Presidential Release 522, December 2022 (English Transcript)

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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Audio from the National Federation of the Blind's Contributor Thank You video:

VOICE 1: Thank you.

VOICE 2: Thank you.

VOICE 3: Thank you.

VOICE 4: Thank you very much.

NARRATOR: You make it possible to build connections through our national convention.  General session audience cheered as blind veterans walk to the stage and speakers present at a podium.

You make it possible to build connections in community through mentoring.

AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Blind mentors instruct how to pour drinks and cut a banana.

VOICE 5: We thank you for helping us to advocate for ourselves and one another.

AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Blind women talked together on a bus.

VOICE 6: Thank you.

VOICE 7: We thank you for helping us to gain equal access to the ballot box.

AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Blind man and woman use a ballot marking device separately and independently.

VOICE 8: Thank you.  You support our advocacy to innovate for the future and our blind driver challenge.

AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Dan Parker gets into his race car and drives.  The crew cheers.

VOICE 9: Thank you.

VOICE 10: You support our advocacy to teach our children and support Braille literacy.

Audio Description: Blind children from NFB BELL Academy play, write and talk together.

VOICE 11: Thanks so much.

MARK RICCOBONO: I'm Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, and our community of supporters know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future.  Every day, we raise the expectations of blind people because we recognize that low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.  You can live the life you want, and blindness is not what holds you back.

We cannot thank you enough for your support of our organization, and we promise to continue the faith that you place in us by transforming dreams into reality in a bigger way in the next year.  Thank you.

NARRATOR:  National Federation of the Blind, live the life you want.

End of Video

FEMALE VOICE: Presidential Release Instructions in Spanish

MUSIC: "Live the Life You Want"

PAM ALLEN: Good evening, my federation family!  It's so great to be with everyone for our December presidential release where we're broadcasting live from members hall.

[Applause]

We're so excited to welcome everyone in person and everyone who is joining us for this very special evening, so thank you so much for being here tonight.  It is now my pleasure to introduce our dedicated and loving leader, our president, Mark Riccobono.

MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you, Pam.  It's great to be here with you in person again.

PAM ALLEN: It's great.

MARK RICCOBONO: And we've got a nice audience.

PAM ALLEN: They're ready.  They're very enthusiastic.

MARK RICCOBONO: And then we've got some other folks on the other side of the room that are still celebrating.

PAM ALLEN: We have lots of them.

MARK RICCOBONO: It's great to be here.  Well, with that, should we just dive right in?  We didn't have any polls or anything.  But the members hall is beautifully decorated for the holiday season, and I'm really thankful to be here.  So let's get started.

Greetings, fellow Federationists.  Today is Thursday, December 1, 2022 and this is presidential release number 522.
It is hard to believe that we are already in December, the final month of the year, and what a great year it has been for the National Federation of the Blind, really looking forward to ending the year with a great meeting of our board of directors, who is here.  In fact, they're here live at this presidential release.

They follow cues very well, too.

I'm going to dive right in because we've got a lot of to talk about on this release and the first thing is to talk about lifting up the National Federation of the Blind.  You know, Tuesday of this week is generally, known as giving Tuesday and on this giving Tuesday, 2022, the Lyft company, ride-share company Lyft, added the National Federation of the Blind to its roundup program.  This is really exciting.

There are something like I think only ten charities, maybe one or two more than that, and the National Federation of the Blind is one.  You can now add the NFB to receive contributions from every Lyft ride you take, just by rounding up to the nearest dollar.

More importantly, you can promote this with your friends and family.  Anybody can do this.  You don't have to be a member.  You just have to go into the Lyft app.  So I encourage members not only to join in doing this with your Lyft account, but please promote it widely.  It doesn't cost us anything, and every penny adds up very quickly.

It's really simple.  You just need to go into your Lyft profile, navigate to the Donate item, and when you choose that, choose National Federation of the Blind and once you've done that, make sure to share it with all your friends.  I know it works.  I went into the Lyft app on Tuesday to see if we were listed yet and found us and it only took about a minute and a half.

So please help to lift up the National Federation of the Blind.  Really exciting new initiative.
And thank you to Lyft for including us in that important program.

