Presidential Release 523, January 2023 (English Transcript)

This following is the transcript of the full live event. Please note: Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

("Live the Life" Playing)
PAM: Good evening, our Federation family and welcome to our first presidential release of 2023.  We're so excited to be with you tonight.  Happy new year and happy World Braille Day and it is now my pleasure to turn it over to President Riccobono.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Happy new year, Pam.
PAM: Happy new year, how are you?
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: I'm doing great.  Thanks for leaving the LCB party to be here.  I really appreciate that.
PAM: We're sending all our love.
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Did you make any resolutions?
PAM: You know, no.  (Laughs)
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Well, it's better that way, actually.
PAM: Well, you know, I just resolved to try to accomplish all the things on my to-do list.
PAM: How about you?
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Well, I haven't really written them down, but I have played guitar every day so far this year so that's a streak.  Including the seven minutes right before I came in here to do the release.
PAM: I love it.
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Building the federation, that's my resolution.
PAM: Let's go build the federation.  We'll hold you accountable for the guitar playing.
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: No doubt about that, no problem there.  All right.
Well, are you ready to get started?
PAM: Sounds great.  Let's kick it off.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Greetings, fellow Federationists.  Today is Wednesday, January 4, 2023, and this is presidential release 523, nice to have synergy in the 23's here as we start the new year.  Happy new year and happy World Braille Day.  Here in 2023, we are going to make it be for NFB.

And we have many great plans ahead for our organization, and I know those things are going to happen because of each and every one of you.  It is World Braille Day so we've been enjoying celebrating Braille and the work of the National Federation of the Blind.  And this is actually the first year that we've officially been able to use the web domain Braille.Day on January 4.  We launched it last year, but it was later in January, so check out Braille.Day.

It's a platform we're going to use going forward to promote Braille literacy on World Braille Day and beyond.  Check it out.  Braille.Day.  Let us know what you think.  Send a note to our communications group and share your ideas about how we can build that Braille presence online.  I do want to go back to 2022 real quickly before we talk about going forward with this year to let each and every one of you know that we far out-exceeded our end of year goal for the generous match by Vispero of $50,000.  So thank you to everyone for boosting our matching program at the end of the year.
And to those of you who contributed, we did a great job bringing in new donations in the final couple of months of the year, so congratulations and thank you.

Now as we get into 2023, we have launched the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Program for this year.  The Jacob Bolotin Award Program honors individuals and organizations that are a positive force in the lives of blind people.  Jacob Bolotin, who lived from 1888 to 1924, was the world's first physician who was blind from birth.  He achieved that goal, despite many challenges that he faced in society, and not only did he achieve his dreams, but he helped many others and inspired many others to achieve theirs.

He would have been a member of the National Federation of the Blind, but he died far too young, and we are honored to have the opportunity to offer awards in his name.  Winners of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards break down barriers faced by blind people in society, create innovative pathways to break down those barriers, they also change negative perceptions of blindness in society, and push past the existing expectations to raise expectations even further for blind people.
Now winners of the Jacob Bolotin Award receive cash prizes, but more importantly, they receive recognition by the organized blind movement at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind.  

Now it's great to have award recipients, but we won't have any if we don't get nominations and that's where each and every one of you come in. As blind people, you're in the best position to know what projects people, individuals, organizations, are out there that are worthy of the Jacob Bolotin Awards.  You can go to to learn more about the program and read about past winners to get an idea of the type of projects and the quality of individuals that are suitable for these awards.
I do encourage you to nominate individuals or organizations, and if you've nominated in the past and your nominee hasn't been selected, renominate them.  It's a very competitive program.

The committee is chaired by Everette Bacon of Utah, and if you have questions about the program or about potential nominees, you can reach Everette at 801-631-8108, or by sending an e-mail to [email protected].  That's B-O-L-O-T-I-N, [email protected].  We do have a number of other award programs in the Federation and we've written about them also in the Braille Monitor, so I want to call your attention to our Blind educator of blind students award, all of this information can be found in the Braille Monitor or on the NFB website.  We need nominations in the winter and early spring here so that we can potentially award some of these awards at the convention and, of course, our dynamic scholarship program where we will give away 30 scholarships to deserving individuals pursuing postsecondary education.

