Presidential Release 527, May 2023 Chapter Version (English Transcript)

Greetings, fellow Federationists. Today is Tuesday, May 2, 2023. And this is presidential release number 527. It's hard to believe that it is already May. So many great things happening in the National Federation of the Blind. We just had the meeting of our scholarship committee here at our national office this past weekend, and many activities planned across the Federation for this month. I'll extend a happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day a few weeks early. I know many Federation events happening on that day in support of, amongst other things, our effort to make sure that all websites and mobile applications are accessible to blind people.

As we get into this release, I want to remind Federationists that in and amongst the things we do, we have a tremendous staff in the National Federation of the Blind, and we are always looking for talented individuals to join the Federation staff. You can check out and go to our career opportunities. We mostly have our current opportunities listed there, but sometimes we may have some other opportunities that aren't yet posted. So just know we're always looking for talented individuals to work at the central office of the most dynamic membership organization of blind people anywhere in the world. So please check out our career opportunities.

I do have a lot to talk about on this release, so I'm going to jump in to a number of things. And the first is to talk to you about the National Federation of the Blind's social media outreach work. As a reminder, the Federation is active across many social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn and TikTok and YouTube. Maybe I've forgotten some. And we believe it's time for us to extend in some new directions. You know our goal with our social media, like with our other communications tools, is to reach blind people, individuals who don't yet know us, to engage the members of the Federation, and to some extent to reach the general public.

We've been on Twitter for well over a decade as a social media platform, and the past 6 months have had us very concerned about what is happening with this social media platform. Specific actions have been taken that really give us pause and have caused us to think that Twitter may not be an appropriate platform for us to have the National Federation of the Blind. Last fall you may have heard that Twitter took the step of laying off a number of staff. Most significantly, all of its accessibility team at Twitter.

Most recently, Twitter has changed its APIs, and this has caused blind people using some of the specialized alternatives to the Twitter mobile application, applications built specifically to make it easy for blind people to access Twitter, those have all been broken because Twitter changed its API.

And in the last month, Twitter also changed its process. The Federation has had a verified account. So when you saw tweets from the National Federation of the Blind, you knew it was from the Federation. They've changed the structure and they invite us now to pay to have a verified account.

These factors and more have really given us pause. And we believe that Twitter is no longer an appropriate platform for us to support as an organization, especially the way that they are shutting out blind people.

Now, we don't want to abandon our supporters, our members who continue to utilize Twitter, so we're not abandoning our Twitter feed completely, but we are going to start actively engaging with Federation resources and building a new community on Mastodon. And so this evening, and on this release, I want to invite all members of the Federation family to join us in this new adventure to launch what we call on Mastodon. And more importantly, to ask Federation members to help us shape what we want this community to be going forward.

Now, Mastodon is a social media networking space. It is decentralized so it is not controlled by any particular company. It has been around for a number of years, actually, but has really gotten into the news with what has happened at Twitter.

We invite people to join us on a Mastodon server that we'll be running. This is what people do when they join Mastodon. You join one of the servers out there, and you can connect with people on any Mastodon server anywhere in the world. So you don't have to join a specific server. We are launching an NFB Mastodon account with our own branded server, If you are already on Mastodon, or thinking of joining, all you have to do is follow the National Federation of the Blind by finding [email protected]. We've only recently established this account, and this is our initial foray into the Mastodon world.

We want to know, though, what ideas Federation members have for how we can use Mastodon to build the Federation community. So we want you to share information about what your experience has been in Mastodon. What are your favorite mobile applications or web-based applications for engaging in Mastodon? What tips and tricks do you have, and how would you like to see the Federation using this social media networking tool? To share those ideas, you can send us an email at [email protected].

That's [email protected]. Don't get that confused with our Mastodon presence, which is [email protected].

I'm pretty excited about how the blind of America will decide to shape our engagement as a movement in Mastodon as a decentralized social media network. Really excited to hear what ideas you have. And it's important that Federation members really guide how we use these new tools to build our awareness, to reach new people, and to establish new connections in the 21st century.

Now, I should also mention that we currently are not thinking of allowing anyone to join and have an account, but we would like to hear from members if you've had an account, first of all, would you want one, and how would you use it to build the National Federation of the Blind? We're going to give that some thought, see what our members say about what we should do, and make some decisions from there.  So take some time to get familiar with Mastodon. I'm exploring it myself.  And let's see how we can use it to build opportunities for the National Federation of the Blind.

Now, in the news lately, there have been a lot of stories about blind people with guide dogs who have been negatively impacted in a number of situations. One of them is the airlines. A member of ours, Lizzie, recently got a lot of awareness on Facebook because she was denied getting on an airplane, specifically on JetBlue, because she was traveling with a guide dog.

