The Braille Spectator

             The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland

Summer 2011


2011 State Convention Information

By Melissa Riccobono


It has been easy, in the intense heat of this summer, to look forward to fall and the cooler weather it brings.  I know members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland look forward to fall for another reason—our annual state convention.

This year, our convention will be held October 28-30 at the Carousel Hotel and Resorts, 11700 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, MD 21842.  Although the agenda has not been finalized, we will definitely have workshops for parents of blind children and blind seniors, an exhibit hall, student activities, and other general interest activities on Friday afternoon. Friday evening will bring resolutions and our annual talent show and hospitality.  There will also be activities for first time convention attendees, and those interested in forming a guide dog division.  General sessions will be held Saturday morning and afternoon, and there will be luncheons for parents of blind children and seniors Saturday at noon.  Our annual banquet will be the highlight of Saturday evening.  Convention will wrap up with one last session Sunday morning, which will adjourn at noon.

We are excited to be able to welcome John Fritz, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, as our National Representative this year.  John is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, a vendor in the Business Enterprise Program, and the parent of several blind and sighted children.  John will bring a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm to our convention, and I know those who attend will enjoy getting to know him and listening to his presentations throughout the weekend.

The NFBMD conducts a fabulous bake auction throughout the convention, in order to raise funds for the National Federation of the Blind.  Donated baked goods are always needed.  If you enjoy concocting tasty treats, please bring some along with you to Ocean City this year!  Also, come prepared to bid on the baked goods donated by other members.  You will not want to miss a chance to taste our delicious auction items.


We will also have door prizes throughout the convention sessions.  Door prizes certainly do not need to be expensive items, but they should be items you would enjoy winning if your name was drawn.  Please consider donating a door prize or two—the more door prizes we have, the more chances there will be to win!

Whether this is your first convention, or you have been attending state conventions for years, you will not want to miss the information, networking opportunities, and fun at the 2011 state convention.

Please call 410-524-1000 to make your hotel reservation.  Room rates are $78 for deluxe standard rooms, $112 for oceanfront, and $165 for a two bedroom condo.  This rate is per night for up to two adults in a room.  Additional adults will be charged $10 a person.  Children under 17 staying in a room with a parent can stay free, as long as no extra bed is requested.  These rates do not include 6% Maryland sales tax, or 4.5% occupancy tax.  Act fast; reservations must be made no later than September 27.

Please use the form in the middle of this newsletter to register for the convention, reserve bus transportation, and purchase luncheon and banquet tickets.  You may also register online at


See you at convention!


National Federation of the Blind of Maryland Summer Interns

By Melissa Riccobono

During the summer of 2011, the NFBMD was fortunate enough to be able to hire two interns.  This internship program was made possible by a grant from the National Federation of the Blind Imagination Fund. 

       One of our summer interns was Candice Chapman.  Candice is from Mississippi, where she serves as president of the Mississippi Association of Blind Students, president of the Starkville Chapter of the NFB, and a board member of the National Association of Blind Students.  Candice worked very hard to help strengthen our Maryland Association of Blind Students.  She assisted local student leaders in planning an August 27 student seminar.  Candice also helped strengthen our Twitter presence, created a Facebook page for the NFBMD, and gave helpful feedback on our affiliate website.  In addition, Candice helped contact past attendees to get feedback about the Possibilities Fair, and made phone calls to blind people in Saint Mary’s and Charles Counties to inform them about a potential chapter starting in that area (see new chapter article in this issue for more information about this exciting venture.)  We will certainly miss Candice when she returns to Mississippi to continue her college career.  Candice’s ultimate goal is to become a high school counselor.

Our second intern was Amber Sherrard.  Amber is from Louisiana, and is a recent graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind.  Amber is a former president of the Louisiana Association of Blind students, and was a 2011 National Federation of the Blind national scholarship winner.  Amber’s largest responsibility was our Maryland BELL (Braille Enrichment Learning and Literacy) program.  She coordinated field trips, prepared BELL materials, recruited students, organized volunteers, and also worked with students in the program itself.  In addition, Amber worked on the Maryland student seminar, NFBMD Facebook presence, and new NFBMD chapter.  Amber will return to Louisiana in order to begin her freshman year of college.  Amber hopes to be a registered dietician when she completes her degree.

