This 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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PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Greetings, fellow federationists! Today is Thursday, November 3rd, 2022, and this is Presidential Release number 521! Live from San Diego, California!
Live from the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of California, and this month, November 16th, we will be celebrating our 82nd year as the organized blind movement and, of course, California has long been a leader of our organization, going back to our founding, and our founding president, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. It is great to be here with the Federation family here in California for this important anniversary month.
Speaking of leadership and celebrating, some of us think of this time of year as the season of giving, and it is a great time to think about how we can contribute to others who are in need, but we should not forget that our mission in the National Federation of the Blind also continues to need support, and thanks to the generous challenge grant from Vispero, every dollar contributed between now and the end of the year can be doubled up to $50,000, so it's really important that each of us urge our friends and family to help promote the work of the federation by contributing to this mission.
Of course, you can contribute, too, but I would encourage us to share the opportunity with our friends and family, and to let them know that contributions will be doubled. It's really easy to make a contribution to the federation, just as a reminder. You can visit our online donation page, www.nfb.org/donate. People can call our main office, 410-659-9314, and dial extension 2430. Or, of course, people can send a check to our national office at 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21230. Please help promote the opportunity, and thank you again to Vispero for supporting the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
Now, November 8th is quickly approaching and that is the general election, and this is an important time for us to get out, as blind people, and vote, or well for that matter, you can stay in and vote, but the important thing is to vote! We need blind people to be part of the process.
You can make your voice heard by casting a vote, but you can do better than that. But the first step is to cast your vote, and there are many ways in most jurisdictions to cast a vote, but when you cast your vote, we want you to tell us about your experience, because that data will help us.
I want to remind all members of the federation that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that blind and low-vision voters must be provided an opportunity to vote privately and independently. That is, equivalent to the opportunities provided to nondisabled voters.
We have been working tirelessly to protect the rights of blind voters and to expand those opportunities where it has been limited.
After participating in the 2022 general elections, we need all blind voters to fill out our Blind Voters Survey. This helps us gather data to hold the government and others accountable for the experience of blind people.
So whether you have a great experience voting, or a horrible experience voting, we need you to fill out our survey. Also, I would remind you that, of course, there are barriers to voting, but you should not let those barriers stop you from casting your vote. You should cast your vote, and then you should tell us what the problems were. That data can help us.
Now there are two different versions of the survey. One is for voters who voted in person at a polling place, either early voting or on Election Day, and the other survey is for those who voted absentee, by mail, whatever that system is in your jurisdiction. The surveys are available, you can get to them on our website, www.nfb.org/vote.
Also, I want to note that the surveys are available in Spanish, and if you need assistance filling out the online survey, we have staff standing by to help you do that, and you can fill out the survey as soon as you've voted. Both Lou Ann Blake and Jeff at our national office are available to help you if you have trouble with the online survey. Lou Ann is available at extension 2221, and Jeff is at extension 2206.
Now, if you are going to vote in person, you might need some assistance with getting there, and thanks to our partnership with LYFT, LYFT is offering federation members a special code to offset the cost of transportation to get to the polls to vote during this election time.
The code you can use is NFBVOTE2022. So all one word, NFBVOTE2022. You can put that into the LYFT app and you can get credit to support your transportation costs. There also is a link, which we'll have on our website if you want to use the link to get that verification code. The code is valid for $30 in transportation costs with LYFT to get to the polls. It's a great partnership. We appreciate that LYFT continues to support getting blind people out to polling places.
The code is valid from now through Election Day, and it is only offered to a limited number of members. It's a healthy number, but it is a limited number, so please use the code because it helps us show that LYFT is making a difference in helping blind people get out to vote.
Now for many of you, that may raise the question of, well, but, what about both Uber and LYFT? How are they doing on responding to our resolutions about the treatment of individuals who use guide dogs? Well, I can talk to you about that.
Now for Uber, we have had a number of meetings with representatives from Uber over the past three months. And, of course, the treatment that blind people have received from the ride-share services is not a new issue. We've worked on it in many different dimensions.
Uber has made improved efforts at driver education during the last little while. And they have specifically been training drivers on the requirements for carrying passengers who use service animals. Specifically, if a rider reports a denial, there will be a thorough investigation, and the drivers will be suspended during that investigation.
If Uber determines that the denial was a result of a guide dog, then the driver will be permanently removed from the platform.
Now we should believe it when it happens. That means we're asking all Federation members with service animals to try it out. We need you to try it out. Test it. See if it's working and during this month of November, I know it's frustrating, there's been denials, it makes you not want to use the services anymore, but if we don't test it, and give them the data, we can't hold them accountable. So we need members to test the Uber platform during this month to see if there have, in fact, been changes and improvements in the driver education.
If you experience a denial with Uber, it is critical to report it to Uber immediately. After reporting it to Uber, please also share that report with the National Federation of the Blind through the form that can be found at www.nfb.org/legal.
It's great to report it to Uber, but if we get that data through our form, we can use that in our negotiations with Uber as well to hold them accountable. Now that's Uber.
Now LYFT, we're still working on. We have had fewer meetings with LYFT and so we are still in negotiations. We would say that it's a little bit behind the curve of where we are with Uber, but we are hopeful that we will have a similar update regarding LYFT in the near future. We know that this is very frustrating. I've experienced the denials myself traveling with people.
