MARK RICCOBONO: Greetings, fellow Federationists. Today is Monday, May 2, 2022, and this is presidential release 516, live in person in New Orleans at the Marriott, with members of the --
-- with members of the greater New Orleans chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana. It's so great to be together. We do have a lot to talk about. There's also a lot happening, all at the same time. So for our members who are participating in the Muslim faith, I do want to acknowledge that Ramadan is coming to an end. So an important holiday today. And for all of us teachers out there in the National Federation of the Blind, I want to thank you on behalf of all of the members. It is teacher appreciation week, and we definitely appreciate our teachers, certainly those who are active in the programs of the National Federation of the Blind. We are here at the New Orleans Marriott with a backdrop of the Mississippi River behind us in the great city of New Orleans for our 2022 convention. We'll talk about that in a few moments. But a few other things first.
One is our effort last month to participate in the We're with U concert in Ukraine. I want to congratulation the entire National Federation of the Blind for making a huge difference. Starting with our concert that happened on April 16th that we were an active participant in, along with supporting the World Blind Union, and with the support of Mushroom FM, we raised over $100,000.
Yeah. For the World Blind Union's Ukrainian Unity Fund. That really could not have happened without the support of so many Federationists across the country. We had over 100 blind performers from around the globe participate in this concert. If you missed it, you were under a rock, something, you can still stream the concert. It can be found on MushroomFM.com. Go there. You can also get to it from the NFB's page which is www.nfb.org/blindwithu. That's the letter U. Go check out the consenter you will want to listen to all 11 hours. It's pretty good. Some performances, like mine, might be worth skimming over, but all the rest are really great. And congratulations. Really, I'm blown away by what we were able to do with the Federation teaming up with blind people around the world. Really impressive. I'm sure we'll talk about it more at our convention.
I want to talk to you quickly about a training opportunity that's available later this month, on Tuesday, May 31, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Our Center of Excellence for Nonvisual Access staff, along with Maurice Peret as well as the Maryland Department of Labor and other blind leaders will host a seminar to boost participation and recruiting of blind people into jobs. We know that we want to bust the myths that blind people face and that employers have about employing blind people. So, you'll want to tune in to this training, especially if you are seeking employment or have an interest in helping blind people get into employment. You should also encourage employers to participate in this panel discussion, which will truly address the fears and misconceptions, concerns that people have about recruiting blind people into employment opportunities.
For more details about this training on May 31 and to register, you should go to www.nfb.org/cena to get more information.
The National Federation of the Blind continues to monitor the Social Security Administration's implementation of our 2020 settlement agreement regarding the accessibility of kiosks being used in social security offices. The SSA field offices have obviously been closed for a number of months, really, I guess years at this point. They have been reopening, and we are gathering information about the accessibility experience of SSA's current visitor intake processes. If you have visited an SSA facility or office, field office, since they've reopened in April of 2022, please reach out to Valerie Yingling at the national office to share your experience. Valerie can be reached at extension 2440 or via email by sending an email to [email protected]. We're specifically gathering information on whether the field offices are using kiosks, web-based, or human check-in processes and whether those processes were fully accessible to blind individuals. So, if you've had that experience, please let us know.
Also, a quick update on our efforts to push the government and manufacturers to produce fully accessible at-home COVID tests. We continue to work closely with the government on these issues. We've had a number of meetings now with the National Institutes of Health, with the White House, with other officials about this topic, and we're slowly but surely starting to recognize that they are making some progress in this area.
We've noticed, though, that a lot of states have the potential to push on this issue as well. So, for our local advocacy efforts, we put together a sample letter that you can use or modify to let local officials know that we need them to distribute accessible COVID tests.
Please coordinate with your chapter and affiliate President if you plan to use this letter and send it to local officials. We want to make sure that we are focusing our efforts in the right place, and if we've already been working with local officials, we want to make sure that is coordinated with our local leadership. But this letter is available on our website along with all of our COVID testing information. That's www.nfb.org/COVIDtests. You can find the sample letter there. I encourage you to download it, modify it for the specific situation. We should continue to keep the pressure on the local officials, because they will help to keep the pressure on the federal administrators but also, they'll be more responsive when the federal folks present opportunities for them to get accessible testing options.
