(Music playing – “Drive” by Incubus)
PAM ALLEN: Good evening, Federation family. It's good to be here with everyone tonight as we gather for our April Presidential Release. Thank you so much for joining with us tonight. We will be starting promptly at 8:00 p.m. eastern.
Just a reminder that everyone is muted tonight, and also if you have questions and didn't have a chance to submit them yet, it is not too late. You can submit them on any of our social medias at nfb.org.
Along with closed captioning, we are also using 1CapApp that can be used for captioning at your own pace. And we will put that link in our chat momentarily. Also, I encourage everyone to take part in our poll questions tonight. We love to hear what you think.
So, our first poll question asks about opening day if you're looking forward to opening date. Or maybe you're wondering what opening day is. Our second poll question relates to public transportation and access, and we will be starting shortly.
(Music playing – “I Can't Drive 55” by Sammy Hagar)
(Music playing – “Runnin' Down a Dream” by Tom Petty)
Thank you so much for being with us tonight, where we're changing dreams into reality. We'll be starting in just a couple of minutes.
An announcement regarding Spanish interpretation services.
(Music playing – “Live the Life”)
PAM ALLEN: Good evening, our Federation family. Welcome to our April Federation release. We want to thank those with us for the first time. Welcome to our family. And it is now my pleasure to introduce President Riccobono.
MARK RICCOBONO: How are you?
PAM ALLEN: I'm great. How are you?
MARK RICCOBONO: It's great. Spring is here. It's great to be with you. How is everything?
PAM ALLEN: It is going wonderfully. We're getting ready for our convention coming up. It's in a matter of days.
MARK RICCOBONO: I should come.
PAM ALLEN: We would love to have you.
MARK RICCOBONO: We're counting down the days to New Orleans.
PAM ALLEN: Yes.
MARK RICCOBONO: I'm sure we will be ready. Three months away. I'm going to move on because I don't want to think about the convention being just three months away.
PAM ALLEN: Let's get started.
MARK RICCOBONO: Good evening. It's hard to believe the first quarter is done. April is here, and we're three months away from our next national convention, our first national convention in person since 2002. Before that, as the work of the Federation is alive, busier, maybe than it's certainly been in the last two years. It's so awesome to have so many conventions happening in person, in person chapter meetings. People talking about fundraisers and getting out and doing things. It's really, really heart-warming to be back in the heart of the Federation action.
We have a lot to talk about here on this April release. So, I'm going to go ahead and jump right in to talk about our last presidential release in getting a surge in our legislative activities. So, congratulations to all of you who have been continuing to work hard after our Washington seminar to gain co-sponsors.
Since the last presidential release, we have added 14 co sponsors on the House version of the Access Technology Affordability Act. And that brings us to a total of 151 co sponsors. And we have added two Senate co sponsors to this bill, bringing us to a total of 37. So, keep up the great work on the Access Technology Affordability Act.
On our Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act, which is HR 4853, we have added 11 new co-sponsors for a total of 47 in the House of Representatives. The Transportation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, which is HR 2373, in that bill, we have added five new co-sponsors now for a total of 45.
So, our legislative activity continues to roll along well. I do, however, urge you to keep your foot on the gas. Please continue to urge your members of Congress to support our legislative priorities. We need more co sponsors. We continue to seek opportunities to get our bills to move in Congress. The best way to do that is for you to keep the pressure on your members of Congress. Let them know of the increased bipartisan support for our bills and help them to know that they need to be part of this bill, or you might decide to help them have another job, for example. So encourage them to support our legislative initiatives.
I wanted to let you know that a number of programs are continuing to open up in the National Federation of the Blind, and the newest one is our 2022-23 Teachers of Tomorrow program. Applications are now available. This is an opportunity for educators to connect with other educators to develop relationships with a broad range of blind people from across the organized blind movement and to get connected with experiences that allow them to study the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and the empowering pedagogy that we use for blind students on a daily basis.
Now, those who are studying to be teachers of blind students or who are early in their career of teaching blind students, so having just graduated with a degree in teaching blind students in the last three or four years or so are eligible to apply. Applications are due on May 1st. And so, you should reach out to educators in your area to teacher training programs in your area and let them know about the Federation's Teachers of Tomorrow program. You can go to the teachers of tomorrow page under programs and services.
We need to find the next generation of educators so we can get them connected with the network of the National Federation of the Blind. We know it's the best professional training tool we can give teachers in the field.