There's much more ahead for the Federation in 2023, and that includes appropriate for World Braille Day, once again we're hosting the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning program.  I think exceeding now 15 years.  Hard to believe.  Applications are now available for the 2023 NFB BELL Academy, and exciting that many of our affiliates are now planning to be back in person for the BELL Academy.

The BELL Academy is appropriate for blind person ages 4-12 who could benefit from Braille instruction.  Well, that's probably any blind kid you could think of.

And as I say, many of the state affiliates are planning to do in-person programs, but if your affiliate is not doing an in-person program, we will once again be offering a three-week session of NFB BELL in-home edition.  This is our virtual instruction program, combined with tactile materials and mentoring that's run from the national organization.

The in-home edition will run from July 24 to August 11 this summer.  You can get more information about the in-home edition or the in-person BELL Academy at, and I do encourage you to spread the word and get families in your affiliate to apply and I would also encourage you to be mentors and role models in our BELL Academy.  It's a great way to celebrate Braille, to help raise the next generation of dynamic blind leaders in our community.  We know that Braille readers are leaders.

Now we're coming up on the 2023 Washington Seminar and Congress, the new Congress, started working yesterday, and our advocacy and policy staff who have been working got right down there to greet the new Congress.
We had a number of meetings with members of Congress yesterday, and we're really happy to report that not only is Congress open for business; they've made it easier to come visit the halls of Congress.

Now hopefully, you've made plans to be with us at our Washington Seminar, but even if you haven't, you should study, get familiar with our 2023 Washington Seminar fact sheets which are available on our Washington Seminar page.  And as you hopefully know, that's

The fact sheets are currently available in Word format and HTML.  More formats will be added soon.  Please check back to those pages for updates, but I do encourage everybody, whether you're going to D.C. or not, to study the issues for our 2023 Washington Seminar so you can help with the advocacy efforts.

Now I said that Congress is opening up and one of the primary things we learned yesterday is that the rules that Congress has had for escorting people who come to have meetings with members of Congress, those rules have been relaxed.
In recent months, we've been hoping that that would be the case, but we were able to confirm that yesterday, and what this means is I guess we can say going back to the old days.  You don't need an escort now to go into the halls of Congress and have meetings in the office buildings, so like we used to do, you'll be able to set your appointments and go into the congressional office buildings and meet with the members and staff there.  You, of course, should check with offices.  It's possible that they might have different policies, but we believe that the logistics are going to be much easier than we were expecting for the 2023 Washington Seminar.

And I'm really excited because we've got a great turnout planned.  We've heard from so many people and so many first-timers coming to D.C. to help move the legislative agenda of blind Americans.

Now, we get to celebrate some victories and one of them happened right at the end of the year.  We have been supportive of the ABLE Act, which allows blind individuals and others with disabilities to save more resources than have been allowed in the past, and we were supporting a bill to expand the ABLE Act, and on December 29 of 2022, President Biden signed an omnibus bill which included the change in the ABLE Act legislation.
This is called ABLE Age Adjustment Act, and the Act increases the eligibility for establishing an ABLE account to age 46.  It was previously age 26.  This means that if your blindness occurred before the age of 46 years old, regardless of how old you are today, you can now establish an ABLE account.

So this is good news for individuals that previously were not eligible and could benefit from establishing an ABLE account.

You can find ABLE account information in your states.  If you go online, you'll easily find.  There are experts in a lot of places and I'm sure if you're not sure where to look, our affiliate can help you get connected with local resources.
I know that many ABLE presentations have been given at affiliate conventions.
Now, of course, one of the things we have to look forward to in 2023 is our national convention from July 1 to July 6 in Houston, Texas.  We've been waiting for a number of years to make it to Houston.  We were supposed to be there in 2020, but unfortunately had to kick it back here to 2023 in Texas.  Our affiliate is looking forward to hosting us this summer.
The hotel is ready to receive your reservations for either the Hilton, which is our main hotel, or the Marriott, which is our overflow hotel.