We are going to have a convention in 2 months! Many of you have not registered and your time is running out. Online registration for our in-person convention closes on May 31st. So, get registered as soon as you can.
We also want you to mark your calendar to be with Pam Allen and others of us at the rookie round up meeting, which will happen at the convention, scheduled for Tuesday, July 5th, at 8:00 p.m. convention time, that's Central Time, and you'll want to be on hand. If you are a first timer at the convention or because it's been 3 years you forgot, what happens at an in-person convention, you might as welcome and review the details. It's going to be a good time.
Now, for those of you who can't be with us in person, we will have a virtual experience that will give you some opportunity to engage in the convention activities and especially to connect with our general sessions on Zoom. In-person registration will also make you eligible for some door prizes specifically for our virtual convention experience attendees. Now, this registration will be open up through the convention, but you won't want to wait, because if you register for the virtual experience, you will also get updates on the convention and special information about promotions and that sort of thing.
www.nfb.org/convention is your landing page for all things convention related. All information can be found there.
Now, the convention happens because of many, many, many people, and we need you to help with the convention if you're coming. One of the areas we always need help is in our Independence Market. Members from across the country help to demonstrate products in the Independence Market, and it's really powerful when people come to our convention and they have a blind person talking to them about the tools they're thinking about buying, especially newly blind individuals. So, we need you to sign up for a shift to work in the Independence Market. It's a great way to give service to the National Federation of the Blind. If you're interested in doing a shift at the convention, you can email Jen White at [email protected].
Also want to let you know that our convention career fair is coming back in person for the first time since our 2019 convention. So, on Wednesday, July 6th, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. convention time, we will have an in-person career fair. You do need to register for this career fair in advance. It's required. And registration opens for the career fair on May 10 and will be open through June 21.
We will not accept walk ins. You must register. It is free, but you do need to fill this out. You find that also at NFB.org/convention. Not yet because it's not available, but it will be available on May 10th, so go to our convention page at that time and sign up if you are a job seeker looking for opportunities. In 2019 when we had our last career fair, we had over 40 employers at the career fair, and 200 job seekers. So, it's a great opportunity. There are a number of partners in the National Federation of the Blind who are eager to come back to our convention and find talented blind people. Keep that in mind. If you're looking for employment, it would be a great way to justify coming to the convention, especially to your rehab counselor who should pay for you to come and find employment. So please come to the convention, participate in the career fair.
One of the many activities we do at the convention is have our resolutions committee offer resolutions to the convention for consideration. Resolutions are policy statements, significant policy statements of the organization because they are passed by the convention. You should come participate in the activities of the committee, listen to their meeting, and certainly if you're interested in the particular issues that are being discussed, be prepared to advocate for them or against them if you think it would be bad Federation policy on the floor of the convention. You do need to be in person to do that.
If you want to submit a resolution to the committee, you should have your resolution in final form in to the committee chair 30 days prior to the committee meeting which happens on July 6. So, you need to have your resolution in by June 6.
Now, we've been using the 30-day standard for the last 2 years and it's worked out pretty well, so we're going to maintain that for the in-person convention. It has been different in the past for in-person conventions, but for this in-person convention, we're sticking with the 30 days, so get your resolutions in to Sharon Maneki, our resolutions chair, no later than June 6th if you want them considered by the committee. If you want to submit questions or to submit your resolution, if you want to talk further with Sharon about the resolutions process and what you're thinking about, you can email her at [email protected] or call her at (410) 715-9596 to talk about your resolution. If for some reason you do miss the June 6th deadline, she can talk to you about the extra steps you need to go through to get your resolution considered by the committee and potentially by the convention.
Affiliates and chapters should also remember that at our convention we do the honor roll call where we acknowledge financial contributions made by chapters and affiliates to the National Federation of the Blind. We encourage chapters to bundle their contributions with the affiliate because we're going to credit it to the affiliate. We only list the affiliates in the honor roll call, so if you want to, if your chapter wants to make a contribution, I encourage you to make it to the affiliate to go to the national organization, and I do encourage you to participate with your affiliate in contributing to the financial health of the Federation. Affiliates and divisions wishing to be part of the honor roll call, also groups of the Federation sometimes get together and collect money to make a contribution to the organization, we invite you to do that, and you can do that by making your pledge or sending your contribution in as soon as possible.
