September 2020 English Transcript

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everyone.  We are so excited to welcome you to our presidential release.  We will be starting promptly at 8:00 p.m. eastern.  You can send questions to the Q&A section or send an email to [email protected].  There is no chat feature tonight.

Just another quick reminder that we have a poll this evening, so everybody please participate in the poll about voting.  Such an important issue.  There are multiple options.  You can choose one.  If you're planning to go to the poll in person and use a ballot marking device, choose one.  Two, if you're going to vote and use assistance at the poll.  Choose three if you'll be voting from home with remote accessible system.  Choose four if you're planning to have someone help you mark and return an absentee ballot.  Choose five if you're not sure but planning to vote.  Choose six if you do not plan to vote.  Choose seven if you're ineligible to vote.

We'll be getting started shortly.  Thank you.

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everybody.  We're so excited that you are here for our September presidential release.  Welcome.  We'll be starting promptly at 8:00 p.m. eastern.  Please take part in our poll on voting.

You may be getting notifications whenever someone joins.  If you would like to turn that off, on Windows, the key command is alt plus Windows plus S or on the app, simply move the screen reader focus away from the top of the screen.

Also, closed captions will be included.  You can turn on closed captions a couple different ways.  If you're using the phone app, go to the "more" button and select meetings settings close the captions on.

If you're using the desktop app, go to the close the caption button after the record button and select show transcript from the context menu that comes up.

Thank you so much.  We are so glad you're here and we'll be starting shortly.

RECORDED VOICE:  The 2020 election is critical for all blind and low vision Americans.  We must make our voices heard.  You can do this by casting your vote using an accessible ballot marking device at a voting center during the early voting period.  Or at your local polling place on election day.  In an increasing number of jurisdictions, you can also use an accessible electronic ballot delivery system to mark your ballot using a computer or smartphone, with access technology right from your home or office.  If you're not already registered to vote, you can register by completing your state's online voter registration form, or the accessible national mail voter registration form located on the Election Assistance Commission website.

You can also get your paper voter registration form from your state or local election office, your public library, or other government offices.  You can even register to vote when you obtain or renew your state identification card.  For additional information about how to register to vote and how to vote as a blind person, check out the guide for blind and low vision voters on the National Federation of the Blind website,

The website also has a guide to help affiliates and chapters hold voter registration drives.  To help plan your affiliate or chapter registration drive or help with issues related to accessible voting, call Lou Ann Blake, principal investigator for our Help America Vote Act grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services at (410)659-9314, extension 2221.  Or email her at [email protected].

Finally, after you have voted in the 2020 general election, don't forget to complete our blind voter survey.  This will be linked from our home page starting October 6, 2020.

Making our voices heard is one of the most important ways we can ensure that we can live the lives we want.  Get registered, get ready, and vote!

PAM ALLEN:  Welcome again.  We will be getting started shortly.  Thank you so much to everyone for being here tonight.

Thank you again, everyone.  We will be starting in just a few minutes.  Please remember to fill out the poll.  We will be getting started shortly.  We are so glad to welcome you to our September presidential release.

(Music)  Live the life you want.  So you're blind, we've got good news.  You can live the life you want.  Yes, we know the truth.

Grab a cane, get moving.  Make a change.  That's what we're doing.  Come with me.  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, let's work together.  It will be you and me leading us forever.  You 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.

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, federation family!  It's so wonderful to be with all of you this evening virtually to gather for our September presidential release.  I know we've all been looking forward to hearing this release from our President and for coming together again from all around the country virtually as our federation family, strong as ever.

It is now my pleasure to introduce for his remarks tonight our leader, who has shown in so many ways to all of us individually and collectively for our federation family how to lead with purpose and passion and with love and commitment.

President Riccobono.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Hey, Pam, how are ya?

PAM ALLEN:  I'm great.

MARK RICCOBONO:  How is the Federation family in Louisiana?

PAM ALLEN:  Our federation family is strong as ever, resilient.  I want to take a moment to thank everybody for your concern and your prayers and love and support that's been expressed.  We, as you would expect, President Riccobono, the day before the hurricanes hit, all people reached out to all of us in Louisiana and in Texas to check on all of us as we prepared.  I want to thank everybody for your offers of love and support.  We of course send special thanks from our lake areas chapter located in the lake Charles area where Hurricane Laura came ashore.  And our federation family there is strong.  Everyone is safe.  Most importantly.  And everyone is working on assessing and moving forward.  So we're so grateful for the outpouring of love that's been shown.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm really glad to hear that.  And we'll be continuing the dialogue.  We know from especially our experience with our NFB of Texas and Hurricane Harvey that it takes a week or so to really start to know where the needs are.  But we'll be at the ready if we need to put together some relief funds for the NFB of Louisiana.  We're ready to do so.

It looks like life is back to somewhat normal, though.  The rumor in the social media is that you got your nails done today.


So you're looking great, Pam.  All over social media.

PAM ALLEN:  You know, self-care is important.

