October 2020 English Transcript

Music playing:  "Best Day of My Life"

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everybody.  Welcome to our presidential release.  We will be starting at 8:00 eastern, so please remember that everyone is on mute and you cannot unmute yourselves.  You can submit questions through the Q&A feature or email, [email protected].

We have captions on Zoom as well as at your own pace on StreamText.  We will be putting that link in the chat section.

We will be doing a poll.  The question is:  What do you wish people who were not blind would most understand.  Check it out.  We'll be starting at 8:00.

Music playing:  "Fight Song."

PAM ALLEN:  Welcome to our presidential release.  We're the National Federation of the Blind.  We are fighting for equality and freedom.  We'll be starting at 8:00 eastern promptly.  We're so glad that all of you are here tonight.  Please check out our poll, and welcome.

Music playing:  "I'm Still Standing."

PAM ALLEN:  Welcome to our presidential release.  We'll be starting in just a few minutes at 8:00 promptly.  We are definitely standing strong and standing together in the National Federation of the Blind, and I know you will love this next song.

Music playing:  "My Vote."

"I am not throwing away my vote!  Hey, yo, I live in this country and I got a civic duty.  I'm not throwing away my vote!  I'm a blind American who is in college, getting an education and dag, they're amazed and astonished.  The problem is society thinks that we can't accomplish.  Things like getting a job, and earning equal pay as blind people.  I'm a Federationist.  That's what you need to know.  Trying to reach my goal.  My powerful vote is undeniable.  Only 80 years, but our country's older.  These U.S. policies get bolder.  We shoulder every burden, every disadvantage.  We have learned to manage.  But we're not alone in all this.  The plan is to turn this spark into a flame.  So let me tell you how to exercise your right today.  Just go to www.NFB.org/vote, wherever you may be.  Equality, fight for voting independently.  We have the right to participate in democracy.  Essentially we are a minority.  We have the power to shape the future with advocacy.  We ain't never gonna see the change in policy, unless we stand up on election day and make them see.  That we are not throwing away our vote.  We are not throwing away our vote.  Hey, yo, we live in this country, we got a civic duty.  And we're not throwing away our vote!  We are not throwing away my vote.  We got a civic duty.  And we're not throwing away our vote!  Es hora de votar."

Music playing:  "Braille is Beautiful."

"Na, na, na, na, na. 

Go on and live your life.  Braille is beautiful.  It's all going to be okay.

Na, na, na, na.  Braille is beautiful.

Go on and live your life.  Don't need a better sight.  In the end you'll find, Braille is beautiful.

Put your fingers on the page, tell your friends it's all the rage.  It's all going to be okay.  Braille is beautiful.

Na, na, na, na, na.  Braille is beautiful.

Braille is beautiful."

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, fellow Federationists, and welcome to our October presidential release.  Happy Meet the Blind Month to everybody.  I hope everybody enjoyed our music as we kick things off, especially that awesome song "My Vote," by our very own Precious Perez.

We're so glad you're all here tonight.  I hope everybody is taking part in our poll, if you are using Zoom on the web or our app.

We're so glad you're all here with us tonight.

It is now my pleasure to introduce for his remarks tonight, our President Riccobono, who will be sharing with us what's happening in the National Federation of the Blind and how we are continuing to make a difference.

President Riccobono?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Hey, Pam.  How you feeling tonight?

PAM ALLEN:  I'm doing great.  How about you?

MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm doing great.  Thank you for those excellent song picks.

PAM ALLEN:  Great way to kick things off.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Hey, I heard a rumor that today is the anniversary of the centers.  Is that true?

PAM ALLEN:  Yes, sir.  35 years, changing lives, helping blind people live the lives they want.  So we put a shoutout to our founder Joanne Wilson and to all of the awesome present and past and future students and staff at the Louisiana center for the blind and most importantly the members of the National Federation of the Blind to make it all happen.  Thanks for your support.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm sure Arianna will be ringing her bell.

PAM ALLEN:  I know she will.


Should we get started?

PAM ALLEN:  Yes, sir.  We're ready.


Greetings, fellow Federationists.  Today is Thursday, October 1, 2020.  And this is presidential release 498.  Welcome to Meet the Blind Month.

