Presidential Release 528, June 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.

 SPEAKER: Hello, everyone.  Welcome to the presidential release.  We're happy that you are joining tonight.  Thank you so much for being here.  If this is your first time, we want to extend a special welcome to you.  Our presidential release is the monthly event when President Riccobono highlights the events that are happening in the National Federation of the Blind.  We are so happy that you have joined tonight.  Please know that you can submit questions.  You can either send questions through the Q&A feature on the web or mobile app, or you can email [email protected] .  We are closed captioning and posted the link in the chat.  Thank you for being here and we will be starting shortly. 
[ "Good Feeling" – Flo Rida ] 
[ ¶ "Convention Time" ¶ by James Brown ] 
 PAM ALLEN: Hello, everyone.  Welcome! We're so happy that you are joining us.  Welcome, good evening, afternoon, morning, wherever you may be joining from all over the world.  We're so happy you are with us tonight for our presidential release.  We'll be starting in just a few minutes.  Please submit your questions for our Q&A app or email [email protected] .  Thank you so much and we'll be starting shortly!
[ Hello Texas" by Jimmy Buffet ] 
Announcement regarding Spanish interpretation:
[ Speaking Spanish ] 
SPEAKER: With nearly 5 million area residents, the fourth largest city in America attracts visitors and transplants with a wonderful mix of world class arts, booming business, pro sports and award winning cuisine.  Welcome to Houston!
SPEAKER: Welcome to Houston!
SPEAKER: Welcome to Avenida Houston, largest convention, green space and at the center of it all, the George R. Brown Convention Center, a walkable pedestrian friendly convention campus with more than 1 million square feet of meeting space, two connected head quarter hotels, the Jorge R. Brown Convention Center offers flexibility to attendees, one of a kind artwork, inside soaring in the clouds and outside Wings over Water.  The Hilton Americas Houston offers 1200 rooms with 91,000 square feet of meeting space.

The Marriott Marquis Houston has 1,000 rooms with 100,000 square feet of meeting space.  Avenida Plaza, the front door of the Jorge R. Brown Convention Center is often buzzing with free entertainment.  Flowing into 12 acres of outdoor recreation at Discovery Green, one of the best urban parks in the nation.  Enjoy professional sports, just steps away, take in an Astros, Rockets or Dynamo game, and you're just minutes away from the world class theater and museum districts.  Take the Metro rail and arrive in minutes at NRG Stadium.  No better retail outlet than the Galleria with 400 stores and restaurants.  Welcome to Houston. 
 STACEY GALLEGOS: This is Stacey Gallegos, president of the Houston chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas.  Welcome, Federation Family! We can't wait to see you in July!

[ Music playing ] 
¶ Live the life you want ¶
¶ Nobody can stop you ¶
¶ Shoot for the sun ¶
¶ And break on through ¶
¶ So you're blind, you'll be fine ¶
¶ We've got good news ¶
¶ You can live the life you want ¶
¶ Yes, we know the truth ¶
¶ Grab a cane ¶
¶ Get trained ¶
¶ Gotta get moving ¶
¶ Make a change and a wage ¶
¶ That's what we're doing ¶
¶ Come with me ¶
¶ Yeah ¶
¶ Live the life you want ¶
¶ Nobody can stop you ¶
¶ Shoot for the sun and break on through ¶
¶ So you're blind, you'll be fine ¶
¶ We've got good news ¶
¶ You can live the life you want ¶
¶ Yes, we know the truth ¶
¶ You and me NFB ¶
¶ Let's dream together ¶
¶ NFB you and me ¶
¶ Lives on forever ¶
¶ You will see ¶
¶ Yeah ¶
¶ Live the life you want ¶
¶ Nobody can stop you ¶
¶ Shoot for the sun and break on through ¶
¶ So you're blind you'll be fine ¶
¶ We've got good news ¶
¶ You can live the life you want ¶
¶ Yes, we know the truth ¶
¶ We know the truth ¶
¶ You can live the life you want ¶
¶ Yes, we know the truth ¶ 
¶ You know the truth ¶ 

 PAM ALLEN: Hello, everyone! Welcome.  We are so glad you are with us tonight for our June presidential release.  We are thrilled to welcome people who are joining us from all over the world.  And I want to make sure President Riccobono, are you with us? 
 MARK RICCOBONO: I'm here.  I'm here. 
 PAM ALLEN: How are you?
 MARK RICCOBONO: I'm doing great.  How are you?
 PAM ALLEN: Good morning, good afternoon!
 MARK RICCOBONO: It's exactly noon, as a matter of fact, and kia ora to you, which is the traditional greeting here in New Zealand.  It's great to be with you from the future, actually. 