Now we've published the hotel information in the Braille Monitor and on our website at  So you can always refer back to those.

Now the room rates for our 2023 convention are as follows.  $119 a night for singles, doubles, triples, and quads.  Now, this room rate is good at the Hilton or at the Marriott, and that includes also an additional sales tax of 8.25% and an occupancy tax, which is 17%.

The Hilton Americas Houston is our main hotel.  And what we call our headquarters hotel.  That's going to be really our one-stop shop for everything:  Meeting rooms, banquet, exhibit hall, all under one roof.  You can make your reservations at the Hilton by calling 800-236-2905.  Again, 800-236-2905.
Now if you prefer to stay at the Marriott, which is about half a mile down the street, but you can get there by cutting through the Convention Center, it's a very nice property, as well.  It is our overflow hotel.  There will be no meetings in that hotel, but they do boast having the largest lazy river in Texas and it is in the shape of Texas, kind of interesting.  You can make your reservation at the Marriott by dialing 877-622-3056.

And calling either hotel, make sure to ask for NFB convention, so that you get the correct rate when calling to book your room.  I do invite you also to share your ideas about what should be on the agenda for the national convention.  It's always a challenge to put together another exciting convention, and I need your help for what should be on the program.
So please send your ideas along.

I do have a number of other announcements for you on this release, and one of them relates to Uber.  You may have heard that last fall, Uber contacted over 65,000 individuals who are eligible for payments through a settlement that the United States Department of Justice recently settled with Uber regarding wait time fees.
If you have paid wait time fees in the past, you should check your e-mail.  You may have received an e-mail or in your Uber app, you might have gotten a notification from Uber Hub.  I guess Uber Hub is the announcement section of the Uber app that you can check.  You may have also gotten an announcement in e-mail that tells you you are eligible to receive money back for paying these wait fees in the past.

E-mails that were sent came from Uber, Rust Consulting or they might have come from [email protected].  And if you find that in your e-mail, I would encourage you to take advantage of that.
There are time limits on recouping these fees, so you should look for that quickly so that you can claim what's due to you.
You can learn more about Uber's wait time waiver, refunds and settlement payments at Uber's help page, either in the app or on their website.

Now it is World Braille Day and it's a good opportunity to give you reminders about some of the Braille activities that are happening in collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind, and one of those is the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest, which we are in the middle of right now.  Hopefully, you've already been reading as part of the contest.  This contest is sponsored by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults.  If you haven't started reading, it's not too late; you can still register because there's a little more time left in the contest.
You can go to to register and to log your time read.  And when you register and log time, it makes you eligible to win badges and other prizes.

The contest goes until January 23, 2023.  So a number of weeks left to get some reading in.  And if you know what you've been reading over the last couple of weeks, you can still log that.  I do know that a number of chapters are using it as a great opportunity to encourage Braille reading in the chapter, and mentorship around Braille, so I would encourage you to use that as an opportunity to build the National Federation of the Blind.

Now speaking of Braille and going quickly back to the convention, during the national convention, we will again be hosting a Braille book fair, which is sponsored also by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, and this convention book fair, we've now hosted for a number of years, and it is really one of the most amazing places you can go to get free Braille books, and it's always such a joy to see blind children and adults digging through the stacks of books to find treasures to take home.

Now these books are donated by people around the world, sometimes, but mostly in the U.S., and the Action Fund wants you to know that it will accept books for the book fair any time of year, but it encourages you to consider sending new or gently used books -- if the book is not worthy of being on your bookshelf because it's falling apart, maybe you don't want to give it to someone else -- but books that are in decent condition, and you can send any type of book.
However, some items that don't tend to be accepted include magazines, Braille magazines, textbooks -- please don't send your old geometry book for the book fair.  And also, Braille Bibles, as they tend to be difficult to take home.

The action fund says that it is particularly looking for cookbooks to be donated, Braille cookbooks, as they're very popular at the book fair, but any type of reading material for any age would be appropriate.  If you are planning to send more than five Braille books to the Action Fund, it asks that you reach out via e-mail with the list of books so that the Action Fund can make sure they're actually books that are going to be used.