Now, pledges or contributions can be given in advance of the convention by sending us an email at [email protected] by June 20th. So, if you're making a pledge, please send an email by June 20 and we will record it by the honor roll call.
If you are going to send in your contribution by June 20, please still email us at [email protected] the amount of your contribution and which of our funds it will be dedicated to so we can watch for the check in the mail. So, whether you're pledging or planning to send your contribution before June 20, please send an email.
Now, remember that contributions for the roll call can be to any of our four main funds. That is the white cane fund, which collects general donations for the organization; our Kenneth Jernigan fund, which supports first timers to the convention, and I know we're going to have a great pool of first timer there's year; our SUN Fund, which collects money that is available to the Federation for a rainy day. We hope not to have to use it, but it gives us a safety net in case we do run into a situation where we are in financial need. And you can also contribute to the Jacobus tenBroek memorial fund which oversees the operation of our property in Baltimore.
Now, we do ask that affiliates and national divisions fulfill pledges made to the honor roll call by August 31st of this year. If you have questions about the roll call, you can, again, send them to [email protected] and we'll get them answered. I'm looking forward to celebrating all of the great financial contributions from around the organization at our convention on July 9.
There's more fundraising to talk about. Individuals, we also need you to help support the organization financially through our 2022 Give20 campaign, which has launched just today. You may have seen it in social media. There's plenty of time for you to contribute. But thank you to those who have already jumped in to give your Give20 contribution for 2022. Individuals can support the work of the National Federation of the Blind through our four funds which I've already discussed, and you can be eligible to win some really cool prizes, especially a trip to attend our 2023 convention which will be in the great city of Houston, Texas. I'm sure Houston is going to make a run for the attendance record, taking it away from Louisiana.
(Audience yelling "No!")
The only individuals eligible for the drawing for the Give20 program are individuals. Give20 contributions can be made to any of the four funds, and you can identify which fund you want to support in which amount on the web. If you're going to donate online, it's really important that you go directly to the Give20 donate form at www.nfb.org/give20, and you'll find our specific campaign donation form there and you can put in all of your information, also get more background if you forget which fund contributes to what, all of the information is there.
You can also call in advance of the convention and give via phone. Our phone number, (410) 659-9314. Please use extension 2410 for our Give20 campaign.
Also, you can send us a check. Please send that check directly to the NFB at 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21230. Be sure to include a note with your check about which funds you want to contribute to. And if you're contributing funds to multiple of the funds, whether it's KJ and white cane or SUN, just indicate that. You only need to send one check with the total amount. Just let us know how you want it broken out and be sure to indicate that it's for the Give20 campaign.
Now, what we do is for every $20 you give, we will give you one entry. So, if you donate $100, we will give you five entries. You can also encourage your friends. Ask your friends and family and neighbors, say we're getting back together in the National Federation of the Blind and the best way you can support what I do is to give 20 -- or more -- to the National Federation of the Blind, and your friends could win a trip to our 2023 convention. But maybe for whatever crazy reason they don't want to come to our convention. They don't have to accept that as the prize. Alternatively, if you don't want to come to the convention, you can get $2,000 in cash. So can you encourage your friends if they say I'm not interested in the convention, it's okay, they should be interested in supporting you and what you're interested in. But if that's not a motivator, see if they're interested in $2,000 and whether $20 to help the blind of America advance our cause is worth it for the chance to win $2,000.
Now, it doesn't stop there. All that goodness, but it gets better. Every dollar that is contributed is doubled thanks to the support of HumanWare. Generous gift from HumanWare. As you know, HumanWare is the maker of solutions that help blind people live independently and participate successfully in today's world. $50,000 has been matched by HumanWare. So, every contribution totaling up to $50,000 will be matched by HumanWare. Thank you to our friends at HumanWare for this generous support.
Now, I do have a number of Federation family news items to share with you on this release. First of all, I want to talk about our Dream Makers Circle. This is an opportunity to make a commitment to leave an end-of-life gift to the National Federation of the Blind. We've had a few new people join the Dream Makers Circle and I want to thank them on this release, especially Annemarie Cooke and Douglas McCray of South Hampton, New Jersey. Don and Lynn Gentry of Fredericksburg, Texas. And Jeannie Massey of Oklahoma. Thank you for joining the Dream Makers Circle of the National Federation of the Blind.
