November 2019 English Transcript

Greetings fellow Federationists, today is Wednesday, October 30, 2019 and this is presidential release number 488. Yes, this is the November release but I'm doing it a few days early as I'm going to be on the road traveling to Washington, DC and Arkansas for our NFB of Arkansas convention and on to Georgia for some Federation business so I wanted to get this release in early. We are in the final stretch of the fall convention season there is so much great stuff happening all around the country. And we're getting ready for the fall meeting of the board of directors, that will happen here in early December. So there's a lot of great things happening.

Let me begin this release by thanking each and every one of you for the tremendous National Federation of the Blind Meet the Blind month events around the country. I've gotten some great feedback from many of you and some interesting things have happened to engage the community in understanding the perspective, hopes and dreams of the members of the National Federation of the Blind. So thank each and every one of you for that and I look forward to the new creative ideas we'll come up for the months to come and in the year ahead.

I have a number of things to talk to you about on this release. You may have seen that there is a federal regulation that is receiving comments right now regarding our Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. The regulation that is being clarified is the one that allows car companies to have multiple sounds for cars. That means a car could have one or two or three different sounds that a customer could choose from that their car would make. There's some misinformation going on out there about this and I wanted to help clarify it on this release.

First of all, you know that the National Federation of the Blind helped to pass the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act in early 2011, it was signed by President Obama and we were the lead organization in negotiating that law. We also followed through with the regulations. Early on in the process we agreed that there could be multiple sounds that car companies could have multiple sounds as long as the sounds that they have meet all of the qualifications that are required in the federal regulations. Now we agree with the qualifications. We helped to set the standards. And so, from our perspective as long as the sounds meet the federal standards for what we want them to be we weren't too worried and still are not worried about there being multiple sounds.

Every car company is permitted to come up with its own sound and some of them want to come up with more than one sound to help with consumer adoption. They're unlikely to come up with too many sounds because they have to get each of them certified as meeting the federal standards and that costs them a lot of money, so it's not likely to cause a problem. What has always been important for us is that we have a soundscape that is hearable and recognizable as a moving vehicle. And we have done extensive testing of our own, we've been very influential with the car companies and they've come to our point of view.

The current request for information about regulations you can go to our website and see what we've said about multiple sounds. We've always been in favor of it. It was in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act so we continue to support it. We believe that the sounds will be compliant with the federal standards, which we do support. So you can go on to the government website and enter comments if you would like, we're not necessarily calling for members of the Federation to do that but I wanted to clarify the multiple sound question because there are some things circulating that suggest that this is rolling back what we got implemented with the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act and that's simply not true.

We are going to have a convention in 2020 and I need to talk to you about that. You may have already received this news. We have a great reputation in the National Federation of the Blind for negotiating with hotels, being a good partner with our hotels as well as the cities we're in. We announced that the national convention this year that our convention next year in 2020 would be in Houston, Texas from June 30 to July 5. And in fact, we were planning on that. The city of Houston came to us a couple of weeks ago and said they had a need to talk to us about potentially moving the dates of our convention. We initially told them there's no way we can do that.

We talked to them a little further and as I say, we have a great reputation of working collaboratively and that is one of the reasons we get the rates and benefits that we do to host a convention of our size. The board of directors ultimately agreed to move the dates for the 2020 National Convention back two weeks to July 14-29, 2020. These dates are now set in stone, you can bank on them unless something really traumatic happens. These dates are set in stone. And we apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused but we believe for the National Federation of the Blind and for our relationship with hotels and negotiating future contracts that this is a good move for the organization. we also believe that it will present some opportunities for the convention itself.

It did occur to me that when we were in Orlando, we used to always tell people that the convention dates were not set in stone until November 1 and that was a provision, we had in our contract to permit some flexibility, which helped with our negotiations. We may be should go back to saying that again so people don't immediately jump up and make all sorts of plans. I do apologize on a personal level if this has caused any inconvenience. It is a little unusual but it was the smartest thing for us to do for the organization overall. We are going to have a great convention in Houston. We're looking forward to it and I do hope that you can still be with us in Houston, Texas July 14-19. There'll be more information about the convention in the December Monitor.

Now that we're approaching November 1, our national scholarship program applications are available on our website. As you know, our scholarship program is for blind students pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time post-secondary program in the fall of 2020. The eligibility requirements and frequently asked questions, the application can all be found on our website at I encourage you to help spread the word, our scholarship program is the most extensive program for blind students in the nation and as you know, it comes with mentoring from some of the most dynamic leaders in the field of blindness.

And it creates personal relationships that are more valuable than the dollars that it provides to the students. And as you also know, we have some great partners working with us on our scholarship program that add value to it. Please spread the word, we want to get as many blind students to apply as possible so that we can also get connected with them. Visit our website, talk to your local university, spread our scholarship information to all the places you can think of.

