Presidential Release 512, January 2022 (English Transcript)

(Music playing:  "Horizons" by Tim Meyers)

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everybody.  Happy New Year.  Welcome to our January presidential release.  We're so happy that you are joining us for our first presidential release of 2022.

Just a quick reminder that everyone is muted this evening.  If you have not had a chance to send in your questions yet, you can still send them through the Q&A feature on any of our social media channels or you can email [email protected].

Also we have closed captioning in the Zoom and we are also using the captioning feature 1CapApp that can be used for captioning at your own pace, and we'll add a link to the chat which is available on the mobile app and the web.

We have some great poll questions.  I hope everyone will take a chance to answer those.  First, what is your New Year's resolution.  And we have some great options from traveling to a new place, to learning a new skill, to recruiting more members for the National Federation of the Blind.

Our second question, in honor of our celebrating Braille, today especially, and this month, we are wondering how you use Braille.  Whether that be at work, at home, for entertainment, if you are hoping to learn Braille someday.  We have a lot of great choices, so please take part in our poll.  And we'll be starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thank you.

(Music playing:  "All About That Braille")

¶ ¶ "I'm all about that Braille.  I can use contractions just like I'm supposed to do because I got those Braille skills that all the kids chase." ¶ ¶
¶ ¶ "I'm all about that Braille.  No print." ¶ ¶

SPEAKER:  Announcement regarding Spanish interpretation service.

(Announcement in Spanish).

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everybody.  Welcome.  We are so happy to have you with us tonight for our January presidential release.  Happy New Year to everybody.  We will be getting started in just a few minutes at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.  Welcome.  Please take a moment to complete the polls that we have tonight, and we will be starting shortly.  Thank you.

(Music playing:  "Braille is Beautiful")

¶ ¶ "Go on and live your life.  Don't need a bit of sight.  In the end you'll find, Braille is beautiful.  Put your fingers on the page.  It's all the rage.  It's all going to be okay.  Braille is beautiful." ¶ ¶

(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." ¶ ¶

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everyone, and Happy New Year.  Hoping that 2022 is off to a wonderful start for everybody.  We are so glad to welcome you this evening for our first presidential release of 2022.

I will turn it over to President Riccobono.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Hey, Pam.  How are you this evening?

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

MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm doing great.  I was just thinking that 7 months from now will be the fourth of July.

PAM ALLEN:  Right.  It will be here before we know it.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Does not New Orleans celebrate the fourth of July?

PAM ALLEN:  New Orleans celebrates everything.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Well, I'm looking forward to the fourth of July in New Orleans.  Today it's cold and icy in Baltimore.

PAM ALLEN:  It will be warm and wonderful in July in New Orleans.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm looking forward to it.  Happy World Braille Day to you.

PAM ALLEN:  Same to you.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Should we get started?

PAM ALLEN:  Sounds good.


Greetings, fellow Federationists.  Today is Tuesday, January 4, 2022.  And this is presidential release number 512.  Happy World Braille Day and happy 2022 to my Federation family across the country.  It's so great to be back together for what I think is going to prove to be one of our best years yet.

I do want to extend my warmest greetings and wishes for all Federationists for the year 2022, and a happy World Braille Day.  It's a great day, a great month actually, to celebrate Braille and to kick off the work that we do in the National Federation of the Blind to build literacy opportunities for blind people.

Not as cold outside, at least here in Baltimore.  Over the last few days we've had some snow, which has been kind of fun, but to kick off the year, I'm feeling pretty hopeful because I recognize that 7 months from today we will be in New Orleans getting ready to kick off our 2022 national convention.  And I recognize that the coronavirus is still with us and we have variants to worry about, but I am very optimistic that we are going to work out the details to have a robust in-person convention in New Orleans this summer.  And we are planning to be in New Orleans from Tuesday, July 5, to Sunday, July 10.  And I encourage you to start making your reservations and plans to be at our 2022 convention in person.