Now, we know that the changes that have been made in the rules for blind travelers with guide dogs have been a problem and we've been working on this. As part of our effort, last week, Al Elia, who is a member of ours and representing the National Association of Guide Dog Users, along with Lizzie and members of our governmental affairs group, went to meet with the senior officials at the US Department of Transportation to share Lizzie's story and to brief them on the problems that blind people are having with the rules and the airlines related to guide dogs.

We will be keeping Federation members up-to-date on this effort. We are considering certain steps with the Department of Transportation to try to solve this problem.

In the meantime, if you have experienced discrimination with the airlines while traveling with a guide dog, we ask you to please contact Al Elia. You can reach Al at his email. That's [email protected]. And your stories are going to be very important as we work to convince the government that there is more work to be done.

Also, when you run into instances with the airlines, we do want you to make sure that you immediately file a complaint with the Department of Transportation by visiting the website. If you need information about that, you can always reach out to our governmental affairs, our advocacy team here at the national office. We will also continue to share the link for filing complaints with the Department of Transportation widely. So let's keep the pressure on and change what's happening with recent discrimination against blind travelers with guide dogs.

Now, we are in the process of recruiting a new cohort for our Teachers of Tomorrow program. Applications are now open for our 2023-24 cohort. This program is important.  It connects current and future teachers of blind students with the lived experiences of blind people. Teachers of blind students, as part of this program, will have an opportunity to attend four in-person training sessions with the Federation as well as a number of monthly Zoom enrichment sessions where they can get to know and understand the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. Individuals who are current teachers of blind students—current meaning they just entered the field in the last 5 years, or individuals who are still studying to get their licensure in teaching blind students are eligible to apply for the program. Applications do close on May 31st for the next cohort. So we need to spread the word quickly to get teachers to apply. You can send teachers to the website, and have them search for Teachers of Tomorrow. And I would encourage you to use this as an opportunity to reach out to the up and coming teachers of blind students so we can create a relationship with them and start helping them be part of our work to build the organized blind movement.

Now the national convention is coming up, and I do have a number of notes about our convention, which will be in Houston, Texas, from July 1-6. It's now 2 months away.  Hard to believe. Still got a lot of work to do. First of all, I need to let you know that we have been publicizing a room rate for the Marriott that was not quite accurate. I'm sorry for that. The room rate at the Hilton has been accurate, but we've been telling you that the room rate at the Marriott is the same as the Hilton, $119 a night. It's in fact 125 dollars a night. I know if you've already made reservations at the Marriott, they've let you know.  But keep in mind you do get a Texas size lazy river at the Marriott. It's worth 6 bucks a night certainly. But we're sorry for that misinformation and we hope that you still will consider the Marriott as well as the Hilton. Two great options for our convention coming up.

Now, this is also the time when we need resolutions for our convention. And our resolutions deadline is coming up at the beginning of June. June 1, in fact, during our virtual convention. We extended the time for the committee to get the resolutions in before the convention. So it's June 1; that's our deadline. Now, you can send them to [email protected].

I do want to let you know that we have a new chairperson for the resolutions committee this year. This is Donald Porterfield out of Arizona. Sharon was a long time chair for the committee and is still going to be part of the committee and special adviser to the chairman, but she's very happy to be supporting a new Chair of our resolutions committee. I encourage you to get your proposed resolutions in as soon as possible.  Keep in mind that they do need to be in final form, although the chairman will be happy to talk to you about your ideas about resolutions and help you know how to write a resolution in proper form, as will many people around the Federation, especially folks on the committee. Keep in mind that the committee's job is to vet the resolutions that come and vote them up or down, proposing them to the convention. So please get your resolutions in before this month is out.

Now, during the convention season for the last few years, we have been promoting opportunities for members and others to support the work of the Federation through financial contributions. And this is a really significant part of supporting our organization. In 2023, you will again have the opportunity to support the Federation through what we call our give 20 program. Money is tight, but in order to do the work we do in this organization, we need those dollars, and every $20 makes a difference. So our give 20 campaign is one of our significant ways to get contributions into the organization this time of year. And if you make a 20 dollar contribution between now and July 6, the last day of our convention, July 6 at 3:00 p.m. Central Time, for your generosity, you will be entered into our give 20 convention drawing. This will entitle you to potentially win the following: Round trip transportation for two for the 2024 NFB national convention, which will be held in the summer of 2024. And you will also get a hotel at that convention, and you will have your registration and banquet tickets covered for two individuals. Oh, and by the way, you get 1,000 dollars in what our friend Alan Harris used to say is walking around money. So this is a great way not only to support the organization but to potentially get and finance your participation in our 2024 convention.

