Presidential Release 511, December 2021 (English Transcript)

Please note: the following is the full transcript of the Presidential Release on December 2, 2021.

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening and welcome!  We're so happy that everyone is here tonight, and to let everybody know who is listening virtually, we are broadcasting live from our national headquarters in Baltimore.

We will be beginning promptly at 8:00 p.m. eastern.  We are so glad all of you are with us tonight.  If you would like to send questions, you can do that on the Q&A feature on Zoom or social media channels or send an email to [email protected].

We have closed captions in our Zoom app, and we are also using the 1CapApp feature for captioning at your own pace.  That will be in the chat.  So that is available if you're using the mobile app or via the web.

Tonight we are giving away two canes, one that has been decorated for the holidays by President Riccobono and one decorated by me.  And we are really excited to offer these tonight.  If you are on Zoom, you are already in the drawing.  If you are listening in another form and you would like to enter, please email your name in the subject line to [email protected].  And we'll put that information in the chat.
We have some great poll questions tonight.  We would love to know what your favorite warm drink is during these colder months, and our second poll question is, what is your favorite type of chapter meeting activity.  So please join in tonight.

We are so glad you all are here, and welcome.  We'll be starting shortly.

(Music playing:  "December" by Earth, Wind & Fire)

SPEAKER:  Announcement regarding Spanish interpreting service.

(Message in Spanish).

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everyone, and welcome.  We will be starting our December presidential release shortly, at 8:00 p.m. eastern.  If you would like to be in the drawing for our decorated canes decorated by myself and President Riccobono, please email [email protected].

I would love to introduce now our very special video presentation to express our sincere gratitude to our sponsors who have been so generous in their support during this last year.  The work we do would not be possible without all of you, so thank you for helping us transform our dreams into reality.


MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you for your support of the National Federation of the Blind, where we know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Changing what it means to be blind.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind.

MARK RICCOBONO:  From our education programs to our employment initiatives and accessibility efforts and beyond, we are demonstrating that blindness is not the barrier that blind people face, and by connecting members of our organization, we help to break down the true artificial barriers in society.

SPEAKER:  The National Federation of the Blind teaches you that you can have a fulfilling life.  You will just have to think outside the box.

SPEAKER:  Stronger together!

MARK RICCOBONO:  As America's civil rights membership organization of blind people, we do the hard work, the work that's necessary to go beyond where we have perceived our limits to be in the past.  We grow in our understanding and commitment, especially when times and circumstances are difficult.

We very much appreciate that our friends and supporters stick with us in those times, and that you all recognize the strength of the organized blind movement and the potential it has for changing the future for blind people.

SPEAKER:  Together we can achieve anything.  As a proud veteran, a member of the NFB, I would like to thank you for your support.  God bless America.

SPEAKER:  Federation forward.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you for your support, and thank you for the future work you'll do to help us build the National Federation of the Blind.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you so much.

SPEAKER:  National Federation of the Blind.  Live the life you want.


(Music playing:  "Live the Life You Want")

¶ ¶ "Live the life you want.  Nobody can stop you.  Shoot for the sun and break on through.  So you're blind, you'll be fine.  We've got good news:  You can live the life you want.  Yes, we know the truth.  Grab a cane, get trained.  Gotta get moving.  Make a change and a wage.  That's what we're doing.  Come with me.  Live the life you want.  Nobody can stop you.  Shoot for the sun, and break on through.  So you're blind, you'll be fine.  We've got good news:  You can live the life you want.  Yes, we know the truth.  You and me, NFB, let's work together.  NFB, you and me, lives on forever.  You will see.  Live the life you want.  Nobody can stop you.  Shoot for the sun and break on through.  So you're blind, you'll be fine.  We've got good news:  You can live the life you want.  Yes, we know the truth." ¶ ¶

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our December presidential release!  We are coming to you live from our national headquarters, from Members Hall in Baltimore.  And it is so wonderful to be all together tonight!