Thank you to both of our fantastic summer interns!  It was a pleasure working with you this summer, and the work you did truly helped change what it means to be blind in Maryland.


Equal Pay for Equal Work

By Mary Ellen Thompson

Since 1938, the federal government has sanctioned the practice of paying many workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage which is guaranteed to other Americans.  This practice was codified as Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Sheltered workshops and other businesses must apply to the U.S. Department of Labor for exemptions from paying the minimum wage.  The Department of Labor is supposed to inspect these facilities to determine whether payment of less than the minimum wage is warranted. However, several years may elapse before federal inspectors review the practices of any given facility.  

The NFB has worked for decades to eradicate this discriminatory treatment of disabled workers, but 2011 brought new urgency to the fight.  In June we discovered that, as part of the process of renewing the Workforce Investment Act, which includes vocational rehabilitation, a new section 511 had been added.  This section provided that placement of a rehabilitation client in sub-minimum-wage employment would count as equivalent to a competitive employment outcome.  As of this writing, Section 511 is a part of the proposed Workforce Investment Act legislation.

On July 26, the 21st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the blind of Maryland came out in significant numbers to urge Senator Barbara Mikulski, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to oppose Section 511.  It was wrong for Section 14C to have ever been passed.  It is wrong for this practice to be reinforced by incorporating it into the Workforce Investment Act. We will not allow it.  Federationists chanted slogans such as: "equal work for equal pay," "no more exploitation," "we demand fair wages,"    and "we deserve and demand equal pay to perform equal work."   

       We will continue to make our voices heard in Congress and to educate the public about these unfair practices. We will not rest until the victory is won! We are not just fighting for fair wages for the current generation of blind people, but for future generations as well. Let’s join hands and march until the job is done!


311 System Leaves Blind Person Out


Editor's Note: As you read this article published in the Montgomery County Gazette, try to put yourself in Yasmin's position. 


Having a job you enjoy and one that provides people with essential information about county services is definitely something to be proud of. With all the laws passed to allegedly make it easier for people with disabilities to find employment, and have accommodations provided on the job, it is astounding that Montgomery County would purchase a new software management system without ensuring that all existing employees currently working as information specialists would be able to use it.  The Federation certainly does not take lawsuits lightly. Months of negotiations were undertaken with the county before the suit was filed. If the 311 system were only used in Montgomery County, it would be bad enough.   However, numerous other county and city governments across the country have purchased the same system, meaning that blind people will not be able to work for any of these government entities.   One day you are busy and productive—part of a team. The next day your co-workers go for training on the new system while you stay back in your office, feeling unsettled and anxious.  One thing we know for certain, we were right to file this suit on Yasmin's behalf. We will not give up until Yasmin receives fair treatment and is working up to her full potential with Montgomery County. Here is the article.       



Blind Montgomery Employee Sues County

Worker says it broke federal law when implementing new computer software

By Erin Cunningham, Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A blind Montgomery County government employee is suing the county in regard to what she says is a violation of federal law.

In the lawsuit, filed April 19 in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, Yasmin Reyazuddin of Rockville said her job duties and salary were changed after the county purchased new computer software that she could not use.

Reyazuddin said in the lawsuit that she was moved to a different position and that her salary will be reduced.  Reyazuddin is seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory damages and legal fees.

Under federal law, government entities that receive federal funding, as Montgomery County does, may not discriminate against people with disabilities.

Reyazuddin has been a county government employee for 10 years, serving most recently as an information specialist in a call center of the county's Department of Health and Human Services.

When the county last year opened a new government call center, known as 311, it began using new computer software that requires sight. In her previous job, Reyazuddin used screen access software, which converts information on a computer screen into synthesized speech or Braille that can be displayed on a separate device, the National Federation of the Blind said in a news release.

From there, she was able to access the computer programs she needed to use to provide information to callers, keep records of calls and perform other tasks.

The Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind is assisting Reyazuddin in her lawsuit.

County spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield said he could not comment on the operations of 311 given the litigation.

The lawsuit alleges that the software program purchased by the county to operate its 311 center, Oracle's Siebel Customer Relationship Management, can be made accessible to blind employees.

But Reyazuddin said she was not given the chance to test the software and that the county has not made the necessary adjustments to make it accessible.