So I want to give you some of the convention details, recognizing that we still have many months to go and things to figure out, but you want to get your hotel room soon so that you can start making your plans to be in New Orleans for the convention.

Our headquarters hotel for our 2022 convention will be the New Orleans Marriott at 555 Canal Street.  You can reserve your room by calling 800-654-3990.

Our overflow hotel is the Sheraton New Orleans, which is at 500 Canal Street.  As you might guess, it's right across the street, immediately across the street from the Marriott.  We will be using both of these hotels, and while the Sheraton is the overflow, you should know that the Sheraton will be hosting the exhibit hall for the convention.  So if you're an exhibitor and want to be very close to the exhibit hall, you may prefer to stay in the Sheraton.  Obviously the Marriott is where the main meetings and suites are, but the Sheraton has its own charm to it.  It does have the Starbucks as well, in case you're interested.  So you can check out both properties.  They're great properties, and we're glad to be there.

You can reserve a room at the Marriott -- excuse me.  At the Sheraton by calling this number.  855-516-1090 to reserve a room at the Sheraton.

At both hotels, singles and doubles are $109 a night.  Triples and quads are $119 a night.  The combined sales and tourism tax rate is 16.2%, and there is a hotel occupancy fee of $3 per night.  That's a city wide fee, I believe.  So the hotels will take a deposit of the first night's room rate and taxes and fees.  So it will be roughly $130 for the deposit.

Probably been a while since folks have thought about reserving rooms at the convention, so you can find information in the January Braille Monitor about the hotel and the reservation information and the prices and how the deposits work and that sort of thing.

We are planning to have a convention in person.  And we recognize that there are going to be a lot of questions about what our protocols are going to be and what procedures we're going to use.  And obviously we're not going to talk about that on this release because we're going to continue to build those plans as we see how things go forward.

I can tell that you currently in New Orleans, a number of venues, especially entertainment venues where there's live music, require proof of vaccination.  So I would encourage, continue to encourage Federation members to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.  We most certainly will require masking in and amongst the convention activities regardless of whether that's a requirement of the city at the time.  I'm quite certain that we will require that in convention meetings.  There undoubtedly will be other COVID protocols we will use.  We will provide information about that in the convention registration process, and obviously as we get closer to the convention, there may be additional details to add to that.  But I would encourage you to come be part of the convention if you're able to do so.  We know a lot more than we did 2 years ago about how to live in and amongst the virus.  We have a vaccine and a booster.  We're all used to wearing masks.  And I know that many of you are eager to be out engaging in building the Federation and in and amongst the convention.

We will open the registration, as has been tradition, on March 1.  So you can look forward to that.

The registration fee, online registration, so before the convention, will be $25.  And the banquet will be $70.  You'll note that these prices are the same as they were in 2019.  If you register or buy banquet tickets at the convention, of course the cost is more and you have to wait in line.  So I would encourage you to register in advance of the convention online.

We will have a virtual component to the convention.  It will feel similar to conventions of 2019 and before when we stream certain parts of the convention.  We're still putting our virtual experience together.  But we know for certain that there is nothing that compares to being in and amongst the convention crowd.  Obviously we want people to feel safe and to feel welcome, but if you don't feel comfortable coming to the convention, we will make the core elements of the convention experience available through streaming as we have in the past.  Those details are still coming together, and I would love your suggestions about what that should look like.

I have some other important announcements to talk to you about, and this one does relate to the convention.  For many years the Federation has run a scholarship program.  I think our scholarships actually go back to the 1960s, but for the last many decades, we've had a scholarship program and we've been offering 30 scholarships.  And for a long time now our minimum scholarship amount has been $3,000.  At its meeting last month, the Federation's board of directors has made a number of important enhancements to the scholarship program, starting with this class that we're recruiting for right now.  So if you're a college student and you are thinking about applying for a scholarship, you will want to know that we've made some important changes.  It doesn't impact the application process, but it does impact what happens at the other side of the process.  First, I should let you know that one minor change is that the application process now does require a scholarship finalist to turn age 18 prior to the beginning of the convention.  That would be the day before the convention or earlier.