Now, donations for the give 20 campaign support the following funds of the Federation:  Our Kenneth Jernigan Fund, a board-designated fund that supports special projects.  One of those special projects is supporting first timers to come to the national convention. You can also support the SUN Fund, which is our rainy day fund in the National Federation of the Blind, allowing us to build assets and hopefully not use them.  But if we do have a time in the future when we need to, we have the SUN Fund available. Now, you can also support our White Cane Fund, which is our general fund, and those dollars can be used for any of the Federation programs. Gives us lots of discretion to do what we need to do. Or, finally, you can designate your contribution to the Jacobus tenBroek Fund, which as you may know manages and operates our national headquarters building, which we have the pleasure of occupying. So donations to the tenBroek Fund support our building.

Now, the more you give, the more chances you have to win. If you give $100, you get five entries into our drawing.  Each increment of 20 dollars gives you a chance. You can specify which fund you want to donate to. So be sure to specify that when you make your contribution. You can give online at our website.  We have a special form for the give 20 campaign. So you'll find that very prominently on our website. Or you can go to You can give by phone by calling our donation line at our main number (410) 659-9314, extension 2430. Or you can send a check to the National Federation of the Blind.  Make sure to note exactly what fund or funds you would like to give to.  And please send your check to 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

I would like to note that the drawing is for individuals. So although we will be taking contributions during our honor roll call, which we'll be talking about during the convention from our affiliates and divisions, and those contributions are appreciated very much, they don't count for the give 20 program. This is really to spark participation by individuals.

The winner of the drawing will be announced during the banquet at the convention.  Whether you're there or not. You don't have to be present to win. The way you get in is by contributing.

And I should finally say on this point that we are really happy that our partners at AIRA are matching contributions to the give 20 campaign up to $25,000 during this campaign season. So we are really happy that AIRA is offering the Federation this support. They are the leading company in visual interpreting services, and AIRA is honored to be one of our strategic partners and we're really pleased that they made this commitment to us for 2023. So not only can you donate 20 dollars, but it instantly becomes 40 dollars, thanks to AIRA.

Patti Chang, our director of outreach, also wants me to let you know that you can still become part of the Dream Maker Circle before the national convention. The Dream Maker Circle is our way of allowing members and friends to make an end-of-life gift commitment to the National Federation of the Blind. There's still time to do that before convention, and you want to do that because if you do, you will have a special invite for a Dream Maker Circle members only event happening during the convention. And so if you are interested, you've been thinking about it, please contact Patti Chang for more information. You can reach her at [email protected], or at our main number extension 2422.

I do have a number of Federation family notes to share with you on this release. From California, I regret to inform you of the passing of Dennis Holter on Thursday, April 20th. We were informed of his passing by his wife, so I encourage you to keep her and Dennis' friends in your thoughts and prayers.

From Colorado, we've been notified of the passing of Juanita Brunton, who passed away on Thursday, April 6th. She has been a staunch member of our Aurora chapter for many years, and she was also very active in activities with seniors, especially at our Colorado Center for the Blind. She is survived by her husband and a number of other family members. So I encourage you to keep Juanita in your thoughts and prayers.

From Texas, Norma Crosby informs us that on April 21, Frank Carrillo, who was Vice President of the San Antonio chapter of the NFB of Texas, passed away. Frank she describes as always being a bright light of the Federation and someone who loved doing the work of the organized blind movement.

From Virginia, I regret to inform you of the passing of Woodrow Berry, who was serving as President of our Blue Ridge chapter.

I invite you to keep all of these individuals in your thoughts and prayers, and those that I may have not known about passing during the past month.

I do have one joyous piece of news to share on this release, and it comes from the state of Georgia, where congratulations should be extended to Derrean Tucker and Du-shun Dotson, who were joined in matrimony on April 20, 2023. I'm told that both of them are very active members of the NFB of Georgia, and so congratulations to the newest married couple of the National Federation of the Blind.

That is what I have for this presidential release. We do have a lot of convention prep activities still to go this month in and amongst all of the other work we're doing for the Federation. I am particularly pressed this month because I will be going to New Zealand to the World Blind Union executive committee meeting at the end of this month, which is why the presidential release is actually on May 31st, our June release. Well, actually, for me, it will be June 1st, so technically it's the June release.  But many other things happening, including Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Lots of Federation activities leading up to the convention. So I'm excited about the work that we're doing and the work that we're going to do leading up to the national convention where we're going to be able to celebrate a lot of great victories.

I do want to close this release by saying happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, including my mom, who is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin.

And with that, I will leave you with the customary endings. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.

PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much for being with us tonight. And please join us for our next presidential release live on Wednesday, May 31st, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. You can contact President Riccobono at (410) 659-9314, or email at [email protected]. And I'll pass it back to you. Thank you.

SPEAKER: Hello, I'm Elizabeth Riccobono. What do you call cheese that's not yours?

SPEAKER: I don't know. What?

SPEAKER: Nacho cheese.

SPEAKER: Hey, Oriana, it's allergy season again.

SPEAKER: You've got to be pollen my leg!

I have a joke!

SPEAKER: You do?

SPEAKER: Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use honeycomb.

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.