If you have questions or if you want to see if the books that you want to donate would be helpful to the Braille Book Fair, you can send an e-mail to [email protected] and you can mail your donated books to the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, Attention Braille Book Fair at 1800 Johnson street, Baltimore Maryland, 21230.  Thank you to those of you who have been donating books year after year and to those of you that are looking to make more space on your shelf for some new books that you might have acquired the last part of last year.

Please consider the Braille Book Fair.  You'll make a lot of people happy in Houston this summer.
Now our Blindness Initiatives Department would like to invite Federation members to join us on Thursday, January 19th, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for our next Where the Blind Work session, where we're going to celebrate the work and accomplishments of blind individuals who have experience working in the medical and healthcare fields.  You can hear what the typical day is like for these individuals.  How they have overcome negative attitudes about blindness and found ways to work around accessibility barriers in their job.

You can also learn about the alternative techniques that they use to be successful as blind people in these fields.
You do need to register for this webinar and you can do that at our website  We'll put the specific URL into the chat, but if you go to and look for Where the Blind Work, you'll find the registration information.
If you have more questions about our Where the Blind Work series, you can contact Maurice Peret here at our National office.

 He can be reached at extension 2350 and, of course, our main number is 410- 659-9314.  You can e-mail him at [email protected].

Now I want to talk to you really quickly about our donated services program.  Members of the Federation, many of you have been appointed to our Donated Services Program.  This is a program that allows the Federation to track the volunteer work that you have been doing to quantify that work to create opportunities for blind people and to reflect that on our audited financial statements.

This is useful to us, especially in highlighting the work that we do, but also in showing benefit on our financial statement, helping to adjust our fundraising and management costs.
This program is something that, if you've been appointed to work with us on this program in 2022, this is your reminder to please submit your donated services hours to our National office using the online form by January 9th.  We need to compile that data and get it to our auditors.

Now, while this program is helpful to us, we need more people to participate.  We need people who are prepared to track the hours that they're putting into Federation volunteer work, and to do so on a monthly basis.  If you think you're willing to do that and you're putting in substantial volunteer effort into the organization, I would invite you to reach out to Patti Chang here at our national office to have a conversation to see if you're a good fit to be part of our donated services program.  It makes a great difference in the work that we do and I would be pleased to appoint you to be part of our donated services team, but I ask you to talk to Patti first.  You can send her an e-mail at [email protected] or extension 2422.  Thank you to those of you who have been participating in the donated services program in 2022 and probably for many years, and if you're interested in participating in the future, please let us know.

Now our Dream Makers Circle is our program to empower people to make an end of life gift commitment to the National Federation of the Blind.  And there's many ways that that can be done.  Sometimes, it's done by putting us in your will or as a beneficiary to an insurance policy, but there's many ways to be part of the Dream Makers Circle.  It's just making that commitment, and then letting us know that you have.

I want to welcome Sylvia Young of Tallahassee, Florida, as the newest member of our Dream Makers Circle, and thank both Sylvia and also, James who has preceded her in death but is part of the Dream Makers Circle.  You can learn more again by contacting Patti Chang at our national office.

I do have a number of Federation family notes to share with you on this release.  From Minnesota, we've learned of the death of David Bates who passed away on November 18th, unexpectedly at the age of 58.
From Illinois, Maryland Green reports the death of Maurice Tanter who was a member of our at-large chapter who died on November 12th, 2022.  Maurice had only been a member of the Federation for two years but was an enthusiastic marcher in our movement.

From Maryland, Ronza Othman reports the death of Raymond Sewell who passed away on November 26th, 2022.  Ray was a long-time member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter and a very active blind vendor.  Ray was 87 years old.  Don't want to short change him on that.  I would encourage you to keep all of these individuals and their friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Now on the last presidential release live, I invited you to keep Scott Labarre in your thoughts and prayers, and it's really hard to have to share the news on this release that Scott Labarre of Colorado passed away on December 10, 2022, due to complications from cancer.

