Presidential Release #529, August 2023 (English Transcript)

[ Music: "Days Like This" by Van Morrison ]

PAM ALLEN: Good evening, everyone. Thank you for being with us tonight. We are excited to welcome you to our August presidential release. We hope everyone is having a wonderful summer and staying cool in the heat. We will be starting shortly at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Just a quick reminder that we have a Q&A section. Also you can submit questions at any of our social media channels or send them to email.

This is a monthly event where President Riccobono highlights current events that lapping in the National Federation of the Blind. We're happy that you are joining with us. Along with the closed captions in Zoom, we're using the 1capapp. You can share responses by posting on social media and using #NFB23. Our questions for the poll tonight are: What did you think of the personal AI technology presented at convention? And our second question is: Have you experienced discrimination from a rideshare company? Thank you again for being with us tonight. We'll be starting shortly

[ Music: "Fast Car" by Luke Combs ]

[ Music: "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams ]

PAM ALLEN: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our August presidential release where President Riccobono will share highlights and current events happening in the National Federation of the Blind. Blindness does not stop us from living the lives that we want. We are going to start in just a couple minutes. Please feel free to share your questions through the Q&A feature on the web or the mobile app or any of or our social media channels or send them to [email protected]. We also would love for you to take part in our poll. Again, we'll be starting shortly. Welcome!

[ Music: "Respect" by Aretha Franklin ]

[ Announcement regarding the Spanish interpretation services ]

You can live the live 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,

And 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

You and me

Lives on forever

Now will see

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 got good news

You can live the life you want

Yes, we know the truth

You can live the life you want

Yes, we know the truth

You know the truth

[ Music ends ]

PAM ALLEN: Hello, everyone! Welcome to our August presidential release. I know that we are all so energized from the love in the community that we experienced just a few short weeks ago in Houston. Whether we were attending in person or virtually at our national convention. It's so great to be with everyone again tonight, and it is now my pleasure to introduce President Riccobono.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Hey, Pam, how are you?

PAM ALLEN: Great. How is everything in Baltimore?

MARK RICCOBONO: I can't believe a month has gone by.

PAM ALLEN: It's hard to believe.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: It's great to hear your voice again.

PAM ALLEN: I hope you had a great birthday, wishes from all over the country.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: I did. I haven't had a chance to reply to them all. Let this be my official thank you for those who sent birthday wishes. Pam, I do want to let you know I turned 47, and I experienced a first over the weekend. Never had before. But my daughter, who was at the convention, in fact, she introduced the presidential report, she took good care of me. She painted my nails.

PAM ALLEN: I love it!

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: I'm going to show them.

PAM ALLEN: I love it.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: They're green, blue, and orange, for the Federation logo.

PAM ALLEN: Is she taking appointments?

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Yes, especially if you're paying. She's got a little work to do, but I'm the guinea pig. After 47 years I finally had my nails painted the first time.

PAM ALLEN: I think that's as fabulous thing to do. Good work, Oriana.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: We have a lot of great stuff to talk about and I know you have been on the road a little bit doing Federation work. Look forward to talking about that.

Greetings fellow Federationists, today is Tuesday, August 1st, 2023, and this is presidential release 529. And we have a plan, not just a 529 plan but a plan for the Federation going forward coming out of our national convention, which was I definitely think one of our best ever. The energy is still being felt in so many ways. We have so much momentum coming out of the convention. The month of July flew by with so many outstanding events happening, and activities we were involved in. I'm going to talk about some of those on this release, but let me kick off this August presidential release by thanking the hundreds of members who made our 2023 convention one of our best ever. We did, of course, have 54 of our Federation staff at the convention, and I want to thank them for their work. It's really essential to making the convention what it is, and a lot of the behind the scenes stuff that you don't even know is needed for the convention happens because of the staff.

But the convention could not happen at the scale it does and the way it does without the hundreds of members that jump in to help, whether it's serving as talking signs, helping out in the hallways, working in the exhibit hall, helping with crowd management, especially around the elevators. This year we had dumb elevators, Norma Crosby told us, and they were as crazy as ever.

Assisting in and around the ballroom, running door prizes, answering questions from first timers. It's really the hundreds of members that jump in to be part of the work team at the convention and be part of the welcoming team at the convention that make it a success.