MARK RICCOBONO:  That's right.

PAM ALLEN:  In all seriousness, a shoutout to our awesome staff and students from the Louisiana center for the blind who rallied.  We lost power and internet for a time.  Some of us still are without power.  But thanks to good friends.  Our students have pulled together.  Everyone is doing great.  And again, we're most concerned about our family in southwest Louisiana, so we do so appreciate that.  And we will definitely keep everybody updated.  And again, thank you for the strength that's drawn from the love that's shown to all of us.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Excellent.  Thanks, Pam.

Let's get started.

Greetings, fellow federationists.  Today is Tuesday, September 1, 2020, presidential release 497.  It is hard to believe that September 1st is already here.  And Labor Day is right around the corner.

I do have a number of things to talk to you about today, some announcements and that sort of thing.  But first and foremost, I want to let you know that the National Federation of the Blind staff continues to be hard at work and safe.  Our building is open to some degree.  Has been, actually, since before the national convention.  About a third of the staff are here on a regular basis.  Some of you have already discovered that.  But feel free to call, and your calls will be routed to people in or out of the Jernigan Institute.  We will get you to the right place.

We continue to move forward on so many fronts.

I do have some announcements for you, but first and foremost, I want to talk to you about voting and about making your voice count this November and how you can play a role in the American democracy.  And we need you to.

As you know, the National Federation of the Blind is not a partisan organization.  We're focused on blindness and we're focused on making sure that we can advance the rights of blind people in this nation.  Elections are a critical way for us to do that.  Not just federal elections.  All elections.  But certainly federal elections and our participation in them play a significant role in how we get noticed when we show up in Washington, D.C., for our Washington seminar.  The participation of blind people is essential.  All blind people.  Essential to getting our issues in front of those who are running for office.

This election is particularly important because of what is or is not happening in making sure that the elections are fully accessible to blind people.  You know, last September, a year ago, I sent a letter on behalf of the Federation to all of the states advising them to get ready for the 2020 election and to put matters in place to make sure that blind people could vote in all of the forms of voting, not just in person.  But absentee, mail-in ballots, to get ready, to build those systems.  And when the pandemic hit, what we found out is that a lot of states did nothing.  And many of them are still threatening to do nothing.  We're actually actively working between suing, filing complaints, or pursuing complaints with the Department of Justice voting issues in 17 of our affiliates and we're providing technical assistance in a lot more than that.  So we are actively working to ensure that all blind people have access to the vote.  And not just for this election, but for all elections going forward.

We need all blind people who are eligible to vote to figure out a way to go out and do that.  Even if the process in your state is not fully accessible to blind people, we need you to go out and vote, because our participation will help advance the work that we're trying to do to get accessibility into all forms of voting, but of course it's your right and it's important, and the more that blind people exercise that right, the more that our issues will get noticed in the American democracy.

When you go out to vote, we need you to document what happens.  Whether you go out to vote or you stay in to vote, we need you to document what happens.  And we need you to tell the story, good or bad.  If you have a great experience, wonderful.  Accessible.  Talk about it.  If you don't, talk about it.  Share what happens with the NFB through our blind voters survey, which will be available on or about October 6th, a little earlier than sometimes this year because we know a lot of people are voting early.

Once you vote, take the time to fill out our survey.  We have the most comprehensive longitudinal data set on blind voters anywhere in this country and 2020 we want to be no exception.  But also, we're going to want you to share your story in social media.  If you're able to vote in a state because the NFB went out and made sure that voting was available, tell that story.  And hopefully it's a good story because hopefully the state got it right and it worked.  But even if it didn't, tell that story so that other Americans know the barriers that continue to be in front of us related to voting.

And use those stories as a rally point to get change in local communities around voting.  You can be sure that the National Federation of the Blind will be working to leverage the 2020 vote experience and our work to get reforms in the next Congress as it relates to voting.  And we're quite certain that voting will be a topic and voting reform will be a topic going in to the next Congress.

So how do you go out and vote?  What do you need to do?  We want to encourage you to check the website of your local elections office or Secretary of State to learn what the deadlines are for registering to vote if you're not registered to vote, or for requesting an absentee ballot if you want to do that.  Make sure that you are registered in time to vote in this election.

If voter registration is not accessible in your state, that's something our affiliate should work on.  But you can still register despite that using the accessible national mail voter registration form located on the Election Assistance Commission website.  So don't let inaccessibility in your state stop you from registering to vote.  Go to the Election Assistance Commission website and you can do that.

Due to the pandemic, many local polling places will be closed.  So be sure that you check your local election information and contacts to see if your typical polling place will be open or not, when it will be open, will it be open for early voting, what the locations are.  Check that out if you're planning to vote in person, which I know a number of person are weighing, whether mail-in ballots make sense or whether they want to vote in person.  Make sure you check that out in advance so you can plan for where you're going to need to go.