The National Federation of the Blind is investigating the accessibility of Indeed.  Indeed is an online job system, and we're investigating the accessibility of Indeed's pre-employment assessment tools.  If you have been invited by an employer to complete a pre-employment assessment through Indeed, or if you have wanted to, or attempted to, complete a pre-employment assessment as a way of broadening your resume and you've experienced issues, please contact Valerie Yingling in our legal office.  Her e-mail address is [email protected]

You can also reach her at our national office where this is one of the new investigations we're doing of the Indeed pre-employment assessments.  We would like to hear from you about it.

Now we are just a couple of months away from the 2023 Washington Seminar!  Our first time in person in a number of years and we're really looking forward to doing what we need to do on Capitol Hill with a new Congress to move the legislative agenda of blind Americans.

Please plan to attend the Washington Seminar by coordinating with your affiliate president, or if not your affiliate president, if someone else is leading your delegation for Capitol Hill.  You can find the hotel reservation information on our website and you should make your hotel reservations ASAP before the room block is gone.

The booking link for the Holiday Inn is on our Washington Seminar web page, which can be found at www.nfb.org/Washington-seminar.  Now that web page is also going to take you to updated information as we add various information about our legislative priorities, once we settle on them.  Other information including the agenda for Washington Seminar, all of that will be at www.nfb.org/Washington-seminar.  So I encourage you to continue to watch that page, but please get your reservations in soon for being with us at the Holiday Inn.  Looking forward to the great gathering on Monday, January 30th.  It's going to be great.

It is the giving season and I know many of you might be looking for some gift ideas, and you want to get your Independence Market orders in soon so that they can arrive at your door in a timely fashion before the holidays.
I do want to let you know that we are going to be making some price increases in 2023 in our Independence Market, like all aspects of the economy, we've been finding some difficulty in getting materials into our market and prices have gone up.  We work really hard to only pass on the costs that we pay to those who shop at the Independence market.  So I want to let you know about prices that will be going up on January 1st, because you may want to get some items before the end of the year.

Our mini telescoping and telescoping canes will be going up to $40 each.  Our folding canes will be going to $45 each. Our cane tips will be going to $2.25.  And these new prices as I say will be in effect starting on January 1 -- well, actually, January 3rd, because we're closed on the 1st and the 2nd, but January 3rd, 2023.

So get your orders in this year, and you can look forward to a bunch of new things happening with the Independence Market in 2023.

Today, we are also launching our scholarship application for 2023.  Now available until March 31st, 2023.  The chapters and affiliates should encourage students, blind students, to start their applications now.  You don't have to wait until March 30th to get your application going.

You want to check out the checklist online and see what has to be filled out.  We will be again giving away 30 scholarships, each valued at $8,000 apiece and this program is a great way to outreach to blind students about the National Federation of the Blind.

So I would encourage you to promote the program.  Help students to know what is required in filling it out.  You can find a detailed frequently asked questions document online at our scholarship page and please help as many students as possible apply.

The website is www.nfb.org/scholarships and I'm looking forward to the scholarship committee having a very, very difficult time selecting 30 individuals from the outstanding applicants there.
And keep in mind, this is also a good way to promote state-level scholarships as well when you're promoting our national scholarship program.  Now this is really exciting.

This evening, I have something very special to share with you, to launch on this release here at the end of the year.  For 2023, we have created three new video public service announcements, and we will be unveiling the first of them, the debut, right here.

The themes for those include connecting to our community; families being together; and your eyesight may change, but your dreams don't have to.

The goal is to get these video PSAs played in the various places we can and once we launch them in 2023, we will help members know how to promote them.  We'll also be promoting them through channels that we have established through our national organization.

I want to take a moment to thank members of the NFB of Texas for participating in the creation of our PSAs.  Also support from our performing arts division and Roy Samuelson who's helped us with this, as well.
You will notice that this may be the first time ever that a public service announcement has been built from the beginning to include audio description, right in the public service announcement.

So without further ado, I would like to share with you on this release the first public service video announcement that we will be releasing in 2023.

VIDEO AUDIO:

NARRATOR: All families are different.

AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Women playing cards.

NARRATOR: And some have parents or children with little to no eyesight.

AUDIO DESCRIPTION: A blind mom cooks with her daughter.

NARRATOR: What counts is being together.

AUDIO DESCRIPTION: A blind dad with his wife and baby play in a swimming pool and then walk together.

NARRATOR: Learn more at blind.org.  National Federation of the Blind, live the life you want.

END OF VIDEO

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Great work by our team to put together this PSA and there will be some more coming, and it's really exciting, and I think the innovation of the built-in audio description is really cool, too.