First and foremost, I do want to remind everybody to go out and vote.  I know we talked a lot about voting on last month's release, but we can't say it too much.  Voter registration deadlines are approaching this month in many places across the country, so if you're not registered to vote and you haven't planned how you're going to vote in this election, please do so.

I was impressed by the stats from last month's poll at the presidential release how many people, huge percentage of eligible voters in our release were planning to vote.

You can find resources and information about states and what's available in states for voting by going to www.NFB.org/vote.  And you can also find voting and election resources on our NFB-NEWSLINE system.  This is available to all subscribers, including those subscribers who live in states that do not currently have sponsors.  So go find the voter information you need and please plan to vote in this election by one of the means available.

Also a reminder that we will have a blind voter survey that will be out in the next week or so.  And available for you to complete.  Once you've filled out your ballot and submitted it, whether you've done it early, whether by mail, whether you do it at the polling place, on election day, whether your experience is good or bad, please fill out our blind voter survey.  It helps us in our advocacy efforts to continue to move closer and closer to full equal access to a secret, verifiable ballot for every single blind person in this country.

I am pleased to announce that we are again partnering with Lyft in their rideshare efforts to get blind people rides to the polls.  We have coupons being provided by Lyft to help people get to voting places, either early or on election day.

If you want more information, if you're in need of one of those coupons in order to get to the poll, please reach out to your Federation affiliate President.  They will have information about how to give you a Lyft coupon code to get to the polls.

All right.  That's enough talk about voting.  Let's talk about a few other things that are happening in and around the Federation.  Hopefully you've already seen that we released our NFB-NEWSLINE mobile app 3.0, which gives you all the access you're used to in terms of the general NFB-NEWSLINE features in a new streamlined format that we think you'll like.  Beta testers have had a lot of success with it.

And it also includes the basic functions of the KNFB reader.  So you should go download from the iOS app store the NFB-NEWSLINE mobile 3.0 and get access to these great features, and then tell us what else we want in the NFB-NEWSLINE app so we can plan for the next iteration of this technology.

If you're not currently an NFB-NEWSLINE subscriber, or if you want more information about NFB-NEWSLINE, please go to NFBNEWSLINE.org to get all that information.

Our advocacy work continues in the National Federation of the Blind, and it's reaching many new places and it's getting much more exposure than ever before.  I'm proud that the United States Commission on Civil Rights last month released a report entitled "Subminimum Wages:  Impacts on the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities."  The reports are all influenced by and have the traces of the National Federation of the Blind.  We were prominently featured in testifying at the hearing which actually happened last November, and this report is an important step toward moving the needle toward equal access and fair wages for all people with disabilities in America.  So congratulations to all of our Federation family that helped make that report what it is, and now we need to socialize it and get our members of Congress to act on outlawing the discriminatory provisions of 14C in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

We continue to make great strides in the Access Technology Affordability Act.  I want to thank Washington, Massachusetts, and Ohio affiliates for gaining new ATAA cosponsors in the House, bringing our total House cosponsors now at 128.

Also special thanks to our New York and Kansas affiliates for gaining new ATAA cosponsors in the Senate, bringing that up to 26.  We can up these numbers in the next month.  We can get even closer as we get to election day.  And the stronger these numbers are, the better.  There still will be chances to pass this bill and potentially other bills of ours, but definitely this bill as the Congress considers some legislation and potentially in the lame duck session.  But regardless, our strong cosponsor numbers are a reflection of the hard work of each and every one of you out there, and they will put us in a great position for what will happen in the next Congress.  So pour on the appreciation, especially as Congress members come home to the district and before that.

I have some exciting news around our work with our national division.  Our parents of blind children.  We're doing a lot of work to make sure that we can help connect and protect families as they work to have blind students connected online and getting access in the virtual environment.

For the first time, we're announcing an important partnership with Vispero, who has committed to giving a free copy of the JAWS screen reader to every member of our National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.  So you have to be a dues-paying member of NOPBC to get this benefit, and of course if you're a parent out there and you're not yet a member of NOPBC, you're a parent of a blind child, we want you to join.  And now, because of the partnership with Vispero Freedom Scientific, you can get a free one-year JAWS license.  So I encourage you to get right on that and take advantage of this great opportunity to get our students access.

If you want more information, we're just launching this now right at this moment.  So it will be disseminated right after this release.  But if you want more information right now, you can send an email to [email protected].