Scott was a giant in our movement.  He did so very much in our legal program, in building the financial stability of the organization through our PAC program, in building our Colorado affiliate, and our Colorado center.  In providing mentoring to people, really all over the world in the legal profession, and we have gotten e-mails from literally people all over the world who have been impacted by Scott's work, whether it's in the legal profession through the Federation or through his work on our behalf on the treaty.

I had the honor of going to a memorial event for Scott that happened at the Colorado Center, and had the opportunity to spend some time with Scott's family, his wife Anahit and children Alex and Carter.  I encourage you to keep the Labarre Family in their thoughts and prayers.  This is a very hard loss for them personally, but for so many of us who had the joy of knowing Scott on a real personal level.  And I know that the '23 convention is not going to be the same without his booming voice.

But I also know that Scott wants us to continue the fight.  Anahit shared with me that in his moments of being very aware and cognizant of what was happening toward the end, he would constantly tell her, don't let people forget about disability rights!  And we're not going to forget about disability rights.  We're going to remember the legacy that Scott Labarre has left us.
I do want to let you know that there will be a celebration of life for Scott Labarre event that will happen in Denver, on January 21st.  So just a couple of weeks from now.  It will be streamed, but if you're compelled to come to Denver, I'll be there.
There will be an event that will kick off at 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time on the 21st of January.  You can find information about that on our home page.  We do ask you to RSVP if you're going to come in person, and we will disseminate information about the virtual participation very shortly.

Finally, I want to let you know that the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind has decided to establish the Scott C. Labarre Leadership and Justice Fund as a central point for collecting memorial donations being made in Scott's honor.  We don't know exactly how that fund will be used.  It has a very broad purpose:  To advance leadership and justice for blind people.  It may result in a scholarship or some other opportunities to advance blind people in the legal profession.
We don't know because we don't know what kind of contributions we will receive, but we have gotten people again all over the world looking to contribute to Scott's legacy.

Really hard to deliver that news to you, but that's what we do in our movement.  We're a family, we get close.  That's why we offer these moments on this release, because we could not do what we do without the tremendous personalities that have graced our movement.

And so I encourage you to keep these individuals, all of those that we lost in 2022, in your thoughts and prayers.  Pam, I think that's what I have for the moment.  Back over to you.
PAM: Okay, thank you so much, President Riccobono.  And yes, definitely sending our love and support to Anahit and Alex and Carter and our Colorado family.  I know how much Scott personally made a difference in my life and we just are sending so much love to everybody.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Don't forget Mocha.
PAM: You took the words out of my mouth because Mocha was always part of our conference calls.  Yes, Mocha always made her voice heard.

We're just thinking of everybody and again remembering Scott.  Scott was all about building the National Federation of the Blind, and he continues to do that.
So President Riccobono, we have some great questions tonight.  I want to thank everybody for submitting questions through our various ways.  We appreciate that.  And again, if you haven't had a chance to, you can send those questions in through our Q&A feature, or [email protected].  We're going to kick it off with a question.
Apparently, we still have some people who are interested in shopping, even post-holidays.  So we've got a question concerning any updates on our independence market online presence?

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Well, there are no updates.  That is the update.  Look, we have very high expectations for what we do in the National Federation of the Blind.  And we've been working on rebuilding a new ecommerce system for the Independence Market that includes the front-facing system that allows you to buy products through the market, but a number of other systems behind the scenes, which make no difference to you, except that they're really critical in making sure that we deliver product to you in a timely fashion and that we manage the inventory controls of the National Federation of the Blind.
So we're not there yet.  It's frustrating, because I know it means you've got to get on the phone, and it means you can't get on at midnight when you want to buy your whatever it is to get it delivered.

So be patient.  I hesitate to make a promise about when because I've been wrong every time so far, but it is coming.  We are working on it.  And it's going to be great when it gets here, and then we're going to want to know what else you want our Independence Market to do with our new online presence.