A number of other announcements to share with you and I want to give you an update on the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act that is S 4998 and HR 9021.  We recently gained two new cosponsors in the Senate and five new cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

Look, we're coming down to the end of the congressional time period here, but every cosponsor counts for our momentum going into the next Congress, so congratulations.

We're making really good progress for a bill that was just introduced a month ago or two months ago, and I think this is going to help us really move some things forward in the next Congress.  So keep the pressure on members of Congress to support this bill.

Also recently, on November 17th, Representative Anna Eshoo of California and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act in both chambers of Congress.  This is HR 9333.  That's hard to say.  9333, and S 5121.  These bills are best characterized as an extension of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which was passed by Congress a number of years ago.  This bill would extend and strengthen the requirement for audio description by requiring all television programs to be audio-described with certain exceptions.

Also, the bill would create another audio channel specifically for the use of audio description.  Some markets face trouble with the secondary audio channel being used for other purposes.

We are in support of this bill and have written a letter to that effect so I would encourage you to also promote this bill with members of Congress if you get a chance.

In addition, we've been working on other matters.  The United States Access Board recently released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking as it relates to the accessibility of self-service kiosks and the Federation submitted comments on accessibility and our opinion about how acceptability should be implemented.

In our comments, we urge the Access Board to incorporate section 508 regulations and the web content accessibility guidelines, as well.  We further urge that the Access Board should require 100% of kiosks to be accessible.  Federation members will remember that in past efforts we've made, sometimes, people have suggested that some small percentage of kiosks should be accessible.  We've told the Access Board 100% is the minimum.

You can find our full comments on this on our policy statement page of our website.  So you can go to www.nfb.org and find those comments if you would like.

On this live release, I would like to encourage those of you who voted, but who did not take the time to fill out our voting survey, you've still got a few more days.  We're going to leave it open until December 8, so please go fill out our voting survey, www.nfb.org/vote, whether you voted in person or are using an absentee ballot, whether you had a good experience or a bad experience.  We really need you to fill out the survey.  This data is very helpful in our work.

Now, I want to talk to you about the preauthorized contribution program and I should take a moment to say that I would like to extend my warmest wishes for good health to Scott Labarre who has been in the hospital.  He has served for a long time as our PAC chairman and Scott, if you're listening tonight, I know that myself and the crowd here is all pulling for you.  We're thinking about you.  And we're going to keep the PAC plan going for you.  The preauthorized contribution program is a way to make a monthly contribution to the federation, and I want to thank the following parts of the Federation for recently joining new PAC contributions, from the NFB of Arkansas, from the NFB of Nevada, the northern Nevada chapter, and the NFB of Ohio, the Association of Guide Dog Users.  So thank you for getting on the PAC plan. You can go to www.nfb.org/PAC to find more information.

I do have a few Federation family notes, and the first that I want to share with you is about our Dream Maker Circle.  Our Dream Maker Circle is a way to make an end of life gift commitment to the legacy of the National Federation of the Blind, and I want to thank Elizabeth A. Jones of Smithfield, Virginia, who has become recently the newest member of our Dream Maker Circle.  I also understand in the last month, that we've had two other anonymous individuals join the Dream Maker Circle.  So it's okay that you haven't wanted to share your name, but thank you.  You know who you are.
If you want to join the Dream Maker Circle, it really makes a difference.  It's simply making a commitment to leaving us a gift upon your passing, and we hope that's a long time in the future, but this list is really important because it encourages other people to get on the list.

You can talk to Patti Chang at our national office about this.  She can be found at extension 2422 and our main number, 410-659-9314.  Or you can reach her at [email protected]

I do have a few sad notes to share with you on this release.  I regret to have to tell you of the passing of Karen Ashurst who passed away on November 12th, 2022.  Karen was the wife of long-time Federation member Michael Hingson. Michael and Karen were just 15 days from their 40th wedding anniversary.  So I would encourage you to keep Michael in your thoughts and prayers.

Also from California, we learned of the passing of Judith Tunell who passed away on August 25th.  She had been a member of the Federation since 1990, joining in Dallas, Texas.  She served in our Arizona affiliate for a time before coming to be part of our at-large chapter in California.  I would invite you to keep her husband, Bruce, in your thoughts and prayers.

From Maryland, we've learned of the passing of Brenda Deloach, who passed away earlier in November.  She was a long-time member of the greater Baltimore chapter.  Brenda was a teacher, and she was 74 years old.