Happy holidays to everyone, and we are so glad that you're joining us from all over.  We will welcome all of our members who are here in person and our supporters, and we are so grateful you are with us.

So President Riccobono, it is now my pleasure to turn it over to you!

MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Pam.  This is so unusual, isn't it?


PAM ALLEN:  It is.

MARK RICCOBONO:  It is so unusual.

PAM ALLEN:  Yeah, I know.

MARK RICCOBONO:  There's people here.

PAM ALLEN:  Exactly.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Usually it's just Will and I.

PAM ALLEN:  Just in front of our computers.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Right.  This is really cool.  This is great.  And we have a giveaway tonight.  We should mention that one more time, don't you think?

PAM ALLEN:  And we have our canes that we've decorated up here at our head table here on display.  So very festively decorated, our canes.  If you would like to be entered, if you are on Zoom, you are already entered in the drawing.  But if you would like to be entered, you can email with your name in the subject line to [email protected].

MARK RICCOBONO:  Please do that by 8:30 or so because if your name is not in, it will not get drawn.
Pam, you think we're ready?

PAM ALLEN:  Let's get started!

MARK RICCOBONO:  We're going to get started.  Pam, it's great to have you here in person, as well as dozens of our best friends.


Greetings, fellow Federationists.  Today is Thursday, December 2nd, 2021, and this is presidential release 511, opening our season of thanksgiving here in the National Federation of the Blind we're putting this release together both live and recorded, in person at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute Members Hall with a crowd of Federationists and supporters!  So glad to have you here.  You guys can cheer.  It's okay.



So happy holidays to everybody in the National Federation of the Blind.  We have a lot to talk about this evening so I'm going to go ahead and jump right in.  I want to start by reminding everybody that the best holiday elf can be found on NFB-NEWSLINE.  You know, our NFB-NEWSLINE service is a great tool to use during the holiday time.  Whether it's shopping for holiday gift ideas or recipes for entertaining your family during the holidays, you can find those holiday gift ideas and recipes and magazines like Better Homes and Gardens or Every Day with Rachael Ray.  So many other publications as well.  You might look for clothing gift ideas that you might find in GQ or one of the other magazines that we have like In Style on NEWSLINE.  If you're shopping maybe for the techie on your list, you might look into Apple Insider or Android central or one of the other great tech publications we have.

But it's not just shopping through the magazine.  You can also find the great shows that you want to watch on television with your family in the television listing section.  For the really savvy shoppers, don't forget that you can get the ads from Target and Walmart right on NFB-NEWSLINE.  And of course built right in to the NFB-NEWSLINE mobile app is the KNFB Reader basics so when you need to read labels on your packages or find out what ingredients a recipe calls for, something that's been sent to you that you can't identify, you have it for free right in the NFB-NEWSLINE app.

Now, if you are not an NFB-NEWSLINE user, you have time to sign up.  And we should encourage our chapters to encourage people to utilize NEWSLINE.  And the holidays is a great time to show the real value of this free service.  So to get more information about NEWSLINE, you should go to or call us at (410) 659-9314 and dial extension 2317.  Great shopping tips there.

The first big event we will have next year is our 2022 Washington Seminar which will kick off officially at 5:00 p.m. eastern time on February 7th with our Great Gathering-In.  Many people have been asking, what are we going to do with our Washington Seminar.  And our team has devised a plan that we think does what we need to do to have advocacy both in person and virtual.  It's a really complicated situation, because we have to navigate the COVID protocols, Congress and the complexities that are happening with accessing Congress.  And so we've devised a plan that will take advantage of a two pronged approach.  And both prongs are really important.  So first and foremost, we're going to have a D.C. delegation.  This will be our in-person contingent for Washington Seminar, and we've assigned each affiliate with a specific number of people to have in person based on congressional representation.