Very exciting, and thank you to Freedom Scientific and Vispero for that support.

We're also going to be doing some community forums next week to gather information about what's working, what's not working for parents of blind children in the virtual education that's happening around the country.  Those are going to be on October 6 and October 8 respectfully.  We want to make sure that we engage parents out there.  We want to collect information about where the education is working well and where it's not and try to connect families together through our advocacy network to deal with that.  You know, if we have kids right now who are in schools where they're using inaccessible technology, it's going to be hard to change it in the next week or two weeks or month or two months while the students are using this technology, but we can overcome some of that through our great resource network in the Federation. 

You can find out more information about these community forums and how to register.  You can go on our website to register and look under our parents of blind children section at www.NFB.org.

Well, we've already mentioned it's October, and that means Meet the Blind Month for the National Federation of the Blind.  When we hold activities both nationally and across the country in local communities, it will look a little different this year, but we still have this concentrated time to reach out to the general public and educate them about our capacity as blind people, telling the truth about blindness, getting our stories, our lived experiences heard and understood by members of the public, by employers, by those that we're seeking to do business with, whatever the case.  And in COVID-19, when a lot of people are taking advantage of more online resources and opportunities to learn, this is a great time for us to be advancing our public awareness campaign.

The theme this year is, in fact, Lived Experiences with Intersectionality and Blindness.  And that really allows us a forum to enhance what we've been trying to do in terms of advancing the understanding that blindness, along with other characteristics, impact a blind person's life.  And where it does and where it doesn't.  And it will allow us to explore some of those intersectionalities and how other disparities in society also impact blind people with diverse characteristics.

You can go to www.NFB.org/mtbm for Meet the Blind Month to get more information.  And if your local chapter and affiliate is having events that we haven't yet posted to our calendar and you can send them via email, all the details about your event, we will put them up.

Send it to [email protected].  I'm looking forward to some great Meet the Blind Month activities.  Already I've gotten invitations to a number of them.  I looked at the website today and looked at what interesting things Federationists are doing.  So keep up the great work.  Think up some new activities.  It's not too late.  We have 30 days to go.

October 15 is White Cane Awareness Day.  I know many affiliates are busy trying to get proclamations and things like that even in this time of social distancing.  It's a good opportunity, though, to get out with your long white cane, take a picture of you traveling around the community.  Post it on Facebook of you traveling independently with your cane or guide dog.  You know, it wasn't all that long ago that the notion of us having the right to travel in the world independently and without difficulty or being considered a nuisance legally wasn't that long ago.  And it was because of the work that the Federation did to get the laws changed to raise expectations.  That has changed, and I encourage you to get out, especially on White Cane Awareness Day.  Post about it on Facebook and Twitter, and use that as an opportunity also to promote our Free White Cane program.

Now, one of the things we've been doing around White Cane Awareness Day, in the past few years, is use that as our White Cane Giving Day.  And I mentioned Vispero Freedom Scientific earlier.  I want to mention them again because I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Tom Kiernan, CEO, to talk about the work we have been doing with Vispero.  In that conversation, you can watch that video.  We posted it today.  In that video, Tom dropped the idea on me that Freedom Scientific would put up $50,000, matching dollars, if we can raise $50,000 for the National Federation of the Blind this month, in the month of October. 

So we want to take advantage of that, because that means every dollar that we can bring in this month will be $2.  And we know that in this time where we're putting out a lot of resources to connect and protect blind people, we're expanding voting in so many places, we've been spinning up Zoom meetings, hundreds of Zoom meetings.  A lot of expenses we hadn't planned for.  So these dollars are greatly appreciated.  I want to give a virtual applause for Vispero Freedom Scientific for their continued support of the Federation and blind people, but we need to raise the dollars now to get that 50,000.  So we need you to think about making a contribution for Meet the Blind Month for our White Cane Giving Day and to encourage others to do the same.  We can get this money.  We can fulfill this promise.

There are three ways to give: 

You can give a gift yourself by going to www.NFB.org/donate.

Of course you can always mail in your contribution to the National Federation of the Blind at 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore Maryland 21230.

Or you can call and give your gift via phone.  You can call our main number, (410)659-9314.  You can press 4 when you get to the menu and follow the prompts, and we will get you connected with someone that can take your donation via phone.