We do encourage you to consult our blind voter's guide for information on what your rights are as a blind voter and for tips on using accessible voting machines and what to do when you encounter problems at the polls during this election.  You can find the blind voter's guide and download it on our website, or you can order Braille or large print copies from our Independence Market here.  You can go to, very easy, and when you get there, you can follow the link for importance of voting to find the blind voter's guide and many other great resources that you and/or your chapter can use to promote voting amongst members of the Federation.

If you are unable to mark your ballot for the 2020 presidential election, privately and independently, we encourage you to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice by completing the ADA complete form which can be found at

I also would encourage you to send us information about that complaint here at the national office so we can help track that.  And our blind voter survey is one way to do that, but you can always email Lou Ann Blake who heads up our Help America Vote Act activities here at the National Federation of the Blind.

Related to getting to the polls, since the beginning of the year, we have been working with Lyft on getting rideshare coupons for getting people to the polls.  We did some of that in the spring to make rides available for needs around the pandemic.  We are partnering with Lyft again for the 2020 presidential election and getting rides to the polls.  You will receive information about the Lyft partnership and how you get access to Lyft coupon codes for going to the polls very soon.  Watch for that in the coming weeks through our Lyft partnership.

Now, we're heading back to school.  Many people are.  And back to school means something different this fall.  But there's a certainty that we know, which is that blind students are going to encounter challenging accessibility questions around the technologies that they're expected to use, especially to do virtual learning.  I want to remind you that the National Federation of the Blind has an educational technology survey which is available at our legal website,  Please go there, fill it out, share your experiences with educational technology.  Really good or bad.  So that we can help track what's happening in schools at all levels, K-12, higher education, and we use that data to focus our advocacy and legal efforts on the areas that need the most attention.

And we also like to know who is doing it right because that helps us to work with those companies to hold them up as examples of equal access and education.

Speaking of things coming up this fall, we do have Meet the Blind Month, which will, again, happen in October.  This is our time to create awareness and outreach activities through our local chapters.  This year most certainly those activities are going to be virtual, but we don't want the virtual nature to stop our chapters from continuing to advance our awareness campaign with the general public.  We know that understanding of blindness is one of the most significant barriers we face, and our chapters are critical in advancing that understanding during Meet the Blind Month.  So chapters should continue to plan for activities in the month of October and be creative about the virtual activities we put together to expand the awareness.

Our theme for 2020 in Meet the Blind Month is Lived Experiences in our local communities around problem solving, self-confidence, and intersectionalities.  You can learn more by visiting  And if you have a local event that you would like listed on our Meet the Blind Month page, please send the information via email to [email protected].  I look forward to the innovative Meet the Blind Month activities that our chapters will put together.

I want to let you know that our national seniors division is hosting the 2020 virtual seniors retreat next month.  And this is a great way for us to do outreach to newly blind seniors.  Well, actually all seniors, not just newly blind.  But individuals who have been blind and are now seniors.  Our seniors division, national seniors division, retreat will be focusing on the well-being and self confidence in blind seniors, both newly blind and people who have been blind for many years or decades.

The retreat will run from October 18-24.  It will be run virtually on Zoom.  You can visit  To get more information about this event.  And I do encourage our local chapters to use it as an opportunity to engage the senior population in the work and mission of the National Federation of the Blind and get those individuals connected with our resources.

Now, as we're getting into the fall and some more opportunities might open up for us to be out and around the community, being socially distanced and masked up, we want to make sure that the masks we have are NFB branded.  So I'm pleased to announce this evening that NFB-branded masks will soon be available in the Independence Market.  We've ordered a limited number of fabric face masks with our logo, and you can call and preorder them now.  The face masks are a medium blue color with our logo centered in white.  The face covering is approximately 7 and 1/4-inches by 4 and 3/4 inches.  The inside of the mask is a soft white fabric.  They have the traditional loops for the ears.  And I encourage you to preorder them.  They will be available in early October, but you can preorder them starting right now.  The masks will sell for $4 apiece or three for $10.  So this could be a great tool for you to use in building membership and expanding the brand of the Federation.  By the way, the cost is not inclusive of shipping.  These are not eligible for free matter for the blind.  So it's three masks for $10 plus shipping.

You can call the independence market at (410)659-9314, extension 2216.  Our team here will take your preorder information and will call you back when the masks are here and will take the payment at that time.

So I encourage you to get these masks preordered.  If we get enough preorders, we'll get a larger quantity.  It is a limited quantity at the moment, so please get your orders in.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the latest individuals to join our Dream Makers Circle.  This is our way of committing to a legacy gift of some form to the National Federation of the Blind.  Thank you very much to Dan and Nancy Coffman of Lincoln, Nebraska, for being the newest members of our Dream Makers Circle.

The Pre-Authorized Contribution program is a way to make a monthly contribution to our organization's general fund.  We've had a couple of new chapters and divisions come on in the last month to contribute, so I want to thank the NFB of Alabama, Tuscaloosa Southwest chapter, as well as our National Association of Blind Veterans for being the latest contributors to our Pre-Authorized Contribution program.  You can learn about the program and sign up using our online form by visiting  Sign up there.