 PAM ALLEN: Tell us, how is it so far?  What do we have to look forward to tomorrow?
 MARK RICCOBONO: The future is bright.  It's a bright sunshiny day, at least here in the capital of New Zealand.
 PAM ALLEN: It is great to be with you.  We are looking forward to a President's release.  I can't believe it's June. 
 MARK RICCOBONO: Don't remind me.  Don't remind me.
 PAM ALLEN: We're excited for a great intro from our Texas affiliate.
 MARK RICCOBONO: That's right, absolutely.  All right, well, great to be together.  I know we'll have a chance to chat some more.  Should we get started?
 PAM ALLEN: That sounds great. 
 MARK RICCOBONO: Okay.  Greetings, fellow Federationists, today is Thursday, June 1, 2023, and this is Presidential Release 528, at least it's Thursday where I am. If you're tuned in live in the United States, it's still May 31st, but from the future, this is our first presidential release from the future, it's June 1 here, about noon in Wellington, New Zealand, where I am attending the executive committee meeting of the World Blind Union, so kia ora to all of you out there, the traditional New Zealand greeting.  
It's been a great meeting of the executive committee of the World Blind Union here.  I've had the pleasure to have many great conversations and also participate in a very interesting meeting kickoff and blessing in the Maori tradition here in New Zealand.  So lots of good things happening as we interact with other blind leaders from around the world and talk about how to advance the global blindness movement.  
Also I want to kick off this release with a very happy Pride Month to everybody, and acknowledgment of our blind members who are also LGBT.  
I'm going to come back to that in a moment, but let me start off this release... there is so many great things to talk about, but I want to celebrate the fact that on Thursday, May 25th, the House companion bill for the Access Technology Affordability Act, the ATAA, was introduced in the 118th Congress.  Very exciting news.  The bill's sponsor is Representative Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania.  The bill is also    has a lead co sponsor of Mike Thompson from California.  The introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act comes with 14 originating cosponsors, very bipartisan, eight Republicans, five Democrats.  So very happy to see our act launched in this Congress with bipartisan support.  I think we can get the bill done this year.  So I'm going to urge you to call, email, find your members of Congress on the street and get them to support this bill.  Let's see if we can get it passed before we get to the fall.  That would be a great victory for us.  I should let you know that our bill number is 3702.  3702.  HR3702 for the Access Technology Affordability Act.  
As you know, this will recreate a refundable tax credit for the purchase of technology.  And as long as we're talking about our advocacy work and looking to the future, just make sure to mark your calendar for our 2024 Washington Seminar, which will run from January 29th through Thursday February 1st of 2024.  That means the Great Gathering in meeting will by tradition by at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 29th.  We will, again, be gathering at the Holiday Inn Capital in Washington, D.C.  Obviously plenty of time to plan for that.  We have a convention and other things in front of us first, but I wanted to make sure you could mark that on your calendar and hopefully we'll be celebrating getting some bills enacted before that, like the Access Technology Affordability Act. 
Now, to start off this release, I do want to talk about the fact that in June we are celebrating Pride Month, and I want to make sure that all of our members know that we have an LGBT+ group in the National Federation of the Blind.  This is one of our affinity groups that brings Federation members together.  The purpose of this specific group is to increase NFB membership and involvement among blind LGBT+ community and to provide resources applicable to this group.  The group provides mentorship and support to blind LGBT+ members in our community and serves to educate the general public regarding the myths and misconceptions about blindness, including the general LGBT+ community, which frequently discriminates against individuals on the basis of blindness. 
The group is chaired by Sanho Steele Louchart out of Oklahoma.  He also serves as our president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma.  Sanho advises that people can find the group through the very active LGBT+ listserv that can be found at NFB Net.  You can also find the group on Facebook by searching for NFB LGBT group, and you can reach Sanho by calling the national office and dialing extension 2440.  You can also find his information on our website where we have more information about the group, and I do encourage you to look up the NFB listserv, it's a great resource.  The group has a weekly meeting on Zoom, which is open to LGBT individuals and allies.  Right now the meetings happen on Thursday evenings, and you can get the information where there is a weekly reminder sent out.  Again, the group is for LGBT individuals and applies, and Sanho emphasizes that everybody is welcome to participate in this group. 
