PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Greetings, fellow Federationists. Today is Tuesday, April 4, 2023, and this is Presidential Release 526. Spring is officially here in Baltimore today. It was like 75 degrees or something, so it's definitely spring plus, and baseball season is here, which is very exciting and we are in the middle of the spring convention season in the Federation, so great things happening.
I had the opportunity to go to the Nebraska convention a couple of weekends ago.
We do have our national convention coming up just three months away from our national convention and I want to remind you that you can go to NFB.org/convention to get all of the information.
I realized on the last Release that we did not talk about our virtual convention experience. We will, in fact, again be offering the virtual convention experience for those who can't be with us in Houston, Texas, from July 1-6.
You will have the option to register for the virtual convention experience, with some daily sessions and other interesting things. I know our virtual convention experience team is putting a great lineup together in addition to the general sessions and board meeting events that we will stream via Zoom.
So please go to NFB.org/convention and get that information and make sure you register for the virtual convention experience. Looking forward to the convention. It will be here far too quickly.
I do have a number of policy items to update you on that we have taken action on during the last month.
In March, we sent a letter to both the house and Senate appropriations committees regarding increasing the annual appropriation for the Independent Living Services for Older Individuals who are Blind, or the OIB, program.
Federationists certainly know that the federal funding for the OIB program has remained stagnant for several years now, and we believe that the funding, in fact, is woefully inadequate. We had a resolution on this topic previously, and an increase in funding would significantly make a difference to the independence of this growing population of blind individuals, and so our letters have gone out in support of an increased appropriation for the OIB program.
I call that to your attention.
Also late last month, we sent a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, regarding companies requiring job applicants to possess a valid driver's license, even when driving is not an essential function of the job. This topic was also a subject of a resolution at last year's convention. This matter is already prohibited in the language of the current rules, but we believe that the EEOC could make a big difference by adding clarifying language that would strengthen support for this idea.
It's something that many blind people have faced problems with, and, in fact, we've written to a number of employers about the fact that the employer requires a driver's license when it's not an essential function of the job.
We recently wrote to Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts which was requiring a driver's license for a number of positions, including the coordinator for the Americans with Disabilities Act work at the university.
All three of these letters can be found at the Policy Statements section of the Advocacy page on our website. That's NFB.org/advocacy. You will find all of our recent statements, legislation, many things happening there.
This evening, we have a special public announcement for this Presidential Release, first coming to the federation family across the country. Raising expectations, especially as it relates to literacy, is a core value of our work in this moment.
And there's many ways we're doing that. We've been for a number of months now about our project with APH and Humanware to build a dynamic tactile display called the Monarch. I actually have beta unit number 14 right here.
I'll hold it up for those watching on the YouTube. It's a pretty cool device. Those coming by our national office will get a chance to check it out and if you come to the national convention, you'll have a chance to check it out, but it's just one of the activities we're doing related to literacy.
And we often find important friends who want to help us elevate our mission and our priorities. Recently, we made a special new friend and his name is Dan O'Rourke and tonight, I am asking all members of the Federation family to add something really special to your summer plans for 2023. This is our official announcement of the National Federation of the Blind 2023 Route 66 Ride for Literacy.
We're excited to partner with Dan O'Rourke for this journey of dedication and connection this summer.
Dan, who has been an on-ice official for the National Hockey League since 1999, came to us because he believes in the capacity of blind people from watching his own father who didn't let blindness hold him back from being a great dad.
Dan shared his dream of doing something big to let blind children and adults know that they were not alone, and that we truly can live the lives we want.
So why not bike Route 66? Well, it's not what I would have thought of, but it's Dan's passion.
It's a great way, while trekking over 2,400 miles, to talk about the National Federation of the Blind.
I have had the pleasure now of talking with Dan on a number of occasions, getting to know him, and what drives his determination, and I am confident that the Federation Family members will all find his understanding and spirit to be completely in sync with what we do in our movement.
Many people come offering to help us, but they truly don't get us. Dan not only gets us. More importantly, he is very clear that he simply wants to promote us as a partner in our movement. He's not trying to speak for us. He's not trying to help us as an outside sighted person. He's trying to elevate our stories and he wants to use his experience and platform to do that.
So starting at the end of July, we don't have an exact date just yet, Dan will ride a bicycle from Santa Monica, California, to Chicago, Illinois, along the famous Route 66, which, as I said, is just over 2,400 miles.
This is an opportunity for us to expand our circle of connection and to get more people to know about the work that we do.
We will be coordinating a number of meet-and-greet events along the ride to create awareness about the Federation and our literacy efforts, and this is also a great opportunity to bring financial support to the organization during the ride, from people who may learn about it outside of the Federation. There are still lots of details to be worked out, and we will be sharing those as we have them.
