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
* * * * *
Candace Chapman: Hi everyone I am Candace Chapman the President of the National Federation of the Blind Mississippi it is wonderful to come together for our October presidential release.
At this time I would like to turn it to Mark Riccobono and Pam Allen.
MARK RICCOBONO: In Jackson Mississippi live at the auditorium at the Mississippi School for the Blind, we have people out there right? I suspect you can't hear them on Zoom because Zoom cancels it out but they are very loud.
We have a great crew from many different states and it is great to be here.
Pam you traveled a long way to get here?
PAM ALLEN: We are happy to be here from Louisiana and we have folks from Alabama and from Mississippi so -- and a quick housekeeping note -- we are having technical difficulty with our Spanish translation so we do apologize for that.
MARK RICCOBONO: Any other technical issues?
PAM ALLEN: We are good to go.
MARK RICCOBONO: We have a lot to cover are you ready to get started? Is the audience ready to get started? Okay.
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 --
-- 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.
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.
So The Federation and the blindness movement was well represented at the White House on Wednesday September 28.
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.
A couple of other announcements to share with you on this presidential release live.
For members in Virginia, D.C., Maryland and other neighboring states, on October 18 there will be an oral argument in Washington D.C. that we would like blind people to be in attendance for.
So we invite and encourage NFB members to attend the in person oral argument for the NFB supported case Orozco v. Merrick, on October 18th in Washington D.C.
NFB member Joe Orozco is appealing a Federal District Court decision which found that blind federal employees do not have a private right of action to directly enforce Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act against federal agencies and their federal employers.
And this is a really bad ruling.
That is why we are appealing it and we want blind people to show up at the court on October 18th to say this is something that matters to all blind people.
If you are interested contact Valerie Yingling at our national office, 410-659-9314, extension 2440 or e-mail [email protected] to get information about attending in person and what the rules are and where to show up and that sort of thing. It is a lot of details. So I did not want to give it here. But if you are interested contact Valerie and she will get back to you.
For those that can't attend in person if it is a long way to go from Mississippi you can tune into the oral argument. It will be streamed live on the court's YouTube channel, and we will put the link for that into the chat.
If you want that you can contact Valerie and she will give you the link to watch the hearing on the morning of October 18th. I do encourage members who can be there on the 18th to do so.
And what a great way to celebrate Blind Achievement Month to say courts don't always get it right.
We want them to get it right.
So there are other things going on during Blind Equality Achievement Month.
And one of them is a career fair.
Thanks to our employment committee in the national federation of the blind.
Job seekers and employers can register for Blind Equality Achievement Month virtual career fair which will be held on October 26, 2022, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST.
The registration deadline for the virtual career fair is noon on Friday October 14.
So right before white cane awareness day.
We are also having a fearless job interview seminar parts one and two. Part one will be October 6, and part two will be October 13. Which will be offered virtually and will give information to job seekers about the application on process, the job search process, and strategies for effectively managing those as blind people.
You can learn more about all of these opportunities by visiting nfb.org.
It you are tuned into Zoom we will give you the direct link right now for the career fair information.
If you are interested, I would encourage you to sign up soon.
We have talked a number of times at our convention and on the release about our work to get the federal social security administration to make its check in kiosks accessible. The National Federation of the Blind continues to seek information about the accessibility of social security administration visitor intake processes.
If you have visited an SSA field office, since their reopening in April of 2022, we would like you to -- for that matter if you have not visited but plan to visit an office and would like to be part of our testing program, we would like you to reach out again to Valerie Yingling in our legal office. Extension 2440 or [email protected] so we can give you the specifics on the information we are looking for.
We would like feedback about the intake process and about what your experience was, whether someone helps you. Whether you encountered an inaccessible kiosk. Whether you had to resolve problems with giving your social security number to personnel there. All of this information will help us hold the social security administration accountable.
Now the National Federation of the Blind has a pre authorized contribution program, which is a way to make a monthly contribution to support the work that we do to support blind equality every day.
These contributions can be as little as five dollars a month and you can sign up on our website.
I want to call out and celebrate a couple of new chapters that have begun contributing to the PAC program during the last month. First of all from the NFB of Ohio our Ohio Association of Guide Dog Users. And from the NFB of Nevada our Northern Nevada Chapter. Thank you to both of these chapters for being the newest to contribute to our pre authorized contribution program. You can learn more at NFB.org/pac.