Now, I want to just take a point of privilege on a more personal basis to call on all Federation members to recognize that our members who are also identify as LGBT face many intersecting points of discrimination.  And this has an impact on their full participation in society.  I have felt that to some degree myself just in the way that people react to the fact that Melissa and I have a transgender daughter, and that's without even having the particular characteristics myself.  As excitement grows for our national convention in Houston in just a short month, I really want to urge Federation members to recognize that it is a painful experience for many of our members who are also LGBT.  The public laws and policies in a number of states, including Texas, where this year's convention will be, creates real fear and pain for our members who have these intersecting characteristics, and have the potential to limit their ability to feel comfortable traveling to participate in our national convention.  As leaders in the Federation, we're making the commitment to continue to seek ways to mitigate the harm that is done in communities that might create laws that make it difficult for our members to come to those locations and fully participate, and we're going to commit to figure out how to do that in our future activities, recognizing that there are many complications and we're going to continue to interface with the group about the things that we can do to make sure that our convention environment continues to be safe and welcoming. 
However, all Federation members can do something about this today and in the time leading up to and including our national convention. 
I want to urge all members to recognize that many of our blind Federation family members who are also LGBT are wrestling with a confluence of concerns and feelings as it relates to our national convention and whether they're sharing them with us or not, they exist, and that has an impact on their ability to participate fully in our convention.  This includes those who make the painful decision to stay home from our national convention because of their concerns about traveling to a place like Texas, and also includes those who decide to come to the convention but may have real fears about their own safety and ability to participate fully in the convention.  For them that's a real perceived risk, and we should all be aware of that, and I encourage each and every one of us as members to rally around these members and let them know that for us, we want the Federation and our Federation family, the convention to be a welcoming and safe space for all of us.  And I think we all can do a little extra to make sure that our Texas convention this year expresses that in a very, very dope way. 
I do want to recognize    in a very, very deep way. 
I do want to recognize that our leaders in our Texas affiliate and certainly the leaders in Houston who we have dealt with have all expressed their deep support for blind members of the LGBT community and we stand with them in that support.  They all have committed to make sure that our convention is a safe and welcoming space, and I urge all of us to be part of that.  You know, so often on the release we have talked about this, but as our society struggles with diversity, we have the real opportunity to make sure that the Federation stands as an example of how to create a welcoming and safe space, with understanding of family environment for all blind individuals.  And that can serve as a model for other parts of our society.  So I hope you will join me in acknowledging Pride Month by recommitting to make sure that our Federation spaces are inclusive and welcoming of all individuals and especially acknowledging our LGBT+ community this month.  I know that many of our chapters are undertaking efforts in that regard, and I think it's a great way to continue to reach out and build our organization.  So, thank you for the work that you are all doing in that regard. 
Now, I do want to talk to you about our national convention, which is coming up and is going to consume must of the next month and a half for us.  The convention will happen from July 1 to July 6th, and hopefully you have registered and made your plans to participate in the convention.  If you did not register to be in person, you can still show up at the convention and register at that time.  If you happen to be watching this live, you still have a handful of hours to go to /convention and register.  For those who just cannot make it to the in person convention this year, I want to call out that we do have the virtual convention experience, which is available to you.  Registration for the virtual convention experience will run up and through the convention itself, but you'll want to register as early as possible so you can get all the information emails leading up to it, the Zoom links, and remember that registration is free, but it does make you eligible for virtual door prizes, which you do have to be tuned in to hear your name and respond to that in email.  It's a great benefit.  If you cannot be at the convention, you can tune in free. 
The virtual convention experience includes three pre convention activities.  These are all open, actually, to registered convention attendees, virtual or in person.  So those will be available.  During the convention there will be three daily designated virtual experience sessions from noon to 2:00 p.m. on July 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  This will include a welcoming event from the presidential suite.  I'm looking forward to that.  Also you will have access to the livestream of the meeting of the Resolutions Committee.  In addition, the virtual convention experience will include streaming of the national Board of Directors meeting and all of our general sessions, concluding, of course, with the banquet.  And, again, if you register for the virtual convention experience, you will be eligible for our virtual door prize offerings.  Again, you can find this, /convention.  You can even register during the convention, so if you forgot or didn't get to it or suddenly became available, make sure you go on and register. 
Now, for those who cannot be at the convention, I strongly encourage you to consider throwing a banquet party with other members from your chapter or just from the community, if you don't have a local chapter.  This is a fun way to connect with the Federation family and to enjoy the festivities at the banquet.  The banquet, of course, will begin at 7:00 p.m. Central time on July 6th, and if your chapter or you will be holding a banquet party on July 6th, we urge you to register that party with us so we can acknowledge it, and if you are interested, you may get the opportunity to have us drop in live to your banquet party during the course of the in person banquet.  Pam Allen will be our master of ceremonies for the banquet, and I know she'll be glad to drop into as many of our banquet parties across the country as we can reasonably do.  You can fill out the form.  You need to fill out the form in order to be eligible to be considered for the drop in, and we want to know about your banquet party anyways, so you can fill out the form.  We need you to fill it out by June 21st in order to be considered for the drop in.  You can find the form, again, /convention.  Everything convention happens on that page.  
