April 2017 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:

Good News from Annapolis

Many thanks to everyone who visited, sent emails and letters and called Delegates and Senators. We made significant progress on our issues.

The Maryland General Assembly approved Governor Hogan’s appropriation of $250,000 for the CENA (Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access) to Education, Public Information, and Commerce.

On April 5 the General Assembly approved SB587/HB1094, bills that created the new State Library system. The Library for the Blind will move out of the Department of Education and move into this new structure. These bills are awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature.

The General Assembly approved SB 943/HB 456, bills that direct the Maryland State Department of Education to create a dispute resolution process for families of children with disabilities who believe that childcare providers have discriminated against their child because of the child’s disability. The Maryland State Department of Education must issue a report to the General Assembly by October 1 that outlines this process. These bills await the Governor’s signature.

The Textbook Costs Savings Act of 2017, SB424/HB967 were bills passed by the General Assembly to reduce the cost of textbooks in higher education by encouraging the use of online open source materials, instead of traditional hardcopy textbooks. These bills proposed that, “For fiscal year 2019, the Governor shall include $100,000 in general funds in the state budget for the purpose of providing a grant to the William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation at the University System of Maryland for the Maryland Open Source Textbook Initiative.” The bill further requires the William E. Kirwan Center and the Maryland State Department of Education to jointly explore the use of online open source materials in K-12 education. They must issue a progress report to the General Assembly by December 31, 2017.

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland was concerned because there was no mention of requiring accessibility. The General Assembly listened to our concerns and amended the bills at the last minute as follows:

“(C) To the extent practicable, funds allocated under subsection (b) of this section shall be for the adoption, adaptation, and creation of openly licensed educational resources that are equally accessible to and independently usable by individuals with disabilities.”

Many thanks to everyone who contacted the appropriate committees. Students in Maryland will have a better opportunity to receive a quality education because of our willingness to take collective action.

Spread the word: Four April Reminders

1. The Deaf Blind and Hearing Loss Issues Committee is planning an interesting seminar on Independent Travel with Blindness and Hearing Loss. This seminar will look at high-tech and low-tech approaches to maintain independent travel. Date: April 22; time: 12:30 – 3:30 pm; place: Wallace Presbyterian Church, Building B- which is also called House of the Crossroads, 3725 Metzerott Rd, College Park, MD 20740. For more information, contact Janice Toothman, janice.toothman@verizon.net.

2. Strike out illiteracy NFB Maryland Parents of Blind Children Fundraiser. Come join us for a Bowl a Thon! We are looking for players and pledges. Date: April 22; time 1:30 – 5:00pm; place: AMF Woodlawn Lanes 6410 Security Blvd Baltimore, MD 21207. For further information please contact Teresa Graham, teresagraham3@gmail.com.

3. Get your tickets today so you don’t miss ‘An Afternoon of Musical Inspiration,’ a gospel concert with proceeds benefitting NFBMD summer youth programs. Date: April 30; time: 4 pm; place: Pikesville Internationals SDA Church, 4619 Old Court Road, Pikesville, MD 21208. Tickets are $10 in advance; $15 at the door. For further information contact Latonya Phipps, phippslatonya@gmail.com.

4. Can you use cash? The drawing for the spring raffle will be conducted throughout the month of May. Tickets are $5 each and you get 31 chances to win cash. Time is running short so get your tickets in! Chapter presidents should make sure that Melissa Riccobono has all of the stubs by April 24.

Coming soon! Uber and Lyft tests

As you may remember, the National Federation of the Blind made agreements with Uber and Lyft to make sure that riders who use service animals are not discriminated against by the drivers who work for these companies. Beginning on May 8 the NFB will ask all guide dog users to fill out a questionnaire concerning their Uber and Lyft trips. We are looking for both good and bad experiences. The questionnaire may be filled out by either the service animal owner or by another individual who was in the vehicle. Spread the word to anyone that uses a service animal. Look on the list serves for the link and instructions for filling out the online form.

Get Ready for Summer

The Maryland Association of Blind Students is helping to plan a regional weekend seminar for students from several northeastern states, including Maryland. The seminar will cover how students can make the best use of summer. Date: June 2-4; place: The Jernigan Institute, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, MD 21230. For further information, contact Ellana Crew at eemcrew@gmail.com.

As parents prepare for the summer I want to remind you that you should be filling out an application to one of our three BELL programs. The Salisbury Academy will be held July 17-28, 2017, and the Baltimore and Glendale Academies will be held July 31-August 11, 2017. No weekends. To apply go to https://nfb.org/bell-academy#apply_now.

Youth Empowerment Stipends are available to help middle and high school students attend summer training programs, such as those run by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland and by our three NFB centers in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Colorado. Applications are due at least 30 days before the funds are needed. Go to https://www.nfbmd.org/youth_stipend.

Team Sharon Needs YOU!

Step out for Braille Literacy by participating in the 6K Dot Dash to be held at the NFB, 200 East Wells Street, on Sunday, June 4 at 8:00 am. Team Sharon needs lots of participants! You don’t have to be athletic- all you have to do is walk. Go to: https://nfb.org/dot-dash. Then select “register” and select “team” and type in “Team Sharon.” Feel free to create your own team if you wish.

Save These Important Dates

  • April 22, 2017. MDPOBC Strike out Illiteracy Bowl A Thon; 1:30 – 5:00pm; AMF Woodlawn Lanes, 6410 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21207.
  • April 22, 2017. Independent Travel Seminar sponsored by Deaf Blind and Hearing Loss Issues Committee, 12:30 – 3:30 pm. Wallace Presbyterian Church, Building B, 3725 Metzerott Rd., College Park, MD 20740.
  • April 30, 2017. Gospel Concert, 4 pm. Pikesville International SDA Church, 4619 Old Court Rd., Pikesville, MD 21208.
  • May 4, 2017. Diabetes Conference Call, 7 pm. Call 641-715-3272. The access code is 720125#.
  • May 7, 2017. Deadline for Youth SLAM student applications.
  • May 8, 2017. Uber and Lyft tests begin.
  • June 2-4, 2017. Regional Student Seminar. The Jernigan Institute, 200 East Wells St., Baltimore, MD 21230.
  • June 3, 2017. Board of Directors Meeting, Salisbury.
  • June 4, 2017. 6 Dot Dash, 8 am. 200 East Wells St., Baltimore, MD 21230.
  • 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.
  • September 9, 2017. Board of Directors Meeting, time and place to be announced.
  • October 19-20, 2017. Braille Literacy in the 21st Century Conference, jointly sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and the Maryland School for the Blind. 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland.
  • November 10-12, 2017. Annual State Convention, Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson, Maryland.