We are getting excited about our convention that will happen from July 5 through 10 in New Orleans, Louisiana. And it's always interesting getting systems in place for the convention, and especially this year with the hotel industry having taken a hit the last couple of years. The systems aren't as well-oiled as maybe they have been in the past. We do recognize that a number of members have had difficulty in booking rooms with our convention hotels.
Please recognize that you should continue to make reservations at the Marriott or the Sheraton in New Orleans. We have been working with the reservation agents at these hotels, and with the management there to try to get through some of the barriers that have prevented people from getting the appropriate room rate for the convention. There are plenty of rooms left. And so don't let the reservation agents getting it wrong talk you into the fact that there aren't rooms. There are plenty of rooms left. Although the rooms are going at a good rate. So please book your room soon.
Now, one of the problems we've heard, and we've learned about is that reservation agents have had trouble finding our convention in the reservation system because of the way it was put into the system. It was in their system as NTL Fed of the Blind. Maybe some people were able to figure it out. A lot of agents missed it. We got them to change it to NFB convention. So if you call and have trouble in the reservation process, ask them to look for NFB convention. There are plenty of rooms.
Often times, especially in popular locations like New Orleans, people want to come before the convention or after the convention to enjoy some of the local festivities, and it's a good idea, but you should recognize that we're really fortunate to be sliding into New Orleans with a convention starting on the 5th, because immediately preceding the convention is a big festival in New Orleans. And for that reason, you may have difficulty getting rooms before July 4. And so, recognize that if you do want to come early and the block is full, you may need to pay extra on the front end of the convention.
Now, there should be plenty of rooms on the tail end of the convention. So if you want to stay late for a few days. But if you're trying to come early, just beware, the Essence Festival in New Orleans is taking up a lot of rooms, so our block is limited. You are probably used to us having many rooms three days before the convention. But we get to go to New Orleans, so that's the great advantage of it.
Let me give you, again, the telephone numbers to make reservations. This, of course, is also in the Braille Monitor and on the website. You can go to nfb.org/convention. But one more time, to make a reservation at the New Orleans Marriott, our headquarters hotel, you call 855-821-4288. Or the Sheraton, which is our overflow hotel immediately across the street from the Marriott, and that's where the exhibit hall will be. You call 855-516-1090. Really looking forward to the convention, although I wish it was one month more away, because there's a lot of work to do still.
Speaking of convention, there's a lot of opportunities to get support for the convention, if you need financial support. Of course, our first timers’ program through the Kenneth Jernigan fund is available. Also, the National Association of Guide Dog Users would like you to know the division is sponsoring two grants to support guide dog users in attending our convention in New Orleans this year.
The amount awarded to each of the two individuals will be $500. Applications will be accepted until May 31st, and those who will receive this grant support will be selected and notified by June 17th. So, if you are a guide dog user and you would like more information to apply, please contact Raul Gallegos who is president of our division, you can email Raul at [email protected]. Or you can visit www.nagdu.org/nagdu convention sponsorship.
Now, transportation is an important part of the work that we do in the National Federation of the Blind. Improving access to the full range of transportation options is a concern and critical priority for our movement because transportation is such a real barrier in so many places for blind people to get access to work, leisure, healthcare and so many aspects of life.
In addition to expanding access to reliable public transportation, we recognize that there's a real opportunity as it relates to transportation systems and making our cityscapes more pedestrian friendly to push innovators on making interfaces that will push nonvisual accessibility.
And a key area for that are automated vehicles. We started this work with our blind driver challenge over a decade ago. Not that we wanted to ignore public transportation in making reliable transportation available, but we recognized there's an opportunity to push an emerging industry to actually be accessible to blind people from the beginning. And the more opportunities, the more access we have to a variety of reliable transportation systems, the stronger our opportunities will be.
But also, we have and continue to have an opportunity to stretch the imagination about what's possible, to shatter the low expectations and misconceptions about the limits that come with blindness, and to bring attention to the real problems of blindness and put blind people in the center of innovative discussions.
And once in a while, we want to push that innovation by getting a hold of a big idea and supporting that big idea, something big, adventurous, risky in order to put blind people truly in the center of the conversation. At our 2021 convention, we discussed our efforts to partner with Cruise, which builds autonomous vehicles, to support NFB member and graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind Dan Parker in his quest to break the Guinness world record for fastest carry driven blindfolded.