And that is my opportunity to give another very, very heartfelt big thank you to our Texas affiliate that brought hospitality to a new level. So much work went into hosting the convention and our Texas affiliate did a great job, and I can't wait until a future opportunity to go back to Texas.

Now, if you participated in the convention, either in person or the virtual experience, I urge you to take a moment to fill out our feedback survey, which is available at /convention. It's available in English and Spanish, and you can also get to is survey via our touch tone telephone system. To complete the survey by phone, you should call 229 623 7878. 229 632 7878 or the toll free number, 833 632 7878. You will be able to fill out the survey via phone. It is an automated system. So you should recognize that you will need to stay on and fill out the survey all the way through for your survey to be submitted. You can use the keypad to pause your session for up to five minutes, and you can also get help through the keypad system. So if you're not able to get to the survey online, I do encourage you to fill it out via phone. We need your feedback, and I urge you to get your feedback in this month, the month of August, so that it's fresh in your mind, and we can use that data to plan for our 2024 convention before I talk about that. Let me say that the highlights from the 2023 convention are available on our website now, /convention. You can find the convention highlights. There were so many great presentations, if you missed any of them, you should go back to the website and look them up. You can also find the information on our YouTube channel. I do want to mention that we did announce our 2024 convention, which will be happening in Orlando, Florida, at the Rosen Center from July 3 July 8. So look forward to being with you all again in Florida next year for another outstanding convention.

There's a lot of stuff to talk about from the convention and after the convention, but I thought I would share with you on this release, we did announce at the last presidential release that our president in Texas, Norma Crosby, set an opportunity up for the Federation to be represented at the Houston Astros game on July 7th. And Norma asked me to take the honor of throwing out the first pitch. I continued to urge her though consider, being our Texas president, taking on the task, but she continued to defer to me, and it added an interesting element of nervousness to the end of the convention. But I wanted to present to you tonight the first pitch from the Houston Astros game. I have to say it was great to have the federation recognized, and so many Federationists in attendance. I could hear the section cheering from the field there at the Juice Box in Houston. And here is how it sounded from the PA system at the ball park. However, we have enriched it with a little embellishment from our own Will Schwatka.

ANNOUNCER: And heading out to the mound to have another ceremonial first pitch, please welcome the President of the National Federation of the Blind, Mark Riccobono.

Mark and John head out to the mound now.

ANNOUNCER: Mark is donning an Astros jersey with his name in Braille on the back. He confers with the coach and then places his cane on the ground in the direction of the plate. His cane will determine the lane to the strike zone. This is not Mark's first time on the mound. He made his pitching debut September 2018 tossing out the first pitch at the Orioles / Blue Jays game.

Mark Riccobono from the National Federation of the Blind. The transformative membership and advocacy organization of blind people. You can find out all about...

[ speech fades out ]

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: That's what it sounded like if you were at the stadium. Thank you to Will Schwatka, for exercising his color commentary skills which we didn't really know he had, at least I didn't know. Will is one of the many people that's behind the scenes. The sound at the convention was great. Thanks to Will for his work. That was a fun moment and great to celebrate with Federation members. The Astros fans weren't too happy that evening, but the Mariner fans were happy and it was a great time. We have been busy since the national convention. There's a lot of advocacy work to talk to you about. On Tuesday July 25th, the United States Access Board conducted its quarterly meeting and public commentary session at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. This meeting was open to the public, and we had a very full house hear in our Members Hall. It was great to give the United States Access Board members a tour of our national headquarters and talk with them about our priorities and what we need them to push on related to equal access in this country.

The meeting and town hall was recorded and is available on the United States Access Board's YouTube channel. So if you want to check it out, I encourage you to do that.. And that you to the Federation members who tuned in. I know it made a great impression on the members of the United States Access Board.

Now, one of the many things we talked about at our convention was the discrimination that continues to happen with rideshare companies. A big topic at the convention and, of course, we had Uber at our convention, and to talk to us about the commitments they are attempts to make in this area, even as we had members of ours denied by Ubers in Houston.

