Presidential Release 514, March 2022 (English Transcript)

Please note: the following is the full transcript of the Presidential Release live event on March 1, 2022.

(Music playing, "Fat Tuesday")

SPEAKER:  Hello, National Federation of the Blind.  History, celebration, togetherness.  Those are some things we here New Orleanians and you have in common.  We are so excited to welcome the largest group of blind people to NOLA.  New Orleans is a city that welcomes all, marches to the beat of its own drum, and home of a world renowned hospitality industry geared up for your arrival.  We also speak a different language here, so be sure to brush up on your New Orleans lingo with words like jambalaya, etc.

We look forward to having you in person in New Orleans.  National Federation of the Blind live the life you want.

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everybody.  So exciting to hear that countdown to New Orleans for our convention this summer!  Welcome to our March presidential release.  Happy Mardi Gras to everybody.  Thank you so much for joining us tonight.  Again, we will be starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.  We are so happy that you've taken time to be with us this evening.  Just a quick reminder that you can send in your questions through the Q&A feature or to any of our social media channels, or send an email to [email protected].  Along with captions in Zoom, we are using the 1CapApp feature.  We will be adding that link to our chat.  Please take part in our poll tonight.

We have some great questions.  Thank you for being here tonight.  We'll be starting shortly.

¶ ¶ (Music playing "Braille is Beautiful")

(Music playing "When the Saints go Marching In")

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everyone!  You will definitely want to be marching in to New Orleans this summer for 2022 convention.  Thank you so much for being here with us tonight.  We will be starting very shortly.  Thank you again, please take part in our poll, and welcome.

¶ ¶ (Music playing "Convention Time")

¶ First day of sessions, got the roll call of states.  Presidential report.  All the things we advocate.  Ooh, it's convention time for you. 

¶ ¶ Exhibit halls, scholarships, division meetings, and new friendships.  Banquet speeches, a real inspiration.  Everybody's singing "Glory Federation."  Ooh, it's convention time for you!  ¶ ¶

DANIELLE:  Announcement about Spanish interpretation (speaking Spanish)

¶ ¶ (Music playing "Live the Life you Want")

¶ 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.  ¶ ¶

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, Federation family!  It's so great to be with you tonight as we celebrate our March presidential release.  Happy Mardi Gras to everybody.  Welcome.  We're so glad that you're here tonight.  And it is now my pleasure to turn it over for his remarks and welcome, President Riccobono.

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

PAM ALLEN:  Doing great.  How about you?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Good.  It's kind of cool to be the warm up for the state of the union address, isn't it?  Everybody is tuned in here.  This is like -- it's interesting.  It's interesting.

Now, I don't know if the members of Congress are going to be wearing Mardi Gras beads or not, but I am hoping the President mentions the work of the National Federation of the Blind to make COVID tests accessible.

PAM ALLEN:  I have great faith.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah, as you should.  Otherwise, what's the point.  Missed all the cool news.

So it's great to be with you.  Happy Fat Tuesday.  And I'm getting excited for the convention.

PAM ALLEN:  I know!  Just a few more months.  We are looking forward to welcoming everybody.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Absolutely.

All right.  Should we get started?

PAM ALLEN:  Sounds great.


Greetings, fellow Federationists.  Today is Tuesday, March 1, 2022, and this is presidential release 514.  Happy Fat Tuesday, and welcome to March.  Across the Federation, we are marching.  And we had a very successful Washington Seminar, which we used to call the March on Washington.  We had nearly 400 scheduled meetings with members of Congress.  Almost 80% of Congress heard from the Nation's Blind about our four core issues for the 2022 Washington Seminar.  And congratulations and thank you to each and every one of you for the work that we did on this Washington Seminar.  Four of our five introduced bills that we took to the Hill for this Washington Seminar gained cosponsor support during the last month.  In the House, the Access Technology Affordability Act, HR431 gained 19 cosponsored, bringing our total number of cosponsors currently to 137.

The Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act, or HR4853, gained 23 cosponsors, boosting our total now to 33.

The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, HR2373, gained 16 cosponsors to bring our new total to 40.