Now, Dan Parker didn't need a blindfold because he's a blind person, but this record can be set by anybody. As long as they wear a blindfold. Now Dan made his world record attempt at the Spaceport America in New Mexico just last week. We had thought when we talked about it at the convention that it might happen in the fall. But as you know, timelines and restrictions have been something to contend with for a number of years now.
So it got delayed until last month, until last week. And a number of Federation leaders traveled to Spaceport America in New Mexico and were on hand to cheer on our brother Dan Parker in his quest to shatter the Guinness world record. To achieve the Guinness world record, you must do two attempts. You must make two passes in opposite directions, and the record is set by taking the average of those two runs.
The record has been for some time 200.51 miles an hour. And I do have for you .... Dan made a couple of attempts. And I'm going to just give you on this release the audio from attempt number 1 that Dan made, just so you can hear that.
MARK RICCOBONO: Sounded like a pretty straight line to me. That was attempt number 1. And there was a second attempt. And after those who attempts, somewhere around 4:30 central time on March 31st, 2022, we got an official announcement from the adjudicator for the Guinness world record. So that was streamed live on Facebook. So let's just hear a clip of the official announcement with the results.
We are all about people doing exciting things. I'm really excited to be here with Dan Parker to officially adjudicate in record attempt. The fastest speed for a car driven blindfolded, and that was set in 2014 in the UK, and that was 200.51 miles an hour. Now, we all know what times Dan hit today. We took an average between both directions to come up with a final total and I have reviewed the video footage in the car to make sure Dan was the one driving. I can tell you that he was. Which is very important for this record.
Dan, today you hit a speed of 211.014 miles an hour. It's a new Guinness world record. There's a certificate. You are amazing. Great job! Amazing.
MARK RICCOBONO: So this is a really exciting and significant moment for the National Federation of the Blind. The second time in seven years that the National Federation of the Blind has been officially amazing because we have participated in breaking a Guinness world record. And this time we had a representative who carried forward the world record for us. But it took, of course, a whole team of people. So I'm very pleased and honored on this release to give you a few words. Our representative for the Guinness world record breaking effort from Georgia, here is Dan Parker! Dan, are you out there? He's moving too fast to unmute, I think.
DAN PARKER: hey, can you hear me now?
MARK RICCOBONO: Hey, Dan. How are you?
DAN PARKER: I'm doing great. I got teared up listening to the car from the outside knowing it was going 210 miles an hour, that was amazing.
MARK RICCOBONO: We're really proud of you. I would love few you to spend a minute talking to the members of our federation family really about what this record means to you.
DAN PARKER: you know, as a prior championship drag racer when I was sighted, it's hitting me that this record is so much more than anything I've ever done sighted. This is so much more of a major accomplishment from the racer side of it, but also from the blind side of it. I know we're changing perceptions. And this project is so much more and it's to prove to society that if we're given an accessible world, we can compete with our sighted peers.
That means at the job sight, school, education, and now on the racetrack. And so, the work that you did for the blind driver challenge laid the pathway for me to continue it, step it up in speed and to be the first blind person to ever run 50 miles an hour, 150 and now 200 miles an hour with no human assistance is just amazing to me. I'm so proud and honored to representative NFB in the blind driver challenge.
MARK RICCOBONO: Well, Dan, we're very proud to have you as part of our team. And on effort, I know we will be talking more about this as the months go on and certainly at our national convention in New Orleans. But just less than a week off of this record, five days ago, I wanted to allow you one quick opportunity just to say whatever you wanted to to the thousands of Federation members who believed in you and helped make this possible.
DAN PARKER: I want to thank all the members. We rode into the spaceport and had a small team with us, but we had 50,000 members on our team. Every member of the NFB is a team member. So this is for all of us. It's not just for me and the number at the bottom of the Guinness record. This is for all of us. And to continue the work of the NFB and the blind driver challenge.
People asked me in the past about why do I do stuff like this, and I relate to it when John F. Kennedy announced that we were going to put a man on the moon and people just didn't understand the meaning of it. And look at the technology that has trickled down from that adventurous thing to where we are now. The cell phones we have in our pocket has more computing power than the Apollo missions did.
One day all of this technology, what we're doing, will continue to trickle down to make our lives better for the blind, for all of us.
MARK RICCOBONO: Well, thank you very much, Dan, for being with us. We're going to look forward to hearing more from you and being with you in New Orleans where we can celebrate. I had to leave the New Mexico early to get back to Baltimore, so I missed the big moment. So, I owe you a celebration.