On July 27th, Uber did hold a listening session with members of the Federation to continue to hear about our concerns related to discrimination by rideshare drivers. They are holding another listening session on August 16th. That one will be held from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Eastern time. The last one was during the day.

But I want to talk to you now about some next steps we want to take related to our strategy for both Uber and Lyft. You know, the Department of Justice plays a significant role and has significant enforcement power under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And we want our members to use the power of the Department of Justice to help push on rideshare companies to end the discrimination that is happening. Many of you have already participated in work that has been done related to wait times by rideshare companies. There were multi million dollar settlements on that issue, and many of our members were able to recoup wait time fees from that. We want to use the Department of Justice to make change in other areas related to ride there is share. So we are actively encouraging members who are denied rides by either of the major rideshare companies to do to a service animal or simply to being a blind person, which does happen. We want you to file complaints with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. Complaints should be filed for each separate incident that happens. Now, I know some of you are saying, why do we have to do all this work when we're the ones being discriminated against? And I agree with that. But the way we create change is by documenting clearly what is happening. So we need you to consider and please do file a complaint for each incident that you have, and you can do that by finding the Department of Justice online form which is at this URL. It's pretty easy to remember. /report.

When you have an incident ... I hope you don't, but if you do, please take a moment and go online and fill out this multi page form.

Now, when you fill out this complaint form    and it is a number of pages, you should download or print a copy of the confirmation page. That confirmation page will contain all of the text that you put in to the complaint form, and it will also include a record number that will be assigned to you for your complaint.

The text of the submitted complaint is not currently included in the confirmation email that you receive after filling out the form. So once you do that, we are asking members to forward the email confirmation of the complaint, or if you don't, for whatever reason have that, just the record number, but we'd like the. Whole email. Send that to [email protected] so that we can track that on our side of the advocacy equation. We are talking with the Department of Justice about these issues. And, of course, with the rideshare companies and with the more clear documentation we have, the better we can be and more effective at holding these companies accountable, and getting the Department of Justice to use its muscle to make this happen.

So please submit those forms. Please continue to share information with us, and together we will continue to advocate, and we will make change with both Uber and Lyft, and just recognize that when you are filling out those forms, you are sharing that information with us. It does make a difference even if you don't feel it immediately.

Now, it was a very successful week last week because also on July 25th, the United States Department of Justice announced that it has sent a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking related to the ADA and Title II website regulations. Now, these are regulations that we have been asking for since they were first discussed in 2010. But they are finally coming out in the Federal Register, and we will be reviewing, and you can be certain we will be filing official comments related to the Title II website regulations.

This does not mean we should stop our advocacy in Congress. We should definitely keep the heat on. But we're also going to be actively involved in this effort. If you have some expertise in website accessibility, in regulations, if you want to give input to what the Federation's comments should be related to the NPRM, please reach out to John Pare, our executive director for advocacy and policy. You can reach him here at the national office, and his email address is [email protected]. And on July 26th, which, of course, was the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a subcommittee hearing, the Subcommittee on Innovation, and that subcommittee hearing was all about autonomous vehicles. And I was honored to be asked to testify at the hearing to share the perspectives of the National Federation of the Blind, the importance of accessible autonomous vehicle technology and the impact of that work on people with disabilities. I was the only individual with a disability to be on that panel. It was quite a good panel, lots of good discussion. Lots of thoughtful questions about the frameworks that Congress should put into place to guide the development of this technology. The full hearing, it was about three hours long. The full hearing recording is available on the House Committee on energy and commerce YouTube page, channel, and if you want to jump specifically to my opening remarks, they're at about time stamp minute 46, is when my comments will start. But the hearing goes on long after that and there were many great questions that I had an opportunity to answer along with members of the panel. Now, that was the ADA anniversary, and also John Pare represented us at the White House, where we had the opportunity to discuss website accessibility representing the Federation, and talk a little bit about the importance of the release of the NPRM. So we had a busy day the 25th, 26th, and on July 27th, which was my birthday. But even more importantly was we kicked off the Ride for Literacy. And Pam Allen was there in California to represent us, and since we have the release live, I want to take an opportunity to invite into our conversation Dan O'Rourke, live from, I guess, Arizona, right, Dan?