Now, I know every affiliate would love to have more people in person.  Unfortunately, the rules in Congress in accessing the Capitol just won't allow for that.  So we think that this is the best approach.  We believe that some meetings will happen in person with members of Congress, and that in-person delegation will handle those meetings.

Equally as important is our virtual delegation.  We think that a number of meetings will still have to happen over Zoom as we did this year, and so we'll have really two teams for every affiliate working on meetings with members of Congress.  Again, both of these contingents are really important to the advocacy work we're going to do in 2022.  And so I encourage each of our affiliates to start developing this two pronged approach.  We've given affiliate Presidents information about how this is going to work and the hotel information.  This allows us also to maximize participation in a really strategic way.

Now, our students are still planning to have a leadership training and meeting in the course of the Washington Seminar.  So we are encouraging affiliates to think about growing that next generation of leaders by having a student as part of their delegation.

Now, even before we get to Washington Seminar and before this year is over, we have work we can do in Congress, especially to promote the Access Technology Affordability Act.  We want to continue to build cosponsor support for this bill.  We're doing great on this bill, but we need to do better.  We really need to do better.

Now, remember, this is HR-431.  And in the Senate it's S-212.  We have 114 cosponsors in the House and 32 in the Senate.  That's great progress, but every cosponsor we get helps us attach this to another bill that might take us through Congress.  So take some time even in this busy holiday month to keep putting pressure on those members of Congress, especially those who you've reached out to many times, haven't committed.  Get them to commit and get them on the bill.  We need to get this done.  We've been very close to getting through some packages that have gone through Congress, and as you know, not many get through.  So we will get this bill done, but it's going to take our collective support.

That's not the only bill we're working on.  We continue to make progress in other areas.  On November 18, Senator Casey of Pennsylvania introduced the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act in the Senate.


This is the bill number: S-3238.  And Senator Casey is joined by the lead cosponsor from Montana, Steve Daines.  So really important, again, bipartisan support for this bill which will phase out the use of subminimum wages for people with disabilities.  This is a Senate companion bill to HR-2373 in the House.

We need you to contact your senators to get momentum for this bill going.  We are making significant progress on eliminating subminimum wages for people with disabilities across the country, but we need Congress to codify what we already know, which is people with disabilities deserve the dignity of equal work for equal pay.


Recently we've celebrated the 81st anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind.  And blind people have gained so much in this country because we have come together and we've determined for ourselves what our future will be.  This year I've urged us to use the slogan "Forward" which I stole from my home state which has that as its slogan.  Now, "Forward" has been our motto this year, but forward does not mean that we ignore the past.  In fact, it means that we study it.  We come to understand it in ways that we hadn't before, and we use that knowledge to build upon it, to build the future stronger.  And we use that knowledge to go forward with a better strength and a better determination for our future, a future that we face together.  And I'm really thankful for the diverse, committed, and thoughtful people of this movement.  We're truly blessed.  Truly blessed that we have each other and that we can bond together around a movement that makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of so many others.

I'm thankful that we have built the best training programs in the world for blind people.


Including our training centers in Louisiana and Colorado and Minnesota and so many other programs that are best in class and really set an example for what programs for the blind should be.

But it's not just enough that we've built programs.  I'm really thankful that we continue to talk about how to make them bigger and better.  We're not satisfied even with the success we have had.  We know that we need to go even further.

So I'm also thankful that we continue to challenge each other to keep raising those expectations.  And sometimes that's really hard.  Sometimes that causes us to take a real hard and honest look at what we've been doing.  2021 has been in many ways a hard year for our movement.  But we've faced it with strength and determination and honesty and heart.  And we've demonstrated that we collectively have all that we need to tackle the hardest situations.  And whatever hard situations might be in front of us.  We collectively have the wisdom that we share with each other by interacting with each other, by challenging each other.  We also have the determination and commitment to come together to find the heart in what we do and to continue to share support and love for each other even when it's hard.