From Iowa, I regret to inform you of the passing of Sandi Ryan who passed away on November 18th after a year-long battle with liver cancer.  Sandi was a long-time leader in Iowa and in our Diabetes Action Network.  She was a great chapter for many things, including access to medical devices, nonvisual access to medical devices, but also a true champion for Braille literacy.  She spent a lot of time advocating for Braille and helping members get access to education.

From Arizona, I regret to tell you of the passing of Carol MacIntyre who passed away suddenly on November 6th.  Carol was the mother of Katelyn MacIntyre, who serves as president of our performing arts division.  You may have met Carol during one of our national conventions.  She was always helping out somewhere with the division, and we're very sorry to hear of her loss so I would encourage you to keep the MacIntyre family in your thoughts and prayers and I would encourage us to use this moment to reflect on all of the Federationists who we've lost this year, and continue to send blessings to their families, but also recommit ourselves to moving forward in their spirit in 2023 for the National Federation of the Blind.

Pam, I think that's what I have at the moment.  I'm going to pass it back to you.

PAM ALLEN: Okay.  Great.  Thank you so much, President Riccobono, and I want to thank everyone who has submitted questions tonight through the various ways, including those who have submitted questions in person.
We have a lot of great questions tonight, President Riccobono so we'll go ahead and get started.  I hope you're ready.
So our first question relates to accessible COVID tests.  And we know that the National Federation of the Blind has been working on this very important issue and we have a question about progress on that and when we think accessible tests might be available in retail stores and pharmacies?

MARK RICCOBONO: Well, this is a question I can't predict.  We do -- we are continuing to work with the National Institutes of Health programs.  In fact, we have a number of members who we've recommended to NIH to serve as consultants to the program.  And, in fact, this evening, we had with us here at our event at the center the good folks from Alume, I don't know if they're still here, but they're a local Maryland company that has one of the more accessible tests out there.  This is a problem.

You can still get some of the Alume tests I believe from the government, but they're in short supply.  We are working with government officials and the FDA to make sure that accessible tests come to market as quickly as possible.  I think when you consider that a year ago, the government was doing nothing about making tests fully accessible to blind people, we have come a long way, but this is a slow process.

So I do encourage you to hang in there.  We are working on it and as soon as we have some news, we will certainly share it.  We continue to encourage government agencies and also private industry to spur on the development of fully accessible tests, and I think that day is going to come very soon.

PAM ALLEN: Okay.  Excellent.  We have a question about our tenBroek law symposium.

MARK RICCOBONO: The Jacobus tenBroek law symposium, our role, we started it.  We run it.  It's our conference.  It is the premier gathering for disability rights advocates, lawyers, really anybody that wants to be part of the disability rights legal movement comes together, right here at our Jernigan Institute.  Usually, as a two-day conference.

In the past, we have had some sessions that we offer virtually, but the big benefit, one of the big benefits of this conference, now going back I think 15 years is in addition to the quality of the presentations, the networking amongst disability rights advocates and attorneys.

A lot of the thinking about where to go next with disability rights in the law, in the advocacy work, in sharpening our tools for legal advocacy happen at our Jacobus tenBroek disability law symposium.  We put it together really to extend the work of Jacobus tenBroek who was the first president of the National Federation of the Blind, but who also was a constitutional law scholar, and who really helped to push the thinking about how to apply civil rights principles to disability.

And so if you know of people that want to get into disability rights, or lawyers who want to learn more about disability rights, it's really the premier gathering for that.  It's going to happen in March.
You can watch for more information on our website and really, the important thing is it helps to build a community that you can plug into around disability rights, and we know that in the federation, that community is really important.

PAM ALLEN: Excellent.

Okay.  We have someone really excited about coming to Washington Seminar and they're wondering what to expect.

MARK RICCOBONO: What to expect at your first Washington Seminar.  Well, that's a great question.  What to expect.  Well, first of all, we live in a nation where the people can really effect change in government, and that's really what our Washington Seminar is about.  It's great to get together with Federationists and you know you're going to have a very mini experience compared to what you have at the convention, but you still get that experience of coming into the hotel and having canes tapping all over the place and familiar voices and so you're going to get that community, but what's really special about the Washington Seminar is you know that everybody's coming together for a common purpose of making change in society.

And so the first thing to expect is that you should get connected with those who are going to lead the delegation for your affiliate.  You're not just coming by yourself.  You're part of a team for your affiliate.  You want to be a team going on the Hill to advocate for issues.  And so you should be prepared.