DAN PARKER: I'm looking forward to it.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thanks, Dan. Appreciate you and congratulations on our work together again and look forward to what's next.
DAN PARKER: Yes, sir, thank you so much. Thank you, everybody.
MARK RICCOBONO: So many great things to talk about, and we will have an opportunity to do that. Over the last month, we've been asked what about what we can do to help blind people with the horrifying events happening in Ukraine. Federation members have asked if there's anything we can do for blind people who have been displaced or even people who have experienced blindness because of what happens during war.
Now, our organization and our mission, of course, is focused in the United States of America. But that's why we also participate actively in the efforts of the World Blind Union as your avenue to bring collective action of blind people across the world, to put blind people in the leadership roles, not only in our nation but in all corners of the world.
And so, since late February, I've been reaching out on behalf of the federation to the World Blind Union and to others to see what we could do. We have offered to the World Blind Union to help coordinate efforts within the United States, and we've asked the World Blind Union to help put together a fund that could organize and focus financial energies in the right direction.
So, at our urging, the World Blind Union has established the Ukrainian Unity Fund. And it will be working closely with our colleagues in the European Blind Union to make sure that funds donated to this unity fund at the World Blind Union go to help blind people where it's needed the most as part of their being displaced from the Ukraine.
At the same time, we were reaching out and having conversations with the World Blind Union, we learned about a grassroots effort to put together a global benefit convert that was being planned with the intention of bringing blind performers together to try to raise money and give emotional, spiritual, hopefulness to those who have been impacted in Ukraine. Blind people coming together from all over the world to bring hope and humanity to this crisis.
The benefit convert will be taking place on April 16th, and now contributions from that effort will be directed, financial contributions to be directed to the WBU's Ukrainian Unity Fund. The National Federation of the Blind is serving as one of the primary partners in this effort to assist the World Blind Union and this effort in the We Are With U concert, U as in the letter U. If you want to engage in this effort to promote this on social media, you can use the #blindwithU, again, the letter U. Please promote the concert and efforts to create financial resources that can be used to help blind people displaced in the Ukraine. And there will be other needs.
We know that the school for the blind in Ukraine was bombed. Certainly, there will be many other needs than we know about. And because of our partnership with the World Blind Union and the European Blind Union, we believe this is the most effective and responsible route to go.
You can visit NFB's web page, which is NFB.org/blindwithu, again, the letter U, to look at what we're doing in this area, read about it, see how you can support it finally, and if you get in early enough in the next couple days, you can still perform as part of this global concert.
As part of the global concert effort, I want to introduce a gentleman who's been at the center of putting this grassroots concert effort together, which I think is really exciting and it really demonstrates the power of blind people taking leadership and coming together across the globe. One of the primary organizers for this concert participates in an online radio platform, which you may know as Mushroom FM. So, I'm happy to welcome to the Presidential Release live from the other side of the globe, here is Jonathan Mosen.
JONATHAN MOSEN: How about that. It's good to be here.
MARK RICCOBONO: So great to have you. What time is it where you are?
JONATHAN MOSEN: It's about lunchtime on Tuesday. So, I can tell you, tomorrow will be good.
MARK RICCOBONO: Excellent. Tell us about this effort and I guess how you got started with it. And let's go from there.
JONATHAN MOSEN: Sure. I'm pleased to be working with the Federation on this because you. This global concert started as an idea from a blind musician in Singapore. And his concept was what if blind musicians held a virtual concerto raise money for blind Ukrainians, both those who remain in Ukraine, those who have had their lives torn apart by war, and blind people who have had to plea Ukraine, leaving behind loved ones and friends and all that's familiar.
So I contacted him offering to help by being the emcee for the event if he wanted that, donating Mushroom FM's resources and infrastructure. And contacting others that I met over the years in the blind community. Radio stations may usually consider themselves competitors for the same audience are coming together to simulcast the event. We've got corporate sponsors donating. So you can see why this is so consistent with NFB's values. There is no problem so big that we can't make a positive difference, not even a war. And when we as blind people come together for a common cause, we are stronger together.
So this project is all about donating. It's all about service. And there is a way that everyone who is hearing this release can be involved. So first, if you're a performing artist, you can be involved by donating your talents. If you're a musician, if you write or perform your own material, or you sing covers to a backing track, that's okay. You're all welcome to submit a recording. The audio quality between contributions is going to vary a bit, but we would like the best possible recording that you're able to manage.
