Presidential Release #477: November 2018 (English Transcript)

Greetings, Fellow Federationists! Today is Thursday, November 8, 2018 and this is Presidential Release Number 477. This release is a little later than I like to get them out usually, because I have been on the road quite a bit since the time of the October release. Since then, on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, I’ve been to meetings in Israel, in Washington, D.C., in Buffalo, New York, in Mountain View, California, in Olympia, Washington, and in Ann Arbor, Michigan is where I was most recently right around Halloween, participating in an autonomous vehicle conference, as well as a meeting that our affiliate helped to put together of transition aged blind students talking about 21st century careers related to autonomous vehicles. So I’ve been on the road quite a bit spreading the message of the National Federation of the Blind and talking about the opportunities to work with blind people and help build new programs to help blind people live the lives we want.

In the midst of all of that I came back to Baltimore and voted earlier this week, as I hope each and every one of you had the opportunity to do. If you did vote, we are again offering a survey for blind voters to capture the experience of blind voters and we’ve been doing this now for, oh gosh, 10 or 12 years or something, so we have many years of data now from elections and we’d like to know what your experience was, good or bad. You can go to NFB.org, our website, and find the link to our Voter Survey. I’ll give you the link here. It will be open for the month of November. To get to the survey just go to NFB.org/votersurvey, NFB.org/votersurvey to participate in this important data collection around voting. If you have questions about it you can contact Luanne Blake here at the national office at LBlake@NFB.org, or at our main number, (410) 659-9314, extension 2221. I hope everybody had a good voting experience, that you did go out and vote and participate in the process, and that you will share your experiences with us so we can continue to push voting officials to make it better where it needs to be. We’ve done that recently in Alameda County, California where just before the mid-term elections we announced that we’ve created, in agreement with Alameda County, to take the necessary and timely steps to provide equal opportunities for blind people to participate fully in the voting process there. We’re working on voting in a number of other places, as you know, and we’ve had some great victories that a number of places around the country have now used as a model to get to working on voting accessibility in their areas. So now that the mid-term elections are over we should be sure to be reaching out to elections officials to make sure that they’re working to provide more equal access if it does not already exist in your community for the next election.

Speaking of equal access, one of the technologies that we find more and more are self-service checkout kiosks in stores, stores of all types. In fact, Amazon has a store in Seattle, which I have been to, where there are no clerks. You just use your phone. You pick stuff up and it recognizes that you have it and it bills you for it. That Amazon store is accessible from my experience, or mostly accessible. I gave them some suggestions on some things they could do, but you knew what you were getting charged and you could easily discover it on your mobile phone.

The Walmart stores have put in checkout kiosks and we urge them that they be made accessible and they have refused to talk to us. So last month we filed suit here in the state of Maryland against Walmart for the inaccessibility of the self-service kiosks. The frustrating thing about these technologies, of course, is they speak half the time, for half the transaction, so they clearly could be accessible, and in many places, although there are some lines with actual checkout personnel, those are going away, especially at hours of the night. If you work certain hours and you need to go do your shopping at Walmart at midnight for some reason it’s going to be harder to find a person and you won’t be able to use the self-checkout service and our lawsuit highlights some problems blind people have had. So I would continue to talk to companies as you come across them that put these in and urge them to make their self-checkouts accessible.

It's the holiday time of year, which is always a great time for celebrating the Federation Family and our biological families, and getting together and sharing the great memories of the year and one of the wonderful things that we do in the National Federation of the Blind this time of year is team up with Santa Claus to provide braille letters from Santa Claus to kids all around the United States, so the staff of the National Federation of the Blind have again been designated as honorary elves to provide this important service on behalf of Santa Claus. The program is available for children under the age of ten and I encourage you to reach out to families and let them know about this. The opportunity to say that you want a letter for a child will open on November 12th and it will close on December 14th. That way we have some time to get the letters delivered in time for the Christmas holiday. You can go online to request a letter at NFB.org/santa-letters and if you need to you can print the form and fax it in to (410) 658-2340. The letters will start being shipped out from here on December 3rd, so I’d encourage you to help families get their requests in early. The child will receive a braille letter, as well as a print letter so the parents know what it says, and some other fun holiday activities that the child can do to celebrate the holiday, so I encourage you to promote our partnership with Santa Claus.

I want to talk with you for a moment about the programs of the Federation and our effort to raise money for them. You know, the work that we do takes resources of all types and it definitely takes financial resources. The Federation has always been innovative in looking at how we seek support, especially from those outside the organization. It's important that those of us who are blind, who are members of the organization, who are committed to it do what we can to support the organization, but we don’t have a big enough circle. We have to expand that out to as many people as we can and those of us who are impacted positively by the work of the Federation are some of the best advocates and sales people, if you want to look at it that way, for encouraging people to give donations to our organization. We can say, as we did in the past White Cane Awareness Day, that we’ve given away more than 60,000 canes over the last ten years, but what does the long, white cane really mean to a blind person? We know that because we use it and live it every day and so we can articulate that when we ask for contributions to our organization.