In addition, in the Senate, the access technology affordability act or S212 added one new cosponsor to bring the total up to 35.

As you know if you tuned in to the Great Gathering-In, Senator Steve Daines participated in our Great Gathering-In meeting.  He's the lead cosponsor of the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, and we had a number of other highlights during the Washington Seminar week.

I want everybody to remember that despite the success we've had in the past month, we need to keep the energy on.  We need to keep talking to Congress about these issues and keep urging them to cosponsor.  We do believe there will be a number of opportunity there's year to get our legislation passed in advance, and it's going to take your continued work to make that happen.

Now, if you still have ratings that you have not uploaded to our Washington Seminar portal, please do that as well.

If you weren't able to participate in any of the meetings at Washington Seminar, you can still help to gain support by writing to your members of Congress to talking to them in their local offices when they're at home, and if there were members that we weren't able to meet with, still push for a meeting.  We can still get those meetings in and make some real opportunities happen before the spring is out and hopefully have some success to celebrate at our national convention which will happen July 5-10, 2022, in the great city of New Orleans, Louisiana.  And I know I am really looking forward to being at this year's convention.  The last convention we had in New Orleans was 1997.  That was my second convention.  And I'm expecting the energy at this convention to be at least as high as that convention, which was our highest attended convention ever.

I have a number of convention things to share with you on this release.  First and foremost, our headquarters hotel will be the New Orleans Marriott.  And all of this information you can also find in the Braille Monitor, but our main hotel, the New Orleans Marriott, is at 555 Canal Street in New Orleans, and you can make a reservation at the hotel by calling (855) 821-4288.  Now, you may decide that you want to stay at the overflow hotel, which is the Sheraton right across the street.  So it's an easy walk, but it is our overflow hotel.  We will have some activities in the Sheraton.  I have mentioned on the release previously that the exhibit hall will be in the Sheraton across Canal Street.  If you want to make a reservation at the Sheraton, please call (855) 516-1090.

Now, the rates for both of these hotels, the nightly rate is $109 for singles and doubles, and triples and quads can be booked for $119 per night.  You should also anticipate that the combined sales tax for staying at the hotels, including our sales tax and tourism support tax rate is 16.2%.  And also you should note that there is a $3 per night fee that is an occupancy fee, that is a city fee.  So those are the hotel rates.  Still really good rates for being right off the French Quarter in New Orleans.  Very close to the water.  It's going to be a great time.
As for the schedule, on Sunday, July 5th, will be our seminar day.  And we'll be starting to get ready for various convention meetings, and our parents often meet on that day.  I'm sorry.  I said Sunday and I meant Tuesday, July 5th.  Tuesday July 5th.

Wednesday, July 6th, will be our resolutions day.  Then Thursday, July 7th, will be our board meeting and division day.

On July 8 of course, Friday, we will have our opening session day.  Always a very high energy and jam packed day at the convention.

Saturday will be our business meeting day.

And July 10, Sunday, will be banquet day and full of many interesting surprises I am sure.

Now, registration is open now.  Right now it is open, and you can register online by going  The registration rate online is $25, and the banquet price online is $70.  Of course if you wait until the convention to come register and buy your banquet tickets, the prices will go up.  By longstanding tradition, the convention registration will be open until May 31st.  So I do encourage you to get on early, register, some of you might even be registering now as you tune in live to the presidential release.
For those who are first timers to the convention, and first timers means you have never before attended an in-person national convention, you can apply for the Kenneth Jernigan scholarships.  And this is an opportunity to get some financial support to participate in our first in-person convention in 3 years.  You can find information about the Kenneth Jernigan scholarships on our website at  You can also find the information in the Monitor.

Now, many of you are wondering about our COVID protocols for the convention.  And of course right now this is a situation that seems to be changing by the day for the positive after going through a couple years and experiences where it seemed like it was changing by the day in the other direction.  So I want to currently talk to you about the policy that the board has set.  You will find information about this when you register for the convention.  You'll find all of this laid out, and again, it may change as we get closer to the convention, but this is our baseline.