Another important program we have is our dream makers circle. This is a way to indicate that you are going to leave an end of life gift to the National Federation of the Blind. It is a great way to designate the Federation as part of your legacy. And recently, we brought on to the dream makers circle Doris and D Curtis Willoughby of Della vista Arkansas to the Dream Makers Circle.
This is an important one. You may recall Doris Willoughby passed away earlier this year. Curtis joined the dream makers circle in honor of Doris and commemorate her work in the blindness field and honor her memory.
So I would like to welcome the memory and work of Doris and Curtis Willoughby to the dream makers circle.
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.
Now Pam I think that is what I have for the moment on this release so I am going to turn it over to you for the next part of our journey.
PAM ALLEN: All right thank you President Riccobono and I want to thank everyone who took part in our poll. We had great participation and our part question involved how much involvement do you have in city government? So -- our top winner was not at all. So we have, people need to step up in city government and get involved. We have about a third of people said just a little. So we definitely got to get busy on that.
Getting involved so that is another way for us to get the message out about the National Federation of the Blind.
Now this one probably will not surprise you President Riccobono. Which Mississippi born singer do you like listening to the most? We had BB King and faith Hill and Brandi. The top vote getter was Elvis.
MARK RICCOBONO: Lives on.
PAM ALLEN: Closely followed by faith Hill and BB King coming in third.
We have a lot of Elvis fans apparently.
Thank you everyone for taking part in our poll and thank you for sending in questions. We are so excited to have some live questions from our audience members.
And our first question in addition to those that have been sent in, our first question is coming to us from our immediate past President of the Mississippi affiliate and a graduate of the Louisiana center for the blind.
I know you are out there Patrina.
Front and center.
So Patrina's question, as we are here kicking off Blindness Equality Achievement month which is it imperative for the NFB to be involved with the state at this time?
MARK RICCOBONO: Great question Patrina.
he power of the National Federation of the Blind is that we are a coordinated organization. And we recognize that when blind people in Mississippi are struggling that has implications for blind people in Louisiana, and Texas and Maryland and Alaska that we are all in this together.
And in our Mississippi affiliate we recognize that especially here in the Jackson community, blind people are disproportionately affected by situations like the water crisis here.
We recognize that for blind people it is not simple a water crisis it is a transportation crisis. Sure if you have easy transportation you can get access to community resources. But blind people don't have access to good transportation. And that is why we think it is important to be involved in the work that happens in Mississippi and we know that when the members of our Mississippi, Jackson Federation family are taken care of that they are going to step up when we need to help our members in Florida. Or when we need to show up in Washington D.C. to support -- to push against the bad court ruling.
We recognize we are all in this together. And that has the potential to help change legislation.
People in Mississippi have shown up to meetings to talk to members of Congress about our bills at the national level. We are all in this together. We are a family and that is why we think Mississippi like our other affiliates is an important place to invest our time, energy and imagination.
PAM ALLEN: Thank you for that question.
We have another question, another alum.
Tameka Williams is here -- chapter President of Mobile and Tameka is a proud mom leading the way, great representative for blind parents. And Tamek's question President Riccobono is, how important is it for Chapters and Affiliates to support one another.
MARK RICCOBONO: So tagging off Patrina's question -- you know the interaction between our affiliates and chapters is really critical right? Affiliates are only as strong as the local chapters are. And so it is important that our affiliates help us to have strong and vibrant chapters. But the flip side that is, chapters exist to help build affiliates. So -- goal is for us to have a statewide presence because when we can show up in any community with a statewide presence it gives us more strength, it gives us more resources, it gives us more diversity. And so -- the two work together.
And if we have strong chapters that are helping to build stronger affiliates, then those stronger affiliates can help us have an amazingly strong national organization. And so -- there needs to be a spirit of giving and sharing. That is why we encourage and want our chapters to be helping to build resources and expertise for our affiliates and to have our affiliates sharing with the national organization.
Again -- we are all in this together. And because we coordinate all of this work, we can bring it to scale.
So -- when we are dealing with a situation in Mississippi, like a teacher that is being discriminated against, we can bring the expertise of cases that we have had before in Maryland or Colorado for teachers in those states. So by sharing and working together, we get a lot more done and can bring more expertise than we could by ourselves.
PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much.
And we recognize -- thankful for superintendent Jeremy Stinson here with us and thank you for the hosting our Presidential Release today. Dr. Stinson would like to know, what are things the National Federation of the Blind is doing for parents and children.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you for the question and if we could give him a round of applause as a thanks for generously hosting.
We hope the Mississippi school will benefit from some of the water -- if the school is in need of water we would love for you to have some of it.
It is a great question. And as someone who ran a school for the blind myself it is a really important question.
You know the biggest thing that the National Federation of the Blind offers students and families is a unified community of resources. If there is anything you want to do, as a blind person, if there is anything you want to know as a parent of a blind child, the network, the community, of the national federation of the blind, is available to you. You can tap into it. It is a tremendous source of lived experience.
But also, advocacy. I know that we do work in so many places on behalf of young people. Where blind people -- advocates are going to IEP meetings and they can slam their fists on the table and say no.
One hour of week is not okay for Braille instruction. And that is acceptable. They can do that because they get to leave and they can be the bad guy when it is not so easy for the parent or sometimes the teacher to do that.
More than that we have publications to help parents. We support future reflections the widest distributed magazine for parents and educators. We support programs to teach kids directly like our STEM to youth science programs or Braille enrichment for literacy and learning program. We help to get Braille books and styluses and free white canes to families. All of these things done free of charge because we believe so strongly in promoting independence for the next generation.
But also all of our advocacy work benefits the next generation right? The web accessibility act that I talked about earlier is going to create a brighter future for the students who are coming up now who won't hit their head against the computer keyboard with some of the barriers that we have been experiencing for a long time.
So community I would say is the biggest benefit. But also another big benefit is we are training and helping to strengthen the next generation of educators of blind children. I had the opportunity yesterday to speak with our new cohort for our Teachers of Tomorrow program that kicked off at our national office, and in fact they are back at our Jernigan Institute, tuned in live so hi to the Teachers of Tomorrow program in Baltimore.
But we are sharing our positive philosophy and high expectations and our community, with the next generation of teachers so that they can help to raise the strongest, most outgoing, most ready to tackle the world blind students.
And we are just ready to support what they are going it do in the future so that is just a few things.
The last thing I would say is, I would encourage you regardless of your age, regardless of even if you are just a parent of a blind child, become a member of the National Federation of the Blind. It will benefit you and we need your talents to be part of our work to change what it means to be blind in society.
PAM ALLEN: Now President Riccobono speaking of the next generation -- I know we have students here with us from the Mississippi School for the Blind and we have gotten great questions from them.
So I know that Huntley is here.
MARK RICCOBONO: Where is Huntley.
PAM ALLEN: This is a great question. I think President Riccobono is going to love this. Huntley is in fourth grade. One of the ways they like to destress and relax is by listening to "shake it off" by Taylor Swift.
Listening and dancing too.
MARK RICCOBONO: This is not going to require me to dance is it?
PAM ALLEN: So Huntley would like to know what do you do to shake it off?
MARK RICCOBONO: Great I don't have to dance thank you Huntley that is a great question and Pam is going to sing "shake it off" later.
PAM ALLEN: That is the karaoke part.
MARK RICCOBONO: Leading in karaoke later. For me a couple of things I would say, number one especially with the pandemic I have been dedicated to getting my 10,000 steps every day. I go out for walks and it helps me appreciate my neighborhood. The park near my house and those things and to be more present with those community spaces that are treated as functional. I have to go through the park to get to McDonald's.
So that is one thing I do to clear my mind and also I pretend to play guitar. I say pretend because I don't practice enough. It is a good way for me to let go, and be a little silly sometimes so I do that as well.
I have three kids so that is my shake it off. If you want to -- a group of folks that can make you laugh and you can do silly things with. That is what my kids do. I try to tell them dad jokes which doesn't help sometimes.
So those are the things I would say.
I think I would encourage you to find ways to shake it of yourself that are authentic to what you would like to do that is great.
Thank you for being here.
PAM ALLEN: Great question. We will always think of you when we listen to that song.
Now Jeremiah in the third grade and an accomplished gymnast -- he would love to know did you like doing things like that? Tumbling and hand stands? What kinds of things did you like to do as a child.