Thank you to all our federation family who contribute monthly to this program, especially at this time.  It is making a huge difference in the work that we're doing.

I do have a few federation family notes to share with you.  I regret to let you know of the passing of a number of federationists during the last movement the NFB of Florida reports that Michael Nagleberg, who was an active member of the Palm Beach chapter for over 20 years passed away.  Michael was a veteran of World War II.  He was blessed to live to age 101.

So I would encourage you to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Also from Florida, Lauren Blum passed away just yesterday.  She served on the affiliate board as well as being Vice President of the state at large chapter.

Also from Kansas, Tamara Kearney of our Jayhawk chapter passed away on August 8 from camp indications resulting from a hit and run accident.  Tamara is survived by her husband Greg and three children and their families.  Tamara was a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind and formerly served as President of our Wyoming affiliate.

I invite you to keep these federationists and others who may have passed away or been negatively impacted by the COVID virus during the last month in your thoughts and prayers.

I do have some joyous news to share here on this release.  I'm pleased to tell that you Alyssa Gastilo of Arizona gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Armilo Gastilo, on August 16.  Armilo weighed in at 5 pounds 3 ounces and 18 inches long.

Alyssa, the proud mom, is one of Arizona's NFB BELL Academy coordinators and a critical leader in our NFB convention youth track.  So congratulations, Alyssa, and welcome Armilo as the newest member of the NFB and to close out this portion of the release, a special congratulations to our members in Houston, Texas.  Lawrence and Tommie Boiron celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary on August 17.  71 years.  Congratulations to Lawrence and Tommie on this special anniversary.  I wish we could be in person or have been in person to celebrate with you in Texas, but congratulations to this lifelong marriage.

We'll have to see, Pam, if we can make it that long.

PAM ALLEN:  That's mine and Roland's goal.

MARK RICCOBONO:  That's a long time.  But congratulations.

All right, Pam.  That's what I had for this portion of the release.  I'm turning it back to you.

PAM ALLEN:  All right.  Thank you so much.  That is awesome.  Congratulations.  So exciting.

And speaking of Houston, I just want to say what an incredible convention it was.  We were so glad to all be together.  I think we're all still full of energy and enthusiasm that we shared together.  So kudos again, President Riccobono, for an awesome convention.

And I just want to share a couple of things.  Are you ready for the poll results?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Let's hear it!

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  I want to thank everybody for participating in the poll.  I also just want to make a very quick housekeeping announcement too that we are -- people have questions, please share them through the chat feature, or you can email [email protected].  We aren't able to call on raised hands, so just to please share that with everybody.

So thanks again for all those who participated in the poll.  Here are the results.  Those going to the poll with a ballot marking device are 33% of people.  Going to a poll with assistance, 4% of those who participated.  Voting at home with remote accessible systems, 21%.  Those who will be voting remotely with assistance, 16%.  Those who are not sure but definitely plan to vote, 19%.  And those who don't plan on voting, 2%.  And those who are ineligible to vote, 4%.

So thanks again, everybody, for participating in the poll tonight.  And thanks.  I know you heard our organization is working diligently to make sure we all have access to voting the way that we want.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Some pretty good voter participation here amongst the Federation family.  I love that.

PAM ALLEN:  So, so important.

So, President Riccobono, are you ready for some questions?  We had a lot of great questions submitted.  So thanks to everybody.


PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  This first question, we talked about our upcoming senior retreat.  And I know the seniors were very active.  I know the seniors in our state are really looking forward to participating in the virtual retreat.  And this question comes from Michael Barber.  He asks, at the past convention, we passed resolution 2020-16 regarding an increase in funding for the independent living services for older individuals who are blind program through the Rehabilitation Services Administration.  Iowa and other states have been experiencing a continual decrease in funding for at least the past 5 years and likely more to follow while the number of older blind persons is continuing to increase.

So Michael wants to know what our plans are organizationally, how we can continue to advocate for this vital program to make sure that our seniors receive services.

MARK RICCOBONO:  It's a great question, Michael.  I appreciate it.

First of all, in follow up to the resolution, we have gone through all of the resolutions passed by the convention, and we've assigned staff who are charged with taking follow-up actions on those resolutions.  So this is one we will be following up with the Congress as well as the Rehabilitation Services Administration on this issue.

But you know, there's a lot of advocacy that our affiliates can do also in terms of state funding and having the conversation with state legislators as well as members of Congress to create awareness around this.  You know, I like to tell any crowd that I speak that you should hope that you live long enough to be a blind person because you probably will be at some point.  And after 71 years of marriage, you can still continue to live the life you want with blindness, but you will need some training and some access to teaching to get that done.  And so our affiliates can help with this effort by making sure that state legislatures and programs in states are receiving real feedback about the needs that exist.