First and foremost, the goal of our COVID protocols is the safety of our Federation family.  We have a diverse membership group, and amongst our members, some have more risk factors than others, and we want the convention to be as safe and welcoming to as many people as possible.  So the board has set forth a policy that includes these things:  First of all, everyone who registers and attends the convention must demonstrate that they are negative for COVID-19 by either producing a test, taking a test in advance of coming to New Orleans and sending it to us and we'll share that information with you.  It's on the website.  And if you register, you will get that information.  Or you can come to the hotel and we will give you a COVID test and you will need to take that COVID test or produce results of a negative COVID test that you've taken elsewhere before you will be admitted to meetings of the convention and before you can pick up your registration packet.  Again, testing at the convention will be provided by the Federation at no cost.

Now, we don't know all of the details of the testing and how it's going to happen, but those are the outlines, that you either need to test within 72 hours of coming to New Orleans, or you can test somewhere else in New Orleans if you want, or you can test at the convention, but to be admitted to the convention, you will have to have that negative COVID-19 test.

Also, we are planning that we will be masking in all convention meetings and in common areas of the convention when not actively eating and drinking.  So we are planning that we will all wear masks at the convention.  We will of course have masks available if that's needed at the convention.

Of course we're going to encourage appropriate physical distancing where that's possible.  Obviously that's not always going to be possible and we're going to do our best to make sure that happens.

We're also going to have special limits on areas like the exhibit hall to make sure that we don't overpack the exhibit hall, and we're also going to have steps to make sure that traffic is moving in one direction to support ease of movement and safety within the exhibit hall.

We'll also be making information available, access to local resources regarding testing, or if someone is showing symptoms of COVID-19, of course the hotel has extensive cleaning -- both hotels have extensive cleaning protocols, and we will be having hand sanitizer available in as many places as possible.

Those are the basic outlines, but here's the most important thing.  We are going to rely on each and every member at the convention to do their part to make the convention safe, welcoming, and for us to have patience as we work through really getting together in person for the first time in 3 years under new circumstances.  And a great example is the elevators.  We know that often people want to rush off to this meeting or that, and the elevators can get quite congested.  We know that.  We're going to need extra care and patience with the elevators this year, especially because we really want to be aware of how comfortable people feel packing an elevator.  That's something we should be aware of any way.  Just a good example of it's going to take each and every one of us to make this convention as safe and welcoming as possible.

I'm really optimistic.  I think the procedures we're putting in place are good.  I think things are trending in the right direction. And I have a lot of confidence in the members of the Federation to make this convention as safe as possible. Really going to be excited to be in the room and have the energy of the crowd and those six days. Can't wait.

Now, if for whatever reason you cannot attend the convention, we are going to make a convention virtual experience available to you.  And the key to getting the convention virtual experience is you will have to register for the convention.

Now, there's a difference between registering for the in-person convention and registering for the convention virtual experience.  So there are different registration forms.  One of the primary differences is that our convention virtual experience is free.  It will be free to all registered participants.  It will allow you exclusive access to some virtual convention events in addition to the streaming that we will offer broadly of general sessions.  There will be special virtual convention activities that will only be available to registered attendees and only published to registered attendees.  Those who are registered for the virtual experience will be eligible for separate door prizes.  You won't be able to get all of the door prizes you could get in the room, but there will be special door prizes just for our virtual experience crowd.  Of course you will have to be there and show that you're there to get access to them.

Over the last couple years we've used the crowd compass app as part of our convention experience, and that will be available to all registered convention attendees, in person and virtual.  You will not be able to get access to the crowd compass app and the resources there if you are not registered.

We do expect that the virtual experience will also make you eligible for other special features of the convention, convention promotions, and things like that.  You can register again at for our usual in-person dynamic experience or for our convention virtual experience for those who can't be there.  It's going to have some enhanced features that you haven't experienced before.

I do want to say that the virtual experience is not a hybrid experience.  You will not have access to all of the meetings and voting and other things that happen at the in-person convention.  However, I think the convention virtual experience is going to be a nice new feature to our convention that we can build ongoing forward.  So I hope that many of you will participate if you can't be with us in person in New Orleans, but I know that many of you are planning to be with us in person.