We recognize the true value in having a vehicle for collective action by blind people.  We can do more together.  We can be more successful together.  Sometimes, when you look around in society, there's not enough togetherness.  And I'm really, really thankful that we have that in the National Federation of the Blind.


So thinking about 2022.  It's really going to be time for us to utilize the transformational experience that we've had during COVID and during the challenges that we've faced this year, and to take our organization to the next level.  Let's use the lessons, the strength that we've gained in the last couple years to figure out how to take our organization even further.  Let's demonstrate to America the power of the organized blind movement, and that in fact we did not diminish our efforts during the pandemic.  We made them stronger.


Let's also find new ways to continue that training and to bring in and develop the next generation of leaders for our organization.  We know that by teaching, we have continued to strengthen ourselves and those around us, by teaching.  And we know that by teaching, that's when the real learning occurs for us.
So for 2022, I call on us to build.  Forward together.  In 2022, we want to build together.

Those are my reflections as I come to think about the work that we've done this year and what we're going to share together next year.  We have a unique, really unique opportunity this evening because we have here live and in person our First Vice President who serves the organized blind movement in many ways.  But I think most importantly, she best represents the true spirit of giving and heart that we experience when we come to the National Federation of the Blind.  And so I wanted to give our First Vice President and opportunity to share with the membership her reflections here at the end of 2021.

So Pam, over to you.


PAM ALLEN:  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.  Thank you for your words and most importantly thank you for your leadership and the ways that you teach each of us each day and show us through your vulnerability and your humanity what it means to lead.  We're so grateful.  It's wonderful to be with everybody tonight as we reflect on this transformative time in our organization.  And I want to take a moment to acknowledge everybody that is here in the room and everyone that is listening all over the country.  The most important part of our organization are our members.  The work that we do together would not be possible without the honesty, the love, the commitment of each member who gives so tirelessly every day, in our chapters, our affiliates, our divisions all around the country.  Truly helping blind people live the lives that we want and expanding what we thought was possible.

So as we learn and grow and strive to do better each day, I would like to on behalf of myself and my husband Roland wish everyone a very happy holiday and continue to pledge my commitment to this organization, to support you, President Riccobono, and to work tirelessly to serve the members in the work that we do in changing what it means to be blind for everyone.

Looking forward to 2022 and all the lives that we will touch and the lives that we will change because of our work together.  Thank you.  Wishing you peace and joy in the new year.


MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you very much, Pam.  Thank you to all of those who work in the trenches every day.

There are many other thanks to give out this evening.  I want to thank our affiliates who have already fulfilled their pledges from the national convention during the roll call pledges.  It makes a big difference in the work that we do.  If your affiliate hasn't fulfilled your pledge yet, we need those dollars in the door, please, but thank you for the generosity.  Our members have shown and our affiliates this year, and I just want to mention that during the pandemic, we wondered what would happen, especially around our Pre-Authorized Contribution plan.


The PAC plan is our primary way of people giving a monthly contribution to this organization.  We speculated a lot about what would happen, but as we sit at the end of 2021, our PAC numbers are better than they have been ever before, and of course we don't know exactly what we will collect in December, but we believe that 2021 will be the first year that we actualize better than $500,000 collected in a year on the PAC plan.


And that's because of the commitment of so many members across the country who got on the PAC plan, who stepped up their pledges, even despite difficult circumstances.  And so I urge everybody to recognize how deep the appreciation is for those dollars and the difference it makes on a monthly basis, and to invite others to be part of that significant wave of support.  If we keep up this pace of activity, we will well outpace $500,000 for the year of 2022, and we need that because we have much more we want to do.

(Audience cheering:  Get on the PAC plan!  So that our battle can be won!)

MARK RICCOBONO:  That's how you know we have a real live audience.


I also want to acknowledge some state affiliates and local chapters that have made special contributions, financial contributions, to the organization this year above and beyond the normal contributions they might make.  And these have come in since the convention.  Thank you to the NFB of Delaware, the NFB of Texas, the NFB of Arizona.  All of these affiliates making grants to the national organization to support our educational initiatives during 2021.