I do regret to inform you of the passing of a number of Federationists. From Arizona, Donald Porterfield reports the passion of Justin Hughes on April 25th. Justin was second Vice President of the east valley chapter of the NFB of Arizona. He was a long-time member and a very active in many parts of the organization including our legislative activities in Arizona.
From New York, we've learned about the passing of Linda Spurill who passed away on March 31st. Linda was 69 years old. Linda was a member of the Buffalo chapter for several years before she passed away.
From the state of Wisconsin, Bill Meeker and Cheryl Orgas report the passing of Nancy Gurney on April 6th, 2022. She was age 71. She was a member of the Milwaukee chapter for several years until her health prevented her from participating actively in the chapter.
From Maryland, I regret to inform you of the passing of Ruth Sager on Saturday, April 9, at age 71. There are many things we could say about Ruth, a longtime leader in the National Federation of the Blind in many parts of the country. More recently she served as President of our national seniors’ division, inspiring so many people to continue to live life fully and independently when they didn't think they could with their blindness. She was a leader in the Maryland affiliate, chapter leader and division leader. More recently with our Baltimore County chapter. In the long history that Ruth had with the National Federation of the Blind, she also worked at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. I encourage you to keep Ruth's husband Phillip and her children in your thoughts and prayers.
Also, from the state of Connecticut, we've learned of the passing of Jacquilyn Billey who passed away on April 10 at the age of 84. She served with many distinctions in the movement. She served as President of the NFB of Connecticut in the 1980s. She won our highest award, the Jacobus tenBroek award, in 1988. I had the opportunity to speak with her daughter Andrea last week, who expressed to me how important the Federation was in Jackie's life and how much she looks forward to continuing to support the National Federation of the Blind in her mom's honor. So, I would encourage you to keep Andrea and Sarah, Jackie’s daughters, and the rest of their family in your thoughts and prayers.
And I have one final note to share with you from Iowa, which is the passing of Jim Omvig on April 27. Jim, there's so many things we could say about Mr. Omvig. Definitely a giant personality who lived the Federation philosophy in everything that he did, and he advanced our mission in everything that he did, especially representing who we are in its most personal form by bringing so many people into this movement through his warmth and generosity. He made a tremendous difference in advancing our work and the quality of our work, especially in bringing it to adjustment to blindness training for blind people across the country. Of course, he's written so much in the Braille Monitor and through his work to put together the freedom for the blind book. We could talk for a long time about the contributions of Jim Omvig. I count myself blessed as having been able to know him, learn from him, be mentored by him in my time in the Federation, especially during his time when he lived in Baltimore overlapping with my time in Baltimore.
Now, another impressive thing about Jim Omvig is he also won the Jacobus tenBroek award in 1986. So, Jim and Jackie were back-to-back JTB winners. We did not have an award given in 1987. Jim continued for many decades to contribute to the National Federation of the Blind, as did Jackie, even after receiving our highest award. I definitely encourage you to keep Sharon and all of the members of Jim's family in your thoughts and prayers as we mourn his passing and as we come into the convention which was such an important time for Mr. Omvig.
I encourage you to keep all the Federationists that I may not have known about in this release in your thoughts and prayers.
That's what we have for this May presidential release. There is so much more going on around the Federation, and there is a lot of work to do before we get to New Orleans. I want to wish everybody a happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day. So many other great activities happening in May. I hear about more and more chapters opening up, getting together in person. It just gets me very excited for the future we are building in the National Federation of the Blind.
PAM ALLEN: Join the next presidential release live on Wednesday, June 1st, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You can contact President Riccobono at (410) 659-9314 or via email at [email protected].
SPEAKER: Hi, Oriana. It's May. Did you know you were born on the day of the Preakness 12 years ago?
SPEAKER: No? Well, we have some horse jokes, right in honor of the Preakness. What's your horse joke?
SPEAKER: What kind of horse lives next door?
SPEAKER: I don't know. What?
SPEAKER: A neigh-bor.
SPEAKER: I have one for you. What does a horse say when they fell? I've fallen and I can't giddy up!
The preceding message was brought to you by President Mark Riccobono, (410) 659-9314, [email protected]. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.