Let me talk to you about a few other things.  And one of them is our 2022 Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy that is coming up this summer.  Registration is now open for both our in-person and our in-home opportunities in the BELL Academy.

You can find more information on both the in-home and BELL Academies in the local communities where we will be having them, and we are still hearing from a number of affiliates who are planning to provide BELL programming for blind and low vision children who are looking for an opportunity to grow in their Braille and nonvisual skills.

The current in-person programs are happening in these cities:  Tucson, Arizona.  Phoenix, Arizona.  Littleton, Colorado.  Rathdrum, Idaho.  Chicago, Illinois.  Springfield, Illinois.  Ruston, Louisiana.  St. Louis, Missouri.  Kansas City, Missouri.  Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  And Baltimore, Maryland.  As I say, these are the in-person cities registered for our BELL program today in the portal.  I encourage affiliates who haven't uploaded their to do so.

Now, our in-home edition is a little bit different this year.  First and foremost, it’s going to take place from July 18-August 5.  It's a 3-week program.  And it is limited to only 100 students.  So you should definitely take advantage of the in-person if you can, but affiliates that aren't holding in-person events, please encourage families to register for the in-home edition.  I wish we could continue to serve many more students, but this I think is going to give us the widest coverage throughout the country.  Our BELL Academy is really one of the highlights of the summer, and it has made a huge difference in spreading Braille literacy across this country.  I encourage you to spread the word to families, help families get connected with this resource, and help spread the joy of Braille to more families during the summer of 2022.  You can apply for both of those programs, again, by visiting to find all the information.

We have been making great progress on pushing the Biden Administration on access to COVID-19 in-home testing.  If you've received the Braille Monitor, you'll find a number of announcements about our work there, including some news from the White House specifically answering concerns raised by the National Federation of the Blind about access to in-home COVID tests.  Now, the administration has taken some great steps in direct response to our work to talk with the White House starting with a letter on January 3.  I think we've sent letters to every relevant agency in the government on this.  The instructions that are made available on the FDA website which have not been fully accessible will now be fully accessible.  In fact, they are going to start asking that all documents, as they should have been before, will be accessible to blind users.  So this is a great victory.

Now, we still don't have a government distributing 100% fully accessible nonvisually accessible at-home tests, but we're working in that direction, and we have gotten their attention.  So congratulations to the Federation for the work on this.  Please continue to push out in social media the importance of this issue.  We should not let up.  But I think we're going to see many great things happen and I know we'll be talking about it when we get to our national convention as well.

A quick update on training efforts in the National Federation of the Blind.  Last year we offered training in partnership with RAINN, and we are getting ready to launch a second round of training this year with RAINN.  We have updated the curriculum with RAINN based on feedback from those who participated last year, and we are now making available additional sessions this spring for eligible individuals.  That would include NFB or NFB training center staff, NFB training center students, affiliate board members, national division board members, chapter Presidents, and affiliate scholarship committee members.

Now, if you took the RAINN training in 2021, you don't have to take it in 2022.  But if you were newly elected or newly appointed to a position that's eligible for the training, you should talk with your affiliate President or national division President about getting into the RAINN training sessions for this year.

Also we have released to the membership an interest form.  Many who aren't in elected positions currently have expressed interest in receiving the RAINN training.  If that's of interest to you, we have an interest form on the website that you can fill out and express your interest.  And once we gauge how many members would like to take this training, we're going to see if we can put together some additional training based on the folks who expressed interest.  So if you're at all interested, please fill out the form.  That way you will get the information when additional RAINN training opportunities come.

You can find the interest form by going to our safety and support page at  It's a long URL.  You can also just go to our safety and support page and find the information there.  And if you need assistance, please contact us at the national office.

A couple other announcements.  I've talk before about the work we're doing with Amazon regarding individuals newly hired by Amazon as a blind employee but then were forced to take leave without pay, especially once the Amazon warehouse leadership figured out that they had hired a blind person.  We've had many reports of individuals having trouble with this, and we want to continue to collect information as we press Amazon on better hiring practices and making sure that their facilities are more accessible.  So if you've had the experience of being hired by Amazon and then being put on leave without pay because they didn't have accommodations worked out for you, please contact Valerie Yingling in our legal office here at the national center.  You can reach her at (410) 659-9314 extension 2440.  You can also write to her via email at [email protected].