For those who are coming to our convention, the host affiliate, NFB of Texas wants you to know that they have worked out a number of exciting tours for those coming to the convention.  These include Space Center Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and a trip to Minute Maid Park, otherwise known as the Juice Box, to enjoy the July 7th game between the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners.  Now, Norma Crosby, our president of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas wants you to know that the Texas affiliate plans to make sure that the entire crowd that comes to enjoy the world champion Astros game on July 7th knows about the National Federation of the Blind.  In fact, she urges me to tell you that she has personally worked out that the first pitch of this ball game will be thrown by the President of the National Federation of the Blind.  So thanks, Norma, for giving me more things to worry about related to the convention.  But I urge people to come to the ball game and other tours.  You can learn about all of the tours,  Look for the story about the NFB 2023 convention and sign up for the tours at our convention.  Now let me give you just a little bit more information about the tours for those that are tuned into our live portion.  There will be three tours of Space Center Houston offered during the convention.  The tours will cost $35 per person.  

And that will regardless of age.  And the tour price includes a guided tour and roundtrip transportation from the hotel.  So pretty good deal. 
The tours will take place on the afternoon of June 30 and on the morning and afternoon of July 1.  So three tours, June 30 and the morning and afternoon of July 1st.  There is also a tour of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and that will take place on the morning of July 1.

Tickets will cost $37 and will include not only the regular exhibits but entry into the Egypt exhibit. 
In exhibit includes the King Tut's sarcophagus, which has been made accessible with panels from 3 D Photo Works.  And as mentioned on July 7th, the Houston Astros will be playing the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park, and our affiliate is working out a group rate for that.  We don't have pricing information on that. It is an evening game on July 7th, so undoubtedly you will want to stay until the 8th.  It's going to be exciting.  I know a number of us are going to be there, so you should plan to be there as well. Again, to get more information, and if you need to, you can write to our affiliate. 
Let me talk to your quickly about hotels.  Because some of you may have waited until the very last minute here to get your reservations in. I guess I'm pleased to tell you that our headquarters hotel, which is the Hilton Americas is at capacity.  Some of you have probably even been turned away.  There are still several ours left today to reserve a space at our main overflow hotel, which is the Marriott Marquis.  So you will want to do that before you tick over to June 1st in the United States.  The number for the Marriott Marquis is 877 622 3056.

Remember that the rate at the Marriott Marquis is $125 a night.  The Marriott has the Texas shaped lazy river, which I'm told is the largest lazy river in Texas, as well as a number of good dining establishments, and it's only an easy one fourth mile walk from the Marriott over to the headquarters hotel where the convention will be, and you can travel that route indoors on the second floor by going through the convention center.  So you don't have to go out in the Texas heat if you wish to avoid that.  So you need to get your Marriott reservations in by the 1st if you can, because there's not guaranteed to be space after that. 
We do have a couple other hotels, overflow hotels, the Embassy Suites, the Hampton Inn, and the Homewood Suites, which are also within a quarter mile walk of the Hilton.  These hotels have agreed to make rooms available beyond June 1st, but you don't want to wait too long, because these rooms are limited, and you may get left out.  You can find all of the hotel information, including phone numbers, again, on /convention.  Still plenty of time but you don't want to wait too much longer, but you could still get a room and come to the national convention in person.  We would love to see you in Houston. 
Now, I mentioned that I am here in Wellington, New Zealand, to participate in the executive committee of the World Blind Union.  The Federation is part of the North American Caribbean region of the World Blind Union, and I serve as vice president of the region.  I thought, for those of you who are not familiar with the World Blind Union, that I would make a short introduction here on the release to the World Blind Union for you.  So here to give a brief overview of the World Blind Union is the president from the World Blind Union from New Zealand herself. 
 SPEAKER: I'm greeting you in New Zealand.  And I'm the president of the World Blind Union.  I met some of you when I attended my first NFB convention in July 2019, before the world changed. 
We are having the meeting here in Wellington, and it's wonderful to have Mark Riccobono here with us.  The NFB is working very closely with WBU, and unfortunately    or fortunately, because of the invasion of Ukraine, people were asking at NFB level and World level what can they do, how can they support efforts.  So we got together, as blind people tend to do, put some music in the mix, and a great fundraiser concert was organized.  So not just that we ask people to donate for us to then distribute the funds to the Ukrainian blind people and families, but we celebrated our own talents as well. 