Also general unrestricted gifts came in from NFB of Idaho Treasure Valley chapter and from the NFB of Maryland, our greater Baltimore chapter, the NFB of Connecticut, thank you for your contribution, as well as the NFB of Minnesota, the NFB of Iowa, the NFB of California.  These general contributions are really important because they give us lots of flexibility to put those dollars where we need them to be.

We also have a spirit and a tradition of sharing in our organization when our affiliates get bequests.  So thank you to the NFB of Ohio, Oregon, and Utah for sharing bequests with us during the last 6 months.

It's not too late to make a contribution to the National Federation of the Blind.  I do want to remind you of that.  But we truly, sincerely, appreciate all of the major contributions made to our organization by those who have given dollars this year.  It's made a huge difference.

Okay.  A couple of other quick announcements before we get to some Q&A.  First of all, there's still time to request a Braille letter from Santa Claus or a winter letter with the help of the National Federation of the Blind.  They're available in English or Spanish for kids age 10 years or younger.  Sorry, Kevin Worley (laughing).  So you can choose English or Spanish, you can choose a generic winter letter or a letter from Santa Claus.  I have the Santa letter out right now and I have a cool tactile graphic of the polar ice caps I guess this is.  I didn't take the time to read the description yet.  But really cool.  There's graphics, there's recipes, all sorts of stuff that comes with the letter.  And you know, we have to work hard because Santa Claus wants to send a lot of stuff, and we try to encourage him to save some of it for later in December.  So still time to get your requests in for the Santa letters.  It's a really fun program in the National Federation of the Blind.

Also want to raise up to you that we are supporting our friends at the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults who are sponsoring the Braille readers are leaders contest for 2021-'22.  The reading period for the contest actually started yesterday, but it's not too late!  You can still register and start your reading.  This Braille reading contest promotes competition and encourages reading to see who can read the most number of minutes in Braille between December 1, 2021, and January 21, 2022.  This year the program is collecting information through the Beanstack application online.  It's a very popular reading platform.  And again, this contest is for both youth and adults.  So Braille-reading adults, if you're just learning Braille and you want to have some encouragement, this is a great program for you.  And there are some great prizes being offered this year in the Braille readers are leaders contest.  I know in the room with us this evening are some of our partners who have contributed great prizes like our friends at the American Printing House for the Blind who have committed more than one refreshable Braille display.  So thank you to our partners.


You can visit -- oh, come on.  You can do better than that.


There we go.

So you can visit  Register and sign up on Beanstack.

Also our Center for Excellence in Nonvisual Access is throwing a holiday gift event.  You can register and come to the virtual event on December 15 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, on Zoom.  There you'll learn about fun accessible gift ideas for the entire family.  So pretty exciting.  They're going to cover everything from video games to smart home devices to mobile applications.  You can get more information and register for the event by going to

I do have a few Federation family notes to share with you this evening, and I regret to have to bring you the sad news from Arkansas, really sad news reporting that a member of ours, Tevin Bailey, who also is known by Diamond in our Arkansas affiliate, was killed in a car crash on Thanksgiving morning.  Diamond was a student, active in our Arkansas student division, also very active with our social media activities.  I would encourage you to keep Diamond and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

From California, our San Joaquin County chapter reports the loss of chapter board member Anita King who passed away on Monday, November 22, due to medical complications.  Ms. King was a very enthusiastic Federationist and brought a lot of spirit to our chapters, activities, and to the board there.

From Florida, our greater Jacksonville chapter reports the passing of Elizabeth Bowen Dyal on October 4, 2021.  She was 81 years old.  Beth played a key role in building our Florida affiliate.  She was a pivotal part of the affiliate going back to its earliest days and was very active in the chapter, including having served as its President at one time, the Jacksonville chapter being one of the four charter chapters of the affiliate.