Also our National Association of Guide Dog Users has a request that if you or someone that you have traveled with who has a guide dog and has experienced a denial from either Uber or Lyft since October 1, 2021, the division would like to hear from you.  The division is collecting information, specifically one-minute videos from individuals so that we can better tell the story of denials of effective service from these rideshare providers.  We especially want stories where the denial has caused significant delay in what you were going to do.  Either it caused you to be late for a job interview or miss a plane or be late for a doctor's appointment.  We want to be able to tell those stories as part of our advocacy work.

If you're interested in more information, please contact Raul at [email protected] or call him at (346) 439-7444.

NAGDU will be collecting stories through March 31st.  So I encourage you to get with them with your stories as soon as possible, and they'll help you record those stories for the work that we are doing.  I think this is important work, and I do encourage you to participate.

Also NAGDU and myself would like to encourage you to continue to use our rideshare form at to collect information about rideshare experiences you've had outside of the specific effort that NAGDU is making right now to gather information about the last 6 months or so.

A quick update about our PAC program, and that is to welcome the NFB of Arizona west valley chapter as well as the NFB of Ohio communities of faith division and thank these chapters for being the newest contributors to the Pre-Authorized Contribution program.  You can learn more about the program and sign up by going to

Also want to thank the newest members of our Dream Maker Circle.  The Dream Maker Circle is a way to pledge an end-of-life gift to the National Federation of the Blind to have your legacy or part of your legacy be the work of the Federation going forward.  I would like to welcome two brothers who are new members of our Dream Maker Circle from Minnesota, thank you to John and Thomas Tebockhorst from Minneapolis for being the newest members of our Dream Maker Circle.

I do have a few Federation family notes to share with you on this release.  And I apologize that a few of these were missed on previous releases.

From Michigan, Michael Powell reports the death of Ray Roberson who died on November 16, 2021 at the age of 93.  Ray joined the NFB when it was the Michigan Federation of the Blind in 1952.  He was a true activist for civil rights, including for blind people and the LGBT community, and really was a pioneer in so many aspects of his advocacy work.  And during his time, Ray served as President of the Detroit chapter in the 1990s, and under his leadership, the chapter had well over 100 members.

There are many other notes I have about Ray, including his mentorship of so many people, including our President in Michigan.

Also from Michigan a note that Larry Young passed away at age 100.  Larry was a sighted ally of the Federation.  He used many of his capacities to help advance the Federation cause.  He served on the first Commission for the Blind board in 1978 in Michigan, and he was a well-known member of the lion's club, bringing the resources of the lions to the work of the Federation in Michigan.  So his presence will also be missed.

And in January, Michael reports the passing of John Frazier who passed away due to COVID-19 at age 42.  John was an active member of our Detroit chapter, was well-known across the community, as working on many issues.  And obviously a life lost too soon.  You should keep all these members from Michigan in your thoughts and prayers.

From Georgia, Dorothy Griffin reports the passing of NFB Atlanta metropolitan member Damona Fletcher, who passed away on Sunday, January 23, after a valiant effort with a number of conditions that she faced.  Damona was a very active member on the chapter board and in many other capacities, especially the fundraising committee in Atlanta.  So you might keep her and her friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

And finally, really heavy news from our New York affiliate.  I regret to share with you the passing of David Stayer who passed away on February 16.  David has been a longtime leader in many capacities in the Federation, a quiet and strong force living the Federation philosophy.  Most Federationists probably know him from the beautiful invocations he has been offering us at conventions for many, many years.  If you have had the opportunity to get to know his spirit and heart, he truly lived the Federation philosophy in everything that he did.  He had a long battle with cancer, and he will be missed in so many corners of the Federation.  So I encourage you to keep David, his family, and all of the Federationists that we've lost in your thoughts and prayers this month.