Now, WBU has six regions, and most of you will know that you fit into the Caribbean and North America region.  And the other regions are all across the world.  And because I live in New Zealand, in the Asia Pacific region.  Each region has got very specific issues, but there are some commonalities.  Funding constraints is always something.  And, of course, we still struggle with some implementation of the street, even though this year on 12 July, I believe it's the tenth year anniversary of the International adoption of the treaty.  So I'm going to Geneva to help celebrate it.  But we actually need to remind ourselves that it doesn't just help to sign and ratify and exceed to the treaty you then need to deal with domestic legislation and to support and strengthen your local blindness library and other libraries to be able to enact and make the distribution of titles possible.  So, yes, it was great, and we got it through, but we still have a lot of work to do about it. 
We have got some new priorities.  Some of our brand new committees this year is a climate change committee, because we know how climate justice is a huge issue, and we don't want disabled people and blind people to be left out when governments and other NGOs talk about it.  And we also have for the first time a new sports and recreation committee.  Otherwise we somewhere a lot of the usual suspect groups to do with development, to do with capacity building, and you know, so we've got a new CEO started at the beginning of last year.  So it's all going well.  We really look forward to staying in touch in what or whichever way.  So let us know what to sign up for social video or other publication wise, and for us to stay in touch, even though we're far apart in theory. 
 MARK RICCOBONO: I really appreciate the president taking the time to share with you thoughts about the World Blind Union here on this presidential release.  It's been great to spend some time with Martin in her home country, and to get to meet a number of the people who are involved in the organized blind movement and otherwise here in the Asia Pacific region of the World Blind Union.  I do have one other convention item that I neglected to put in the convention portion.  So let me offer that to you. 
Federation members will know that for many years, decades, really, we have been offering Spanish interpretation at the national convention.  And our Spanish interpretation efforts are a great opportunity for Federation members who do speak Spanish, are able to interpret from English to Spanish to help make the convention a welcoming experience for Spanish speakers.  We are looking for additional individuals to help out with Spanish interpretation at the convention, and, in fact, we're working on building some new systems for how we perform Spanish interpretation at the national level.  The convention is one piece of that.  Events like the presidential release here are another part of that. 
So as we work to revamp and improve those systems, we're looking for those who might be interested and able to help with Spanish interpretation during the national convention.  If that is you, or if you know of people who are coming to the convention who are members of the federation who are qualified and ready to help, please ask them to send an email to Danielle McCann at our national office that's [email protected] or call Extension 2401 at our national office.  We would love to put you on the list with our activities at the national convention to include in more dynamic ways our Spanish speaking members.  And thank you to all of our members that do a great job helping with those efforts all year round. 
Okay, a couple of other announcements here.  And speaking of year round, you know, we're working on employment activities year round in the National Federation of the Blind, and one of those is our "Where the Blind Work" webinar series.  And the next one of those is coming up on June 15th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern via Zoom.  This next webinar will be a panel discussion featuring blind individuals who are working professionals in the federal government contracting space.  Federal contracting is a major form of business across various governmental agencies, and it's an opportunity that leads to other employment opportunities in the government, and so it's increasingly recognized as a great entry point and way to have a career in government.  So this next "Where the Blind Work" webinar will feature three high achievers in government contracting, who happen to be blind.  And they will be talking to you about the work that they do and how they do it and the keys to success in this area and how to get into it if you are a blind person.  You can visit to find the information to register for the webinar.  
In addition, the convention is really, in my opinion, the most powerful place for networking and skill building and for employment of blind people anywhere in the world.  And our Employment Committee does an absolutely outstanding job of putting activities together throughout our convention to enhance those employment opportunities and skill building.  The chairperson of the Employment Committee this year is Jennifer Wenzel out of Wisconsin, and Jennifer and the rest of the committee has put together another great set of activities.  So if you are coming to the convention, please pay attention to the employment track and all the many things that you can engage with there. 
If you want to learn more about the employment activities of the National Federation of the Blind and the work that we're doing to build new programs, I would encourage you to reach out to Daniel Frye, who has recently come back to the NFB staff to serve as Director of Employment and Professional Development Programs.  You can reach him at his email address, which is [email protected] .  Or you can reach him at our main number, which you know is 410 659 9314, and he is at Extension 2393. 
Definitely would ask you to call out the employment activities to folks who are coming to the convention who are interested in employment.  There are literally thousands of blind people across the country, maybe tens of thousands who got into their job, into their career, advanced in their career because of networking and resources from other members of the National Federation of the Blind.  Now, we're talking a lot about convention on this release, and that's makes sense because that is what is in front of us.  I do have an update from our National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and I want to give that to you here because there is a number of important things happening this summer related to the parents.  First and foremost, our Parents Division is planning a great program as part of our NFB Convention in Houston.  The theme for the parents activities this year is Reach for the Stars in keeping with the amazing work that happens at the Houston Space Center with scientists there.  So if there are families coming to the convention, certainly steer them towards the activities of our Parents Division.  The Parents Division will also be sponsoring a Youth Track during the convention for children age 11 to 18, and there are sessions at the convention that will include activities around IEPs for parents and other workshops.  The annual Cane Walk, which is a great event.  The Megan Bening Memorial Technology Giveaway for kids, and maybe most exciting for this year, the 40th anniversary birthday party, they call it, for the division, which was founded first in 1983. 
