February 2020 English Transcript

Greetings, fellow Federationists. Today is Thursday, February 6, 2020 and this is Presidential Release 491.  Welcome to February where the groundhog says spring is coming early.  We get an extra day to do the things we want to do in the National Federation of the Blind here in February and we are on the cusp of coming up to our Washington Seminar 2020 where we are going to get some things done in Washington, D.C.  Very excited about that.  We have people starting to arrive for meetings this weekend here at the National Office and then we’ll be headed down to D.C. on Monday after the tours come through here to see the new space on Monday.  We’ll all be in D.C. looking forward to the Gathering In, the time on the Hill, our congressional reception, all sorts of great things. 

If you happen to not be coming to the Washington Seminar, please know that we still need your support to move our legislative agenda.  First of all, you can keep up with the activities of the Washington Seminar on Facebook and Twitter.  You can also tune into part of the Gathering In on Facebook Live.  We usually stream the first portion of it.  And of course, you can continue to be a strong advocate for our legislative priorities, all of them, but especially our Washington Seminar priorities, the Access Technology Affordability Act, the Access to Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act, and our Greater Access and Independence through Non-Visual Technology Act.  You can find all of the fact sheets and information about those bills on our website.  Please do what you can from home to continue to urge members of Congress to support the work of the National Federation of the Blind through our legislative priorities. 

I have just a couple of other things I want to talk to you about this month.  First of all, although we are in the heart of winter we want to start thinking about summer and the National Federation of the Blind summer programs are recognized as being far and away better for blind young people than anything else available out there and there’s a lot of noise in the summer program space now with the Workforce Investment, Workforce Opportunity Act.  There’s a lot of summer programs that are taking advantage of those dollars to offer a program, even though it’s not to the quality and standards that we expect for blind people in the National Federation of the Blind.  Our programs are different and we have attempted to market them all together, the NFB summer programs, either through our national organization or through our affiliated training centers in Minnesota, Colorado, and Louisiana.  You can find information about that at NFB.org/summer.  You can also find a one-pager there that you can print off and give to families.  Please promote the summer programs of the National Federation of the Blind.  There’s some great stuff coming up. 

Closely related to our summer programs, our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education initiative continues to move forward in the National Federation of the Blind and we are currently soliciting interest from state affiliates that might be interested in bringing our science and engineering programs to local communities through what we call the STEM to You initiative of the National Federation of the Blind. We are asking for affiliates to say they’re interested in being part of this training program where we’re going to do a national training and then bring programs to local communities, especially affiliate conventions.  If you’re interested, please be sure to reach out to Karen Anderson, our Education Programs Coordinator here at the Jernigan Institute.  You can reach her at (410) 659-9314, extension 2243, or you can email [email protected]

We do have a National Convention coming up.  I know that many people have already made room reservations.  I do want to remind you that our chapter should be working with individuals who have not yet been to the National Convention to help them understand what it is, why it’s important, and how to navigate it successfully.  We do have a First Timer’s Guide, a document on our website that gives lots of great information about the National Convention and I would encourage our chapters to put together a little meeting on the side, or a training, or a conversation with those who have not been to the National Convention to talk about it, why it’s an opportunity and to get people excited about it. 

So in addition to introducing people to the First Timer’s Guide I want to remind you about our Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship Program. You can find information about that in the Braille Monitor and on our website.  Tracy Sufranko of Virginia is Chairing the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship Program this year.  We’re looking to have a number of first timers at our National Convention in Houston.  Please apply.  We don’t have an infinite amount of scholarship grant awards to give to first timers, but it’s a very important program and I also encourage our chapters to set money aside to help individuals get to the National Convention.  You can find all of our convention information at NFB.org/convention.  You should really bookmark that and visit it often as we approach Convention and as registration opens there will be more and more information there. 

As it turns out, I was at the Hilton Americas earlier this week on Tuesday. We had a luncheon in Houston with some community leaders and business leaders in Houston to get ready for our Convention.  It was a great event.  We were welcomed by the mayor’s office and the chief person responsible for accessibility and equal access in the city of Houston is Gabe Cazares, who, as you know, used to work here at the National Federation of the Blind. So we had a great meeting.  The hotel is a great space.  You’re going to love it.  I'm looking forward to being back there soon. 