Share this information in your social media and use the hashtag #whitecanegiving to let everyone know about this generous $50,000 contribution from Vispero Freedom Scientific.  Again, go to www.NFB.org/donate.  I would encourage you to share that page.  And I hope you will consider a gift to make it possible for us to pull these dollars down.

Okay.  While we're talking money, let talk about the preauthorized contribution program.  Actually, I'll let other people talk about the PAC plan.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  Hey, everybody, it's Scott LaBarre and Ryan Strunk.  We are the PACmen.  I bet many of you thought we got gobbled up after the convention, but we're still here. 

How is it going?

RYAN STRUNK:  It's going well.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  I think most of the listeners know what the PAC program is, but in case they don't, what is it?

RYAN STRUNK:  It is our Pre-Authorized Contribution plan.  It enables you to give on a monthly basis.  And the funds are taken directly from your checking account or from your debit card without you having to think about it.  It's like magic, and you don't even have to have a power pill first.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  Absolutely not.  You tell us how much you want us to withdraw.  The minimum amount is $5 a month because there are charges we incur, but there is absolutely no maximum on the program!

What I thought we would do, Ryan, is go over how we're doing on the PAC plan since convention.  At the end of convention, some of you will recall that if we would have sustained the program at the levels to which we had climbed, we would be bringing in about $523,000 a year on the PAC plan.

Well, we haven't quite hit that in actuality because after convention, some people go off the plan and some people reduce their amount.  And we've seen certainly some negative effects from the pandemic.

But anyway, if we start with current figures right now we're bringing in $42,578.41 a month on the PAC plan.  And if you do that over a whole calendar year, that means the PAC program would bring in over $510,000 a year.  That's a lot of money the Federation knows how to use.

RYAN STRUNK:  Absolutely.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  And right now, Ryan, we have 1,543 contributors on the PAC plan.  I would have said individuals, but it's not all individuals because chapters can give on the PAC plan.  Divisions can give on the PAC plan.  Affiliates can give on the PAC plan.

RYAN STRUNK:  Families can give on the PAC plan.  Couples.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  We should tell people how if they're not already on the plan how.

RYAN STRUNK:  Oh, pick me!  First, you should go to www.NFB.org/PAC and fill out a form and tell us who you are and how much you want to increase or how much you want to give, and one of our friendly operators will call you back and take your bank information for you.

Or you can call 877-NFB-2PAC and you can leave a message for our friendly operators who will also call you back.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  And also, Ryan, if people have questions, they can also send us an email at [email protected].

So to conclude this report, I think what we should do, Ryan, is go over some of the top states.  Here it is.  The top ten.  And you know this state, Ryan, I do believe.  It is Nebraska!

RYAN STRUNK:  I've been there a time or two.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  Nebraska had $1,076.

RYAN STRUNK:  Or for 24 years.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  Number nine:  Texas at $1,056 a month.

Texas is being out done by the state of misery.  I mean Missouri is what I meant to say.  $1,310 a month on the PAC plan.

The land of potatoes!  Idaho is at $1,315 a month.

Number six at $1,503 a month, Louisiana!

Ryan:  There we go.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  Number four at $1,559 a month on the PAC plan, California!

Number four, my native land, at $2,136 a month, on the PAC plan, good job, Ryan, Minnesota!

RYAN STRUNK:  Thank you.  Thank you.  No applause, please.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  Number three is Virginia at $2,244 a month on the PAC plan.

Now, you can't touch this state.  There's just no way you ever will.  It's number two, Rocky Mountain high, Colorado, $3,903 a month on the PAC plan! 

Do I need to mention the number one state?

RYAN STRUNK:  It would be good.  They are giving a fair bit to the PAC plan.

SCOTT LaBARRE:  Yeah, they really are.  They're giving $5,738.56 a month!  Maryland, ladies and gentlemen.

This has been your PAC men with your PAC report, and we're out.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you very much, Scott and Ryan, for that report.  I really appreciate it.  I don't know if they'll be making a cameo in the upcoming ready player 2 book, but they're ready to keep PACing it in.

I appreciate all the contributions to the PAC program.  I hope some of you out there will decide to join us on the PAC plan in October.  We're talking about fundraising, but it's important because we have been doing a lot of extra work across the nation, and that takes dollars.