DAN O'ROURKE: Yes. Caman, Arizona, to be exact. We crossed the border today, so that was a milestone. That was pretty cool.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Excellent. Dan, it's great to have you with us. You've been on the road I guess... what is it? Six days now. And you had a great kickoff on July 27th. And I guess share with the Federation members, what has it been like?

DAN O'ROURKE: Yeah, it's been... we were kind of talking a little bit earlier, I really haven't had the smile off my face since I started. And it's just been such an amazing journey and adventure for me and April and Bailey and, you know, we have had some growing pains along the way with trying to make sure we're going the right direction and stuff like that. I did end up on a dirt road a couple days ago, which turned into basically an ATV track, and I was like out in the middle of the desert at like 106 degrees or something like that. I called April, hon, I got to turn around, because I'm just going to backtrack until I figure this out, you know, and I found a guy that was    a pest control guy getting ready to spray somebody's house. I'm like, hey, I can see Route 66, how do I get there? He goes, the GPS around here is not so good. And I said to April, if I keep going, if I have a mechanical breakdown, there's a good chance this will be the end. Just a tick across up there and call it quits. But we've had a great time. Running into different people and spreading the message of the NFB and what we're doing for this ride and, you know, I've had a couple of text messages from the Bell Academy and the kids sent me a little video to keep me motivated, and so it's just been awesome. I can't say enough about being able to do this with you guys and, you know, just continue to share as much of the ride as we can, and I try to send out videos and things and pictures and that as often as I can in the morning along the ride to keep everybody involved. You know, because the more people are watching this and seeing this, the more the conversation is about the NFB.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: That's great, Dan. Glad to hear you're still smiling. I hope you can keep it up for the next month. I'm glad the heat broke a little bit for you in Arizona. I know they broke their streak of days over 110 degrees. So...

DAN O'ROURKE: Yes. Today was pretty good heat wise. I had two flat tires today. I was out there a little longer than I wanted to be. But we got it figured out. We got a great bike shop here in Kingman to help us out and they were awesome.

So we had been in, you know, for quite a few days where it was 110, 115, and we actually went and got a portable air conditioner to put into the RV. We have two air conditioners on the RV, but they just couldn't keep up with that kind of heat. So, you know, we were able to    we got it now where it's comfortable again in here. So you can get out the heat when you need to. But it's been a lot of fun and, you know, just riding down the road, you know, it gives you a lot of time to think about why you're doing it, and, you know...

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: I was going to ask you a question, Dan, actually. I was going to ask you that question... so you're out there and riding. You know, I'm sure the scenery is very nice at most points. But what are you thinking about related to this? And have you had any real kind of epiphanies as you have been out there on the road?

DAN O'ROURKE: Not an epiphany yet, but I'm sure it's coming. You know, but really I spend most of the time on the bike trying to figure out who else I can reach out to to widen the net.


DAN O'ROURKE: A friend of mine is    he used to be a state trooper in Georgia and one of the guys he worked with is Luke Bryan's lead guitarist, Michael so I thought about that on the bike yesterday, I've got the reach out to Chad and see if he can bug Michael enough to get that out in that neighborhood, right? You know, in that group of people. Just started going through my contacts the other night when we were sitting here and sending out the /route66 page for people to look at and to share and like I said, just widen the net so it just gets bigger and bigger as we roll down the road.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Nice. Very nice. Well, there's been some great articles written already about this effort, and I have to say, Dan, I know that you also make our communications team smile because the articles have just been fantastic in terms of or your messaging, the philosophy and work of the National Federation of the Blind. So thank you for that. I understand the first big stop is coming up, right? Flagstaff, Arizona.

DAN O'ROURKE: Yes, in three days, I think. Two or three days. It all runs together. All I know is in the morning April tells me where I'm riding to and she starts my computer and kicks me out the door.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: There ya go. Very nice. And we'll look forward to checking in with you along the way. I do encourage people to... if you want to send messages of encouragement, you can send them here to our communications team and we'll be sure to get them out to Dan. I look forward to greeting you in Chicago. Now, I understand in Santa Monica, our members there, along with Pam Allen, sent you off to a raucous chorus of "boos," which I know is what you prefer.