I also think we need to figure out ways to have more partnerships with organizations like AARP so we can continue to help people understand that a significant portion of what seniors are going to be dealing with is vision loss and that independent living services are critical to allowing seniors to stay in their homes longer and avoid the downsides of being limited in how much you can get out and get around.

So it's an area where we need to do a lot more work, and I think we're going to need the leadership of our national seniors division to help guide this education and outreach effort that we're going to need to undertake in the Congress especially as funding becomes more limited because of the constraints in the economy right now.

PAM ALLEN:  Well, I know our seniors, that's a highly energetic dynamic division, so I can count on that.  We know we will count on that and we're working on this.  It's so important.

We also had a question from Jane who is wondering about, I know we talk about masks at the independence market and I know we now have talking infrared thermometers.  I know those are popular items too, along with all the other fabulous items we have to help people live the lives they want.

The question is about our online access to the independence market.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Great question and I'm glad it came up.  I will spare everybody the history of how we got to where we are, but we had shut down our E-commerce portion of the independence market a number of years ago now, and because of a series of events, we have been delayed in spinning that back up.

We are currently in the process of doing that.  I hesitate to publicly give any sort of time line because usually with technology, that does not go well for me.  But we are actively working on it.  Frankly, most recently, it has been delayed because, as you may know, we use Drupal and there are some new modules coming out for E-commerce with Drupal that we've had to test to make sure it would do what we want to do.  But we are optimistic.  This is definitely something we want to do.  We want to use that to expand the offerings through our independence market in ways that people can use the market to build the Federation.

So it is coming.

The upside though is that you get to call on the telephone and talk to the great staff we have here, which, you know, in this day and age is kind of nice because we pretty much have to do everything else online.  So trust that if you call, you're going to get great customer service and you don't have to worry about that.  So it is coming soon.

I'm hopeful that in future release, maybe October, maybe November, I can give you a definitive time line.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Excellent.  Thank you so much for that update.

And we have another question about voting concerning specific -- this question happens to be about specific cases or work in Oklahoma but there have been several questions related to specific states.  So how do people find out an update that is happening in their specific state?  What would be the best way to stay up-to-date on the local level?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Great question.  I'm glad the question came up, because I forgot to note, Pam, that we do have as a panelist with us this evening Lou Ann Blake who I mentioned earlier.

PAM ALLEN:  That's a great transition.

MARK RICCOBONO:  You're out there somewhere I hope, Lou Ann.

LOU ANN BLAKE:  I am here.

MARK RICCOBONO:  There she is.  I specifically asked Lou Ann to be here because I wanted to talk primarily about voting in case there were any voting questions.

Lou Ann is really our expert on all topics voting.  She tracks this day-to-day for us.  So Lou Ann, since you are here, do you want to answer this question?

LOU ANN BLAKE:  Sure.  I would be happy to.  Thank you.

So probably the best way to find out what your options are for voting is to actually contact your local elections office and ask them.  And they should be able to tell you all the options that are available.  In person voting, which polling places are open.  If there is an accessible way for you to vote absentee.

It's a really great idea to get to know the people in your local elections office.  And provide them feedback on what your experience is when you go to vote, because they want to know and that's the only way that they can make things better and improve things is by hearing from the voters.

So call your local elections office.

MARK RICCOBONO:  And I would add to that, thank you, Lou Ann, that our affiliates, I know are in touch with Lou Ann and are invited to do so.  You know, we can't sue every state in the nation, although it felt for a little while like we were going to have to.  And at this point, we really can't.  The clock is counting down very fast to November.

So Lou Ann has continued to be a resource for our affiliates.  Your affiliate President is a good resource for knowing what the affiliate is doing.  You know, some of the states, I think Lou Ann would validate this, some states have been trying to run the clock out on us.  We're in a tricky spot now of how hard we fight for the November election and a fully accessible option, which we do want.  But we're in it for the long game.  What we really want is fully accessible voting everywhere going forward.  And so your affiliate will be a good resource for knowing what's happening in your state and what advocacy we're doing.

We are pressing hard.  We've had some good victories.  We've had some difficulty in some other places.  But I think we can confidently say that the 2020 presidential election will really be an important milestone for the impact that the National Federation of the Blind has had on changing the landscape for voting accessibility in all forms going forward.

PAM ALLEN:  Excellent.  Yes, Lou Ann is a great resource.  We're so grateful.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Even as it relates to cases that we're not bringing, other organizations are bringing voting matters related to blind voters are calling upon the National Federation of the Blind, and Lou Ann, to support those efforts.  Because we've been doing this a long time, and we're very strategic in what we're doing, continuing to advance accessibility of voting.  And there's other pieces of voting that we want to happen that we recognize we can't get to happen in 2020.  But we're going to keep working on it until we get all of the accessibility pieces so that we have full, complete access to private, independent ballots in all of the jurisdictions.  And that includes local elections.  Right now we're talking federal elections.  But there's a lot of work to be done at the local level as well.

PAM ALLEN:  That's what we do.  Persevere and make it happen.