MARK RICCOBONO: I am not encouraging you to do any of these things at home? Hand stands no. I don't think I perfected a hand stand. I liked doing cartwheels. I did enjoy cartwheels I would not do one now but only because I have changed in my pockets.
When I was a kid I loved spending time outside. I loved climbing trees. I loved skate boarding. I was not very good but I tried. I loved riding my bike. I jumped out of windows. I don't understand why we jumped out of windows. It was strange -- outside stuff -- I loved building with Legos so you can find YouTube videos of me building with Legos it is great to develop the talents and keep working on the hand stands up to high school and beyond. It is a great way to continue to keep your body in shape.
Third grade that's impressive.
PAM ALLEN: So you can see -- we have great leaders of tomorrow already starting out with Huntley and Jeremiah. Thank you for those great questions.
We have time for a couple more President Riccobono.
The next question is from Julie and she would like an update on how we are continuing to hold Uber accountable for the continued denial of rides to guide dog users and blind people in general. She indicates she has heard the Department of Justice is taking complaints from people with disabilities that have been denied. Can we get an update in that regard?
MARK RICCOBONO: Rideshare companies, Uber and Lyft have been challenging to deal with in this regard. We have had various approaches over a number of years working to hold them accountable. Through agreements and through the courts with, I would say limited success.
So Julie to your question, number one we do coordinate with the United States Department of Justice.
We talked with staff regularly about things of interest to the Federation that we know are of interest to the Department of Justice and we coordinate to make sure that the government has the information that we have.
Also -- we have been meeting with both Lyft and Uber to try to push them even harder on these issues.
I can tell you that, as a matter of fact -- timely question, Uber was at our national headquarters yesterday for a meeting. You notice I celebrated that Lyft and Uber did support blind people in Jackson with rideshare credits and we do appreciate them for that. However -- we have been very clear that this is not an opportunity for them to buy out of providing equal access to blind people who use guide dogs. In fact -- very much the opposite. We are having these conversations, we are not in a position to say publicly where we are in those negotiations. But you can be certain that we will get Uber and Lyft to an outcome that the blind of America can be proud of and can stand behind and enforce. However it is going to take us continuing to report and enforce drivers that discriminate against guide dog users and that just speaks to why we need to continue to promote our movement and our work beyond Blind Equality Achievement Month.
PAM ALLEN: And we have a question from Cody and others that expressed concern about the Federation family impacted by hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico and hurricane Ian in Florida. So are there any ways that we can help?
MARK RICCOBONO: It is a great question. We continue to be in touch with our affiliates in Puerto Rico and Florida and we know from previous natural disasters we have dealt with, hurricanes or tornados in Louisiana -- that it takes a week or more to figure out how people have been impacted, especially if they evacuated the area.
They have no idea what the state of their house is. So we continue to be in touch are our Affiliates and talk to the Affiliate Presidents, where we identify where there are needs that blind people have that are not served by the community. We figure out how to mobilize the Federation to help out.
We appreciate the continued outreach. And I know I heard from our Florida President a day ago. Very appreciative of all of those in the Federation that have reached out. It takes time in natural disaster situations for us to get information about where the real needs are.
Especially as we find places where there are specific needs blind people have. I know in Louisiana we were able to help a number of blind people that lost technology due to storm damage, and obviously access technology is very expensive and difficult to replace. We will figure out the resources to do that. So rest assured that if we find those things, we will put a call out to our chapters and affiliates to support that.
We have a relief fund from previous funds that we are using to support work here in Jackson and as we find needs the Federation community will be called on to support that.
And the other is to continue the positive thoughts and prayers. I know it is appreciated and I know reaching out to our Affiliates to express your support means a lot to them.
PAM ALLEN: Thank you and I want to thank everyone here in the room and all those who submitted questions. If we did not have a chance to answer your questions today our outstanding communications team will follow up with you directly so we appreciate everyone submitting the great comments and questions and thank you for all of the hospitality and strength and love the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi has shown to us and hosting from the Mississippi School for the Blind.
It is so great to be here and we see the power of the National Federation of the Blind.
Thank you so much and I want to toss it back to you President Riccobono.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you Pam.
I know the Louisiana Center has been doing challenge activities this week so to get back in the car and zip over here is another thing. So thank you to you Roland for being here.
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.
Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.