Certain states have multiple teams because they have many offices to cover.  Some affiliates have a very small team of individuals, so you should be prepared to work as a team number one.

Number two, you should be prepared to study the topics and there will be training opportunities during the course of Monday's Washington Seminar to get trained on the issues, to be really well versed on being able to talk about the issues in a succinct way.

When we get into a member of Congress, into their office, especially if it's with the member of Congress, we don't have a lot of time, right?  Because there's a lot of people that are knocking on that door.  And so we have to use our time effectively to be persuasive.

The benefit also we bring is our personal story, so you should be prepared to tell your story.  Sometimes, that means letting one of your colleagues on the team tell their story and we usually coordinate that, but be prepared to tell your story.

The other thing that I would say is the thing you should expect is if you've never been to Washington, D.C., if you've never walked into a congressional office building, people think oh, this is very intimidating.  Members of Congress. They work for us, right?  They work for us.  And so you should remember that when you walk in, you're the expert.  And that's really powerful because you know that in any congressional office you walk into, you know more than they do about blindness, right?  And you don't have to talk to them about economic policies or foreign trade; you're talking to them about a subject that you're definitely an expert in because you're living it.

And so you should expect to feel empowered to recognize that you are the expert in the room.  And that's pretty cool.
So Washington Seminar, it's a great, unique experience.  It is a lot of work.  Sometimes, it's a lot of walking.  Sometimes, it's a lot of waiting around for the next appointment.  But it's also a lot of fun.

PAM ALLEN: Can't wait.  Can't wait.  Our next question is from someone who's really excited learning about the National Federation of the Blind and they love the work we're doing because it reminds them about the importance of working together and that they are not the only blind person out there.

And they're wondering about different ways of staying in touch.  They're asking about our podcast, about other communication, ways that we in the National Federation of the Blind get our message out there.

MARK RICCOBONO: So we have many publications.  We do have a podcast, the nation's blind podcast, which you can get.  We also podcast our publication, the Braille Monitor, you can get the audio on podcast, as well.

Of course, we have NFBnet.org where we run something like 500 different e-mail listservs that you can be part of for all various specialized topics, but you can also just get our general announcements via e-mail.  It's a great way to get plugged in.  Of course, we communicate a lot of our message through social media these days, both Facebook and Twitter.  We're looking at other social media networks as they rise and fall, so to speak, so we're always looking at that.
Of course, our publications and local chapter meetings are really the best way to stay plugged in on a regular basis.  If you're tuned in now, that's great, but you should also consider coming to a local chapter meeting because you can get more in-depth on some of these topics and if you missed the live presidential release, you'll get the shorter version of the presidential release, so you know, we all have a responsibility if we're going to be well informed members of the community and what we need to do as blind people, building the organized blind movement, to find ways to be plugged in and there are lots of them today.  So there's lots of ways to get information.

Figure out what works best for you and I would say connect with people in your chapter to see what they do to keep up on information and help other people get connected, as well.

PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much.  Thanks to our communications team.  We have the editor for the Braille Monitor with us tonight.

MARK RICCOBONO: He's out there.

PAM ALLEN: And a question.  Speaking of communication and sharing our message, questions about how do people get the PSAs, the video PSAs?

MARK RICCOBONO: That's a great question.  We had some background music, I was trying to figure that out.  How do we get the PSAs?  Well, you can't get them yet.  So I can't tell you.  But when they'll be available, we'll tell you how to get them.  That was the way of saying I have no idea.

PAM ALLEN: We're building the demand.

MARK RICCOBONO: That's right.  They're not available yet, but they will be in 2023.  This is definitely hot off the presses.  In fact, there may still be some tweaks to the audio.  So this was the reveal, but you will get -- it will be available very soon.

PAM ALLEN: And we have a question about membership.  How can a person join the National Federation of the Blind?

MARK RICCOBONO: How do you join?  Well, you should.  There's many, many ways to join.  First of all, typically people join through their local chapter, and you can get connected with your local chapter by finding your state affiliate, if you go to www.nfb.org and go to the About page, you can find contact information for your state affiliate, and often the state affiliate website will lead you to your local chapter.  Reach out to the affiliate to learn about the closest chapter to where you live, and/or if there's an at-large chapter, you can also just join the affiliate as an at-large member and get plugged in that way.