From Maryland, I do have one piece of joyous news to share with you, and that's the birth of Astrid Ursa Danforth.  She is the second daughter and fourth child of Ben Danforth who serves as President of the Sligo Creek chapter of the NFB Maryland.  She was born February 22nd and weighed in at 8 pounds 12 ounces and was 21.5 inches long.  Astrid and mom are now at home doing well, and she is getting to know her other family members including her siblings, Matilda, Ezra, and Linus.  So welcome to the newest member of the National Federation of the Blind.

Now, before we get to our customary endings on this release, I think it's appropriate on this Fat Tuesday for us to have a fit break.

JESS:  Hey, everybody, it's Jess.  I'm going to turn this fit break over to a special host.  Take it away, Pam, and Homer Simpson?

PAM ALLEN:  Okay, everyone!  It's time for another fit break so we can get up and get moving.  You can eat later.

HOMER:  Later!  I want to eat now!  Who are you?

PAM ALLEN:  I'm Pam Allen.

HOMER:  But aren't you famous?

PAM ALLEN:  I'm not famous, Homer, you're famous.

HOMER:  Well, obviously.  What is the Louisiana Center for the Blind anyway?  It's not where Mr. Burns works, is it?

PAM ALLEN:  It's Pam.  We show people blindness skills so they can live independently.  Okay, everyone.  Get up while we work this out please, thanks.

HOMER:  Oh, yes, sure, Pam Allen, if that's your real name.  What am I working for?

PAM ALLEN:  Well, Homer Simpson, let's see, there are donuts, crab cakes, and jambalaya.  Are you ready to reach and stretch?

HOMER:  Okay.  I guess.  The old gray mare ain't what she used to be.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Reach up for the donut in the sky.  Great job.  Now reach to the right toward that amazing Maryland crab cake.

HOMER:  I can't reach it!

PAM ALLEN:  That's because you're a cartoon.

HOMER:  Why you little...

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Now reach to the left for the beautiful jambalaya W.

HOMER:  So close!

PAM ALLEN:  Come back to the middle.  You've got that donut.  Hey, Homer... I have the crab cake.  I grabbed it when you weren't looking.

HOMER:  That's okay, Pam.  I grabbed the jambalaya and donut when you weren't looking.

PAM ALLEN:  Well, I still have a beignet.

HOMER:  Huh?  Where can I get one?

PAM ALLEN:  Come to convention in New Orleans.  You can get all the beignets you warrant.

HOMER:  Woohoo!

MARK RICCOBONO:  I love that fit break.  If you're not ready to come to New Orleans after that, I don't know what more incentive we have.

Pam, back to you.

PAM ALLEN:  Thank you so much.  I need a fit break.  I par took of some stuff our staff and students were cooking up today in honor of Mardi Gras.  So everybody will be eating well this summer as we come together and celebrate.

So thank you, President Riccobono, so much.  So excited to hear about the work that we are doing together under your leadership.  I have updates on our poll.  So I'm very excited to report in our poll about convention, we have our top vote getter is yes, of course I can't wait to come to convention.  Over two-thirds of our votes.  I'm very excited.  And we still have some people who are deciding and others who will take advantage of our virtual experience.  So we cannot wait to welcome everybody.

And in honor of read across America day, this was a hard question, but our top vote getter for favorite Dr. Seuss book is Green Eggs and Ham with Cat in the Hat a close second.


PAM ALLEN:  Yes.  Hard to decide.

I know we'll have lots of people celebrating literacy, and it was great to hear about our BELL Academy as we help our blind kids across the country build their Braille skill there's summer.  So we've got a couple questions.  First question, in respect as we're talking about convention, we have a question about how we determine where our conventions will be held.  We have someone lobbying for New York State.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I would love to go to New York State.

PAM ALLEN:  My home state.  It is a great state.  How to we make those decisions?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Well, it's a complicated question.  So just to answer it quickly, the goal of the convention is to keep it as affordable as possible.  So we partly negotiate on the best room rates we can get, but we also need a hotel that's big enough for our convention to host the hundreds of meetings we have, the ballroom, we need a number of sizable ballrooms for our general session and our exhibit hall.  And so that limits the options we have.