PAM: Okay!  All right.
And we have a question concerning -- speaking of Braille, this is a question about if we are still offering free slates in the year ahead?  And also any tips you might have, President Riccobono, for someone who's just learning to use a slate on how to work on their speed.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: (Laughs) Well, we certainly do still offer our free slate and stylus program.  You can find the form at our website.  Thanks to a partnership with the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults.  You can get a free slate.  This is a plastic slate, and stylus.
Of course, we sell other slates in the market.  How to get fast on a slate?  Like with everything else, first of all, practice.  Practice writing and I would say also doodle.  Just punch dots on the slate without necessarily sometimes having a goal of writing something.  Just build up that strength, that muscle memory.

And also the thing that I would say about writing on a slate.  A lot of times, the professionals in the field will tell you it's very hard because you have to write backwards.  Well, that's the wrong way to think about it.  You should think about writing the first and second sides of the characters that you're writing, and don't think about it as backwards.  That would be my tip.
I'm sure other blind people in your chapter or affiliate have other great ideas about how to build up speed writing on the slate, but I would say in addition to writing, practicing just doodling.  Sometimes when I'm on a long call or something, I just make patterns on my slate.  Little drawings.  It's kind of a fun thing to do.  But it also gives you the experience of just pressing the dots, getting used to feeling where the different dots are, try to make different combinations.
So that would be my advice.  You might make some cool tactile art, as well!

PAM: That's always a great idea.
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Now Pam, you have a training center.  What would your tips be?
PAM: Yeah.  I would echo what you said.  I think the importance is finding ways to incorporate it into your daily life.
I have my slate right here, my desk.  I use it multiple times a day.  So, as you said, I think the main thing is just practice and consistency.

So have one with you everywhere.  Keep one with you in multiple places so you have it on the go, if you need to grab it and slate things down.  It's great for labeling.  As we're all getting organized in the new year, great way to get organized and label things in Braille and keep everything organized as we're kicking off a new year.
So lots of great strategies.
Another question in celebration of World Braille Day is if you could share with us updates on our dynamic tactile device.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Just as a reminder, at the 2022 national convention, the American Printing House for the Blind and Humanware announced their partner with the National Federation of the Blind to establish the dynamic tactile display, the DTD it was called at the time.  This first real fully fledged display that can do both Braille and graphics all at the same time.  Actually, today, on World Braille Day, the American Printing House for the Blind announced that the official name of the device will be called the Monarch because we know that successful Braille reading is best done in a two-handed experience.
Now on one-line Braille displays, you can read with two hands.  

I have two hands on my display right now, but it's not quite as dynamic as when you're reading on paper.  With a multi-line refreshable display that has graphics and Braille, two-hand exploration becomes very important, using that butterfly method that we teach at our training centers, right?

And so the Monarch is going to be the new name for it.  This week, the Consumer Electronics Show is happening in Las Vegas, and the Monarch will be on display, is on display at the Consumer Electronics Show.  It will also be at conferences later this winter into the spring, and it will definitely be present -- I didn't ask APH if I could promise this -- it will definitely be present at the national convention.

So it's pretty exciting news.  Now, I've gotten my hands on the alpha unit.  Pam, did you get a chance?
PAM: I did.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: We had it at our national board meeting at the beginning of December.  These are the very early units, but the form factor is there, it's beautiful.  It's about the size of a gaming laptop.  It's got a very nice display.  We've been able to touch various graphics on and the Braille is great.  The APH Humanware team is learning what to do to teach blind people how to zoom in and out of graphics, that's a pretty cool experience.

PAM: That was pretty amazing.
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: So it's real.  There's a lot of work that still needs to be done.  The Federation will be part of the beta testing, getting official units.  The device is going to be expensive.
This is a really big undertaking.  It's going to require some new standards as it relates to Braille and tactile graphics in the digital environment, but it's really transformative, and it's been really exciting to actually put our hands on alpha units and see them working.

I have to say the APH Humanware team is top notch.  They're really eager to take the real, hard advice and feedback from blind people.
They said don't hold back.  Tell us.  If it doesn't work, tell us.  If it's great, tell us.  But don't sugar-coat it.
I'm very optimistic.  It was a dream.  Even last summer, it was still very conceptual.  It's real.  It's coming.