The more significant change, though, is that the board has increased the minimum amount for the scholarships, and that is that each one of the 30 scholarship finalists will be guaranteed to walk away with $8,000.  Which I think is really tremendous.

Also, the scholarship program is now going to be a flat program.  You know that it's been tiered in the past.  We've had a small number of higher dollar scholarships.  Everybody is going to get $8,000 and everybody is going to get the same amount in the program.  The board has made this change because we want to focus back on the mentoring aspects of the program.  The program is already very competitive in terms of the application process and getting in to the class of scholarship finalists, and the board felt it was really valuable and important that we focus our energy on making sure we can do the mentoring with these scholarship finalists and grow them into Federation leaders like we want to.  So all 30 of our scholarship finalists will receive $8,000, and undoubtedly there will be add ons to that with our partners and that sort of thing.

Applications will continue to be competitive, as I've said, and the deadline will continue to be March 31.  Scholarship awards will continue to be contingent on full participation in and amongst the national convention, so the committee will select finalists but they won't become winners until they have fulfilled their responsibilities to participate in the convention.

Another important development that I think is pretty exciting is that we will have a new way of selecting the individual from the scholarship class who gets the additional opportunity and honor of addressing the convention at the banquet.  So a lot of neat changes to our scholarship program.  I'm really excited about it.  I think it is a great advancement for us.  I hope all of you will be as well.  And now is the time to promote this with young people in your affiliates.  Some people, maybe they were on the fence about applying for a scholarship because it was only $3,000.  $8,000 maybe will make them pay a little more attention to the work that we're doing in the National Federation of the Blind.  And I think it's a true credit to the work of the members of this organization that we're in a position to do it.

So promote the scholarship program, and let's make the committee's job even harder this year by upping the number of quality applicants that the committee has to select from.

Another historic announcement, I guess I would say on this release, is to talk about the KNFB Reader mobile. You know that for a number of years, actually well over a decade, we've been working with Ray Kurzweil on this generation of reading machine technology starting with the firsthand held reading machine which we came out with in the 2006 or 7 time period, and later the mobile app which has been available on iOS and Android for 6-7 years now.

The Federation has been partnering in the development of the mobile app on iOS and Android and Windows with a company called Sensotec NV.  They've been a great partner with us.  The Federation has decided that the time has come for us to turn over management of the KNFB mobile application to Sensotec.  We have done a great job of stimulating the marketplace.  There are a number of other mobile applications now that do scan and read work.  The KNFB Reader technology is now available free to every blind person in America through the NFB-NEWSLINE application.  So we've built the technology and made it freely available.  So it's time for our organization to get out of the business of trying to develop and sell this mobile reading technology.

So we have created an agreement with Sensotec that will be taking over full operation of the app, including supporting customers of the app and doing development.  The most important thing is those of us who have bought KNFB Reader mobile and continue to use it on our phones will continue to have the app supported by Sensotec and upgraded as new versions of operating systems come out.

Sensotec will be changing the name of the application to the One Step Reader, but beyond the name change, you won't notice any difference.  So in about a month or so, when you upgrade the KNFB Reader, it will now be called the One Step Reader.  But it will be the same user interface and that sort of thing, just have a different name.

I think this is a really important moment.  It marks really an opportunity for us to celebrate the great work that we have done now for well over a decade to advance reading technology in not just this application but in so many areas.  Our work on the KNFB Reader has allowed us to push the technology of other manufacturers and to set an example in so many areas of accessibility.  And most importantly, the scan and read technology, the power of KNFB, will continue to be available in not just the One Step Reader but also within our NFB-NEWSLINE system we will continue to offer KNFB for free to all blind people who use that mobile app.

So be aware that's coming.  You will see more announcements about that undoubtedly as the month goes on.

