This transcript is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings
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MARK RICCOBONO: Greetings fellow Federationists. Today is Saturday October 1, 2022 and this is presidential release 520 live from Jackson Mississippi at the Mississippi school for the blind
I am so happy to be here and I want to wish everyone a happy Blind Equality Achievement Month.
Is this a great way for us to kick off our work for Blind Equality Achievement Month and today, really is a fantastic day to be in Jackson Mississippi where I have had the pleasure of spending the day with our chapter President, LaShawna Fant who is also here.
And we have spent the day distributing water to members of the Jackson chapter of the National Federation of the Blind Mississippi to help alleviate some of the strain of the water crisis here.
And I want to take a minute to thank our National Association of Blind Merchants and Nikkie the President who really stepped up and got a lot of water and I mean a lot of water delivered here to the School for the Blind and we have been distributing it here today and I think Lashawna will be making more deliveries that so I have more work to do today.
And we went to both Lyft and Uber and asked them to provide ride share credits for blind people in Jackson to help offset the cost of going to local water distribution places and they have done that for our members so thank you Uber and Lyft and our thoughts and prayers go out to our federation family members in Florida and certainly in South Carolina and other states being impacted by hurricane Ian.
Just know that the Federation family and the spirit of the Federation family is alive and well.
It is so heartwarming to spend time visiting with members here in Jackson on really, a historic day.
Some of you may not recognize that today is the 60th anniversary of James Meredith integrating Ole Miss in 1962.
When I reflect on that moment, which is one of the most iconic and ageless moments in the civil rights struggle for African Americans, it reminds me that it is even fewer than 60 years ago that we got the first white cane law passed in this country.
And so it is less than 60 years ago that as blind people, we started to assert our right to belong in the world.
As James Meredith in 1962 in the educational setting asserting that he and others like him, it the right to belong in those educational spaces.
Less than 60 years ago that we as blind people asserted that we have the right to live in the world.
That we have the right to belong in the world.
And in fact -- we are still fighting that struggle in so many places.
Where as blind people, walking with a long white cane, we are not recognized as independent travelers.
We are not recognized as being capable for being responsible for ourselves.
And in so many places we are still treated as though we don't belong.
I just called out the ride share companies for being helpful to us.
But, on the other hand, in a lot of ways they do treat us like we don't belong.
Especially if we happen to use guide dogs.
And so when I come to this Blind Equality Achievement Month and on this very special day, it occurs to me how much work we still have to do to belong.
And so that is my charge for all of us this month is to use this Blind Equality Achievement Month to assert our right to belong.
And whether it is on white cane awareness day or through other activities that we are doing to be having in our local chapters, I encourage our members to have those honest conversations.
With members of the public, about our right.
And our desire to belong and participate fully in society.
And we know from our experience that by working together as blind people, we have the best shot of being included in spaces where we are currently excluded.
There is also time for our chapters to get local governments to remember and acknowledge white cane awareness day by getting proclamations and you can find the template on our website.
Remember that all of our related blind month activities can be included on our website, if an e-mail is sent to us at [email protected] and if you get your Blind Equality Achievement Month activities to us, we will post them on our website nfb.org/blind-month.
And this is also a good time for us to lead those conversations with our friends, our family, about the techniques that blind people use to compete equally in the world.
You know a lot of people don't understand how blind people do the things that we do and it is our responsibility to demystify what we do by opening up channels for those conversations.
And there are many ways we can do that, through one on one conversations and through inviting people into conversations in our homes, to posting to our neighborhood list serves about the techniques that we do and encouraging people to ask questions.
I know, because I have heard from many chapters and members across the country, that that work is happening and there are plans for this month.
But don't forget that this work continues beyond Blind Equality Achievement Month into the other 11 months of the year.
I know it can sometimes feel overwhelming to have to continually educate the public about the capacity of blind people and I get it.
I really do.
Because I have faced that same sense of being tired of educating but let's use this month as an opportunity to own the education.
To lead the education.
Rather than having to do it because we are forced to.
Let's do it because we want to open those conversations so that we can change the narrative and have blind people in the leadership, leading the conversations and making blind a positive in our society.
So I would ask every member what you can do to positively impact the discussion about blindness in your community.
Now -- when people ask you about what they can do to help the organized blind movement, we have some new things you can share.
Before I talk about that, let me remind you that you should post about these activities in social media by using the hashtag #blindmonth.
