March 2019 English Transcript

Greetings, fellow Federationists. Today is Friday, March 1, 2019, and this is presidential release number 481. We are now in the time period where we can register for the 2019 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind from July 7 to 12 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and I do encourage you to register during our preregistration time. Go to and you can get in early, make sure you're on the list, won't have to wait in line at the convention, and you'll be ready to go for our biggest and best national convention ever. The preregistration cost is $25. Banquet preregistration price is $70. 

You will save money on both of these if you register in advance online at I encourage you to do so early. The registration online, early preregistration will close on May 31, so you definitely want to be in there. And you should get your room reservations in for the national convention. Looked at the numbers the other day and we're ahead of last year on the pickup of rooms. They're not gone yet, but you will want to pick them up soon. I look forward to being with everybody at our national convention and I'd encourage you to bring your new membership coin with you to the convention. 

I'm gonna have mine and we'll find some fun things to do with our membership coins at the national convention. I know we've been sending them out to affiliates, whose spreadsheets are in, so hopefully your membership coin will be arriving soon. And if you're not yet a member of the National Federation of the Blind, I'd encourage you to join your local chapter. 

I have a whole slew of announcements here I want to go through real quickly on this March release. The first is to remind you that our Bolotin Awards are now accepting applications, nominations for the 2019 Jacob Bolotin Awards. These are prestigious awards offered by the National Federation of the Blind to acknowledge exemplary individuals or organizations who are doing exceptional work to advance the independence of blind people. 

The nomination period will close on April 15, so you should go to our website and get your nominations in. Even if you nominated a program last year or the year before that didn't win, I encourage you to nominate it again. There's only so many awards available. We need to continue to highlight the leadership that's going on in the innovation in the field of blindness. You can find this application process at, B-o-l-o-t-i-n.

You may know that we have a podcast in the National Federation of the Blind. Our podcast is hosted by our executive director for Blindness Initiatives, Anil Lewis, and the First Lady of the National Federation of the Blind, Melissa Riccobono in February. Our Nation's Blind Podcast has been focusing on issues around blind parents and that is so because it's a priority for us, but also because we're getting ready to launch a new podcast specifically for discussing issues related to blindness and parenting. 

This is the “Blind Parent Connect” podcast. So our February podcast was an introduction to the new podcast. I'd encourage you to check it out and use it as a resource to refer blind parents to or prospective blind parents. You can find more information about our work related to blind parents and to protect the rights of blind parents at

Last month in the presidential release we talked about the fact that the President of the United States had signed the Instrument of Ratification for the Marrakesh Treaty. That instrument was deposited at the World Intellectual Property Organization on February 8, so now the clock is ticking for the United States to be officially part of the Marrakesh Treaty work. After ninety days it's official, so on May 8 we will be able to have that piece of the work completely done. 

We've written extensively about the journey of the Marrakesh Treaty and bringing it into reality in the March issue of the Braille Monitor. I would encourage you to take a look at it if you're not familiar with our work. By the way, the Braille Monitor is our flagship publication and we make it available in print and in Braille and in electronic format. If you're not receiving the Braille Monitor currently, I would encourage you to sign up and to read the Braille Monitor on a regular basis. 

We publish a lot of information. I took a glimpse at March here before coming over to record the release and there's a ton of stuff in there that is useful and important to know. So I'd encourage you to get on the list to receive the Braille Monitor, whether it's via email or through NEWSLINE or some other means. If you want it in Braille we'll send it to you that way. And I encourage our chapters to talk about the Braille Monitor, and most importantly I also encourage you to contribute articles to the Braille Monitor about things you're thinking about, things you're working on in your chapter, concerns that you have, ideas. Look at the Monitor and you'll see the kind of articles that we publish and we'd love to have more content from local chapters.

In addition to the Marrakesh Treaty, and our Washington Seminar issues, we continue to work on a number of important policy issues beyond our primary legislative ones, and just in the last week we've transmitted three policy letters to the government that I wanted to call your attention to. You can find them on our website. The first is regarding the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. 

I have strongly urged the Congress to appropriate funds to give the National Library Service a permanent building in Washington, DC and one that is close to the Capitol, especially close to the main Library of Congress. The National Library Service is part of the Library of Congress, but it's miles away in a rented building in part of Washington, DC that most people don't get to. 

We believe that the National Library for the Blind should be right out front, should be a showcase and that this country should be proud of what it has done to make materials available in Braille and other formats to blind people. So we've urged the Congress to do this. There have been proposals to move the NLS to other spaces that would have to be outfitted, and frankly a new building could be built for the same price that they're talking of renovating other spaces, and it would help showcase blind people and our full participation in society, how important accessibility is, the meaning of Braille and all those other things. So take a look at that letter. There will be some opportunities very soon where we will want you to call members of Congress about this issue.

Secondly, we've transmitted two letters to the Food and Drug Administration regarding blood glucose monitoring systems and their accessibility. I know that's a concern of many of our members, so you'll want to take a look at those. We are working not just on the legislation front but on the policy front to advance the rights of blind people through our governmental systems.

There's a lot of activity coming up in May for the Federation. We have our Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, which will happen here at the end of the month. We're expecting in ten or eleven days to start swinging hammers and other things around here to begin our remodeling project, and of course the first thing in the remodeling is to demo the current space we have. So we've almost completely emptied it out and we're getting ready for the real construction to start in the next couple weeks. 

I also want to remind you that we're accepting applications for our STEM EQ summer program for blind youth and also we now have applications available for the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Programs across the country. Those are available on our website. And finally, of course since it's March, I need to mention to our students especially that March 31 is the deadline for our national scholarship program, one of the most competitive programs in the country. We give away huge amount of scholarships, including the opportunity to be at our national convention and receive mentoring. So encourage students to fill out those applications and to get them done on time so that they can be considered for the 2019 class.