In addition the parents activities at the convention includes the American Action Fund for blind children and adults sponsorship of the Braille Book Fair, which is a collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind and our Parents Division.  It's the largest in person activity where you can come and get Braille books for free and walk away with them.  They do go fast.  So make sure to get there early. 
Also, our Parents Division has a call to action for all of our chapters and divisions out there.  The NOPBVC is seeking recommendations for the next cohort of the Parent Leadership Program, or PLP, as they refer to it.  Which is going to be held starting with the 2023 national convention in Houston.  If you know parents who show a commitment to the work of the Federation and have potential and interest in being in leadership, especially to build the Federation by founding, strengthening or reinvigorating a Parents Division in your affiliate, you should recommend them for the Parent Leadership Program.  Now, if you have identified people like this, you will have to make sure that they are going to be at the national convention, because that is where this mentoring is going to take place. 
If you have people like that, please send their name and contact information, and the Parents Division will send them an invitation to be part of the Parent Leadership Program.  And you should make it clear that you are recommending them to the Parents Division.  Again, in order to parties pat in the Parent Leadership    participate in the Parent Leadership Program, individuals will have to arrive in Houston by Friday, June 30th, so they can be available for the NOPBVC sessions that happen on Saturday, July 1st, and the mentoring and other activities that will go forward from there. 
The parents appreciate the support of all Federation members in identifying new leaders for the parents of blind children, and this announcement comes from Carol Castellano of New Jersey, and she asks that you send those names and contact information to her at her Gmail address, which is [email protected].  Castellano is C A S T E L L A N O. 
Now, I do have a number of Federation Family notes for you here on this release.  From Colorado, Gary Van Dorn tells us about the passing of Karen Samuelsen over the weekend of May 14.  He tells us that Darren joined the NFB many years    Karen joined the NFB many years ago when she moved to Colorado to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind.  Karen was a fixture in Federation chapter activities, especially when Denver chapters had a fundraiser wrapping gifts at the Barnes & Noble during the holidays.  He tells us that many, many people would return each year specifically to have their gifts wrapped by Karen, who was engaging and friendly and helped to spread the word of the Federation simply by providing an important service of wrapping gifts during the holidays, a great demonstration of the capacity of blind people.  Karen was a founding member of the Mile High chapter in Denver and served as treasurer, in addition to other leadership activities.  She cared deeply about the Federation. 
From Louisiana, Pam Allen shares that Eleanor Chapman, a dedicated and proud member of our Greater New Orleans chapter passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59 on May 3.  She had recently attended her first state convention and was excited and enthusiastic and energized by the wonderful experience she had amongst her Federation family.  Eleanor will be remembered for her positive outlook on all aspects of life. 
From Nevada, we have learned of the passing of Herbert Francis Radcliffe, who passed away at age 83.  He passed away on April 9, 2023 after a battle with cancer.  He was a member of our newly formed Southern Nye County chapter in Nevada and he served as the first vice president and was very active in helping to draft the constitution for that chapter.  Interesting fact about Herb is that he never knew his father, who was killed in World War II.  Herb went on to serve in the United States Army and the United States Army Reserves from 1961 to 1967.  He served for 30 years in the Reno Fire Department, and he always brought that commitment to service to the work that he did within the National Federation of the Blind.  You should keep his family in your thoughts and prayers, including his wife, Carol, as well as his four children, seven grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.  
I urge you to keep all of these individuals in your thoughts and prayers.  Norma Crosby from Texas says that it is with a heavy heart that she sends the news of the passing of Laurie Zertuche, who passed away recently.  Laurie has been a member of the Federation since the early 1980s.  And Norma tells us that she has supported all of the work of the Federation in a whole hearted way, and that she believed that a job wasn't worth doing unless it was absolutely done right, and that is the commitment she brought to everything she did within the National Federation of the Blind that she was a sweet soul for the Federation in Texas, and she will be deeply missed. 
Keep all of these individuals, as well as those that we may not have known about on this release in your thoughts and prayers. 
Now, I do have a number of joyous pieces of news on this release.  Kyle Kiper of Arkansas lets us know of the marriage of NFB of Arkansas second vice president, Donavon Cavender to Brittany Berry on April 22nd.  So congratulations to the newest couple of the National Federation of the Blind.  