So probably in Chicago we can find all sorts of people that like to boo, so... (chuckling)

DAN O'ROURKE: Quite often when I'm there I get that.


DAN O'ROURKE: It's usually in the rink.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: It's really great to hear your voice and really great to hear how strong you are sounding, even in the face of potentially getting lost in the desert and having no tires, the "Horse with No Name." We are cheering you on, and we're going to continue to encourage your work and look forward to the updates. I know everybody is really proud of what you are doing to spread the work and mission of the National Federation of the Blind. Is there anything you want to share with our live audience and our members across the country before we let you go get some rest before your next day of riding?

DAN O'ROURKE: Yeah. Well, you know, I probably touched on this at the National Convention, was I just feel so included in your group and just feel part of the team. And that's because you guys have welcomed me with open arms, and I really can't say enough about it, and I appreciate it so much, and it keeps me going every day to get out and do this and, you know, any messages or anything like that is like so welcomed.

So I appreciate it and thanks for including me with your great organization.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: All right, thanks, Dan.

All blessings for safety and staying cool out on the road, and may your tires be full, and look forward to our next update. I would encourage people to go to /route 66. Also look for Ride for Braille Literacy on Facebook. You can get the updates there. Thank you for being with us, Dan.

DAN O'ROURKE: It's on Instagram too, the same title.


DAN O'ROURKE: Thanks, guys, and we'll... I can't wait for the next update.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: All right, sounds good. Talk to you soon.

DAN O'ROURKE: All right, bye bye!

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: All right. It's great to have folks that just naturally exhibit the spirit of the National Federation of the Blind. If you weren't at the convention, I do encourage you to look up Dan's presentation. I think it speaks to who he is and what he is doing to spread our message and philosophy, and I can tell you it's a very unique moment at the National Convention, to have the whole convention booing. Never have experienced that before, even with some very contentious presentations, our crowd is always    honors the people who come to our convention, but that was pretty cool. That's what Dan asked for, so that's what we did.

Now, during the convention we talked about, and in the presidential release report, we announced the launch of the Kenneth Jernigan Leadership in Service Program. This is a new year long leadership program that is intended to help build strong emerging leaders for our organization in a new way. We're still doing all of the other leadership building activities we have been doing for a long time, but this new comprehensive training program is meant to take that to a new level and to provide a curriculum that blends both in person and virtual learning opportunities to provide a holistic leadership approach that we hope and believe will serve the blind of this nation very well for a generation or better both within the organized blind movement and throughout the field of blindness in key leadership positions.

The program will involve lots of mentorship and networking, and our participants will benefit from those opportunities as well as the community that comes from working together with other program participants. We're looking for folks who are really passionate about building opportunities for the blind and building their own leadership skills. This will be an intensive program and it will provide opportunities to do real world projects to apply skills within the National Federation of the Blind, and it will be a personal growth opportunity to really explore areas that need improvement and a core of mentors who have been there who are continuing to be lifelong learners to improve themselves to help you do what you want to do within the organized blind movement.

I announced at the convention, this is a pilot project, because we want the first group to really help shape the trajectory and what is going to be valuable.

So a fairly short timeline for you to apply to this program. First of all, the program is open to individuals who are blind and who are members of the National Federation of the Blind. And who demonstrate a passion for building opportunities in the organized blind movement. To a play, we're asking interested individuals to reach out to an affiliate president    actually two affiliate presidents    and secure the support of two affiliate presidents. They have to be active, current NFB affiliate presidents and they have to agree to support you as a mentor in this program. So if you are interested, you have to take the initiative to find two affiliate presidents that will be willing to sponsor you. As part of that, you will have to put together a statement, an essay on why you want to be part of this program, or if writing is really not your best form of expression, you can do an audio or video presentation, so speech format, explaining why you want to be part of this program, what merit your participation brings and what your leadership goals are. Affiliate presidents will be receiving information about this very soon, but affiliate presidents are only allowed to support two individuals, because we really do want affiliate presidents to focus their time on the mentorship. So affiliate presidents can support two candidate force the program, and they must have their recommendations in to me by August 25th. Our goal is to spin up this program in September and have our first cohort here at our national office in late September. We will be sending out email information about this program, and I do encourage our affiliate presidents to work to find strong candidates to support for this year long program, and we look forward to celebrating this first class of Kenneth Jernigan Scholars at our 2024 Convention. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to your affiliate president to learn more, and we will be releasing details via email in the coming week.