We have invited the eight Route 66 affiliates to be part of this. That's California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. We believe there will be many other opportunities for other affiliates to get involved, especially we're hoping affiliates that host NHL teams.
As always, though, every member of the Federation is going to play an important role in amplifying this Ride for Literacy and telling our story and helping to share what Dan O'Rourke is doing to elevate the experience of blind people.
As I say, more details will be coming in the weeks ahead and those of you coming to the national convention may have the opportunity to meet Dan in person because he will be at our national meeting, because the NHL season will be over and he'll be ready to make this big ride.
We'll be sharing all the details and you can check it out at NFB.org/route66. You will be able to sign up to get updates and, of course, we'll be putting information into our communications stream.
I think this is going to be an exciting part of our summer, especially coming off a great national convention, so I urge you to get involved and find ways to support the Route 66 Ride for Literacy in the National Federation of the Blind.
I do have a number of Federation family news items to share with you on this release.
From California, the San Jose Silicon Valley Chapter reports the passing of one of its founding members, John Vandervort. John had been a member since the 1970s. And the members of the chapter wish to remember him. I will have another note from the Silicon Valley Chapter coming up here in a minute.
But first, I want to share with you from Virginia that Christine Faltz Grassman reports the passing of Jim Walker, who was husband of Chris Walker, the president of the NFB of Virginia Winchester Chapter. Jim passed away on Sunday, April 2nd, after a valiant three and a half-month battle subsequent to several strokes that occurred following a triple bypass surgery.
Jim left peacefully with Chris and his family at his side. I urge you to keep Chris and Jim and John's families in your thoughts and prayers.
From Tennessee, we've learned of the passing of Sheri Thorsett, who had cancer. She was a founding member of the Stones River Chapter, and a previous national scholarship winner.
Also from Iowa, we've learned of the passing of Susan Monath, who died on March 6th. She was a member of the Des Moines Chapter and later, the Old Capital Chapter in Iowa.
And from Illinois, we've learned that long-time Chicago chapter member Dale Wolthoff passed away. He celebrated his 90th birthday in January, and he recently passed away on March 18th at his home in South Carolina. The Wolthoffs were members of the Chicago chapter starting in the 1970s, up through the 1990s.
They were very active in many aspects of the state organization, the Chicago Chapter, including public relations activities and fundraising activities.
I would urge you to keep all of these individuals in your thoughts and prayers.
From Colorado, Julie Deden has reported the passing of her brother, John Deden, on March 5th. Jon was a long-time leader in the NFB for over 40 years. He was a significant recruiter for the Federation. He worked on fundraising and organizing, and he particularly joined being the door prize chairman at the Colorado convention.
He was a deep supporter of the Colorado Center for the Blind and everybody will miss him.
Julie adds this personal note: Jon enjoyed skiing, running, and lifting weights. He always had a pet dog around the house that he could spoil. He had a heart of passion, generosity, and love for his wife, Michelle, their daughters, and ten grandchildren, and all of us.
I encourage you to keep Julie, Michelle, and the rest of the family and friends in your thoughts and prayers and those members of the organization who I might not have known about this evening.
Now I do have one joyous piece of good news coming back to the Silicon Valley chapter, and that is that Jamie and Timothy Crane and their son Heleon welcomed a new daughter, Selene Lillian Crane. She came into the world on March 9th.
Selene arrived, get this, weighing an unexpected 11 pounds, 11 ounces and almost 22 inches long. Now this is a quote from Mom. She says, quote, "it was a challenging delivery, but Mom and Baby are expected to make a full recovery."
Jamie and I might have different definitions of challenging. That might be an understatement. But congratulations to Mom and Dad and big brother and certainly welcome to Selene to being the newest members of the National Federation of the Blind.
PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: That's what I have on this April Release. I know that many of the members of the Federation Family will be busy this month, celebrating the myriad of various holidays that we are enjoying this month, and I wish each of you well and I hope that you are making your arrangements for the national convention, which I know will be one of our finest in Houston, Texas, in July.
We do have a couple more months of real activity to go, and a number of things to do. So with that, I will leave you with the customary endings and say, let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!
Pam: Please join us for the next Presidential Release live on Tuesday, May 2nd, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
You can contact President Riccobono at 410-659-9314, or via email at [email protected]. Thanks so much and I will pass it back to you, President Riccobono.
>> Hey, girls. Happy baseball season.
>> Happy baseball season.
>> Why did the pirate want to hire a catcher?
>> Because he knew he had a chest protector.
>> That's so funny!
>> I have two jokes. What do you call a hammer bought on April 1st?
>> A good deal?
>> No, an April tool.
>> Babies born on March 31st are the easiest to prank on April Fools' Day. Why?
>> This is a riddle. I don't know.
>> Because they were literally born yesterday.
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.