Scott picked on the great state of Missouri, and our Missouri affiliate.  But I do want to give a special thanks to our Missouri affiliate for recently sending us 50% of a bequest that came.  It was a nice six-figure check to our national organization to support our work.  So thank you to the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri for your generosity in supporting the work of blind people not just in that state but all across the nation, including Colorado, even though they pick on you.

Hey, we are selling NFB branded masks at our Independence Market.  And most of you have already preordered them.  We still do have a limited number left.  I encourage you to get them quickly.  I do believe they will be gone, sold out, before the month of October is out.  For those of you who did preorder, you can expect in a week or so we will have those in house and we will start fulfilling those orders.  So be watching for that to happen soon.  And I'll look forward to Federationists posting pictures wearing your NFB branded mask around during the Meet the Blind Month.  Sorry we couldn't get them here just a little earlier, but they are on their way and get them while you can.

I do have just a few Federation family notes before we get into some Q&A.

The good news is, it's all good news this month!

I'm happy to congratulation Stephanie and Bryan Baldwin of Colorado who are now the proud parents of Liam Bryan Baldwin who was born on August 18th weighing in at 6 pounds 5 ounces.  I'm told everyone is doing well.  I hope that Liam is tuned in.  I got a note that he was tuned in at our last presidential release.

Welcome, Liam, to the National Federation of the Blind.

Norma Crosby from Texas reports that Harry and Tambra Staley are now the proud parents of a baby girl, Avery Grace Staley, born on September 12, weighing in at 5 pounds 15 ounces and 18.5 inches tall.

Everyone is doing fine.  Harry serves as President of our San Antonio chapter.  So welcome to Liam and Avery, the newest members of the National Federation of the Blind, and congrats to the new parents.


PAM ALLEN:  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.  I'm glad you mentioned the update on the mailing of the masks.  We've had a couple questions about them tonight.  People are eager and ready to get them.  So thank you for that update.

I want to remind everybody quickly before we open it up for our questions, remember, everyone is muted.  So if you have a question, you can put it in the Q&A section or you may email [email protected]

And thanks to everybody who submitted the questions.

Before we jump in, I want to give our poll update.  Thank you for participating.  Our question for the poll was:  Of the following options, what is the number one thing that you wish that people who aren't blind would understand.

So for our responses, 16% of our respondents said that, no, I don't know your blind friend or relative.  We don't all know each other.

3% of respondents said that the only instrument they could play is the stereo.

46%, the vast majority, said of course I can get home by myself; I got here.

And our second-place top finisher with 22% was, yes, social distancing applies to me.

And finally, 14% of participants said, actually, the Braille signs are instructions from the mothership for our eventual global takeover.

So thanks, everybody, for participating tonight in our poll.  It's always great to hear from everyone.

We were taking bets.

So our first question, and again, we have great questions.  So thank you so much, everybody.  We are going to do our best to answer all the questions that we have, but we can't get to every one tonight.  So remember, if your question is not answered, don't worry, we will be following up.

So our first question comes to us from our first Vice President of our deafblind division, also from the state of Pennsylvania.

SPEAKER:  Good evening.  My question this evening is about deafblind individuals requesting accommodations for all live events.  Will there be put into place a policy or procedure for all communications for requesting CART or captioning? 

Thank you for this opportunity to ask the question tonight.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Great.  Thank you, Marsha, for that question.  I appreciate it.

You know, we continue to look to, in this case, our national deafblind division for leadership on best practice, what we need to do, and how we innovate to go even beyond what the law requires, which has always been our standard.

Now, for a number of years, we have had an accessibility policy that makes it clear that we seek to exceed the standard for accessibility in all of our meetings, and we have internal procedures at the national level for tracking and making sure that we can provide the services that are needed so that every member can fully participate.

We are currently in the process of developing a model policy and practice guidance for each of our affiliates, because we know that, well, number one, it's something that some affiliates have struggled with more than others, and we know that what happens in one affiliate reflects on all of our affiliates in the Federation.  And there's a complex set of issues when we're talking about accessibility and how do we make sure that everybody gets the resources they need and how do we have that interactive process to make sure we do it in a way that's authentic to our organization and utilizes our resources.

So that is coming, and we're going to continue to look to the elected leaders of our deafblind division, Marsha and the rest of them, to make sure that we get it right.  And when we don't get it right, we're going to continue to tweak it.

