April 2019 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


It has been an incredibly busy time for our affiliate, including our Scholarship Dinner and Auction, Blind Merchants Networking Mixer, and a myriad of other activities and events.  We are also getting closer to National Convention, when many of us will be able to be together in person.  I am constantly amazed and humbled by how people step up and contribute to the work of this organization.  Each of you is a critical part of what we do, whether it is selling raffle tickets, advertising the scholarship dinner, filling out a rideshare guide dog survey, attending a hearing in Annapolis, advocating for a family at an IEP, writing a grant application, telling someone about the National Federation of the Blind, and on and on.  Thank you for all you do – it is critical to our making dreams into reality and our living the lives we want. 


Be Present: Song and Fellowship to Support Maryland Bell

Join us on May 5, 2019 for a Recital and Sing-A-Long, benefiting NFBBELL Academy at the Jernigan Institute, 200 East Wells St., Baltimore, MD 21230, featuring Melissa Riccobono. Advanced tickets cost $10. Tickets will be $15 at the door. To purchase tickets in advance, contact Melissa Riccobono at MelissaARiccobono@gmail.com or Ronza Othman at President@nfbmd.org or purchase them directly online by visiting http://www.nfbmd.org/node/238.


The BELLS Will Toll in Maryland in 2019

Maryland will once again host three Braille Enrichment in Literacy and Learning (BELL) Programs during the Summer of 2019.  The BELL summer program is a two-week day program (weekends not included) designed to offer pre-kindergarten and elementary age low vision beginning Braille readers an opportunity to be immersed in Braille and increase the use of tactile skills for reading Braille. Children will receive Braille instruction daily as well as learn alternative techniques through arts and crafts, games, field trips, and other fun activities.  Find out more about and register for the BELL program here.  Specific information about Maryland BELL can be found at https://nfb.org/programs-services/nfb-bell-academy/maryland.  For questions, please contact Maryland BELL Coordinator Melissa Riccobono at MelissaARiccobono@gmail.com.


Maryland BELL Dates and Locations:

  • Baltimore Bell (for students in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and surrounding areas): July 29 – August 9
  • Glendale BELL (for students in Montgomery County, PG County, and surrounding areas): July 29 – August 9
  • Salisbury BELL (for students in Wicomico County, Worcester County, Dorchester County and surrounding areas): July 22 – August 2


A Big Thank You

The Maryland Legislative session came to a close on April 8, 2019, and it was a world win for the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.  Because the session is only 90 days long, it is a sprint and not a marathon.  We had three issues this year: 1) a single voting system to end segregated voting in Maryland based on disability; 2) creating standards for electric low-speed scooters so that the blind have access to the same information about them as the sighted and can navigate safely; and 3) continuing to fund the Center for Excellence in Non-visual Access (CENA).  We were successful on the CENA front, but we will fight on next year on the voter segregation and scooter issues. 


Unfortunately, though we thought we were making progress with the Board of Elections and had reached a compromise on the with the Maryland Board of Elections on the voter bill, the BOE changed its mind and influenced the legislature not to move our bill forward.  Instead, the legislature referred it to Summer Study, which has no parameters or accountability.  With regard to the scooter bill, we believed we were in great shape until the very last minute when one Senator requested to amend the bill, and he too sent it for Summer Study.  Nonetheless, NFBMD is resilient, and we will ensure equality and privacy in voting and equal access to information and safety with regards to scooters.  We will fight on!


It is notable that our members made more than a dozen trips to Annapolis to advocate for our issues during this legislative session, not including the Day in Annapolis.  Members attended hearings, testified at hearings, distributed literature and ballots, and were present to show the legislature that the blind of Maryland will advocate for our issues consistently and relentlessly.  We received a great deal of positive feedback for our resilience and commitment, and I have no doubt we will prevail next year.  Nonetheless, if it wasn’t for all of those Federationists that took time out of their schedules to go to Annapolis this legislative session, we would not have gotten anywhere this session.  We educated hundreds of members, nearly six dozen of them brand new, and that is truly something of which to be proud!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!


We’re Not in the Dark

On April 4, 2019, the CW television network, which is affiliated with CBS, launched a television series called in The Dark that features a blind character who is not played by a blind actor.  We issued a strong statement urging the cancellation of the series and reached out to all of the executives affiliated with the show. The response they provided was inadequate, and thus, on April 2, 2019, approximately 70 members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland joined our colleagues and friends from other affiliates in New York City to protest the use of sighted actors to portray blind characters in the entertainment industry.   Thank you to those who attended the protest.  We will continue to work diligently to ensure that the blind play blind characters and take our place on screen along-side our sighted colleagues, because the blind belong at the center of our own stories.


Last Chance for Raffle Tickets

The NFBMD spring raffle is almost done. During the month of May, you have the opportunity to win $50 Sunday through Friday, or $100 on Saturday. Purchase a 3-digit number raffle ticket for $5. You will be the only one who has this number.  If you want to buy or sell tickets, please contact Melissa Riccobono at MelissaARiccobono@gmail.com.


Where’s Your Coin?

In late March, the NFB of Maryland began holding our membership ceremonies for existing members, and we will continue holding these ceremonies at chapter meetings through June.  It is at this chapter meeting that members will receive their long-awaited and eagerly anticipated NFB Membership Coins – and other surprises.  For questions about the specific date and time of a particular chapter’s membership ceremony, please contact your chapter president. 


Are You Ready for National Convention?

You will not want to miss the 2019 National Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada from July 7-12. Save money and pre-register today! Pre-registration closes on May 31 at midnight. You may pre-register and purchase a banquet ticket online.  If an individual wishes to apply for financial assistance to go to National Convention, please contact Ronza Othman at President@nfbmd.org or at 443-426-4110 or your chapter president.


NFB RideShare Testing Program

We still need your help.  If you use a service animal or are accompanying someone who does, please fill out a short form about your experience each time you use Uber or Lyft. In Maryland, we have to complete a certain number of surveys each year.  You can submit a survey for every trip you took, so please look back at your ride history and do this if you haven’t already done so.  Please go to https://nfb.org/rideshare-test or use the NFB Connect app (instructions below) to complete the survey. Please give us information about both good and bad experiences. Spread the word, we need information from every blind person whether they are a member of NFB or not. Ashley Alvey is the Maryland coordinator for this program. If you have questions email her at ashleyalvey1994@gmail.com.


NFB Connect App instructions for Rideshare Survey

  1. On the top left corner of the screen, you will find a button that says, Menu button. Double tap Menu.
  2. After double tapping on menu, at the top left corner of the screen, you will see Home.
  3. Swipe to the right once and you will see Fast Facts. Double tap Fast Facts.
  4. You will swipe right until you see, Rideshare Survey. Double tap Rideshare Survey.
  5. Lastly, swipe to the right. When you see First Name, this is where the form begins and this is where you put in the information for the survey.


Important Dates for 2019

  • May 5 - Recital and Sing-A-Long, benefiting NFB BELL Academy, Jernigan Institute, 200 East Wells St., Baltimore, MD
  • June 1 – Board of Directors Meeting; Fife Corner schoolhouse, Elkridge, Maryland
  • June 16 – 22 – NFB EQ, Baltimore, MD
  • July 7-12th – NFB National Convention Las Vegas, NV.
  • July 22 – August 2 – NFB BELL Academy, Salisbury, MD
  • July 29 – August 9 – NFB BELL Academy, Baltimore and Glendale, MD
  • August 17th – Annual Crab Feast - Tall Cedars, 2501 Putty Hill Ave., Parkville, MD 21234
  • November 8-10 – Annual State Convention – Crown Plaza Baltimore Downtown