You have until the end of the day this Friday April 8th to get your performance to us. If the file is small enough, you can email it. Or if it's a high quality type format, then you can email a link to it from a cloud service such as Dropbox. You can find the email address on the Blind With U web page. The page will provide you with plenty of detail about the event.
Second, musicians are donating their talent to encourage you to donate your money. The need is dire, immediate, and significant. And as President Riccobono has said, all the proceeds are going to the Ukraine Unity Fund. It will go to organizations who need it. So those organizations can provide much needed support. And we will do all we can to ensure that donating with any major credit card is simple and accessible. So please give generously. Think of your donation as buying admission to this concert while also doing good.
You can get some snacks and a beverage or two and crank up your best speakers on April the 16th at 2:00 p.m. eastern. The online event will be broadcast on Mushroom FM and many other blindness internet radio stations, on YouTube, and even on NFB-NEWSLINE. Some people are already planning social gatherings in conjunction with the event. So that's fantastic.
I already spent many hours putting the show together. I can tell you while I'm always proud to be blind, I am bursting with blind pride at the moment. The talent, the variety of musical styles you will hear is world class. There's some beautiful a cappella, three part harmony. There's Mozart and Chopin, Cole Porter and even rap in the mix.
For those of you familiar with the fiddle playing of Michael Cleveland, he's putting in an appearance with Tommy Manuel who had a hit with Classical Gas. And you might remember Scott McIntyre. He was the blind guy on American Idol who Ryan Seacrest tried to high five. And his wife will be joining us as well. An incredibly singer/song writer of Ukrainian descent will be for exampling as is Rod Clemons. He owns his own record label.
You will be hearing musicians from the USA, UK, Canada, France, Spain, Romania, Ireland, India, Singapore, Germany, the Caribbean, and other countries are coming in as well. It is going to be a phenomenal display of talent and there's still time for you to be a part of it. So let me just wrap by expressing my thanks to President Riccobono, to NFB's brilliant social media team and the performing arts division for their practical and moral support. We look forward to your contributions. We look forward to your money. It's really important that we raise that for people who need it most. So thank you for the opportunity to spread the word about the event.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you very much, Jonathan. I was naively considering submitting something. But now that I heard the lineup, I've shivering here in the corner.
JONATHAN MOSEN: You would be a star.
MARK RICCOBONO: Maybe we could have a little segment if we raise enough money, you'll stop playing the clip. Anyway, Jonathan, you're donating a lot of your own time, and that needs to be acknowledged as well. Really honored that we get to partner with you in this effort. It's so wonderful when you're searching for a way to help, and you find other people searching in the same direction and you link arms and just have the synergy of working together. I'm looking forward to it. We've got 12 days to go.
I know you have a lot of work to do, plus you probably have lunch ahead of you. So thank you for taking time to join us from the future. And we'll look forward to being together on April 16th.
JONATHAN MOSEN: It's my pleasure. Thank you very much.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you. A few more announcements on this release. We just have a few days left for our Jay Bolotin award nominations. This program honors individuals and organizations that are a positive force in the lives of blind people doing innovative things, creating innovative projects, and helping to advance our lives. Applications are still open for this year's nominations, which will close on April 15th. So if you get your taxes in early, take a moment to nominate an organization or an individual that you believe is I really breaking down barriers.
And once you get your nomination in, take a little nap, and then wake up for the concert on the 16th. The application is available on the NFB website. You can go to nfb.org/Bolotin. We need your nominations. Federation members are engaged in of communities all over this country, and you are plugged into what works because of your work in the Federation. So please make those nominations. Make the committee's job really hard.
If you have questions about the Bolotin awards, Everett Bacon from Utah is our committee chair, and he would love to talk to you about your nominations.
Also, want to let you know that there is still time to get young people registered for our 2022 summer of Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academies, including our in home edition. There are still a few spots left. We'll put the link for the BELL Academy in the chat. But if you go to NFB.org, you'll find the BELL Academy. Please continue to spread the word. It is first come first serve, especially for the in home edition. So get notice out there and let's get new youth into the Federation.
Our NFB-NEWSLINE group would like you to know we added new local newspapers to NEWSLINE over the last little why, including the News Virginian, the daily Nonpareil of Iowa, the Morning News of South Carolina. Also, we have added some new breaking news categories including Mashable, which is a great source of tech, digital culture, and entertainment content. We've also added in the breaking news category Vox, which is an American news and opinion website. We are always adding new content to NEWSLINE. So it's sometimes hard to keep up with the number of publications there.