One of the emerging fundraising mechanisms that is being used more and more, and is talked about more and more, is using your Facebook presence to encourage people to make donations, and the more people that create fundraising opportunities on Facebook for the National Federation of the Blind, the more scale we get. So as we move into the season of giving as it’s also known, and into Giving Tuesday, which is the designation now for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and we’ve been participating in Giving Tuesday since it’s real beginning about six or seven years ago, Facebook is going to be one of the most powerful tools for generating contributions. So I would encourage you, if you have a Facebook presence, to plan to go on your Facebook before Thanksgiving, or maybe that weekend, and create a fundraiser for the National Federation of the Blind. You can do that by visiting our Facebook page. You can find it by searching for National Federation of the Blind, and when it says, “Create A Fundraiser,” you can click on that and it will walk you through how to do that. I am told that it is easier to do on a mobile phone, using a screen reader, than it is on a PC, but that both are possible. If 1,000, 2,000 of us create Facebook fundraisers that could bring in some great resources for us going into a very big year for us, 2019.

Also, we’ve been acknowledging the Chapters of the Federation that participate in our pre-authorized contribution program, the Pack Program, and I have another list. The next ten Chapters that are contributing, and we’ll keep working through this list and I hope that your Chapter will be on the list, if it’s not already. From the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, we have contributing to the Pack Plan, the Treasure Coast Chapter, the Daytona Deaf/Blind Division; the Greater Broward Chapter; the Greater Daytona Beach Chapter; the Greater Jacksonville Chapter; the Miami Dade Chapter; the Tallahassee Chapter; and the Tampa Bay Chapter. From the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, thank you to the Bainbridge Chapter for being part of our Pack Program. And from the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, thank you to the Snake River Valley Chapter and the Treasure Valley Chapter. Thank you to all of our Chapters and members participating in this program and I hope that you will consider having your chapter be part of the Pack Plan.

As we come into Thanksgiving I want to share some Federation Family news with you and I'm sorry to have to tell you of a few of our members who have passed away. Everett Bacon of Utah reports that Primo Foianini passed away on October 4, 2018. Primo was a Founding Member of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah and was a Former Salt Lake Chapter President. He was an important force in building our organization in Utah and also in helping to fight against injustices in sheltered workshops and other places. So his presence impacted a lot of blind people and Primo is the father of Joe Taylor, who continues to be active in our Utah affiliate in the Utah Valley Chapter. So I’d encourage you to keep Primo’s family in your thoughts and prayers.

Bob Cresmer of Arizona reports that Eric Billie, a long-time member actively involved as a traditional member of the Navajo Nation passed away after a long illness. His funeral was held on October 23rd and was attended by many close family and friends. Eric was an important force in reaching out for years to blind persons on the Navajo Reservation and teaching them the truth about blindness as we know it and tutoring them in braille and self-advocacy. So you should also keep Eric’s family in your thoughts and prayers.

We do have some joyous news here in November to celebrate. Jeff Crouch of Michigan reports that Jeff and his wife, Amanda, brought their first child into the world. Ivy Grace Crouch was born October 13, 2018 at 11:04PM. She was born at thirty-five weeks and two days and weighed four pounds, eleven ounces, and measured eighteen and one-fourth inches long. Despite being premature, she is reported to be happy, healthy, and strong, so congratulations to the Crouch family and to the newest member of the National Federation of the Blind. Welcome, to Ivy.

I also am happy to report a new member of our Dream Maker Circle in the National Federation of the Blind. This is our legacy society where you can make a commitment to the National Federation of the Blind to provide some resources to the organization upon your passing away. The newest member of the Dream Maker Circle is from Nebraska, so thank you very much to Nancy L. Altman for being part of our Dream Maker Circle.

We still have a lot of work ahead here in November. The state conventions have been rolling along. We have our NFB of Maryland Convention coming up this weekend, a number of other conventions as well. Then we’ll head into the Thanksgiving holiday and shortly after that we will have a meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, also the Board of the Jacobus Tenbrook Fund will come for a meeting to reflect on what we have accomplished in 2018 and what we are planning for 2019 and beyond, all of it driven by the work that you do in local communities to create opportunities for blind people, so thank you for what you do. Continue to send your ideas about what we should be doing or things we should be examining and I know that I am going into this holiday season with great optimism for our work and a great deal of excitement for what we have ahead of us next year in the National Federation of the Blind. I’ll talk to you again December though, before we get to the end of the year.

Of course, we have the customary endings coming up and I hope you enjoy those. Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.