We are getting ready for the Washington Seminar in February, and we are having both a virtual and an in-person component to that event.  I do want to let you know especially those who are interested in seeking employment, that we will be having a workshop in conjunction with the Washington Seminar.  This is the 2022 virtual career fair, which will take place in conjunction with the Washington Seminar on Monday, February 7, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  This is a great opportunity for you to get connected with knowing what job opportunities are out there, increase your networking skills, and learn about trends within the employment area.

There will be some preparatory workshops for the career fair, both for job seekers and employers, and these will occur on Monday, January 10, and Monday, January 17, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  Job seekers should plan to have a current resume ready along with their registration for the career fair.

For more information about how to register and participate, you should contact Dick Davis, who is chair of our employment committee.  His email address is [email protected].  Or you can contact John Dubay at [email protected].

Additional note that we did update the organization's Code of Conduct on January 1 when it was posted.  I want to again thank the many Federation members who gave feedback on the draft code that the board put out in November.  You will see many of your comments reflected in changes in the now active version of the Code of Conduct which you can find on every page of our website, or you can go to  There's an HTML version as well as a downloadable BRF if you want to emboss your own copy of the code or put it on your Braille device.  There's also a PDF version and an MP3 version of the code as well as a lot of other information.  And there will be more coming.  I encourage you to learn about the Code of Conduct and making sure you're following the guidance there, adhering to the high standard of conduct that we hold in our organization, and of course be aware of the reporting procedures if you feel that there have been violations to the code.  I'm really proud of where our organization stands on our Code of Conduct work, and I hope that you are as well.

Some other announcements.  Very soon you will get information about our 2022 NFB BELL Academy.  We will be having both an in-home edition, so virtual, and we will be working with a number of affiliates who are going to have in-person gatherings using appropriate protocol.  We will have an online registration system for both the virtual in-home and the in-person gatherings.  Those are coming very soon.  So we're going to encourage you to promote the BELL Academy for the summer of 2022, especially on this World Braille Day.  Really important work we're doing there, continuing to raise the expectations for blind youth and their literacy for the future.

You've heard me say a number of times that we as an organization should contemplate what a civil rights museum for blind people, telling the history of the organized blind movement might be.  And we're moving forward with some development plans for that here in 2022.  And later this spring, maybe late winter, we will be sending out information about a survey to gather information from members about what might be included in such a museum.  I believe this is going to be a one of a kind, innovative, cutting edge project that is going to make a difference not only to our movement but as an example to museums all over the world.  So I just want to prepare you that that survey is coming and I hope you will all participate in it.

One last chance to get Braille calendars for 2022, made available by our partners at the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults.  We will be taking orders for the Braille calendars through the end of January.  So if you want a Braille calendar, please call the Independence Market, make your order before January 31.

I also want to take a quick moment to thank the many members, chapters, affiliates that contributed to the Federation financially in the final days and hours of 2021.  Last year was an extremely positive year for the Federation in terms of donations, and helping us build a base for the future.  So thank you to each and every one of you who dug deep to help us make 2021 a successful year.  I'll look forward to reporting on that in detail at the national convention this summer once we get through our audit, which is coming up here very soon.

I do have a few Federation family notes to share with you here on this release.  Number of things which I regret to have to share with you but I know you will want to know.

From Missouri, Daniel Garcia, President of our Kansas City chapter, reports the passing of Lawrence Thomas, who was a long-time member of the Kansas City chapter.  He passed away on Sunday, January 2.

From New Jersey, Linda Melendez, our President there reports the passing of Caryn Fitzpatrick on Wednesday, December 29, after suffering a massive stroke the week before.  Caryn was active in the seniors division, the at large chapter, the technology division, and the sports and rec division in New Jersey.