Whether its on Facebook, Twitter or TikTok or Instagram and I want to offer our first have been and executive director of the Louisiana center for the blind, Pam Allen, an opportunity to comment on Blind Equality Achievement Month.
PAM ALLEN: Thank you President Riccobono one of the key ways we help promote equality and equity is through training, and in the National Federation of the Blind we have led the way and helped shape training and increase the opportunities for blind people.
We have several graduates from the LA center for the blind here with us today and I know they are leading the way in Mississippi and Louisiana and Alabama and around the country like the Colorado center for the blind and blind incorporated.
We are grateful for the partnerships we have here with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation and the difference that it makes.
Training that is developed by blind people that really through words actions and activities builds confidence and develops a positive philosophy about blindness.
And we see it every day in our chapters. Everyone going out in the local communities and reaching out to each other and mentoring one another and passing the skills and those opportunities, and most importantly the positive belief about blindness that we know through the National Federation of the Blind.
So thank you everybody for working together to help make that happen.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you Pam and thank you to our training centers for their work to promote blind equality every day by empowering blind people.
Yes you can applaud to that absolutely.
Now it has been a very special week in other ways.
On Wednesday, on September 28, just a few days ago -- I had the opportunity along with Anil Lewis our executive director of blindness initiatives and other staff of ours, to go to the White House and attend a Rose garden ceremony in celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Why September? The President of the United States had COVID-19 at the end of June during the normal time for celebrating the anniversary of the ADA so this was the ADA celebration.
And besides us there were a number of other Federationists in attendance because of their positions in the government or elsewhere.
So The Federation and the blindness movement was well represented at the White House on Wednesday September 28th.
Even more significant than that, was the fact that on that day, I had the opportunity to walk over to Senator Duckworth who was part of the crowd in the Rose Garden and to thank her for that very day, introducing the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act.
Senator Duckworth introduced the bill in the senate, that is now S4998 and it was assigned to the HELP committee and three original co-sponsors were on the bill when it was released.
Senator Casey of Pennsylvania, Senator Markey of Massachusetts and Senator Schatz of Hawaii.
Not only that but we also had a house bill introduced, HR9021 that was introduced by representative John Sarbanes of Maryland.
John Sarbanes happens to be the Senator of the district where our National Headquarters is.
The house bill was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor as well as the House Committee on the Judiciary
So this is great news.
We and The Federation have been working on this for well over 18 months.
Senator Duckworth came to our convention in 2021 and talked about her interest in helping us with the bill and we finally got it done.
This bill expands on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect our rights in the digital space.
Specifically -- it provides a strong statutory definition for accessibility of websites and applications.
Secondly, it provides a well defined regulatory structure and schedule.
Third, the bill provides safeguards against a rush to court settlements for inaccessible websites.
And you know this is something that The Federation has been concerned about.
Companies being sued for the accessibility of the websites and signing confidential agreements that we cannot hold them accountable because they are not in the public.
This creates safeguards to insure that accessibility is a true solution in the marketplace.
Also -- this bill provides substantial economic relief for people with disabilities who have been impacted by inaccessible websites and applications.
So -- in one sense we got the hard work done by getting the bill introduced.
But we now need to take the next step in getting Congress to act on this bill.
This is a good opportunity for us to reach out to members of the Senate and house, and our affiliates and remind them about all of our bills.
And also to make sure that they are aware of this very important new bill and to get them on board before the legislative session is done for this Congress.
This is going to set a strong foundation for us going into the next Congress.
But we shouldn't think that the clock has run out yet either.
We still have a very good chance of getting a bill passed during this Congress.
Especially the access technology affordability act which has a very good chance of getting attached to a bill before the clock runs out on this Congress.
So please, use this opportunity to reach out to members of Congress, encourage them to get on board with the web accessibility bill, but also to recognize that we have a number of other bills that need immediate attention.
One last note about the web accessibility bill, is that a number of other organizations have joined on in support of this effort that we spearheaded more than 18 months ago.
So we appreciate other organizations in the disability rights space joining with us to get this bill introduced and now, to push it through Congress.
Now -- I want to also -- moving to beyond Blind Equality Achievement Month -- remind our new members or maybe prospective members that might be listening, that on November 2, we are having our next open house for new members or prospective members.
The open house will be on November 2nd at 8 p.m. EST. If you are interested in participating, you can send an e-mail to [email protected] to register and get information.