And from Ohio, I want to send a special congratulations to Jose Centeno hopefully I said that right.  José Centeno, who is a member of the Miami Valley chapter, and hope say completed the 2023 Cleveland half marathon during the month of May.  Jose is a blind person but also is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and congratulations to Jose not just on completing the half marathon, which I think is an accomplishment definitely, but he also did a great job in the process of promoting the fact that he is a member of the National Federation of the Blind, got some press coverage, and most importantly promoted the fact that when you want to get something done, the members of the National Federation of the Blind are the best support system available for blind people.  So thank you, Jose, for your accomplishments and using that to express the philosophy of the Federation and let people know that we are a resource for blind people. 
Finally, I want to let you know that Kaitlyn McEntire announces the arrival of her second child, which is Rigel Demetrius Seraphin, who was born on May 23rd, 2023 at 9:50 a.m.  Now, Rigel came in weighing 3 pounds, 15 ounces and 17 inches long, and Kaitlyn reports that everybody is doing well, although obviously there are some work ahead to make sure that both mom and baby are healthy and well in launching into life here.  So we keep Kaitlyn and the family in our thoughts and prayers.  And I'm sure big brother Edmund is ready to start teaching all of the ways of the world.  So congratulations to the entire McEntire family. 
I think, Pam, that's what I have for right now on my portion of the release. 
 PAM ALLEN: Okay.  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.  We've got some great questions tonight.  A lot of people very curious about organizations of the blind in other parts of the world.  So as you were sharing about the world monument, you share a little about your experiences and what it's like in other countries? 
 MARK RICCOBONO: Yeah.  Well, there is a lot of variability in organizations of the blind in other parts of the world for a variety of reasons.  And the thing that is universally true is that all organizations look to the National Federation of the Blind as really the model.  We have been fully independent, run by blind people from the beginning.  And a lot of countries, the government has a role the play and influence in work that organizations of blind people do in those countries.  So they ebb and flow, and a lot of developing countries, of course, there are a number of challenges that are faced. 
But I would say what we find in the World Blind Union is the spirit of blind people speaking and acting for themselves is alive and well in all parts of the world, and the support system of the world organization to help to continue to advance and development the community of blind leaders and blind led orgs is really strong. 
So it varies across the world, and, you know, it's not as strong as I think many blind people would like it to be in various parts of the world, and this is where the World Blind Union and our participation plays a critical role.  You know, some Federation members may take certain literature that we have for granted, but in other parts of the world it's an important source of inspiration and motivation.  A lot of Federation members who have come along in the last few years may not know about our Colonel book series from the early part of this century.  I have had a number of people at the World Blind Union ask me about it and how they could still get their hands on it.  So the great thing in the collaboration we're doing is that we can share our literature, but also continue to get inspired by organizations of the blind and in other parts of the world that don't have the advantages that we have built, and so they're really, really focused on how important it is that blind people are speaking and acting for themselves in a representative way.  Something that, you know, some of us may take for granted in the U.S., because we have been so successful in it. 
 PAM ALLEN: How fortunate we are -- 
 PAM ALLEN: -- to have our Federation family.  We also have a few questions wondering if you have seen Jonathan Moza in your Zoom room. 
 MARK RICCOBONO: Some characters in the blindness field are well known, and Jonathan Mosen is one of them.  I had, in fact, the opportunity to spend some time with Jonathan and his wife, Bonnie, at their home.  And Jonathan runs a very successful podcast, and he won't mind me saying    and I'll be the first to scoop the national convention agenda, that he will be coming to our national convention to speak to Federation members there.  So I have had the opportunity, and Jonathan is you know, an important thought leader who is contributing to aspects of the organized blind movement. Martin mentioned the great work that we did together on the concert for Ukraine, and Jonathan was a great part of that.  So it was great to be in his hometown here and have the opportunity to spend some time with him. 
 PAM ALLEN: That's great.  It's great to hear about Martine as well.  And that's a great transition, President Riccobono, you didn't even realize it... (chuckling) 
But you said "agenda."  And you can only imagine the questions we have been getting about the convention agenda.  And will it    when will it be available? 
 MARK RICCOBONO: Well, that's always the    the million dollar question, whatever you want to put on it this time of year.  The answer is soon, very soon.  It will be available I would say any day now.  Trust me, we will be promoting it far and wide when it is available on the website.  You know, a lot of people may neutralize that we put a lot of care    may not realize that we put a lot of care into what we publish, to make sure that it's free of errors and that it has all the right information.  That's not easy.  And even in that we still miss things once in a while, right?  So the agenda, obviously being an important document, will be coming very, very soon, and you will get all the information about the convention and the various things happening and who is speaking.  So keep watching.  I'm sure sometime in the next week it will be available online, maybe sooner, if we can manage it.  The national office staff, obviously, has a number of things to do getting ready for the convention. 