Now, this question is more a question of an internal nature for our organization and voting.  I know that we were so excited to welcome so many first-time attendees to our national convention, and so we've had some questions related to joining and paying dues and how in our organization, President Riccobono, what is the policy about paying dues and joining, and also voting, if you have to be a dues-paying member or not.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah.  Great question.

By the way, welcome, to our new members who might be participating in this presidential release for the first time.  For those of you who are not yet members, we do invite you to join the National Federation of the Blind.  You can go to and you can go to the "join us" tab.  And, in fact, if you are considering joining our organization, I would invite you to check out our next membership open house which is September 13th and you can go, if you go to "join us" on the website, you can fill out the form to register for the September 13th open house to ask questions about membership in a broader forum.

That's a good question.  Membership dues in most places are collected on an annual basis.  There are some places where you can join as a lifetime member, but usually people don't do that right from the start.  So membership dues are on a yearly basis, and most people pay dues to a local chapter.  You can also join an affiliate as an at large member which means you're not a member of a local chapter.

You can also join one of our divisions:  The student division or the seniors.  We were talking a lot about the seniors here today.

You can join a local division.  Membership in a chapter or division automatically gives you membership in that affiliate as well as the national organization, but dues are collected on an annual basis and we're continuing to work to standardize the membership and dues process across the country.  In fact, we're going to be talking a lot about that, and the national board will be making some recommendations soon.  We're in discussions about that now.

As it relates to voting within our organization, you have to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to participate in the decision-making authority of the Federation.  Now, we have associate members in many places.  These are individuals that make a financial contribution, and we call them an associate member to give them some recognition for making a donation to our organization.  But associate members do not have voting rights in the organization.  So you have to be a paid-up dues-paying member of the organization and actively participating currently.  So if you paid dues in 2016 and you dropped off for a couple of years, you can't just come back and start voting again.  You have to pay dues in 2020.

It's a good question.  Our affiliate shares their information with the national organization so we can track membership.

Pam, I should mention that we do have a membership committee, and if you have questions, continued questions, or are looking for information for how to standardize what's happening in your chapter, you can write to the membership committee at [email protected] and we'll be happy to work with you on membership-related activities.

PAM ALLEN:  Excellent.  We're so excited to have all of our new members joining with us.

Now, President Riccobono, we were talking about seniors in many different aspects on our release tonight, and that question, I know it's something that we talk a great deal with.  I know that you do personally.  I sure do as the director of the Louisiana center for the blind.  Talking about someone who loses vision later in life, which happens to many of our members.  And this question comes to us from Larry Carlson, and he asks about how the National Federation of the Blind supports those people who lose vision later in life.  And honestly, it can be a very difficult process.  Sometimes it means job loss.  It can add to identity loss as far as how that means and how others view that individual, whether personally or professionally.  And what resources are available for those who lose vision later in life and how can we support them through our organization?

MARK RICCOBONO:  It's a great question.  And Larry, I appreciate it.

Especially at this time.

The most important thing we have found to help those who lose their vision later in life, especially those still of working age, are those personal connections.  We know that that's harder right now, right, because of social distancing and virtual meetings.

You know, it's different when can you show up at a chapter meeting and sit with someone for an hour after the chapter meeting and have a conversation.  It's not the same virtually.

I think we have to figure out as an organization how we continue to evolve that outreach work that we need to do to support people like Larry who are struggling with this at this time.

So the personal network of individuals that we have in this organization really is the most powerful tool for getting connected and getting plugged in to the resources that are out there.  And I say that because we also know that right now rehabilitation agencies are struggling.  They're not meeting with clients.  They're not taking new clients in some cases.  So getting access to quality training like that at our NFB training centers can be more difficult right now.  So it's that personal connection.  And we try to drive that through our local chapters.  So I encourage all of our chapter members to make this a priority following up with people that we find who are newly blind, especially at this time, who are struggling because they may want to go out and get adjustment to blindness training but they just can't get the attention of their rehabilitation agency or get an instructor to come out to their home.

It's a challenging question that Larry raises.  There's always more that we need to do in outreach.  The truth also is that people need to be ready to receive the message that we have in the National Federation of the Blind.  What we can do in that regard is meet blind people where they are in this moment.  You know, if you are newly blind, you're in your mid-40s, you've been working for 20 years and you're now wondering how to -- what your career prospects are going to be for the next 20 years, that's a lot of information to absorb and life change to absorb.  And it's going to be a process.  And we need to support people in working through that process and continue to encourage and challenge them but also meet them where they are.  And remember, where we were when we first found this organization.

So I encourage our chapters to talk about this especially at this time.  Newly blind individuals, it's different than a year ago when we could invite them to a chapter meeting and surround them and help them get to know in a real personal way 20-30 other people.

PAM ALLEN:  Definitely so important.  There is hope, and that's the important thing.  And we are here.  So thank you, President Riccobono.