You can also join one of our divisions, like the National Association of Blind Students, or our Educators Division, and at the national level, that's a good way to be connected with others who might be in a similar profession or similar life circumstances to you.  You can find contact information for the divisions on our website as well so there's many ways to join.  Keep in mind that to be a member, you do have to pay dues in a division or a chapter, and there's an onboarding process for individuals that have never been members before, and when you go through the onboarding process, you will get entered into our process at the national office here and we'll send you your new member packet, including your membership coin, I'm sure lots of people in the audience have their membership coins, I have mine right here, too.
So you should join.  And you need to pay membership dues every year.  You don't just pay your $5 once and you're done for life.  You need to reup every year, make that commitment, but the goal with membership fees is not to fundraise.  The goal is to make the commitment to be a member.  We certainly encourage people to make donations to the organization, but membership fees are not a way of fundraising for us.  It's simply a way to acknowledge that you want to be a member.

So I think a great New Year's resolution would be to join the organization, if you haven't already.  Last time I looked at the numbers, we had about 500 new members across the country this year, and we can do better next year so please join.

PAM ALLEN: Excellent.  So I think we have time for one more question, but before I share that, I want to thank everyone who submitted questions and again, so appreciate those submitted in person and the various other ways and thanks again, if we didn't have a chance to answer your question tonight, our amazing communications team will definitely be following up with you so thank you so much.  It's always great to have the interaction.

So President Riccobono, our last question for tonight comes from a teacher.  She says that she works with an 8-year-old named Sadie who is very excited about reading her Braille books for the upcoming Braille readers are leaders contest and Sadie would like to know what was your favorite book as a child?  And she's also very interested in wondering if you have ever read Harry Potter because if you haven't, they are awesome.

MARK RICCOBONO: (Laughs) Nice.  Well, two things.  The first book that came to mind honestly, as a favorite book is the Little Train That Could.  Now I don't know why that's the first book that came to mind, but that was the first one that came to mind when I listening to you read the question.

Here's the thing, Sadie and I'm really glad you're reading Braille at age 8.  I wasn't reading Braille at age 8.  I wasn't a reader.  I couldn't see to read print, and I didn't know that Braille was an option.  No one ever told me Braille was an option.

And so consequently, I didn't enjoy reading when I was a kid.  It wasn't about the books; it was about my ability to engage with the books.  And so I'm really proud that you are reading Braille at age 8, and that you can enjoy the books from 8 onward, because you're going to have a huge advantage in life that I didn't have until I met the National Federation of the Blind, and someone finally told me why I might want to learn Braille.

They told me they could teach me Braille when I was a senior in high school.  I thought about it for a second and a half and I couldn't come up for a reason why I would want to do that so I said no thank you.  Why was it up to me?  It's a great question.

So congratulations, Sadie and I wish you luck in the Braille readers are leaders contest.  Now I did eventually learn Braille, and so actually the Harry Potter books were something that I read in hard copy Braille, because of my experience in training at the Colorado Center for the Blind.
So that's to say to the rest of you that it's not too late.  If you haven't gotten Braille under your fingers, it's not too late.  And so I do enjoy the Harry Potter books, and hopefully Sadie, we'll have a chance to connect and have a butterbeer sometime.

PAM ALLEN: (Laughs) Well, thank you so much for being with us tonight.  Join the next presidential release that will be live on Wednesday, January 4th, via Zoom, the YouTube channel, our internet stream or by asking your Amazon device to open nation's blind.  You can contact President Riccobono at 410-659-9314, or via e-mail at [email protected]

Thank you, again so much for being with us tonight and President Riccobono, I'll turn it back to you.

MARK RICCOBONO: Great, thank you.  As we come to the close of this presidential release, I want to do a couple of things and the first is I would like to offer an opportunity to Pam Allen who is our chairperson of the board, first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind, to make any end of the year comments she would like to, to the members of the Federation, so Pam?

PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much President Riccobono and really excited.  I want to take a moment to recognize you and also, Melissa who is here with us tonight.

[Applause]

As we come together at the close of the year, it's been such an incredible year, and we've shown our strength and our resiliency and our love and our dedication to helping blind people live the lives they want and that wouldn't be possible without the leadership and dedication, the example of you and Melissa and of everyone here in this room and joining with us, listening tonight or listening throughout the month at chapter meetings, the power of our organization is in our members, and the love and dedication that we have and that we show to increasing opportunities.