From our Maryland affiliate, I would ask you to keep the family and friends of Linda Wellman in your thoughts and prayers.  She passed away very unexpectedly at the age of 62 on November 20th, 2021.  Linda was a member of our greater Baltimore chapter and of our Maryland seniors division.  She was very active in continuing to advance her skills.  She was preparing to go for adjustment to blindness training at the Colorado Center for the Blind.

Also on November 28th, 2021, I regret to inform you of the passing of Mary Nichols, who lost a long battle with cancer.  Mary has been a long time member of our greater Baltimore chapter and of the NFB of Maryland, serving in many capacities including our seniors division.  She leaves behind her husband of 54 years, Orlo, who continues to be a member of the Federation family.

I would encourage you to keep all Federationists who we lost this year and those we may not know about and share on this release.

As we come to the end of the year, though, we do have one joyful bit of news from Virginia.  I'm pleased to report that Julie McGinnity and Joseph Orozco welcomed November Kathleen Orozco on November 6, 2021, at 2:51p.m.  She weighed in at 6 pounds 13 ounces.  Congratulations and welcome to November as the newest member of the National Federation of the Blind.


Pam, I think that's what I have for this part of the release.  Back over to you.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Great.  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.  And we will start out with the results for our poll questions before we get into our Q&A.  And just a reminder, you can still submit your questions to the Q&A feature.  Also you can email [email protected].

Our first poll question tonight was what is your favorite hot drink, everything from coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cider.

Hot chocolate was our top vote getter.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Come on.  Really?

PAM ALLEN:  All the coffee lovers out there were out voted by hot cocoa.  Coffee was second, but hot chocolate was the winner in that one.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Poor cider.  More for me, I guess.

PAM ALLEN:  Well, 6%, cider.

And our next poll question was asking our favorite chapter meeting activity.  We had some great options from philosophy discussions to guest speakers, games or social activities, technology demonstrations.  But the overwhelming vote getter with 53% of the vote was "love them all."  So the best part of our chapters, so many wonderful things.

So thanks, everybody, for participating in the poll, and we will be announcing a little later in the release the winners of our canes, so stay tuned.  We will go ahead and thank everyone for submitting questions tonight.

Our first question tonight is from Daniel Garcia from Missouri, and the question, President Riccobono, does the Federation have a position on the Department of Justice suing Uber on behalf of people with disabilities over the issue of wait time fees.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Great question.  Our position is "Go get 'em!"

We're very supportive of the fact that the DOJ has taken on this issue with Uber.  We've reached out to the lawyers at DOJ.  We've been promoting the information about this suit.  If you have been charged wait time fees and you are a person with a disability, we encourage you to reach out to the Department of Justice.  We'll put the information in the chat.  The phone number and email.  We've been encouraging members to share this, where you can send your receipts.  As you know, we have many issues that we've worked on with Uber and Lyft and really all ridesharing companies around equal access for people with disabilities in so many areas, so we're really pleased to see the Department of Justice involved in this.  And we will coordinate with them.  So great question, Daniel.

PAM ALLEN:  Our next question is related to membership.  Mike Ryan is wondering about how many members of our organization are blind and how many are visually impaired.  And also we've had a couple of other questions about membership.  How do members, what are great ways or easiest way for members to get involved.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Ah, great.  So have my membership coin right here.  So how many members are blind and how many are low vision or something else?  We don't know because we figure if you're with us, you're a blind person.  Other folks join us who are blind at heart, but we don't make a distinction, and we certainly don't track individuals based on how much they can or cannot see.  And that's because, you know, as a movement, we believe that regardless of how much eyesight you have remaining, the issues that you face in society, the low expectations, the artificial barriers all relate to us as a class of blind people.  And we don't want to divide blind people.  So we don't keep that data.

