January 2017 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:

Day in Annapolis

January means it is time to go to Annapolis. This year we will be going on Thursday, January 19. Please let your chapter president or me know if you are planning to attend. We need lots of people because we will be visiting with all 188 members of the General Assembly.

This year our focus is on access to information. We have three issues that promote accessibility. First, we will strengthen the procurement laws that require the state to purchase only accessible information and communication technologies. The current law is a good law but the state ignores it. We need a law that has some teeth. The General Assembly should enact penalties for vendors who violate accessibility requirements; should raise the cap that allows vendors to seek an exemption to the law and should establish a central authority that is responsible to ensure that the law is enforced.

The second issue is to ask the General Assembly not to cut the $250,000 appropriation for the National Federation of the Blind which is under the Maryland Department of Disabilities in the Governor’s Budget. This money will be used for the Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA) to Education, Public Information, and Commerce. By offering training seminars and specialized online resources, the CENA will continue to help business, government, and educational institutions to more effectively provide accessible information and services to blind citizens.

Our third issue is to improve services at the Library for Blind and Physically Handicapped by moving it out of the Maryland State Department of Education. The Maryland General Assembly should create the Maryland State Library Agency. One of the functions of this new agency will be the operation of LBPH. Locating LBPH in a structure with fewer layers of bureaucracy will enable it to use its funding with greater dispatch and hire needed staff more quickly. The result will be better library services for the blind and physically handicapped citizens of Maryland. I will send the fact sheets which contain more information on these issues to the list serves and will place it on the website under ‘Current Advocacy Issues.’

Stories Needed

This is an important message from Melissa Lomax. We all know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us or our future—so, let’s help others to believe this too! Share your story on the NFBMD website because your words may be the encouragement that someone may need. Possibly, you were denied access to a job, class, hobby, or location, yet through your determination you gained access and changed others’ opinions about blindness. Or, you may have struggled to accept your blindness until you received training or had an experience that transformed your entire outlook. You may have done something super amazing not because you are blind but because you always wanted to do this particular thing, and you were not going to let blindness be the one element that stopped you. If you fall into one of these categories, or if you have other stories of interest—stop, reflect, and write!

All submissions can be emailed to Melissa Lomax at MelissaLomax1@gmail.com. For assistance with the writing process, call Melissa at (410) 608-6118.

NFB Needs Help with Technology

Apply to Become a National Federation of the Blind BUILD Team Member: Technologies are being developed every day that affect the way we all live, work, and play. In order to ensure access to the ever-evolving technologies that make it possible for blind people to live the lives we want, we need blind users to innovate and lead the design process. The NFB is establishing a database of Blind Users Innovating and Leading Design (BUILD) to evaluate websites, products, and services for accessibility. Apply to become a member of our BUILD team by completing the survey at https://nfb.org/build-team.

Get Ready for Washington Seminar

The Washington seminar begins on January 30 at the Holiday Inn at the Capitol, 550 C Street Southwest. There will be a discussion of our four issues at 2:00 pm on January 30. As usual, the main gathering meeting begins at 5:00 pm. On Tuesday, January 31 we will visit the Maryland Delegation on Capitol Hill. We need lots of help because we will also have a student rally at lunchtime. You will not want to miss the congressional reception at the Dirksen Senate Office Building at 5:00 pm on the 31st.

Other Happenings

Be sure to check the website for upcoming events. Don’t forget when you are looking under upcoming events to check the Around the State heading. Local chapter events are featured here. For instance, you will see information about the Sligo Creek celebration of Louis Braille birthday as well as the upcoming National Harbor Chapter Anniversary on February 4.

Save These Dates

  • January 19, 2017. Day in Annapolis.
  • January 28, 2017. Braille Challenge for students in PreK-12th grade. Takes place at the Maryland School for the Blind.
  • January 31, 2017. Visit the Maryland Delegation in D.C.
  • February 2, 2017. Diabetes Conference Call, 7 pm. Call (641) 715-3272. The access code is 720125#.
  • March 10, 2017. Basket Bingo, The Lodge, Catonsville, MD.
  • March 25, 2017. Board of Directors Meeting and Leadership Seminar.
  • March 31, 2017. Deadline for submitting National Scholarship Application.
  • April 15, 2017. Deadline for submitting State Scholarship Applications.
  • May 7, 2017. Deadline for Youth SLAM student applications.
  • July 10-15, 2017. National Convention, Orlando, FL.
  • July 17-28, 2017. NFB BELL Academy in Salisbury, MD.
  • July 23-29, 2017. NFB Youth SLAM Towson University, MD.
  • July 31-August 11, 2017. NFB BELL Academies in Baltimore and Glendale, MD.
  • August 19, 2017. Annual Crab Feast, Columbus Gardens, Baltimore, MD.
  • November 10-12, 2017. Annual State Convention, Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson, Maryland.