PAM: I love the name.  That's great.
Excellent.  I know everyone is eager to put their hands on that.  It's really an amazing product that I think is going to be revolutionary in a lot of ways.
President Riccobono, you mentioned Washington Seminar, that we'll be welcoming many first-time attendees.  So do you have any advice for someone who's going to their first Washington Seminar?  We have a few questions about that.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Yeah.  Well, advice for Washington Seminar I would say the number one thing to remember is you know more about the topic you're coming to talk to Congress about than they do.  You're the expert.  Even members of Congress that have experience with blind people in their family, they don't have what you have.  You have the real lived experience.

And so study the fact sheets.  Get to know the facts, but most importantly, remember that you have the lived experience.  The second thing is to recognize that we do this as a team.  We send delegations in to meet with members of Congress and we all have different strengths in that process.

So work with the other folks in your affiliate, the team that you might be assigned to, some affiliates have a lot of offices to cover, so there are many, many teams.

And go in there knowing that the team is what's important.  Sometimes, we try to put a person forward because they're a particular constituent in that district, but it's really the team that we have in the room that's important.
Just remember that you're as important as any member of Congress or senator that you're going to sit with.
Now I'm not saying don't treat them with respect.  You should, because at the end of the day, we need their vote, but you have knowledge that they don't have and you're there to advise them, and that is really a powerful thing.
The other thing I would say is take it seriously.  We're representing blind people, so we want to be poised; we want to look good; we want to be polite; we want to be ready to put our best foot forward so that they can focus on the message.
Now, many blind people have experienced traveling the halls of Congress.  They can give you tips on navigating the various House and Senate office buildings, but just know that the most important thing you bring is that authentic experience.  And don't forget to have a good time.

The meetings with the members of Congress from my experience at Washington Seminar, you have a meeting, and then you might sit around for an hour before doing the next thing, so use that as a great time to build those relationships with the other members who are there, and just I would say also really enjoy the experience of taking over Capitol Hill.  The virtual Washington Seminar has been kind of interesting, but there's nothing like walking through the halls of Congress, hearing all of those canes tapping down the hall.

PAM: You can say that again.  That is for sure.  I can't wait to be there. So again, I want to thank everybody so much for submitting great questions.  We really appreciate your input and your questions tonight.  If we did not have a chance to answer your question tonight, our amazing and incredibly talented communications team will be following up with you, and again, thank you so much for participating by sharing your thoughts and your questions today as we kick off our first presidential release of 2023.

So thank you again for being with us tonight.  In February instead of a live presidential release, please tune in to the Great Gathering on Monday, January 30th, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.  A recorded presidential release for chapter meetings will be shared later that same week.

You can contact President Riccobono at 410-659-9314 or via e-mail at [email protected].  Happy new year and I look forward to seeing everyone who will be with us at Washington Seminar and I'll turn it back over to you, President Riccobono.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Thank you very much, Pam.  Looking forward to the great gathering in.
PAM: Just a few weeks.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Yeah.  That is what I have to present to you on this presidential release.  Despite the hard times that we've been through with the loss of our good friend Scott Labarre and others in our movement, I have a great deal of optimism for what 2023 will bring for the National Federation of the Blind.

And I'm privileged to continue to march forward with all of you, carrying these legacies forward and figuring out ways to build new ones.  I am looking forward to the Washington Seminar and being back in person for the great gathering in.  It feels like it has been such a long time and that's another important milestone in coming back into I guess what we call the new normal.
So please tune in to the Great Gathering in which will be live streamed at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on January 30th.
And we will have many things to talk about, and I know some great accomplishments going into the month of February and beyond.

Thank you for all you do to build our movement.  Happy new year, and let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.
>> Hello.
>> Hi, Elizabeth.
>> I have a joke.
>> You do?
>> How did Jack Frost go to work on New Year's?
>> I don't know, how?
>> By icicle.
>> I have two jokes for you.  Where can you go to practice math on New Year's Eve?
>> I don't know, where?
>> Times Square.
>> Of course.
>> On New Year's Eve, make sure you have your left leg in the air.
>> Why?
>> So you start the new year on the right foot.
>> Oh.
>> The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, president National Federation of the Blind, [email protected].  410-659-9314,  Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.