Let me talk a little bit about Braille on this release. I've mentioned previously that the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is coming up and you can now register for the contest, which is both a reading contest for blind children and for blind adults. So it's a great opportunity to encourage Braille reading, sharing of teaching techniques and reading techniques within your chapter. The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is administered by the America Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a strong partner of ours and we continue to be a partner in this contest.

Blind children and adults across the country will compete in the contest to read the most pages and you'll log those pages and submit them to the contest. There will be prizes for participating and for the winners in each category. The contest officially runs from December 1, 2019 to January 18, 2020. You can learn more about the contest at I encourage you to use this as a way to promote Braille, Braille reading, and sharing within your chapters.

Also, it's the time of year where we partner with Santa Claus. So we have an announcement from Patricia Maurer, which says Santa Claus has made the staff at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute honorary elves once again. He has asked us to help him send letters in Braille to very young blind boys and girls. Those under the age of 10. The program is for blind children in the United States and the applications or the form to fill out to get a letter from Santa Claus will be available starting November 11 and will continue to be available through the 16th of December.

Parents can go online at and fill out a Santa Braille letter request form. You can find the form there and if you need to you can print it and fax it to 410-685-2340. Or you can e-mail the form to [email protected]. The letters will start leaving our building on Monday, December 2 so that they can be there in time. You'll want to get your request in no later than December 16 so it's there just in time for the end of December when it needs to be. If you have questions you can to our website and read more information. This program has been one we are doing for a number of years; it is one that is always met with joyful anticipation by families.

It's made a great difference in our doing outreach and so I encourage you to promote it. It's a fun thing I always look forward to our doing. By the way, what gets sent is a Braille letter from Santa Claus as well as some fun activities, often a tactile picture. I've heard rumors about what the elves are thinking about for 2019 it's going to be really cool. And I'm sure we'll have a change to talk about it in the future but get the little ones that you know of that want a Braille letter from Santa signed up for this. We do send a print letter as well so that the parents know what Santa has communicated to blind kids across the country.

Speaking of Braille, I do want to let you know that in the last month we've experienced some delay with the Braille version of our flagship publication, The Braille Monitor. We apologize for that. The vendor that we used ran into some difficulties and that put the August/September issue behind schedule in terms of getting out and into your hands. We think that delay has now been rectified it's possible it will have an impact on the October and possibly the November issue as well. We certainly hope not but we've worked with our vendor on what the problem was and you should be anticipating those Braille copies of The Braille Monitor coming to you real soon.

And since I'm talking about it, just an opportunity to say please, send articles, ideas for articles to Gary Wunder, our Braille Monitor editor. He's eager to get content from Federationists about things you'd like to see in The Monitor and especially if you write it, your stories, your experiences, we'd like to consider them for The Monitor. You can send them to [email protected].

I do have a couple of Federation family notes here on this release. I do regret to inform you that this past weekend Herbert Maggin of Maryland passed away. You may have gotten to know Herbert around our national convention. He was a figure in and around the convention for many years especially helping to promote our Kenneth Jernigan fund selling raffle tickets and talking to people about opportunities to build the Federation. Herb was sighted but he was blind at heart and came to be a strong marcher in our movement. We're very saddened about his passing, he had been sick for some time. Dr. Maurer had the opportunity to visit with him last week before he passed away and to represent us at the funeral. I encourage you to keep Herb and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

I do have a joyous piece of news coming from our Missouri affiliate. Ben and Theresa Versalone report the birth of their daughter, Mi Kyong Lee Versalone who was born on October 17, 2019 weighing eight pounds, 13 ounces and measuring 21.5 inches long. Mi Kyong means beautiful and bright in Korean and that is certainly what we expect her life to be. And we expect that she will bring that also to the proud parents who are both doing well. I had the opportunity to speak with Ben briefly, I noticed he sounded a little sleepy, which is what you would expect from a new father. So congratulations to the Versalone family and welcome Mi Kyong as the newest member of the National Federation of the Blind.

We have been working on a number of other things throughout the Federation including here at our national headquarters. We are almost done with our construction. We went through the final punch list earlier this week. That doesn't mean we're exactly done but we've given the construction team their final marching orders about what they need to do. We've been putting in comments on a number of policy matters at the national level including the National Instructional Materials Access standard. You can find information about that and other happenings on our website.

I continue to be so pleased with what's happening all across the nation and especially with the new members who are coming into our organization, I want to congratulate all of our chapters on doing some fantastic outreach to welcome people into the Federation, help them know about our organization. I encourage you to keep it up, this is a busy time of year with Federation activity and holiday and families but it's one of my favorites. I also hope that you had a very happy Halloween and that you'll have a great safe and joyous time with all the many holidays coming up. I'm looking forward to saluting our veterans on Veteran Day. It's just a great time of year, lots of fun family things happening. It is always fun around the National Federation of the Blind to celebrate our Federation family as well.

Before we get to the customary endings, I want to leave you again with my salute to your work and say let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.