I have no idea how much anybody can or cannot see, and let me just be clear, that's not to say that we don't want people to utilize the remaining vision they have.  However, we do want people to recognize that that's not what defines you.  Myself, growing up, I tried to fake it.  I tried to pretend I could see things because that's what I learned was important.  That's the message I got.  And when I met the National Federation of the Blind, people said, I don't care how much you can see or not see; are you being effective at what you need to do.  And people finally I think liberated me from having to worry all the time about what I was going to see or not see.

So we don't make that distinction, and we also recognize that members are in many different places related to their journey related to blindness, so we want to honor that but also recognize that for us, it really doesn't matter to us as individuals how much someone can or cannot see.  That's not what's important to us.  What's important is that you want to be part of this movement to make a difference for all of us.

So that's a great question.

How do you get involved?  Well, you can join the Federation, and we really encourage that at the local level, where you can get connected with people.  When you join a local chapter, you can look at, look up the about page and find our state affiliates, get connected with a state affiliate.  Hopefully a local chapter.  If there's not a local chapter in your area, you can join your affiliate as an at large member and start to get connected.  And one of the first connections will be that the chapter or affiliate will put you through our new member process where you will get a membership coin sent to you in the mail as well as other information from the national organization.

You don't have to go too far to find a place where you can contribute in this organization.  There are dozens and dozens of places.  Find the place that works for you and start learning about the organization by reading our history, our literature, and start to understand and ask questions about who we are.

So join at the local level.  That's really where you can best get connected.  If you need help figuring out where to get connected, call us here at the national office.  Or send an email to [email protected], and our team will get you plugged in.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Great.  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.

And also we have another question.  If you could please give attorney an update on our safety and support initiatives.

MARK RICCOBONO:  So that's a great question.  We're going to have a number of things that I think will be coming out later this month.  We're here now in Baltimore.  Our board of directors has come for 2 days of meeting and we're going to be talking about a number of aspects of our safety and support efforts.

I should take this opportunity to thank those members out there who submitted comments on our draft Code of Conduct.  We got a lot of great comments from a diverse range of people across the country.  Thank you for taking the time to do that.  The board will be discussing that tomorrow and considering our next steps.

We think that we've made some great strides in our Code of Conduct process.  What we want to continue to do is have a stronger and safer organization that continues to set the expectation about what appropriate behavior is.  And unfortunately, being a people's movement, we have great diversity of people and we need to decide for ourselves what we want our standards to be and then how we continue to empower people to meet those standards.  And you know, we're an organization that is built on empowerment.

Our survivor-led group has been starting to spin up and have some meetings.  I think that's going to create some great opportunities for us.  We're going to continue these efforts into 2022 and bake them in to what we do.

I think we're a stronger organization for the work that we've done in 2021, and I think that the discussions that we've been having, although they sometimes have been difficult, I think have really brought us together to have an understanding of what we expect of each other in this organization.

So I guess I want to say as part of that, hats off to all the members of the Federation for really taking these issues seriously and tackling them straight on and having the hard conversations, because these conversations need to happen in other places, not just within the National Federation of the Blind, and our members have done it in a way that's authentic to us as an organization, and I think it's going to be to our credit and leadership going forward.  And I think we're going to see that in true example at our national convention in New Orleans.


Had to get that in.

PAM ALLEN:  We are very much looking forward to welcoming everybody.

And as we are nearing the end of our Q&A session, if our members of our national board and our tenBroek board could begin making their way toward the stage, to the front right corner of the room, we have some surprises coming up.

President Riccobono, we have another question --

MARK RICCOBONO:  Somewhat quietly.

PAM ALLEN:  Yes, that's right.

We have a question here from someone who would like to know what your advice would be to a young person who is losing their vision and wants to learn Braille but who isn't finding support from their parent or guardian.  What advice would you have?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Ooh, sneak it under the covers.

Well, what I would say is learning Braille is one of the most important things that you can do, and I'm really sorry to hear that you're not getting support from your family to learn Braille.