During the convention, we had available the Braille calendars from our partners at the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. These are hard copy 2024 Braille calendars. They're very handy to have. They're 6 inches by 6.5 inches and they highlight a number of holidays throughout the year and just a great thing to have on your desk, if you want to know what a particular date falls on. The Action Fund is, again, making 50 of the Braille calendars available to each of the state affiliates if you say, well, can I just get 50? The answer is no, 50 will be available, and you have to get your request in. The affiliate president must make the request and it has to be in no later than August 31st. That request should be sent to [email protected].

So affiliate presidents, you can request 50 Braille calendars and do it by August 31st and they will be out to you in the month after that. You can also call the Action Fund to order those calendars. Individuals, though, can order calendars. Individual blind people can get up to three free Braille calendars, and the Action Fund is taking orders now for those. You can, again, email [email protected]. You can go to the website, which is, or call 410 659 9315 and follow the prompts to get to the Braille calendar selection. Karen Anderson, who manages the education programs here at the national office wants you to know that a new Nemeth Code curriculum is now available. It was developed in partnership with Pearson and can be found at The curriculum was designed by people passionate about Nemeth Code, and who believe that blind people can succeed in math and science. The curriculum contains lessons to teach the basics of Nemeth code, as well as an entire symbol library so you can find the particular character you need.

The curriculum was designed with input by blind people, and so you will find it to be of great value. You can find it at We'll put the link to the curriculum in the chat. It's a little bit complicated. So just search on the website. I'm sure it will be listed on our home page for a time. Especially with back to school, a very handy resource to have, and we appreciate Pearson's support of Braille and the Nemeth code.

During the convention we did a great job of signing new individuals up for our preauthorized contribution program, the PAC Program. I want to thank each and every one of you who are PAC contributors. I don't have a list here for this release of new chapters that might have joined during the convention. I'm sure I will have that on a future release. If you didn't get an opportunity to sign up for the PAC plan or increase during the convention and you want to do so, it's never too late. You can go to /PAC and sign up and increase any time you want. Those dollars make a huge difference in empowering us to do all the things that we do. And so please consider being on the PAC plan, and on behalf of our chairman Rhine Strunk, I want to thank you for all the great activity at the convention.

I do have a number of Federation family notes for you on this release. I'm sorry to share with you news from Florida. Dan Hicks reports the passing of his wife, Gloria Mills Hicks in the early hours of Saturday, July 15th.

Dan reports that Gloria had endured three hospital stays in the months before her passing, and she was    appeared to be somewhat on the mend when she passed away in the hospital. Gloria was a long time leader in our Florida affiliate. She served as treasurer for a long time and did a great job. I would urge you to keep Dan and Gloria's family in your thoughts and prayers.

Dana Ard from Idaho informs us of the passing of Paula Achter that passed away in May. Paula served as our affiliate president in Idaho from 2005 to 2007. And we urge you to keep Paula's family in your thoughts and prayers.

And finally, from Ohio, I regret to share the passing of Annette Anderson sometime late last month. She was active in our Cuyahoga chapter in Ohio. And the note I have says that she was a long time staunch Federationist for over 50 years. So I would urge you to keep Annette, her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

I think those are the notes that I have for now, Pam. I'm sending it back to you.

PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much, President Riccobono. It was great to hear Dan's voice. We had such a wonderful kickoff. We loved being there, along with our communications team and all of the members of the NFB of California. So I know all the affiliates along the way are eager to welcome Dan.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: I forgot to say, Pam, I have my first pitch ball here.

PAM ALLEN: Oh, that's...

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: It's official authenticated MLB memorabilia now it has a hologram and everything.

PAM ALLEN: The description was great.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Wasn't that great?

PAM ALLEN: Lots of many talents. You're getting to be quite the regular on the mound.


PAM ALLEN: I just wanted to share some of the results from our poll. We had    thanks, everyone, for responding. We had 15% of individuals who experienced a denial due to a service animal and 17% who experienced denial because they are blind. And many others weren't sure, but definitely we are excited about the work that we are doing together to help educate and make that positive change.