Linda also reports the passing of Liz Morgan on Friday, November 5.  Liz has been a long time member of the Garden State chapter and has been active in many aspects of the Federation's work.  Linda describes Liz particularly important on this World Braille Day.  Linda says that Braille was always Liz's first love.  And I love this.  Linda says she never gave in to listening to audio books but always loved to read them in Braille.  So you should keep Liz as well as other members of the Federation in your thoughts and prayers.

From Michigan, Michael Powell reports that on December 15, Marcia Marques passed away after a nearly year-long battle with cancer.  Marcia is the wife of Victor, who is a leader in our Kalamazoo chapter as well as the Michigan student division.

From Maryland.  I regret to have to share with you the passing of Marsha Dyer on December 20 after battling with cancer.  Many of you will know Marsha from her service as a staff member here at the national center which started first in 1990.  She served in many capacities, including being secretary to Dr. Jernigan, to Mrs. Jernigan.  You have heard her participate in the resolutions committee.  We could give a long list of things that she has done in the organization.  More recently, although she retired from the staff, she had been continuing to do proofreading of the Braille Monitor for us.  In fact, right up through December she had proof read the Monitor.  So Marsha's presence will definitely be missed in and around the Federation.  She was a longtime member of our greater Baltimore chapter and more recently was a founding member of Maryland's TLC chapter.  I would encourage you to keep her son Frank, who has been around the Federation for a long time, in your thoughts and prayers as well.

And I also regret to inform you of the passing of Father Gregory Paul on December 30 at the age of 93.  Father Gregory really became a strong advocate for the capacities of blind people, especially after getting to know Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan and spending time with Dr. Jernigan especially during the final weeks of his life.

Father Gregory came to know many members of the Federation by attending dozens of national conventions, performing invocations and masses at conventions, and spending time with a lot of us.  Most recently he was doing ministering at the Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center in West Hartford, Connecticut.  He is known for a number of things but more recently in the time that he knew and came to be part of the Federation family, anytime he saw blind people, he would ask them if they knew about the National Federation of the Blind, and he was infamous for calling people by their name and sometimes not always the right name.  But an interesting observation is not only would he ask blind people if they knew about the National Federation of the Blind.  He wouldn't hesitate to ask blind people who he had already asked if they were part of the National Federation of the Blind.  So Father Gregory will be missed around our movement.  His funeral was today, and I know that Mrs. Jernigan, amongst other Federation members, were there.

So you should keep Father Gregory and all of these Federation family members and those I might not know about in your thoughts and prayers as we go forward into 2022.

Pam, I think those are the announcements that I have for the moment.  I'm going to turn it back to you.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  That sounds great.  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.  And I will start out by giving our responses to our poll.  Just a reminder, thank everyone for submitting questions.  Those of you who have submitted questions through the Q&A feature or have emailed [email protected].  So thanks to everyone who participated in our polls tonight.  Our first poll asked about New Year's resolutions, and people could choose more than one answer on both of these polls, but our top vote getter was "I do not make New Year's resolutions."  42%.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Best way not to break them.

PAM ALLEN:  That's right.

So our next vote getters were centered around health, being more fit and eating better.

Our second poll in celebrating World Braille Day, how do you use Braille.  And our top vote getter on this was "at home," followed by "at work."  We also have for entertainment a lot of people interested in learning Braille.  So thanks, everybody, for participating in the polls tonight.  It's always great to hear everybody's responses.

Now we'll go ahead and get started with the questions, if you're ready, President Riccobono.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Let's do it.

PAM ALLEN:  Our first question tonight is related to COVID testing and wonders about if NFB will tackle the issue of inaccessibility with respect to at-home COVID testing.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Oh, don't get me started.  We're definitely going to tackle this.  This is a serious issue.  And I know that many members are facing struggles with this.

So a number of members have already asked about the announcement by the President of the United States of making available half a billion at-home tests, that these would be available through a website.