We've been acknowledging individuals and chapters more importantly who have been contributing to our pre-authorized contribution program. We're not gonna do new states this month. We're gonna take a quick rewind and acknowledge some of those chapters or divisions that have come onto the PAC program since we started reading these lists on the release a number of months ago. So thank you very much to our blind educators division at the national level. 

To the NFB of Alabama, Mobile chapter, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to being at the Alabama convention a week from now. From the NFB of Colorado, our Wild West Metro chapter. From the NFB of Florida, the statewide chapter. From the NFB of Michigan, the Detroit chapter. From the NFB of Mississippi, the Jackson chapter. From the NFB of New Jersey, our sports and recreation division. Thank you for all of you for contributing to our pre-authorized contribution program and we'll continue with the states next month.

Also I want to welcome some members as new members to our Dream Makers Circle program. This is where you make a commitment to leave a legacy gift to the National Federation of the Blind. Welcome to Marcy Carpenter of Seattle, Washington; Cody Beardsley from Minneapolis, Minnesota; Linda Melendez of Keyport, New Jersey; and David and Teresa Meyer of Forest Park, Illinois. Thank you to each of you and those we've mentioned in the past for being part of our Dream Makers Circle and helping to build a legacy of opportunity for the National Federation of the Blind.

I do have a few Federation Family notes to share with you this month, and I'd say it's been a pretty heavy month for the Federation in terms of members that we've lost, so I'm gonna go through this list and talk about some of these individuals, and I urge you to keep their families in your thoughts and prayers. We've lost a couple of members from the Greater Baltimore chapter here. One is Larry Richardson, who passed away on February 5. He lived here in Baltimore, was an active member of our Greater Baltimore chapter and I'd encourage you to keep his wife, Sabrina, and daughter, LaShae, in your thoughts and prayers.

Scott Labarre from Colorado reports that we have lost James Knight, a founding member of our Aurora chapter in Colorado. I'd encourage you to keep the Knight family in your thoughts and prayers. Also, our Arizona affiliate reports the loss of Arlon Keene. Our California affiliate reports the loss of Beth Dill. And Mike Robinson, our president in New York, writes as follows, "It is with great sorrow that I announce the passing of a long-time committed NFB member, Laura Herman, on February 23, 2019. Laura was a founding member of the NFB of New York affiliate and served as state president and president of the Niagara Falls chapter during her time with us. She was one of the most loving, wise, and compassionate advocates that you could know, and her loss will be felt in our New York affiliate."

I'm also sorry to have to share with you that on February 3 we lost Rachel Olivero, who was a member of the Greater Baltimore chapter and a staff member here at the national office. Undoubtedly, this news may have already reached you. It has hit our staff and certainly the members of the Federation across the country very hard. Rachel was thirty-six years old, was quite a force in our organization, and had many plans that she wanted to achieve in our organization going forward. In fact, I talked about some of them on the last presidential release.

I personally knew Rachel for twenty years and many of us have been sharing the great impact that she had on our organization in the relatively short time she was a member, just a little bit shy of twenty years. We had a great celebration of Rachel's life here at the Jernigan Institute on February 8 and her impact was demonstrated by just how many people came from around the country, came together at that event just a few days after her passing to celebrate the impact that she made on us and our organization. 

We are definitely going to miss Rachel here at the national office and her impact at our national convention. And I have been deeply touched by the outpouring of love and support and reflections from members all over the country about Rachel and the impact that she had in big ways and in small, and in sharing wishes of Federation members to be helpful in picking up the slack here at our national office.

You know, love is one of the core values that we have in this organization. And if there's one thing that I've taken away from the last month, and dealing with Rachel's loss, both to our organization and personally, it is how uniquely special the bond of faith and love is that we have with each other in this organization. And certainly that was exemplified in the life that Rachel lived. But it's also exemplified in the work that we're doing on a daily basis. 

Not just the work, but the real personal connection that we create with each other. The recognition that our work is very, very important in this organization. But it can be frustrating to deal with the same public attitudes over and over and to try to figure out how to raise enough money to do what we want to do in this organization and to be faced with another bill in the state legislature that we either have to get through or kill.

The thing that makes it all worthwhile, that makes the real struggle that we have tolerable, is the tremendous pool of hope that we share with each other in this organization by knowing each other, by caring for each other, by making sure that we have each other's back. And so I want to express to all the members of the Federation in really Rachel's honor and all of the members that we have lost, a thank you for the personal things that you do that probably go unnoticed by many but are definitely felt by those blind people who you reach out to, to pull them into this Federation family that we have. 

I think it's a great honor to be part of this family and to have the love that we share together in this organization. It's really hard to lose great members of ours in all of the places where we have loss. But it's also a great joy that we can continue to go forward and have each other to rely on and to know that whatever the frustrations are, there's another 1,000 or 2,000 or 50,000 people who are out there who are ready to support us. So thank you for the contributions that you make to our Federation family. On behalf of Rachel's friends, family, and all the staff here, thank you for the outreach that all of you have done. And thank you for the work that you do to look out for the members of your chapter and make sure that they feel the Federation family love on a daily basis.

Those are the things I wanted to share with you on this March release. We do have a bunch of stuff coming up that's gonna be important and impactful to work on, and I'm looking forward to it. As I said, I'm headed off to the Alabama convention. Before that, I'm going to Boston this weekend for Read Across America Day, which is March 2. 

I'm gonna be promoting some of the work that we do to make free Braille books available to blind children and adults and to promote Braille literacy. There's so many great things happening and I look forward to hearing about what the happenings are in your local chapter. But first, we have to share some of the customary endings for March. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.