If you are not already an NFB convention NEWSLINE subscriber, it's free. Jump on in, try it out. You'll learn to love it very quickly. nfbnewsline.org is your place to get all the information including getting connected with our online application. Please apply. Use this great service, and once you've used it for a little while, tell us what more you want to have on it, and we'll try to work it out. As Jonathan points out, you'll even be able to get the We are with U concert if you need that. So really cool.
So, I do have Federation family notes on this release. I regret to have to inform you of the passing of a number of our friends in the Federation family. From the state of Florida, we've learned to the passing of James Young on January 16th, 2022. James was a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida's Tallahassee chapter for many years.
From Maryland, I regret to inform you of the passing of Carol Siegel on March 14th after a long battle with cancer. Carol was 78 years old. She leaves behind her partner Ken Chrane, who continues to be an active member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter. Carol was a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter for a long time. She first joined in 1968. Many of us will remember her personality and as a staunch advocate, especially for the slate and stylus, if I'm not mistaken. The greater Baltimore chapter is still using Braille raffle tickets that Carol Brailled on a slate long ago. So you should keep Carol Siegel and Ken in your thoughts and prayers.
From the state of Michigan, we've learned of the passing of Ken Kitchen, who is the husband of Georgia Kitchen. He passed away in March. Ken died from cancer. He was 88 years old. Ken was a significant contributor in our Michigan affiliate. He will certainly be remembered for many things, but definitely for his participation for many years in helping to build the NEWSLINE program.
From Missouri, we've learned of the passing of Diana Aubuchon, who was a member of the Missouri affiliate. Diana had been a member for over 40 years, primarily in the Columbia chapter, but also in the Kansas City chapter.
And from North Carolina, we've learned of the passing of long time Federationist Katherine Barr at age 84. She was a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg chapter and the former editor of North Carolina's newsletter.
From Pennsylvania, we've learned of the passing of long time member Kathy Harris on Tuesday March 2nd. Kathy was a member of the NFB of Pennsylvania for 52 years. She is survived by her daughter, Martha Harris, who you may remember as a previous National Scholarship winner.
I regret to have to let you know the passing of these Federationists. I urge you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers, and also those members of our Federation family who I may not have been aware of.
Pam, I think that's what I have for the moment. I'm flipping it back to you.
PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much. Before I get to the Q&A, I want to share the poll results for you. You will be pleased to know 13% of our respondents plan to be at the game on opening day.
MARK RICCOBONO: Excellent. I'm going to be there, too. Milwaukee versus Baltimore.
PAM ALLEN: We thought that's probably how you would answer the question.
MARK RICCOBONO: I know what I employer going to wear.
PAM ALLEN: I think I have an idea. But our top vote getter in that question is for 38% of our participants will be watching or listening.
MARK RICCOBONO: Nice.
PAM ALLEN: So lots of baseball fans.
MARK RICCOBONO: don't tell their employers.
PAM ALLEN: In response to our question about access to public transportation, 40% of our respondents said that public transportation was good and took some planning. We had our second vote getter was fair. And then 11% said very poor. But at least they have comfortable shoes. Thank you everybody so much for participating in our poll. It's always great to interact with everybody.
So thanks to all who submitted questions. Remember, you can still submit questions through the Q&A feature, and also that's available on the web version and app version. Just a great shout-out to our great communications team. Thank you for managing everything so wonderfully and smoothly.
So, President Riccobono, our first question is related to our civil rights museum. I know many of our members participated in our survey and are eager to hear about any updates.
MARK RICCOBONO: So the update is, we are still doing our phase 1 feasibility work to investigate the feasibility and what it will take to develop a civil rights museum here in our headquarters building in Baltimore. So we're looking at all aspects, financially, what it's going to cost. It's going to be very expensive to do what we want to do. Looking at the landscape of museums to see how we uniquely position our effort to leverage our brand and our mission. We.
We're talking with experts in the field and in the blindness field and within our organization to develop the key concepts for the museum. So we're still in the planning phase. I imagine by the time we get to the convention; we will talk about what we think the lift is going to be for a civil rights museum. So you should keep generating ideas, keep thinking about it in your chapters. What would you like a civil rights museum for blind people to be? What would you want to experience? What would you want highlighted? What would you want the experience to be for non blind individuals coming through?