We have a question from Justin Salisbury, who is wondering if you could provide an update on the safe to work act which is, as we know, hurting ADA protections.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah, so this is a bill in the Congress that threatens to negatively impact the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially the obligations that places of public accommodation have.  We have been pushing back very hard on this effort, and working with members of congress to make sure that these negative provisions which we've seen in the Congress before proposed in other bills, most recently HR-620, that they will not be adopted in either the House or the Senate.  We think we have a pretty good firewall of protection, I guess, against these provisions going through.  But we are working actively on it.  We don't see this legislation moving quickly at the moment.  So we think we're okay.  I would say to all federationists that you should continue to stay on alert.  You never know when Congress might suddenly get interested in something or it starts to move and you need to call out the troops to start calling Congress.  We do get members of Congress now and then who call or their staff call us and say, okay, we got it!  You can stop people calling us now!  Of course we never close the loop and tell you to stop calling because we know that that means the pressure is being effective.

So stand by.  Continue to watch for those legislative alerts.  It's possible that before we get to the end of this session of Congress, we'll need the Federation to swing into action but we think we're doing okay at this moment on this particular bill.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  Excellent.

Along the lines about continuing to advocate and be vigilant, question has come up concerning resolutions.  We passed a number of resolutions at our convention, and wondering what happens next with resolutions.  This is kind of a general question obviously of how the resolutions are processed.

MARK RICCOBONO:  It's a great question.  I addressed it slightly earlier.

We take the resolutions.  I held a meeting with the executive staff a number of weeks ago and we went through the resolutions and we assessed where we are and assigned internal actions.  Sometimes it's sending the resolution to the appropriate individual.  A good example is we had a resolution about moving the location of the national library service to a property on Capitol Hill.  We've actually been supportive of this effort for some time.  We sent it to the Library of Congress and also to the key officials in Congress.  That has allowed us to learn where the hangups are and where we need to point our advocacy.  So we have an internal spreadsheet where we track these, and we meet on a periodic basis to review how things are going.

Sometimes the situation changes depending on the circumstances of the resolution, but we have already taken a number of actions on many resolutions.  I can tell you we've heard from some prominent agencies for the blind about our 2020-05 resolution regarding the agency pledge.  I can tell you that we've gotten the attention of a lot of players in the blindness field thanks to our members in Louisiana raising the unemployment compensation question.  In fact, we've had a number of players in the blindness field say, hey, we didn't know this was an issue, we support changing this.

So there’s not a formula for what we do.  We manage it.  I recognize that the resolutions present for me as your elected President a significant roadmap for where I'm supposed to steer the organization, and we coordinate these activities and fit them in to what we're doing.  And I suspect some of the resolutions will help to shape what our legislative agenda for 2021 looks like.

PAM ALLEN:  Excellent.  All of us are on the ground making sure to follow up on the resolutions locally.

I think we have time for a couple more questions, and again, I want to thank our fabulous communications team, Stephanie and Chris, Beth Braun this evening, everyone helping with all of our logistics.  We really appreciate everyone managing the questions via chat.  If your question was not answered, we have far more questions than time, so we will be making sure to follow up on the questions we were not able to cover this evening.

President Riccobono, the next question relates to Walmart.  If you could give an update on Walmart.  I know our ongoing case with Walmart and also some issues with inaccessibility of the Walmart app and as far as the online shopping app.

MARK RICCOBONO:  So the question was related to the Walmart app?

PAM ALLEN:  Kind of a couple -- one question is related to just an update on our case against Walmart.  And then the second is related to accessibility issues with the app.  If that is at all related to the case.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah.  So the app is actually not related to the case, so I really can't speak to the accessibility of the app, although that's something we're always looking at.

We, as you may know, have sued Walmart over access to their self-service checkout kiosks.  And very specifically this case is about self-service checkout kiosks.  More and more these kiosks are becoming important, and especially now in COVID, there is kind of a renewed conversation related to that because of the pandemic.

We sued Walmart after trying to get them to talk to us.  We said we would like access to this and we would love to talk to them about accessibility.  And they ignored us for a long period of time.

So we filed suit against them.  Walmart sued a preliminary -- no, excuse me, a motion to dismiss the case.  And that motion to dismiss was denied in September of last year.  So the case continues.

Now, first of all, it's significant that Walmart lost on the motion to dismiss.  That was I think the first time this has happened in a kiosk case, so it's a good victory for us.

We are currently in discovery on this case, so the case is moving forward.  As you know, legal cases take a long time, and we're in this process now.  We hope to get an outcome with Walmart one of these times but so far we don't have one.

I appreciate the members of the Federation who have decided they're going to boycott Walmart because of this particular inaccessibility issue and Walmart's stance on it.  I appreciate the support.  We might as well hit them where it hurts, in the pocketbook, if they're going to keep us out from having equal access to their services.

And that is true of the mobile app too but I can't speak to where that is currently.

PAM ALLEN:  Okay.  And also, I want to thank Ross and Will for their excellent behind the scenes audio logistics tonight.