This is probably a good opportunity to mention that we do have a number of career openings on the website at National Federation of the Blind.  One of them is what we're calling a talent development coordinator position, and that position is going to have in it dealing with some of these issues and helping to guide our affiliates.  So I know some of our affiliates are already working on this, and have been asking for more guidance.  It is coming.  We're working on it.  And we're expecting it to be in place very soon.

And then of course we'll have to socialize it and make sure people have the resources to make it happen.

PAM ALLEN:  Thank you so much.  And just a reminder, we mentioned this at the kickoff as we were getting ready to start, but we are testing out StreamText tonight.  And the link for that is in the chat for those who are interested.  It's a way to access captioning at your own pace.  So we appreciate the input of our deafblind division on that also.

MARK RICCOBONO:  That's a great example.  You know, we have been providing captioning and we were getting great feedback on the captioning, but as we've continued to work with our deafblind members, we've learned why the approach we were taking maybe wasn't the best approach overall.  So we're trying this new approach, and we're looking forward to getting feedback on piloting this.

We're going to continue to seek out the best solutions that work for the broadest possible group as we deliver these virtual events and as we come back together in person.

So members of the Federation are always critical in forming what happens in our organization.

PAM ALLEN:  Definitely.  We're about inclusivity and problem solving.  So thank you so much.

We have another question, President Riccobono, from our first Vice President in our Nevada affiliate.  Mark is curious about this.  He says that in various meetings in which he is involved, many disability advocates become focused on people-first language.  And he's wondering about our position on this.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Pam, I think you've been shaking down the first vice presidents around the country for questions.


PAM ALLEN:  That's right.  We represent.

MARK RICCOBONO:  This is a great question.  I guess in terms of our position, I would refer you to the 2020 banquet speech, which also references the resolution that we had long ago about this topic.

You know, our notion has been in this organization and our movement that we should define the language that makes sense for us.  You know, we use the word "blind" to describe any person who has significant vision loss.  And that makes a lot of people nervous, because they say, well, I'm not blind; I can see a little bit.  And we have pushed the idea that we get to define what blind means.  And blind, we don't want to divide the class of blind people.  And we have defined the idea that it's respectable to be blind.  And so if it's okay to be a person that's described with other characteristics, it's respectable to be a blind person.

If you note where the person-first language has come from, it hasn't been from people with disabilities.  Now, in the disability movement for a while, our notion that it's okay to not use person-first language was really rejected.  And what has happened across disabilities is identity-first language has now come to the front.  And we still have a lot to do to educate people on why that's okay.

You know, my wife Melissa and I, we did a training for teachers in Baltimore City schools, and special educators who, it was drilled into them in their university classes that they had to use person-first language.

And we talked about why our approach is different, why it's respectable and meaningful.  And it's getting people to understand that just because you're using particular words, if they're not followed by actions that are meaningful, then the nice words don't mean anything.

So this is our point of view.  We can change our point of view as a movement.  But that's where we've come from.

I think we should continue to be respectful of folks that decide they want to use other language, but I think we should also challenge it.  You know, for example, I like to challenge the notion of vision teacher.  Because I don't think they're teaching vision.  And I don't think they should be.  So I think we should be critical about the language we use, make sure that we're choosing the words that reflect the meaning and belief that we had.  And if you want more on that, just read the banquet speech.


PAM ALLEN:  A great one, it was.

So all right.  Thank you, sir.

Our next question comes to us from Patricia Maddux, and she's interested in learning more about what we in the National Federation of the Blind are doing to help accessibility on insulin pumps.  Many of our members are diabetic.  We appreciate our diabetes action at work.  Patricia said that so many of the new pumps are entirely touch screen.  So how are we in the National Federation of the Blind working on insulin pump accessibility and also apps for monitoring blood sugar levels?

MARK RICCOBONO:  This is a great question and one that's very important to us.  We've had a number of resolutions over the recent years about this topic.  It's an exceedingly complex topic, because the area of medical devices, you have a lot of different agencies, federal government that are touching them in terms of what the certifications they get to come to market and that sort of thing, and then the interplay with insurance.  Oftentimes when there are accessible devices, the insurance companies don't cover the accessible devices; they cover other devices.  So we as blind people have to do a lot of work to get our insurance companies to cover the devices that actually do work.