And so I'm so grateful and so thankful and wish everybody as we come to the close of this year, look forward to 2023 joy and happiness as we work together to help blind people live the lives they want.  So thank you, President Riccobono.

[Applause]

MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you, Pam and we appreciate you and Roland, as well.  We're really thankful for the work that you do every day on behalf of blind people.

We have had a great year in the National Federation of the Blind, coming back into in-person meetings again.  It felt a little weird sometimes, right, but it's really wonderful and the federation really has come back with a lot of strength.  It was demonstrated in our very outstanding national convention in New Orleans, despite some interesting circumstances. Really, really a tremendous convention.  We've had hundreds of new members join our movement this year.  We've had great victories at all levels of our organization, from person to person, helping with individual advocacy to making cities better, to changing the laws in states to improve voting, to our national work, to turn the government around on making COVID tests accessible.  So many great victories.

We've even helped this year a blind person set a Guinness world record.  And we know that we have more dynamic advocacy issues in front of us.  The work is not done.  And we are building for the future and in addition to the strategic planning work that we're doing right now as an organization, which will be complete in the spring of next year, we have already begun laying the groundwork for so many powerful things.

One that comes to mind is our role in the great partnership with Humanware and the American Printing House for the Blind to build a dynamic tactile display and we're grateful to those organizations for inviting the Federation to be a leader in revolutionizing access to information for blind children in the future.

[Applause]

And we've committed this year to some bold ideas for the future, including launching our plans for the Museum of the Blind people's movement, and it shows the strength of our organization, that we're not simply taking on the easy things; we're taking on the very difficult, imaginative things, and many of you in our Federation family have already enthusiastically started helping us build those dreams together.

In fact, just earlier this week, when we talk about the museum, Dan Parker who did set our world record, he sent us his motorcycle, which he promised us he would do at the national convention.  It's downstairs on the first floor of our atrium now, a motorcycle that he drove independently on the salt flats in Utah to set a record along with the support of the National Federation of the Blind a number of years ago.

That's just one example of the type of dynamic things that might be in a future museum of the blind people's movement.
We know that we've already started beginning to build the next great phase of work in the National Federation of the Blind.  But that is possible and that happens because of each and every one of you, and I am truly grateful and thankful and blessed to be part of our community together.

There certainly are a lot of things that challenge us in society today, but as the year closes, and I reflect upon where we have been this year and where we are going, I'm filled with hope, energy and love, and I hope that you feel the same sense of hope and optimism about our future that I do.  And the reason I feel that hope and optimism is because I know we're in it together.  I know that I'm not alone, that it's us together, that you all are helping to do the work that we need to do to change the image of blindness in society, and that makes a difference on me and my family every day.

And so on this release, I want to deeply send my appreciation to each and every one of the Federation members out there, our friends and partners, for the work that you do, the dedication that you give on a daily basis to changing what it means to be blind and helping us live the lives that we want.

I also want to extend from the Riccobono Family, our warmest season's greetings to you and your family.  We are thankful to share with you this Federation family that we have together, that we choose to be in together, and we do hope that you and your family have a safe, blessed, and joyous holiday season.

With that, before we get to the customary endings, let me say for 2022, let's go build the National Federation of the Blind bigger, better, and boulder than we have ever imagined.

So for the customary endings, before we get to the customary endings, Pam, I meant to tell you that I had a friend who was in a production of a Christmas Carol recently, but the issue was that when they got up on stage, they forgot their lines.

Apparently, they had the Dickens scared out of them.

PAM ALLEN: That's pretty bad.  (Laughs) Badum-dum.

They're not throwing things, though.  You're good.  Not yet anyway.

FEMALE NARRATOR: Hi, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH:  Hi.

FEMALE NARRATOR: Do you have a joke for me?

ELIZABETH: Yeah.

FEMALE NARRATOR: What is it?

ELIZABETH: Where do Mr. and Mrs. Snowman go on their last anniversary?

FEMALE NARRATOR:  Christmastown?

ELIZABETH: No, the desert.

FEMALE NARRATOR: Hi, Oriana.  How many jokes do you have for us today?

ORIANA: I have two.

FEMALE NARRATOR: What are your two?

ORIANA: What do you give a Christmas tree when they have bad breath?

FEMALE NARRATOR: I don't know, what?

ORIANA: Orna-mints. I would tell you a story about how I cut down my Christmas tree, but it's kind of sappy.

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.