And President Riccobono, our final question for tonight, as a dad of two blind daughters, I know you and Melissa, this is a question for you that you're dealing with personally, but also what advice do you have for parents of blind children as kids are heading back to school in all its various forms?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Well, if we only had another couple hours.

First of all, you know, hats off to the parents out there.  Well, all parents who are having to juggle being educators, professionals, maintaining a household, maybe helping to watch out for other friends and relatives, all at the same time.  It's a challenge.

It's an additional challenge when you're a parent of a blind child who is not getting great support, if any real support, from school districts.

The first thing I would say is that you should continue to lean on the tremendous community of practice we have here in the National Federation of the Blind.  I think in some ways we're all learning together.  I know I'm trying to up my game as a parent on the Google suite, which I have successfully avoided for myself.  But because my kids are going to be using it for school, I have to take that extra time, and I'm definitely relying on federationists who understand already the accessibility features so that we can make sure that Arianna and Elizabeth are taking full advantage of those features.

To rely on the network that we have.

I guess the other thing I would say is recognize that this is a process.  And, you know, you're not going to break your kids in a semester.  So you know what?  If it's not perfect, if you don't get all of the Braille you need, push the school districts like heck, don't get me wrong, but your kids are going to be okay.  The Federation will still be here for them.  We'll still be fighting for them and with them.  And we're going to help raise them to be successful blind people.

So I really offer that as don't think that in this time, when we know that a lot of families, including ours, is struggling to get appropriate services, it's easy to feel like we're setting our kids too far behind.  We shouldn't settle for second class, but we should also recognize that because your family, our family, has the National Federation of the Blind, our kids, our blind kids, are going to be better off.

So continue to share with the network and pull on the network that we have.  I know that a lot of federationists have been stepping up to help with getting Braille materials to people and doing Braille instruction with kids.  It's really going out of their way to help.  And that's a wonderful thing.  That's what we do in this organization.  And it's desperately needed at this time.

I do encourage our chapters and affiliates to continue to push the school districts, remembering that when the school districts tell you it's hard for everybody right now, we don't have the right resources, we'll get to you, tell them that's not your problem, that's their job to fix it.  Our kids deserve an equal education, and they shouldn't have to wait for it.  And we should push the school districts as hard as ever.

I can tell you we've been doing that here in Baltimore City.  And we're going to continue to do that.  And we're going to continue to help other families do that.  And when we continue to raise our voice in this time, and not back down, it's going to help us make gains for our blind kids in the long run.

I know that's not really a satisfactory answer, Pam, because it's a tough time right now to deal with all the juggling.  So I think the best answer I have is continue to rely on the network, the family that we have here in the Federation.

Or call the Louisiana center for the blind.

PAM ALLEN:  We're ready to step up.  There you go.

Excellent advice, sir.  It is definitely a challenging time, but we're all stronger because we have each other.  So that's the most important thing to remember.  From kids to seniors, we are here for each other.

So I wanted to also thank Danny Martinez tonight for our Spanish translation.  So we're really grateful for that.  And welcome all who are joining us via our Spanish translation tonight.  Thanks again, Danny, for your excellent translating.

And President Riccobono, that concludes our questions.  Again, we have so many, we were able to address in this evening, but if we do not have a chance, we will follow up with you.  And we appreciate everybody so much for sending in the thoughtful questions ahead of time and via chat.  It's always excellent to hear the questions from our members.  And thank you for taking such care in answering them, President Riccobono.

We have much more work to do, and so it is my pleasure now to turn it back over to you.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Pam.  Appreciate your work in moderating this presidential release.

I guess we should remind people that we'll be back for presidential release live on October 1.  Actually the first day of every month for the rest of the year, we'll be together at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, so put it on your calendar.  We'll be here.

PAM ALLEN:  Yeah, and we should remind people, we'll be in New Orleans in July too.

MARK RICCOBONO:  That's right, July of 2021.  Looking forward to being in New Orleans and helping to support the local economy after a tough time recently.

And again, our hearts go out to our Louisiana family.  We're glad that our family in Reston is okay and we're looking forward to hearing if there are ways that we can help in Louisiana.  Keep an ear out.  We may call upon the Federation to put some funds together to help as soon as we know what the needs are.

Thank you, Pam.  I'm glad you're well.  Great to hear your voice.

And before we get to the customary endings, which are coming up, I'll say remember to register to vote.  Get ready, make your plan to vote in the November election.  And most importantly, let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.

SPEAKER:  Hi, I'm Elizabeth Riccobono and I'm going to tell you a joke.  What animal is always at a baseball game?

SPEAKER:  I don't know.  What animal?

SPEAKER:  The elephant?  Because of all the peanuts?

SPEAKER:  No.  A bat.

SPEAKER:  Hi, I'm Austin.  What did the baby corn say to the mama corn?  Where is pop corn?

SPEAKER:  Hi, I have a joke.  Why is ice cream always invited to the party? 

Because he's cool!

RECORDED VOICE:  The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, [email protected], (410)659-9314,

Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.