The Braille Monitor is our flagship publication in the National Federation of the Blind.  We have been publishing it since 1957. It really chronicles our history, discusses our progress, but also publishes a lot of powerful articles that articulate and help to shape our philosophy, but also to raise questions about what we should be doing. What should policy look like?  Where should we be going with things?  And to spark conversation about who we are and where we’re going as a movement.  The Braille Monitor has continued to evolve over the years and we want it to continue to evolve going forward. So as we get into 2020 we’re looking to gather data from each and every one of you about the Braille Monitor.  What do you think about it?  What would you like to see it do?  How would you like to get it?  How are you reading it?  Do you even know about it?  We’re asking members and really anybody that’s interested in the Braille Monitor to fill out a survey.  We’re asking that you do it by April 1 and I would ask chapters to help coordinate with members who may have difficulty accessing the survey.  It's a short survey.  We’re looking to gather information about the Braille Monitor to see how we can continue to improve it and deliver on the high expectations and quality content you expect as a member of the Federation.  You can take the survey online by going to SurveyMonkey.com/R/BrailleMonitor.  You can also call in and give your answers by dialing, this will be a new number, so note this, dialing (667) 888-2454; that number again, (667) 888-2454.  Please complete this survey.  Please help members of the chapter complete it.  It is an anonymous survey.  We want to gather as much data as possible.  Please promote it widely and we even want people who aren’t reading the Braille Monitor to take it to understand why aren’t you reading it; you don’t have access to it?  is it something else?  Please let us know. The more feedback from members of the Federation the better we can make our publications and the Braille Monitor is our most important publication. 

I want to recognize a few new members of our Dream Maker’s Circle. This is the group of individuals who’ve made a commitment to give an end of the life gift to the National Federation of the Blind in some form.  This month we have on boarded Chris Nuisbaum of Tawny Town, Maryland, as well as Will and Patty Idington of Bethesda, Maryland, so congratulations to Maryland for bringing in our newest members of the Dream Maker’s Circle. 

I also want to acknowledge a few new chapters that have joined contributing to our Pre-Authorized Contribution Program.  Thank you to the NFB of Connecticut Central Connecticut Chapter, and the NFB of Pennsylvania Eerie County Chapter, as well as the Pennsylvania Parents of Blind Children.  Thank you for being the newest contributors to our organization through the Pre-Authorized Contribution Plan.  I hope all of you are considering getting on our plan this year to make 2020 our strongest financial year yet. 

I have a few Federation family notes for you; first and foremost, some individuals that you should keep in your thoughts and prayers, as well as their family members and Federation family members who will miss them greatly.  In the last month or so we have lost John John Espira, who joined three years ago. He immediately signed up as a lifetime member right from the beginning of the Mountain and Plains Chapter of the NFB of Colorado. Also from Colorado, we lost Ms. Margaret Williams, who was President of the Grand Valley Chapter of the NFB of Colorado.  I would urge you to keep Tasha Branch and her family in your thoughts and prayers.  Tasha was a member of the Shoreline Chapter of the NFB of Connecticut. She died in late December.  Also, Bill Neil of Columbia, Missouri passed away.  Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers; as well as Dennis Russack of Sacramento, California. 

I also regret that I need to inform you, as I learned just moments before coming in to make this release, of the passing of Betty Woodward of Connecticut.  Betty served as President of our Connecticut affiliate, had a great impact on so many people in Connecticut, but also through our National Convention and her work with blind people there.  She passed away late yesterday.  I’d encourage you to keep Betty and her friends and family in your thoughts and prayers. 

Some of these people I have had the opportunity to get to know, some not so much.  I remember meeting Dennis Russack at my very first Washington Seminar in 1997.  Thank you to these individuals for their contribution to our movement.  I encourage you to lift them up and keep them in your hearts as we go through the month of February.

I do have one joyous bit of news to share here on the release and that’s that Isabella Michelle Martinez was born on January 16, 2020 at 11:15 PM, weighing in at 6 pounds and 11 ounces, and measuring 19.5 inches long.  Parents, Paul Martinez and Miranda Kilby, are very grateful for the outpouring of love and support from their Federation family.  We congratulate the parents and welcome Isabella as the newest member of the National Federation of the Blind. 

Those are the things I wanted to share with you here in the month of February to kick off.  I’ll look forward to being with many of you at the Washington Seminar during this next week and to doing some travel around the country to visit with others of you as we get into the spring. 

Before we leave the February Release and a February Release in a leap year, here are some of the customary endings.  Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.