"Despite my 10 years of service to Montgomery County, I am now being shifted to a lower-paying position with little to do," she said in a written statement. "I could do all of my former job duties if the county would follow Oracle's guidelines for making CRM accessible, but instead I am largely relegated to idleness. The situation has caused me considerable emotional distress."


Cookbook Available


In the last Spectator issue, we asked Federationists and friends to send recipes so we could produce a cookbook as a fund raiser. You responded, and thanks to the hard work of Darlene Barrett, the cookbook is now complete.  The cookbook contains more than 80 recipes of all types.  You can purchase the cookbook in print, Braille or on CD. The cost is $10. To order the cookbook, send a check (made out to the NFB of Maryland) to Melissa Riccobono, 1026 E. 36th St., Baltimore, MD 21218 or call her at 410-235-3073.  Enjoy!


Profiles of 2011 NFBMD Scholarship Winners


Each year, Federationists hold fund raisers in various parts of the state to support our scholarship program. All the hard work is worth it when we review applications and realize that there are many blind and visually impaired students who need both our financial support and friendship.  It is gratifying to think about the number of past scholarship winners who are working for both county and state government and private industry.  Scholarships will be awarded at our state convention in Ocean City in October.

Portia Price is a native Marylander.  She graduated from Mergenthaler High School in Baltimore in 2010.  She will be attending Towson University as a freshman in the fall.  She plans to major in biology and would like to become a pediatrician.  She knows it will take several years to achieve this goal, but she says it will be worth it in the end.  This summer she is working at Boog's Barbecue at Camden Yards. Portia has benefitted from participation in many Federation activities since she was a teenager. She has been active in our student division and has been a friend to new young people who join the Federation. Congratulations Portia!


Michelle Hill also grew up in Maryland.  She became a diabetic at the age of nine. She says she wished she had listened to all the things her dietician said to her about eating right and taking care of herself.  At the age of 20, Michelle became blind from diabetic retinopathy. She said it was pretty devastating and for a while, she didn't want to leave her house.

While at church one Sunday, she met Fred Puente, the director of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, a training program often called "boot camp for the blind."  Michelle decided to enter this training program at the age of 23.  She said the most valuable things she learned at the training program were Braille and independent travel. She feels ready to tackle college using the skills she has recently learned. 

This fall, Michelle will enroll as a freshman at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.  Her goal is to become a dietician and work with underprivileged children. As she says, "there will always be a need for people with this skill, because everybody has to eat."    


New Parenting Group


Are you a parent who happens to be blind?  Or, are you a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, or someone who loves children in general?  Are you interested in having children of your own someday?  Do you have questions about how to handle keeping track of a toddler, diaper changes, helping kids with homework, teaching colors, introducing solid foods, or how to help a teen get a driver’s license when you don’t drive yourself?  Would you like to share tips, advice, and stories with other blind parents?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the new Blind Parent Group at the Maryland State Library is for you! 

This group will meet from 9-11 a.m. on the third Wednesday of every month.  Child care will be provided.  The meetings will be a place for blind parents and those interested in children and parenting to interact with and support one another.  This group is brand new.  We will most likely have specific topics for certain meetings, but our first few meetings will be devoted to getting to know one another and talking about what types of topics we should cover and the format for future meetings.  Please come and bring your ideas, your questions, and a willingness to share your experiences, advice, and favorite parenting techniques with others.

We are considering offering this group via conference call as well for interested participants.  We recognize that not everyone will be able to come to Baltimore.  Also, we would like to hold some activities on an evening or weekend day in order to allow those who cannot attend day time meetings to participate.  Please watch future issues of the Braille Spectator for conference call and activity information.  If you have questions about the group, please call Melissa Riccobono at 410-235-3073, or contact her by email at

Please RSVP to Melissa so we will know how many parents and children to expect.  We look forward to seeing you at a parenting group meeting very soon!


New Chapter


Many people around the state do not have the opportunity to participate in a local chapter of the NFB of Maryland because none has been formed in their area.  Like anything worth doing, it takes work, creativity and willingness for people to take leadership roles. Melissa Burch is one of those people.  She lives in St. Mary's    County where currently there is no chapter.  Melissa heard about the Federation through our   scholarship program.  She began participating in our monthly chapter at large meetings and learned of the many exciting things happening around the state. Melissa attended her first national convention in July. She was thrilled to meet so many people from everywhere, see the many technology exhibits, take a self defense course, and to realize how passionate we were about the many issues facing us.  Melissa is willing to form a Federation chapter in St. Mary's County. The organizing meeting will take place at 1:00 p.m. on September 17 at the Leonardtown Library, 3250 Hollywood Rd., Leonardtown, MD.  For more information about this meeting, call Melissa at 240-298-5235. We look forward to sharing more details about the chapter in future issues of the Spectator.  