PAM ALLEN: 15, correct, yes, sir. And on our artificial our question about AI, and interestingly, we had about 46% of people who need a little more information. They weren't quite sure what to think. 29% loved it. Can't wait to learn more. 18% wanted more demonstrations. And about 9%, President Riccobono, are ready to chat with you with your personal AI. So get ready.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: My personal AI still needs some adjustment to virtual training.


PAM ALLEN: So a couple questions. Thank you so much, everybody, who has been sending in questions. Thank you to our awesome communications team for answering our questions that are coming in through our Q&A app, and thanks for those who emailed questions.

One question, President Riccobono, speaking of the first pitch, we had several people interested in how you prepared and how did you train for such a big moment you and Coach Berggren. How did that go?

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Well, it's interesting. It's an interesting question. Yes, John Berggren walked out to the mound with me, mostly to be my spotter, so that I was, you know, pointed toward the catcher, and it was great to have John up close and personal after a great convention.

So mostly just practicing throwing with someone who can give me tips on what I might be doing right or wrong, and this case it was Jeff Kaloc, who is one of our governmental affairs specialists. Turns out he has some experience in this area, plays a lot of softball. So we went out a couple of times before    in the week leading up to convention. Didn't actually practice at all in Houston, which did make me nervous. But you know, it's muscle memory. And fortunately you only have to throw one pitch. I make it sound so easy, right?

But just practice and getting good feedback, and really being aware of, you know, how you are using your body mechanics. I have to say you know, having gone to an NFB center, I think it was helpful in that regard, right? Because I paid close attention to positioning. But I'm not a pitching expert by any stretch of the imagination. I will say there were three first pitches that evening. I was the last. I was the only one that didn't bounce it in. And... (chuckling)...

And I was the only one that actually used a wind up. Which was kind of surprising to me. I just thought that's what you were supposed to do.

But, you know, it is a little nerve racking. So I think the other thing I would say is, you know, after I practiced a few times, visualizing it in my head what it's supposed to feel like and, you know, kind of how I want it to be was very helpful.

Though I'll say, there's no greater inspiration than having... I don't know how many people we had at the game, 70 or 80 Federation members, both cheering you on and not wanting to disappoint them, and also having good friends in that group who you know will heckle you endlessly if you get it wrong.


PAM ALLEN: Awesome.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: And not calling out Bacon or anything there.

PAM ALLEN: Never, I can't imagine.

Well, it was definitely a momentous occasion for sure.

So we had another question about just a follow up question from the funds that were raised for blind people in Ukraine. We just had a couple members asking if there were any updates and how the funds were being used, and what was happening in that respect.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: That's a great question those that don't know, last year we helped to manage that "We Are with You" concert, which was a benefit concert in April of 2022 for raising funds to assist blind people impacted by the war in the Ukraine. Those funds went to the World Blind Union, and the World Blind Union, working with the European Blind Union and other contacts have been managing those funds. I can tell you that we got a brief update on progress with those funds at the World Blind Union executive meeting that happened in New Zealand. I don't have the details in front of me, but there were a number of grants given to the European Blind Union and to some others to support blind people who were displaced, getting materials to blind people who lost access technology and that sort of thing in the war, and I think there's still a number of funds available to be disseminated to help with those efforts. Of course, the war is continuing. It's an ongoing effort. It's a great question. I'll see if I can get a more full report from the World Blind Union Office that we can share with Federation members in one of our communications.

PAM ALLEN: Excellent. We had another question from a first timer who wanted to share how much they loved being at their first convention this year and can't wait to be at next year's.

And they wondered what kinds of advice you have for someone who is just getting involved in the National Federation of the Blind.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Oh, gosh. Well, the first thing I would say is recognize that there is a lot to learn. There's a lot to learn. And don't beat yourself up for not knowing it previously.