And including, I should say, Suzanne Schaffer, who is our art director, and has a very primary role in getting the agenda ready to be disseminated in all the places she is getting married next week.  So you can be guaranteed that it will be out of her hands before next weekend.  So let me use this as an opportunity to congratulate Suzanne on her upcoming marriage. 
 PAM ALLEN: Yay, that's exciting.  And shout out to everybody, sit a huge job.  Thank you to all our staff for everything and preparation getting ready for convention, all the behind the scenes work that allows us to get things to happen.  So, thank you very much. 
We also have a couple questions that related to divisions and groups.  Tina asks what    if you could explain a little bit... the difference between a group and a division. 
 MARK RICCOBONO: Yeah, so that's that great question.  First of all, let me say that the national constitution asks the federation's Board of Directors to manage the inclusion of national divisions into the organization.  And the national board has over a number of years now been refining the process for evaluating divisions and making sure that they're continuing to be relevant and contributing to the work of the National Federation of the Blind.  So the national board has a set of guidelines that it uses in evaluating requests to have divisions, and, of course, divisions have to be representative of major areas of concern and need, usually around employment, but, of course, there are exceptions, like our blind students, two aren't working on employment just yet.  They're on the road to get there, but not quite yet.  So the board has a system for evaluating requests, and a lot of times these what later become divisions start as groups.  And groups are more blind members of the Federation getting together on an affinity basis to share resources and information, and the board continues to look at when is a division needed and when is a group most appropriate? 
So the groups tend to be really members of our organization connecting really around a certain affinity.  And that group is a great way to kind of coordinate the efforts of members of the Federation, and the LGBT group is a good example.  It allows members that are interested in that affinity area to come together and share resources and coordinate when needed with outside entities or influence advocacy within the Federation.  Divisions get more formalized and they're asked to submit annual reports and they have to keep track of membership.  So there's an administrative piece to it, and there's a higher level of accountability there.  So we continue to look at as a national board what should be a group, what should be a division.  Any time we add a new formal division that creates tracking and accountability, because we want to make sure that we're using the Federation name in a responsible way.  And sometimes we find that there is not a need for a division in the way that there used to be.  A good example is we used to have the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille as a division.  That really came out of an aggressive effort, you know, close to 40 years ago to really tackle the Braille literacy campaign and the need to raise awareness.  Well, today almost everything we do is related to Braille literacy.  So every division should be working on Braille literacy.  So a number of years ago we sunset the division, actually at the divisions request, and now we have a committee that works on making sure that Braille literacy advancement is threaded throughout our work. 
So, you know, again, the national board continues to look at how do we make our work most effective.  The goal is always building the National Federation of the Blind. 
 PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much, President Riccobono.  And we want to thank everyone for submitting questions tonight.  If we didn't have a chance to answer your question directly, our fabulous communications team will be following up with you.  So thank you so much for being with us, and for joining us tonight.  We will look forward to seeing everyone soon.  Thank you again for being with us tonight.  You can contact President Riccobono at 410 659 9314 or email at office of the president at  We will not be having a July presidential release since we will all be heading to Houston, Texas, for #NFB23.  You can learn more at /convention.  Our next presidential release live will be on August 1st.  Thank you so much for being with us.  And I will pass it back to you, President Riccobono. 
 MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you, Pam.  Great to hear your voice and I look forward to being with you in person.  Traveling home just in time for Elizabeth's birthday. 
 PAM ALLEN: That's important. 
 MARK RICCOBONO: That's what I have for this very special presidential release, international presidential release.  Maybe the first release to be recorded international that I'm aware of.  So a very special one.  Number 528. 
I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to be with the Federation family in Houston in one short month. There’s a lot to do between now and then, and I know there is a lot of work happening in our chapters as well.  So I look forward to being with all of you at the national convention, and if you can't be in person, please participate in the virtual convention experience so that we can continue to build this important movement of ours.  If you are at the convention, take an opportunity to come by the presidential suite and say hello.  
And thank you in advance for your part in making our convention a success.  
With that, I'll leave you with the customary endings and say, let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!
 SPEAKER: Hey, did you hear about the fight at the chip shop?  No, what happened?  Two fish got battered.  
Hi, Elizabeth.  Hi.  Do you have a joke for me?  Yeah.  What is it? 
Why did the recorder go to the ice cream parlor?  I don't know.  Why?  Because he wanted to get the scoop. 
What did the cliché say to the annoying cookie?  Crumb on!
What is a sheep's favorite way to cook? 
I don't know. 
On the bah be cue.
 SPEAKER: The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, president of National Federation of the Blind, [email protected].  Follow President Riccobono on Mastodon.  Search for @President@NFB.  Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!