So we're in the dreaming and imagination phase right now. This is going to be a significant project, but what we've heard from Federation members across the country is it's an important one for leveraging our mission and for really highlighting our history. So we're still in the development phase. We'll definitely have more to say about it at the convention.
PAM ALLEN: Okay. Excellent. And speaking of convention, again, which we're all counting down the days. I can't wait to welcome everybody to the awesome city of New Orleans, website hosting had some questions, just any updates on testing guidelines, what types of tests we will be using, what types of tests will be accepted. Just any updates on that situation?
MARK RICCOBONO: Yeah. So we know that this is a really burning question that a lot of people have. And I know that you want specifics on what the testing will look like. We thought it was important, the national board, thought it was important that we require testing so we take the highest level of precaution that we can.
Obviously, things continue to change, and we want to be careful not to lock in, lock ourselves into something today. We are three months away, and in COVID time, that's a long time. You'll see that things are changing dramatically. I think New Orleans now has lifted its mask mandate, is that right?
PAM ALLEN: That's correct, right.
MARK RICCOBONO: But a month from now, that could be different. So we've set the baseline that we're going to ask everybody to get tested. In one sense, you don't have to worry about a test. You can show up at the convention and we will test you. We will give you more detail and specific information about testing in advance, and if you test before you leave home, how will you be able to verify that and certify that to the Federation so you can walk right into the convention.
We don't have those details together today because we're still thinking it through and watching how things develop. And so, the board is going to have to meet and discuss what the testing looks like. But we want to be cautious that we don't set a standard and then later say, well, just kidding.
So be patient. You will be taken care of if you come to the convention, and you haven't taken a test. We will make it happen. We'll test you as fast as possible so that you can participate in the convention activities. As we said last month on the release, it's really going to take all of us working together to get this right, our first in person convention in three years.
So trust that it will work. We make things work in the Federation. And we will be flexible, and we will work with all of our members on the testing protocol. If you have ideas, thoughts about how we can do it best, please send those in and we'll definitely consider them.
PAM ALLEN: And I know all of our affiliates are working hard and raising funds on the local level and the affiliate level. We had a question, if you could just share your thoughts about the relationship between chapters and affiliates and supporting our national organization and our national programs and fundraising.
MARK RICCOBONO: So, you know, fundraising is really important, right? We can't do a lot of the things we do, especially at the national level without dollars. And we need to work together at all levels of our organization. And when we raise money at the local level, we need to recognize that those dollars can have more impact when we send them upwards. When we send them up to the affiliate, some of those dollars up to the affiliate, they can reach and benefit more blind people because the program of the affiliate is broader than just the local community.
Our chapters are chapters of the federation because they've been granted a charter through our affiliate as part of our national organization. And so, the chapters have been established to support our state affiliates. And so, fundraising at the local level should be to support the programs of the state affiliate. And in turn, the state affiliates should have as a major part of their program supporting our national organization. Because we all benefit from the work that happens throughout our national movement.
And sometimes affiliates need some of those dollars, need more of those dollars for local programs than other times. And so, through our national organization, we can target those resources. If we're talking on a legal case in Illinois or in Maryland or in California or in Alabama, we can support that on the national basis and know that next time when we face a problem in Tennessee, those dollars will be there, too.
So, by working together, from the local level raising those local dollars and pushing them upward, we have much more impact. We want to put our dollars that we raise to good work. Sometimes we like to say the money should be there to visit the treasury, not to stay.
One reason that people continue, our donors continue to support us is that raise money and we use it for good purposes. And so, we need to keep raising money because we spend it. Now, we do put money away to have a reserve, but sometimes we spend more money than we bring in for emergency situations.
In 2020, we spent a lot of money we didn't plan on, especially to defend the right of blind people to have accessible voting. We were able to do that because local dollars generated in chapters came up to the national organization and that made a huge difference in voting everywhere.
So when you're raising money locally, you should keep in mind that it should be there to visit the treasury. It will come back to benefit blind people in the local community.
PAM ALLEN: And President Riccobono, we had a question on NFB convention NEWSLINE and making it accessible for Android users.
MARK RICCOBONO: Well, we know that having an Android version of NFB-NEWSLINE is something some people want. We have done some development work on it. We do not while I'm not aware of what our current timeline is related to Android, we'll make sure to get that information for the next release. But I would also encourage you if you really are eager to have NEWSLINE on the android platform to reach out to our NEWSLINE team, let them keep hearing from you. The more people we hear from, the more data we have to continue to push that forward.