So we do have a work group that is evaluating this, looking at strategies for how to tackle this problem, both on the regulatory and legal side, but also on the manufacturer and product side.  Anil Lewis, executive director of blindness initiatives, is coordinating this group, along with our advocacy and policy team.  And of course our Diabetes Action Network.  I know it's very important to that national division, and I know that our new President in the Diabetes Action Network, Debbie Wonder, is very excited to work on this.

So we don't have all the answers to this.  It is exceedingly complicated.  And of course we are also trying to advance legislation in the Congress to create stronger requirements for accessibility that is so far an uphill battle.  But we believe that medical devices in and amongst the accessibility we're pushing for are of the utmost importance.

So what I would encourage you to do is get involved with our Diabetes Action Network.  That's the best way to plug in to the resources and conversation.  If you have ideas about what we can and should be doing, to use a bad pun, to move the needle on this, we need them.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Thank you so much.

And our next question is from Andrew Straw.  Andrew is wondering what we in the National Federation of the Blind, how can we work to change the legal profession so we can get more blind judges.

MARK RICCOBONO:  That's a great question also.  You know, we could start rolling out the lawyer jokes now.

You know, it's an interesting question because, you know, our organization has fought over many, many, many decades to get more blind people into the legal profession.  In fact, there are enough blind people now in the legal profession that there's mostly jokes about wherever you turn, there's a blind lawyer.  And when you meet with kids in our youth programs, you know, being a blind lawyer, that's old news.  I don't want to do a stereotypical job for blind people like be a blind lawyer.  Which is funny.

But there is more work to be done in this area.  And again, to highlight our national division, our National Association of Blind Lawyers, headed by Scott LaBarre, has been doing a great job of getting blind people in to more places in the legal profession.  Scott LaBarre in particular has led the charge for getting blind people into and noticed in the American Bar Association.  In fact, he is the first blind person who served on their ABA Board of Governors.

The division and our blind lawyers are undertaking a number of projects in this area, not just to educate judges but also to help find ways to get people with disabilities more into the pipeline to be judges.  So I know that the division is working with the National Judicial College and is pursuing other projects.

So if you're interested in helping with this, I mean there is a lot of work to do here.  We get a call almost every week about things that judges say, discriminatory actions judges take, because they don't have an understanding of blindness.  And if we could get more blind people into the judge seats, that would help.

Get involved with our National Association of Blind Lawyers.  You can find them on our website.  I'm sure Scott will be happy to put you to work trying to help move this forward.  And I would encourage blind people out there to shoot to be judges.  It would be great to have more blind people providing rulings from their authentic experience as blind people.

PAM ALLEN:  That is for sure.

Now we have another question from Chris Meyer.  This relates to autonomous vehicles.  Chris is wondering about any progress on partnerships we have with automotive manufacturers and the PAVE partnership on self-driving vehicles.  Any updates?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah, so PAVE is the Partnership for Automated Vehicle Education.  This is an organization that we were part of the founding of in order to help educate the public about the value of autonomous vehicles.  We continue to work with a number of the technology and automobile companies out there.  You also have companies like Toyota that now says it's not a car company; it's a mobility company.  And we continue to work both on the policy side and the partnership side with those organizations.

First and foremost, there are still lots of unanswered questions about autonomous vehicles and how they'll be deployed.  COVID has introduced some opportunities for testing with those vehicles, but also some barriers to both manufacturing and building technology and involving blind people in that.  So we're continuing to press on companies on how we can be more involved in the testing.

A lot of these companies are still thinking about these vehicles in terms of what's beneath the hood and not necessarily what will be the user experience inside the vehicle, but we have gotten their attention, and we're coming up to the tenth anniversary of our blind driver challenge.  That was really the thing that raised awareness of blind drivers.

We need to do more.  Maybe we even need to partner with one of these companies to get our own autonomous vehicle and do our own research and interface building to show them what might be effective for blind people.

So we're still exploring that.  Like everything else, that industry has slowed down a little, but there still will be many opportunities, and I think you'll see some interesting things coming in the future.  I don't have any specifics on projects, but we continue to be fully engaged with a range of companies.  And, as well, the Department of Transportation, you're going to see some stuff from us about an initiative that the Department of Transportation has initiated for innovations in transportation technology, and we really think they missed the mark in terms of ensuring that proposals around innovation about people with disabilities include people with disabilities.  So we're going to be calling on researchers who are putting in project proposals that impact blind people to involve the National Federation of the Blind.  So we'll need everybody to help amplify that in the time coming up.