Braille Readers Are Leaders in Maryland

By Sharon Maneki


       This year nine students from Maryland participated in the Braille Readers are Leaders 2010-2011 contest.  Most of the students have been participating every year and we are glad to see their continued progress.  Calvin Thomas from the Maryland School for the Blind was a newcomer this year.  Welcome aboard Calvin, we hope you will keep participating! 

Here are the names of the other participants.  Shawn Abraham from Lanham is in the 5th grade at Glenarden Woods Elementary School.  Destiny Robertson who lives in Harford County is a 4th grader at Church Creek Elementary School.  Steve Lin from Germantown is in the 4th grade at Clopper Mill Elementary School.  Maryland School for the Blind students included Destiny DiMattei, Jenny Espino, Joshua Gregory and Dan Price. 

Congratulations to all and keep up the good work! 



New Fund-Raiser: Brilliant Success

By Melissa Riccobono



On the evening of July 15, Federationists, friends, and interested members of the public gathered at Della Roses Restaurant in Canton, a neighborhood on the water in Baltimore, for a fantastic evening filled with good food, wonderful live music, and fabulous raffle items.  This was the evening of our first ever Della Roses’ fund-raiser, and we hope it will become a yearly tradition.

This effort was undertaken largely by Pam Goodman, a member of the Central Maryland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.  Pam did have help from other Central Maryland Chapter members, Federationists who came to support the event, and many generous companies and individuals who donated the raffle items.  Pam was further assisted by her boyfriend, who happens to play in a successful Baltimore band named Average Joes, which donated its services free of charge for the evening, and brought along fans and supporters.  Although the evening would not have been successful without all of this support, Pam was truly the person who set this event in motion.  First of all, she had a genuine desire to help the John T McGraw Scholarship Fund, and she used the connections she has with Della Roses’, the band, and local companies in order to make this desire a reality.  This is true Federation spirit in action, and we applaud Pam for her efforts.

At the event, interested parties were able to purchase an arm band which entitled them to drink and food specials all evening.  In addition, people purchased raffle tickets for items such as Orioles tickets, a free night's stay at a Baltimore hotel, house cleaning services, and a $500 gift card.

This fund-raiser was held outdoors on Delarosa's patio.  For once the weather in Baltimore cooperated; it was perfect for an evening outside.  The weather was not too hot, and there was a lovely breeze coming off the water.

At the end of the evening, the John T McGraw Scholarship Fund was over $3000 richer.  Not bad for one evening of work and fun.  Again, we are grateful for Pam and her efforts, and the efforts of the many other individuals who helped to make this fund-raiser such a brilliant success.  We truly hope this will become an NFBMD tradition, and we encourage everyone to join us the next time we hold this event.  Also, we would like to encourage anyone else who has fund-raising ideas to bring them forward.  Please do not be shy! We cannot do the things we do without financial support, and we are always looking for new, interesting, and fun ways to raise funds and public awareness.  Also, you will always have a group of Federationists eager to help you with the hard work it sometimes takes to make your fund-raising idea a reality.  Who knows, perhaps the next issue of the Spectator will contain an article thanking you for your fund-raising idea and contribution to the NFBMD, just as we thank Pam in this issue for her idea, work, and ultimate fund-raising success.


Spectator Specks


New Baby:


On April 7, 2011 two Federation leaders, Mary Jo and Jesse Hartle, became the proud parents of Kayla Elizabeth Hartle. Kayla is already a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter. Congratulations to the new parents on the birth of their first child.




Jessica Bachicha earned a PhD. from Catholic University in music and the performing arts.

Amy Herstein obtained an M.A. in English as a second language from UMBC.

Courtney Curran obtained an Associate’s Degree from Anne Arundel Community College. She will be continuing her education at Towson University and intends to major in broadcasting.