I encourage our chapters to promote the open house. We do these on about a quarterly basis and they are a great way to help with the on boarding process for new and prospective members.
You can also find the form to sign up for the open house on our website at nfb.org.
Before I get into other announcements, Pam you reminded me that I wanted to acknowledge -- we have a number of folks that should be acknowledged in the audience with us.
But I wanted to acknowledge Dr. Stinson the Superintendent of the Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind is with us this evening.
Also -- Dorothy Young the Director of Rehabilitation Services for the Blind in Mississippi is with us. Dorothy is a great partner of ours in our career mentoring program so thank you for that.
We also have, in addition to our local chapter President, Lashawna -- is here, you can give her an applause.
We have with us the immediate past President of the NFB of Mississippi, Patrina Pendarvis is here and we have one of the newest National Board members and President of the NFB of Alabama Barbara Manuel is here too.
We have many other people with us, this is really an exciting venue and we appreciate our -- welcoming us into our first presidential release live on the road where we took proposals and we are hoping to go on the road soon.
We are -- well I am doing that next month.
I have a few federation family notes to share with you on this release.
I regret to inform you of the passing of Mr. Gaylon Tootle of Georgia on Saturday September 10, 2022.
Gaylon was a longtime leader of our Georgia affiliate. He served as second Vice President of the affiliate. He was the committee chairperson for the advocacy and legislative committee. And he also served as President of the CSRA chapter in Georgia. Please keep Gaylon's wife Barbra and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Also from Georgia, JoAnn Johnson, President of the NFB of Georgia's Gwinnett chapter, reports the passing of Mr. Glynn Scott, who was 81 years old and lived in Duluth Georgia. He passed away on Saturday, September 11. And Mr. Glynn and his daughter were founding members of the chapter back in 2015, and have been very active in The Federation. I would encourage you to keep that family in your thoughts and prayers.
From West Virginia our President Marcus Soulsby reports the passing of Roland Payne on April 1 of this because of a prolonged illness. Federation members may remember that Mr. Payne previously served as a Affiliate President in West Virginia and had a long time record of leadership and a number of accomplishments on behalf of blind people in West Virginia and beyond. One of the strongest credits that he earned is -- bringing the NFB Newsline service to West Virginia and securing stable funding for that service. So please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
And I would encourage us to remember all of those who I may not have known about on this release.
Now we do have one joyous piece of news from the state of Missouri. Ben Vercellone announces the birth of his second daughter, Mina, born on September 5, at 8:38 a.m. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 13 ounces and she measured 20.5 inches long. Ben reported that Mina and mom are doing very well. As well as Mina's older sister and the proud papa himself. So congratulations to Mina on being the newest member of the National Federation of the Blind.
I think that is what I have to offer the Federation family on this October Presidential Release. Before we get to the customary endings -- I do want to take a moment to give a very special birthday wish on this October release to Diane McGeorge of Colorado who next week will be celebrating her 90th birthday.
Federation members know Diane McGeorge founded the Colorado Center for the Blind and has made other significant contributions to the Federation. I wanted to give Diane a special happy birthday wish on this release from all of the Federation members.
Now we have a very special customary ending for this release from students, at the Mississippi School for the Blind here in Jackson.
So before we get to that -- I do want to say -- thank you for the work that you all are doing to promote Blind Equality Achievement Month and to advance our work in the National Federation of the Blind.
Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.
NARRATOR: Thanks for being with us tonight. Join the next Presidential Release live from California, Thursday November 3, via Zoom, The Nation's Blind YouTube channel, our internet stream, or by asking your Amazon device to open Nation Blind.
You can contact the President at 410-659-9314 or via e-mail at the [email protected].
JD: I am JD and I am eight years old and I have jokes for you.
What did the Pacific ocean say to the Atlantic ocean?
JD: Nothing they just waved.
FEMALE: What is your name?
JAMES GREY: James grey.
FEMALE: How old are you?
JAMES GREY: Nine.
FEMALE: What do you have for me?
JAMES GREY: What do you get when you drop a pumpkin?
JAMES GREY: Squash.
JD: What did one leaf say to the other?
JD: I am falling for you.
JAMES GREY: Why do birds fly south in the fall?
JAMES GREY: Because it is too far to walk.
Narrator: The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. [email protected], 410-659-9314, www.NFB.org.