PAM ALLEN:  Excellent.

So we have another question here from Tina Hampton.  Tina is wondering about our plans for the year ahead as we are continuing to do many things virtually and there's a lot of unknown questions about our events for 2021.  How are we thinking ahead about that?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Well, we are thinking about it and we're having conversations about it.  We're having conversations about our Washington seminar and our convention next year.

I am sure Pam will agree with this.  I think what we learned over the last 6 months is it's extremely hard to predict month to month.  You know, we have three months left in this year.  That's going to bring a lot of change.  So we're continuing to plan ahead and evaluate our contingency plans.  We want to be conservative and careful about how we execute events.  We also want to make sure we continue to leverage the technologies to bring more blind people more participation into our organization. 

So as part of that, we've been looking at how we're going to continue to support our affiliates with technology resources.  We've also been looking at our membership policies to make sure that we can clearly help our affiliates manage systems like voting membership tracking going forward. 

So those discussions are happening, trust me, every day.  We don't have specifics on everything because we're being very measured about it.  And we need input from members about what we can and should be doing, especially as we at some point move into an environment where we may have some virtual participation as well as some in-person participation.  It's important to us not to have a class system where the virtual folks can't participate as actively as others.

So there's a lot of interesting questions there.  Everybody is now exploring those.  I don't think we have any more insight than others.  But I continue to be inspired by the ideas, the creativity of Federationists who are raising innovative ideas about how we can manage and execute our mission going forward.

PAM ALLEN:  We have our creativity and our resiliency in the National Federation of the Blind.  Always in action.

So President Riccobono, we are curious, what are the Riccobonos going to be for Halloween?

MARK RICCOBONO:  We haven't worked out all of the plans.  There's a lot of jokes about what people are going to be so far.  So we haven't quite planned that out.

I am wondering what trick or treating is going to be like.  Do you have to stand back and hold up a target to have the candy shot at or something?

I have threatened to get an air gun to shoot candy to trick or treaters because that would be fun.

So we've been talking about it.  We haven't really mapped out what our costumes are going to be.

PAM ALLEN:  Well, we'll look forward to hearing about that in our next presidential release.  But I want to thank everybody again for your questions tonight.  I know it's a busy time in the National Federation of the Blind.  We have our Meet the Blind Month activities, as we talked about, and so many conventions have been happening in the month of September, like ours was in Louisiana.  And we have so many in October and November scheduled in the weeks ahead.  So it's always an exciting time for the organization to come together and our state affiliates.

Again, President Riccobono, thank you so much for your leadership and for the example that you said for all of us.  We send our best to Melissa and the kids.

And I will turn it over to you.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Pam.  Appreciate that.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the LCB Halloween plans are going to be.

PAM ALLEN:  They've been pumpkin carving already.  Part of our Meet the Blind Month activities.

MARK RICCOBONO:  And congratulations again to the LCB on 35 great years.  I'm looking forward to what's coming up.

I remind everybody that we will be back together live on November 1 for our presidential release.  So you can bring your costume the next day.  And I'm sure we'll have lots of interesting things to talk about.

I hope everybody continues to stay safe and stay smart, and I look forward to hearing the stories about the great Meet the Blind Month activities as well as fall conventions that are going to be happening.  I know I'm going to three conventions this month alone.  So I'm looking forward to that.

And thank you to each and every one of you for the work that you do to build this movement and make it what it is every day.

Before we close, though, we should have some of the customary endings.

Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.

SPEAKER:  Hi, I'm Elizabeth Riccobono.  I'll be telling you a joke.  Did you hear about the fire at the circus?


SPEAKER:  It was in-tents.

SPEAKER:  Hi, I'm Austin Riccobono.  What's the ratio of a pumpkin circumference to its diameter?


SPEAKER:  Pumpkin pi.  Like the math thing.

SPEAKER:  Hi, I’m Arianna, and I have a joke.  Why are cats afraid of trees? 

SPEAKER:  I don’t know.  Why?

SPEAKER:  Because they're scared of the bark.

This presidential release was brought to you by the National Federation of the Blind, www.NFB.org.  Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.

(Meeting ended at 8:56 p.m.)