Now, there are a lot of cities out there with convention centers, but we've tried to avoid the convention center mod physical we can because that would spread us out into many, many, many hotels.  It was before my time, but I think in our Charlotte convention, we had it in a convention center, and we had four convention hotels.  So we know that a lot of convention meetings happen informally in the hallways, so we try to do as much under one roof as we can.  So there are a lot of factors to look at:  Availability, a city that people can get to, room rates that are affordable, are there any incentives we can get out of the hotel or the city.  Some places you have various fees that are above and beyond the normal convention rates that make going to those cities difficult.  So keeping the convention affordable and also in a location where we can do some building and we have opportunities to engage members of the Federation.  There's so many different factors.  If you're in a city where you think you have some connections that might be able to help us bring the convention to that major city, obviously we have people traveling from all over the country, so we need pretty good access to a major airport so that we can get as many people there as possible.  We want some degree of balance.  You know, we were in Florida for a long time and the west coasters, it was a long way and long expense.  So we try to balance all of these things out.  But if you have contacts in a city, we would love to consider it.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Excellent.  And our next question is I guess all this talk about great food got people talking about access to food.  So just a question about access to kiosks, accessible kiosks, at McDonald's.  And are other restaurants using kiosks for ordering and bill paying working on increasing access?

MARK RICCOBONO:  We do have the McDonald's kiosk project is rolled out very successfully across the country in a limited number of stores based on our agreement.  And we have a list of those that we can make available.

Of course McDonald's is an important partnership because it sends a signal to others that their kiosks should be accessible.

We aren't currently working with any other major chains on kiosk accessibility, but because we have the McDonald's kiosks, we can point to those as proof of concept that it can and should be done.  And so we are always talking with folks when they approach us about this question, but you can do this advocacy too.  When you come across restaurants or other places that have kiosks that are not accessible, raise that question with those companies.  Either with the local management and if it's a chain with the corporate management, whoever is franchising those businesses.  And we have examples of how it can be done, and your advocacy can help with that.

So we don't have any current efforts, but also McDonald's was not our first effort.  We worked on table top kiosks in restaurants previously.  And so this is a constant effort to educate folks about accessibility and why they should build it into their business model.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Thank you so much.  And we had a couple questions just of any updates on accessible voting or anyways that people can continue to what's the best advice for how people share thoughts about advocating for accessible voting.

MARK RICCOBONO:  So that's a great question.  We have a number of affiliates actively working right now on bills in their state legislatures to improve access to accessible voting, to get electronic ballots and in some places electronic return ballots.  I figure if you can vote from the International Space Station electronically, a blind person should be able to vote on the ground in an accessible electronic form.  So your affiliate will be best tuned in to what the opportunities are to push that at the state level.

Now, we continue to watch the federal scene and be prepared to get accessibility improvements into the federal law, if possible, but really this is happening state by state.  In fact, I think one of our states is going to be planning a protest even this week on this topic.  So contact your state affiliate.  Push your secretaries of state on this issue of accessible voting.

PAM ALLEN:  Excellent.  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.  And if we did not get a chance to get to your question this evening, our dedicated communications team will be following up directly with you.  Thank you so much for everyone who submitted questions ahead of time and during our call tonight.  We really appreciate everybody's participation.

And again wishing everybody a happy Mardi Gras.

Oh, and before we do that, again, just a quick reminder to everybody to please join us for our next presidential release live on Monday, April 4, 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].  Thanks so much, and I'll pass it back to you.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you very much, Pam.  And enjoy the month ahead.

Well, I'm certainly feeling fit for March and fit to get ready for our national convention.  I wish all the affiliate conventions coming up this spring the best and looking forward to attending a convention or two myself before we get to our national convention in person in New Orleans!  Plan to be there with me.

That's what I have for this presidential release.  I will leave you with the customary endings and say let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.

SPEAKER:  Hi, I'm Elizabeth Riccobono, and I'll be telling you a joke.  What do you call a leprechaun that's in jail?  A leprecon.

SPEAKER:  Hi, I'm going to tell you a joke.  What is a bow you cannot tie?  A rainbow.

I have another one.  What is a leprechaun's favorite cereal?  Lucky charms.

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.

(Meeting ended at 8:53 p.m.)