What I would say is reach out to your local affiliate, and we can help you get connected with a mentor who can help you work on Braille reading.  You know, the beauty of Braille is you can sneak it under the covers and sneak it in the dark, and that's really the best way to learn Braille.  And the best way to work on Braille is to read it and read it and read it.  And so I would suggest we get you connected with a blind mentor in your local community, because they also may be able to help your family understand why Braille will make such a tremendous difference in your life.

So great question.  Hopefully we have the person's information and can do some follow up to help you get connected.  But we're pleased to help you get connected with Braille resources and Braille mentors.  I know that I'm sure Pam will echo this.  I can't imagine doing any of the things we set out to do without having worked on Braille.  And you know, I was someone that did not learn Braille early on.  I was told professionals could teach me Braille if I wanted to learn it.  I was a senior in high school.  I couldn't think of a reason why I wanted to learn it.  So hats off to you to recognizing well before I did that it has value in your life.  So great question.  And sorry to hear about the lack of support.

PAM ALLEN:  Thank you.

Thank you so much, President Riccobono, and again, thanks to everyone who submitted questions.  If we did not have a chance to get to your question, our awesome communications team will be following up with you.  So thank you again.

We have the winners to announce for our great cane give away.  So thanks, everybody, who entered.  We had hundreds of entries, so thanks, everyone.  And the lucky winner --

MARK RICCOBONO:  Which cane are they going to get?

PAM ALLEN:  The winner --

MARK RICCOBONO:  Which cane are you going to give away first?

PAM ALLEN:  That's what I was just about to say.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Get to it.  Let's go.

PAM ALLEN:  The winner of my cane is Sheila Leland.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Ah!  Montana!

PAM ALLEN:  Yes.  Very happy.  Congratulations, Sheila.

And the winner of the cane that you decorated is Marcus Simmons. Congratulations, and we will be shipping these to you.  And thank you, everybody, so much for taking part in our great cane give away.
Again, thank you, President Riccobono.  It's been great to be with you and with everyone tonight here in person and all around, and in difficult times and in good times, we in the National Federation of the Blind are stronger together.

So please, everyone, join us for our next NFB presidential release live on Tuesday, January 4, which also is world Braille day, in honor of Louis Braille's birthday.  Please contact President Riccobono at (410) 659-9314 or email at [email protected].  Thanks again and also wishing you and Melissa and Austin and Oriana and Elizabeth a very wonderful, joyous holiday, and I'll turn it back to you.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Great.  Thank you, Pam.

You can applaud for Pam.  It's okay.


As we come to the end of this presidential release, I want to express one more important sentiment, and that is for the leadership of the entire board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.  You know, nothing we do happens because of one individual.  Especially in 2021, where we have faced some hard circumstances, had some hard conversations.  Our leadership team, our elected leaders have really come together in a very special and important way to do some hard work together.  And that's despite personal difficult circumstances that some of our board members have also faced at the same time.  So I want to express my deep appreciation to the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind.  I think every member of our organization can feel confident that they are represented by people who have big hearts and also big imaginations about what we can do in the future.  And I think that gives me a great deal of hope for what we will do together in 2022.


So before we get to the customary endings, let me say to you, happy holidays, warmest wishes.  Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind after we ring some jingle bells.

(Singing "Jingle Bells")
"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.  Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh!"

SPEAKER:  I'm Oriana, and I’ll be telling you two jokes. 

What's Santa Claus' favorite chips?

SPEAKER:  I don't know.  What?

SPEAKER:  Kringle’s potato chips.

SPEAKER:  What do reindeers say before they tell you a joke?  This one's going to sleigh you!

SPEAKER:  I'm Elizabeth Riccobono, and I'll be telling you a joke.  What does Santa say to the distracted gift?

SPEAKER:  I don't know.  What?

SPEAKER:  Just be present.

The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, [email protected], 410-659-9314, Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!