You know, I think all of us share the wish that we had known about and got involved with the National Federation of the Blind sooner. And one of the things that is easy to do is beat yourself up for not knowing some of the things that are the wisdom of the shared experience of blind people. The fact of the matter is society shares a different message about blindness, about what is capable, about what is acceptable, and you shouldn't beat yourself up for not knowing it. You should study the history of where we have been, our philosophy, how we use it. Talk to people about it. Spend time with people. Ask them questions. Participate in our chapter meetings and start to learn the ins and outs. And if you don't understand when someone starts talking about the PAC plan or the ADA or Section 508 or 14c say, whoa, whoa, what is that?

Feel free to jump in and slow down the pace so that you can learn those things. Because once you learn them, the strongest way to really submit your participation in the organized blind movement is to start teaching other people.

I know for me, that is really where my epiphanies came, when I started talking to other people about the philosophy. Because I had to put it into practice in my own life, and the last thing I would say is recognize that the Federation is a great place to try those skills, stretch your understanding in a loving, supporting environment. I think about... you know, I didn't know Braille when I came to the Federation. I got involved in the Federation quite quickly. I learned Braille and a lot of people tolerated me reading Braille at a very slow rate. Very bad presentations.

But people encouraged me to keep it up, and keep doing it. And that made a huge difference.

So I would say you're not going to learn everything in the first year. If you're me you're not going to learn everything by time you get to your... whatever this is, 27th year or something. The Federation continues to provide opportunities to grow and learn and we grow and learn also by sharing with each other. And so there's always new aspects of our work, like personal AI and what do we want it to mean for blind people to get into?

So don't beat yourself up. Jump right in.

If you're looking for someone who knows something that someone in your chapter doesn't know, there's someone else in the Federation elsewhere in your affiliate, in the country, who will take your call, willing to help you out. So use this tremendous network we have.

PAM ALLEN: Thank you. Great advice. I know we had so many first timers at the convention. So a great way to put it into action and continue throughout the year.

I want to thank everybody again who has submitted questions. If we didn't have a chance to get to your question tonight, our communications team will follow up with you. Thank you again, everyone, for the great conversation and the great questions. Thank you so much for being with us tonight. You can contact President Riccobono at 410 659 9314, or via email at [email protected].

Join us for the next presidential release on September 7th at 8:00 p.m. live from Chicago.

Thank you, and I'll turn it over to you, President Riccobono.

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Thank you very much, Pam. And I hope you stay cool in Louisiana. I saw a heat advisory there.

PAM ALLEN: Thanks. Stay cool there too. Happy end of summer!

PRESIDENT RICCOBONO: Yeah, that's right. To you too.

I'd like to close this presidential release talking about the future. We've talked a lot about the great work that has been going on for the past month, but we do need to think about October and Blind Equality Achievement Month. So I encourage chapters and affiliates to start getting geared up for our activities happening in October. It's a great time to concentrate our energy on the public image of blindness and educating the public. You can get your ideas and inspiration from all over the Federation. But if you need one source, /blindmonth would be a good place to start. I know that our chapters come up with very innovative ways to spread are the word about the Federation and bring new people into knowing about our work. I hope that Dan O'Rourke's ride, which will be over by then, will be a source of inspiration. I also hope that you might use our future Museum of the Blind People's Movement as a source of inspiration for this year's Blind Equality Achievement Month. I think it's great time to gather and tell stories of the blind people who have made this movement what it is and who have impacted local communities.

That's what I have for you in August. I look forward to our next opportunity to be together. The fall conventions are already starting in a couple weeks, so it will be a busy time leading to the end of the year
before we get there, though, I have some customary endings. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!

SPEAKER: Hey, are you excited about the Ride for Literacy?


SPEAKER: Do you know how to tell the difference between a well dressed person on a bicycle and a scruffy looking person on a tricycle?

SPEAKER: No, I don't know.

SPEAKER: "A tire."

SPEAKER: (laughing)... I don't get it.

SPEAKER: Why do pirates hate May, June, July, and August?

SPEAKER: Too hot?

SPEAKER: Because they don't have "arrs" in them.

SPEAKER: I don't get it.

SPEAKER: Why is the word "dark" spelled with K and not a C?

SPEAKER: Old English.

SPEAKER: Because you can't see in the dark.

I get that one!

SPEAKER: The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, president National Federation of the Blind 410 659 9314. [email protected]. Follow the President at Mastodon. Just search for president at NFB social. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!