PAM ALLEN: Excellent. And we heard from Dan about the power of the National Federation of the Blind and setting world records. And we have a question about members of the NFB seeking public office, running for positions in Congress or other elected offices. And this individual asked a question about your thoughts about that.
MARK RICCOBONO: Run for it. Go for it. I think we need more blind people in any elect the offices we can get. I don't regret the Federation has elected offices. We need you here, too. But we need more blind people in elected offices.
We are a registered 503 (c) organization, so we as an organization do not support candidates for political office. That's not the kind of organization we have established. But our members should go out and get involved in these things. I know that anytime I go somewhere that I am trying to represent the Federation, even if it's not in an official Federation capacity, because our role is part of a movement is really important.
So, if we get more people who reflect the values of our movement in publicly elected positions, they're bringing our philosophy and our connections back to that movement, that's really important. Public service is a demanding thing to pursue. We need more blind people to do that. We should find ways to help encourage blind people to get into these publicly elected positions. And we should use the contacts we have with business and currently elected individuals, members of Congress to help blind people connect with those individuals who can teach them the tools, the techniques that work for getting elected and maybe more importantly, staying elected in public office.
So we're for it. Just know that if you come and say, well, I would like the endorsement of the National Federation of the Blind, we love you, we can't do that. We can't endorse political candidates. But you're welcome to talk to any constituent you want about supporting you personally. Sometimes our members who decide to run for public office get really disappointed when they can't get the endorsement of the Federation. That has nothing to do with personality. That has to do with our position as a 501 (c) (3) organization. Now, it's a great idea for our chapters to invite everybody who is running for an office to a chapter meeting.
The beauty of that is whoever wins, you get a relationship with them. Invite them all. All of them need to hear what's important to blind people, whether they win or not . because they might go on to do something else significant. If they know the power of the National Federation of the Blind and the importance of our voice, that helps spread our message.
PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much, President Riccobono. And I want to express my appreciation to everyone who submitted questions in all different formats. We really appreciate your input and interaction. It's always a really important part of our gathering. So thank you, everyone. If we didn't have a chance to answer your question tonight, our awesome communication team will be following up with you so we can get those answered. And thank you, again, for your participation.
Now, before I turn it back over to you, President Riccobono, I want to thank everyone for being with us tonight. Please join our next Presidential Release live on May 2nd 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 Nations Blind.
I'm excited to say that we'll be live from New Orleans at the Marriott, our main hotel for our 2022 national convention. You can contact President Riccobono at 410-659-9314, or via email at [email protected]. And passing it back to you.
MARK RICCOBONO: Great. I am looking forward to the next Presidential Release Live from New Orleans. I'll have to remember, it will be 7:00 p.m. central for me. That will be different. But I am looking forward to that. But there is a lot more that's going to happen in April. Until we get there. And I don't want to rush it because there is a lot of important Federation work to be done.
As we close this Presidential Release, I do want to take a moment to wish all of you who may be celebrating holidays in the month of April blessings on those holidays. I know that Ramadan has started, and Passover is just around the corner, as is Easter and Greek Orthodox Easter, all of these things happening before we get to our May Presidential Release, in addition to the weather getting better and so many other things opening up. It's really a beautiful time to be an active member in the National Federation of the Blind and to have the opportunity to participate fully in our society.
So, I want to thank each and every one of you for your service to the Federation. I'm looking forward to being with you in person in New Orleans. But until we get there, I will leave you with the customary endings and say, let's go build the NFB convention.
Hi. I'm Oriana and I'm going to tell you two jokes. Knock knock.
Butcher eggs in the basket.
Hi. I'm Elizabeth and I'm going to tell you a joke. Why are baseball games always at night?
I don't know. Why?
Because the bats sleep in the day.
Oh! That's why day games are so boring sometimes. I get it.
What do you get when you pour coffee into a rabbit hole?
I don't know what?
Hot cross bunnies.
Did you girls hear about the new player for the Milwaukee Brewers? Well, there was a scout, and he found this horse. And this horse was amazing. He could field the balls; he could catch it and throw it. And he hit the ball every time he got up to bat. And so, the scout said, well, this is amazing. I've got to take him to the Milwaukee Brewers. He took him to the Brewers, and they had a tryout for him, and he came up to the plate and he hit the ball super, super far. And the manager said, run! Run! And the horse said, are you kidding me? If I could run, I would be in the Kentucky Derby.
Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.