Destiny DiMattei graduated from the Maryland School for the Blind and Parkville High School. She plans to attend CCBC and become a social worker.


Congratulations to the graduates.



Wedding Bells:


On Monday, July 11, Maurice Peret and Lou Ann Blake were married in Baltimore. Maurice works at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland with blind seniors, and Lou Ann works in the Jacobus TenBroek Library at the NFB Jernigan Institute. Here’s to the newlyweds! We hope you enjoy many happy years together!




Shawn Jacobson, treasurer of the NFBMD, likes to write short stories when he’s not keeping track of numbers. Shawn won second place in the NFB Writers Division Contest for his short story entitled “You Have Been Warned.” Congratulations Shawn!  It’s nice to know we have such a multitalented treasurer.


New Guide Dog Division?

Anyone interested in being a part of a National Federation of the Blind of Maryland Guide Dog Division should contact Janice Toothman at 301-262-9608 or Melissa Riccobono at 410-235-3073.  You do not need to be a current guide dog user in order to be a part of this division.  Janice will be in charge of a meeting at state convention this year to explore interest in a guide dog division. 



Joshua Medoff, a long-time friend of many federationists, died suddenly on July 29. Joshua drove Federationists to our Day in Annapolis, crab feasts, participated in our basket bingos, read to people   and was always willing to help. We will all miss Joshua very much.  May he rest in peace.    



Third Wednesday of every month

9 a.m. -11 a.m. -  Parenting Group Meeting at the Maryland State Library for the Blind; 415 Park Avenue; Baltimore.


September 17

1 p.m. - Organizing meeting for new chapter in St. Mary's County; Leonardtown Library, 23250 Hollywood Rd., Leonardtown, MD. For more information, call Melissa Burche at 240-298-5235.    


September 27

Deadline for state convention pre-registration


October 15

White Cane Safety Day

October 28-30

National Federation of the Blind of Maryland Convention, Ocean City, MD


January 26, 2012

Day in Annapolis

March 9, 2012

Basket Bingo, The Lodge, Columbia, MD. 

The Braille Spectator

Summer 2011


Judy Rasmussen, Editor



The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, is a non-profit organization of blind people whose purpose is to promote equal opportunities for the blind.  We provide advocacy services for the blind, special training programs for parents of blind children, job referrals and placements for the blind, public education programs, scholarships to blind students, and help the newly blind to acquire special techniques for maintaining productive lives.


The Braille Spectator is published in print for members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and others who share an interest in the work of this organization.  It is also available in Microsoft Word and MP3 formats at


Send all inquiries, donations, news items, articles, letters to the editor, address changes and additions to the circulation list to the NFB of Maryland, 1026 East 36th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.  410-645-0632.


Officers of the NFB of Maryland


Melissa Riccobono, President

Debbie Brown, First Vice President

Barry Hond, Second Vice President

Judy Rasmussen, Secretary

Shawn Jacobson, Treasurer

Members of the Board of Directors


Darlene Barrett

Ray Jackson

Pauline Johnson

Sharon Maneki

Trudy Pickrel

Renee West






At Large Chapter

Melissa Riccobono, coordinator (410) 235-3073 Email:

Monthly meetings second Thursday via phone.  Call (424) 203-8075 access code 720125.


Baltimore County Chapter

Ruth Sager, President (410) 602 9030 email:

Monthly meetings fourth Thursday


Central Maryland Chapter

Darlene Barrett, President (410) 997-9664

Monthly meetings first Tuesday


Delmarva Chapter

Ray Jackson, President (410)543-8371

Monthly meetings second Saturday


Greater Baltimore Chapter

Chris Danielsen, President (410) 659-9314 email:

Monthly meetings third Saturday


Greater Cumberland Chapter

Jason Adkins, President (301) 759-3232 email:

Monthly meetings fourth Thursday


National Harbor Chapter

Michelle Clark, President (301) 583-8585 e-mail

Monthly meetings fourth Saturday


Sligo Creek Chapter

Debbie Brown, President (301) 881-1892 email:

Monthly meetings second Saturday


Parents of Blind Children Division

Trudy Pickrel, President (301) 387-4182 email:


Maryland Association of Blind Students

Alycia Breitschwerdt, President (443) 690-4023 email:


Senior's Issues Division

Ruth Sager, President (410) 602 9030 email: