation of the Blind would be discussed at the National Accreditation Council meeting in two weeks.

Those two weeks have now passed. Three or four weeks have actually passed, and still no word from AER about its intent with the National Accreditation Council and its effort to involve the National Federation of the Blind, or more importantly to listen to the guidance of the National Federation of the Blind and let NACC go away once and for all. All of that is to say we're going to have to now consider what we do next.

I think the Association for the Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired has given us a clear statement about its feeling. About the importance of the perspective of blind people organized in the National Federation of the Blind. And I think we will need to think about responding in an appropriate fashion to demonstrate that you can't simply leave blind people behind. We're going to direct the future that we have, and we're going to be a part of the conversations about that future and we will simply not be ignored. So be prepared for that, and if there are efforts to strengthen the National Accreditation Council in your community, I urge that we push back very strongly on those efforts.

I do have a number of Federation Family notes to share with you on this release. I regret to inform you of the passing of a number of our members during the last month. Mary Ann Fisher of Utah passed away in the last month. She was a longtime member and a blind VR counselor in the state of Utah. Also we recently received news that Derek Williamson of Louisiana passed away. Many of us knew Derek as a travel instructor and a supervisor of the graduate students at Louisiana Tech University in our training programs there. Derek was a great teacher and mentor, and he left us far too young. He was only 41 years old. So I urge you to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Also Bruce Woodward of Connecticut passed away on March 6th. Bruce was a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind in Connecticut. He had many distinctions including being awarded the Jacobus tenBroek Award, the highest award we give to a member of the Federation. I urge you to keep Bruce's wife, Betty and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Finally, Ed McDonald of West Virginia reports that Joyce Porter passed away. Ed believes that Joyce first attended a convention of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia in 1958, where she had the opportunity to meet Doctor tenBroek. This was shortly after she graduated from the School for the Blind there in West Virginia and she was a dedicated federationist for the rest of her life after that including being first lady of our West Virginia affiliate, having been married to Dick Porter, who was our president in West Virginia for many years. I would ask you to keep all of these federationists in your thoughts and prayers, and to continue to build the organization with the same spirit and love that they put into it.

Those are the things I wanted to share with you here on the April release. We are now heavy in the convention planning time for our National Convention. Amongst the planning there are a number of affiliate conventions going on. I'm on my way to Missouri for the affiliate convention there this weekend. We have our National Scholarship meeting coming up. A lot of great activities happening in and around the National Federation of the Blind. I look forward to hearing about the exciting spring activities that your chapter is undertaking.

Here for the customary ending of the Presidential Release are the Riccobono children. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.