I know it has been a headache for lots of blind people. We're working hard to implement the resolutions and to hold these companies accountable, but we need the data to do it.
Now if you have questions about this or want more information, you can reach out to Al Elia who has been working on this on behalf of the National Association of Guide Dog Users. His e-mail address is [email protected]. Or you can also call him at 346-439-7444. Or you can reach out to Justin Young at our national office, [email protected], or at our main number, extension 2210.
Now let's talk a little bit about Braille.
It is now the time of the year that we talk about our partnership with the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults to promote the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. You can applaud for that.
The Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest is a great way for Braille readers to track the number of minutes they spend on reading between December 5, 2022, and January 23rd, 2023, and in that process, you can win prizes, just for working on Braille reading.
Now there are contests for Braille readers who are in grades K-12, and there are also contests for adults who are beginner, intermediate, or advanced Braille readers.
So we have three adult contests this year in the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. Registration will be open later this month, and I encourage all Federation members to consider registering to use this as an opportunity to promote Braille and enhance Braille reading amongst our chapters, especially with new Braille readers.
For more information on the registration process, you can visit actionfund.beanstack.org. Beanstack is the platform we're using, so actionfund.beanstack.org to get more information.
Also this is the time of year when we talk about a very important partnership we have with Santa Claus to provide Braille letters from Santa to blind children. Santa is very busy this time of year, and so he has asked us if we can help provide Braille letters for Santa.
And in the last couple of years, we have expanded this also to provide winter letters, winter celebration letters, to those who might not recognize Santa Claus or the Christmas holiday. So we want to offer this to families who have blind children up to age ten. You can visit the NFB website and you can sign up to get a Braille letter from Santa, or a winter celebration letter, and these are available in both English and Spanish.
The letters all come with some cool activities for the children, as well, and to make it accessible to the non-Braille readers, we include a printed copy because we believe in equal access, right?
Www.nfb.org is the place to find the letters. You want to get your orders in so that they arrive in time for the end of December.
Now, we talked about on the last Presidential Release and we've been working hard on the website and Software Applications Accessibility Act, and I want to thank Federation members for your swift outreach to members of Congress. Literally hundreds of calls, e-mails have been made to support this important piece of legislation.
Please continue to keep the pressure on, although we are going into an election and the end of the congressional cycle, your pressure is really, really making a difference.
Absolutely. The Honorable Tony Coelho has said of this bill, that "this bill is as significant as the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act."
And coming from Tony, who is truly the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this is a significant endorsement. The NFB has been coordinating outreach efforts with other organizations of the blind and for the blind. We've also been doing outreach to some of the major tech companies in this regard, but your direct outreach to Congress is really important.
I do have a number of Federation family notes for this release. The first comes from Minnesota, where I regret to inform you of the passing of Susan Leiker on October 16th. Susan is the twin sister of Judy Sanders, who you may remember won our Jacobus tenBroek Award at this year's convention. I urge you to keep Judy and her family and friends of Susan in your thoughts and prayers.
From Georgia, we have learned of the passing of Everett Davis on October 9th of this year. Everett moved to Georgia from Chicago, Illinois, and was a long-standing member of the NFB chapter on the south side of Atlanta. Please keep Everett in your thoughts and prayers.
And from Nebraska, Linda Mentink reports the passing of John Wardman on Sunday, October 9th, 2022. He was a member of the Columbus area chapter since September of 2017. John was 84 years old. His wife, Brenda, continues to provide service to the Federation as secretary of the chapter.
I encourage you to keep all of these Federationists and those I may not know about in your thoughts and prayers.
Well, it's been a pleasure to bring this Presidential Message from the NFB of California. Thank you, California for hosting.
(Cheering and applause)
As we come to the close of this Presidential Release, I do think about the time of Thanksgiving and being grateful for so many things, but most importantly, the true support community that we have in the National Federation of the Blind.
I wish that others had access to the kind of network and community that we have in this organization. I think it is sometimes too easy to overlook what a true gift it is that not just that we do the work together, but that we have the support of each other, not just in the good times that we get to celebrate, but in the hard times.
And I know when I'm out traveling and I get into situations which are frustrating to me, I'm grateful that I can go to my Federation community and get recharged and remember that blindness is not the characteristic that defines me. It's the low expectations that we have to overcome by working together.
And so I'm really grateful to each and every one of you for the work, the commitment and the heart that you put into our movement.
And so as I come to the close of this release, that's what I'm thinking about, especially as we have had a truly special and motivating year in our organization. I'm sure we'll talk more about that on next month's release.
To close this release, we have some customary endings from some of our friends here in the great State of California.
So I'll leave you with let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.
CHILD VOICE 1: Hi, what kind of dog does a magician have? A labracadabra.
CHILD VOICE 2: What do you call a witch that only eats sand? A sandwich.
CHILD VOICE 3: Hi, my name is Kylee. And I'm going to tell you a joke. What's Beethoven's favorite fruit? Banana-nana!
Narrator: The proceeding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, President National Federation of the Blind, [email protected], 410-659-9314, www.nfb.org. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.