Over the last few weeks we've been working to identify who in the government can talk to us about the accessibility of these tests.  So far we've identified that it's not clear exactly how the tests are going to be handled and distributed yet.  So we have written to the White House on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind to say that we're concerned about nonvisual access to these tests, that these tests need to be available to blind people to use independently in our homes without sighted assistance, and we want to know what plans have been made to make sure that that can happen.

We haven't gotten an answer yet from the White House.  And it is very possible that we will ask Federation members to start to send letters or whip up interest in social media regarding this topic.  But not yet.  Don't jump out there and do it yet, although I know a number of you are already voicing, rightfully, your concerns about how inaccessible at-home testing is for blind people.

We're also doing some work to see how we can engage the manufacturers of these testing products to see what we can do to help them make sure that accessibility is built in from the beginning, but our biggest opportunity that's in front of us right now is this government testing because the government's obviously putting a lot of resources into these.

So stand by.  We may need Federationists to jump in and put more pressure on the administration regarding accessibility of at-home testing.  Obviously this is an issue.  It's not a new issue.  At the beginning of COVID, we had to battle against drive-up testing centers which were not at all accessible to blind people.  I mean, they would turn you away in a lot of places if you weren't in a car.  And a number of our affiliates were very successful to get states to implement some pretty innovative ways for blind people to get access to testing.

We think we can do the same with this program on a national basis, but what I would also say is, if you come across barriers in at-home testing, please send those to us at our national office.  If you come across a particular test that is not visually accessible, please share that with us as well as who the manufacturer is so we can do outreach.  But we're on it.  But I'm thinking that it's likely that we're going to have to mobilize members across the country to put pressure on folks to really be accountable for making these things accessible.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Great.  Thank you.

And our next question is related to convention.  We had a couple questions asking about how far of a walk it is between the Sheraton and the Marriott.

MARK RICCOBONO:  It's a great question.  Pam, I think you're in a great position to answer that question.

PAM ALLEN:  Yes.  Very close.  Right across the street.  A large street, Canal Street, but yes.

MARK RICCOBONO:  In fact, out the Canal Street door of the Marriott, you can go directly across the street to the Sheraton.  In fact, I think they told us that for a lot of large meetings, when they know there's going to be a lot of people moving around, take for example banquet night when we're going to empty the hall and people are going to stream back to the Sheraton to change into their convention duds, they often make efforts to expedite the folks getting across the street quickly.  They do this for all groups, so it's an easy jaunt across the street.  Very walkable.  Certainly no farther than some of the convention hotels we've had where, for example, in Orlando where we had to go over to the convention center to get to the exhibit hall.

PAM ALLEN:  Definitely shorter than that.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I was going to say, closer, yeah.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Excellent.

So our next question is related to airlines and paperwork that is required for guide dog users and some confusion and inconsistency in what is being required from airlines.  Just wondering if there are any updates on standardization of these requirements.

MARK RICCOBONO:  So that's a great question.  And I do not have an answer in terms of updates.  But we continue to work very closely at the national office with our National Association of Guide Dog Users division on these issues.  I know it is frustrating, and what I'll do is make sure that we get a substantive update on that, and we'll either get an email out to members about it or we'll talk about it on the next release.  I know it is definitely a concern.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  And in honor of World Braille Day, a question, two questions.  First of all, how does Braille help you as President of the National Federation of the Blind.  And what advice would you have for someone who is learning Braille.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Ah.  Great question.  Well, how does it help me.  I mean, I use Braille all of the time.  All day.  Constantly.  I use a Braille display that's connected to my iPhone.  And I also use it to take notes.  I use it to read documents.  And especially in an environment like this where I want to have information and give presentations, it's invaluable.

Now, I have hard copy Braille in front of me also that I've been reading my notes from, and I carry a slate around.  I have my trusty slate right here that I write notes on, jot little things down so I don't forget them.  Things that I want to do or that sort of thing.  Things that are interesting.  I mean, I can't imagine doing the variety of things that the Federation expects me to do without having a whole variety of tools available, and Braille is one of those very important tools.  And I'm fortunate that members of the Federation encouraged me to learn Braille.  I had been told in school when I was a senior in high school that they could teach me Braille if I wanted to learn it.  Now, I was a teenager.  I didn't have any reason to want to learn Braille.  So I didn't.  It wasn't No. I met members of the Federation who told me why I might want to and they told me all the useful things that I would be able to do, and they challenged me to think about how I was going to do the things I said I wanted to do without really being able to read and write effectively on the go.

So what do you need to do if you want to learn Braille.  Well, there's two things I would encourage.  Number one is find a mentor.  Find a Braille buddy, someone who can encourage you, inspire you, read with you, share notes with you.  Don't go on the journey alone.  If you have someone else in and around the Federation who wants to learn Braille with you, I know that was a motivator for me when I learned Braille.  I had a friend who was working on Braille at the same time.  So find a mentor.  Also find someone to buddy up with so you can share that experience.

The other thing that I would say is put Braille under your fingers every day and work on it every day.  Like anything else, you have to work on it every day, and even if it's just carrying around some index cards with Braille on it, make sure you are reading Braille every day and working on it every day.  Identifying characters, every day.

I know for me, I didn't start learning Braille until I was in my 20s, and the myth is that at some point it's too late to learn Braille.  And I will say that I think there's a mindset there that says it's too late.  There's all sorts of things you can use Braille to do, even for just labeling things around your house.  And so even just learning the alphabet in Braille and learning to recognize the characters.  The way you do it is by practicing, just like anything else.  And so I encourage the mentoring and put Braille under your hands every day.

PAM ALLEN:  Excellent advice.  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.

I want to thank everybody for submitting questions through all our various channels.  If we did not have a chance to respond to your question, our wonderful communications team will be following up with you.  So thank you again so much, everybody, for your participation this evening and for being with us tonight as we kick off 2022 and celebrate World Braille Day.

Please join us for the next NFB presidential release live on Tuesday, February 1, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, using Zoom, the Nation's Blind YouTube channel, our internet stream, or by asking your Amazon device to open nation's blind.

Contact President Riccobono at (410) 659-9314, or via email at [email protected].

I will turn it back over to you, President Riccobono.  Thanks.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you very much, Pam.  And again, Happy New Year.

PAM ALLEN:  Happy New Year.

MARK RICCOBONO:  As we come to the close of this first presidential release for 2022, and we think about World Braille Day, there's a lot we could say about Braille and the difference it makes in our lives.  I do want to remind you that we do have a free slate and stylus program.  So a great way to learn about and participate in Braille is to get one of our free slates.  Braille is one of the many areas where the Federation provides leadership and makes a real difference.  So I would encourage each of us to make a rededication this year to promoting our work in Braille literacy.

As I was thinking about that today, I had some correspondence via email with Barbara Loas of Nebraska, and she offered me this Braille poem by John Lee Clark, who is a deafblind poet from Minnesota.  So I thought I would offer it to you before the customary endings.  This is a poem entitled simply "Braille."

"The world rests on my lap.  If my finger is the sky, then under the fields prosper.  Row after perfect row of buds bid me gather all I can.  The harvest is food for thought."

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

SPEAKER:  Will you remember me tomorrow?


SPEAKER:  Will you remember me a week from now?


SPEAKER:  Will you remember me next year?

SPEAKER:  Of course.

SPEAKER:  Okay.  Tell me a joke.

SPEAKER:  What's green and silver and blue?


SPEAKER:  A cold Slytherin.

SPEAKER:  Knock knock.

SPEAKER:  Who is there?

SPEAKER:  You already forgot me!

MARK RICCOBONO:  Oh, I can't believe it!

SPEAKER:  What do you call a bunch of magic students walking in the snow?  A wizard blizzard.

MARK RICCOBONO:  That's cold.

SPEAKER:  What did the snail say while it road the tortoise?


SPEAKER:  Weeeeeee.

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.