August 2019 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


We have had an incredibly busy month of August.  We held three NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academies.  We also held our annual Crab Feast to support the John T. McCraw Scholarship Program and had more than 350 attendees, a new record.  Our Parents Division held its Annual Picnic for families, and we had a blast.  Please read below for more information about what we’ve accomplished in August and what is in store in the coming months for our Federation family.


The State Convention is Coming!

You will not want to miss the state convention at the Crown Plaza Downtown Baltimore Inner Harbor in Baltimore which takes place on November 8-10, 2019.  This year, our National Representative will be Carla McQuillan, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon.  You may reserve your room by calling the Crown Plaza at 410-347-5707.  Convention Room Rates:  Standard Room - $85 per night. Tax on sleeping rooms is 15.5%.  These room rates start on Thursday, November 7, 2019.  The deadline for making room reservations is October 12, 2019. 


Be looking in your mailbox and on the website for the preregistration forms.  They will be available soon.  Below are the prices for the various convention activities (prices are per person unless otherwise stated):

  • Pre-registration = $20 until October 12, 2019; $25 on-site
  • Banquet ticket = $40 until October 12, 2019; $45 on-site
  • Parent or Senior Luncheon ticket = $22 until October 12, 2019; $25 on-site
  • Friday boxed lunch = $16 until October 12, 2019; $20 on-site
  • Picnic & a Play tickets = $18 until October 12, 2019; $20 on-site
  • Transportation from New Carrollton Train Station = $35 until October 12, 2019; this covers round-trip travel
  • Childcare = $30 per child and $50 per family for the entire weekend   


Please plan to join us at the Crown Plaza.


Financial Assistance Application for State Convention Now Available

Individuals who wish to request financial assistance to attend the 2019 NFB of Maryland State Convention must complete and submit a Financial Assistance Application Form.  Individuals are encouraged to first check with their local chapters and divisions to see what financial assistance may be available.  If a member’s chapter does not have a financial assistance program, or if there is still unmet financial need, members may complete and submit the form to the State affiliate no later than October 1, 2019.  More information about the NFBMD Financial Assistance Application Form is available at  For questions, please contact me at 443-426-4110 or at


Seeking Resolutions for the State Convention

The Convention is the supreme authority of the National Federation of the Blind, and this too is true of the affiliates.  One of the most important charges of the Convention is to consider and vote on resolutions that come before it; those resolutions become the policy of the organization.  To that end, individuals interested in submitting resolutions should send them to NFBMD Resolutions Chairman Jesse Hartle by email at by October 19, 2019.


Seeking Convention Sponsors and Exhibitors

We are seeking sponsors for our 2019 NFB of Maryland State Convention.  There are various levels of sponsorship, and the various levels include different benefits.  Entities and individuals interested in serving as an NFBMD Convention sponsor should contact Anil Lewis at to request additional information.


We are also seeking exhibitors for our Friday Exhibit Hall.  Individuals and entities interested in exhibiting should also contact Anil Lewis at to request additional information.


The Bells Tolled for Literacy in Maryland!

We have now concluded all three of our NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academies in Maryland for 2019.  Our Salisbury BELL Academy, hosted by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM), ran from July 22 through August 2.  Our Baltimore and Glenn Dale NFB BELL Academies ran from July 29 through August 9.  In total, 24 children registered for NFB BELL in Maryland.


The students learned to have a positive philosophy about blindness by interacting with blind role models and adults.  They learned Braille reading, Braille writing, technology, independent travel, and independent living skills.  They went on fun and interesting field trips.  Most importantly, they and their families made life-lasting relationships with other members of the Federation and became part of the Maryland Federation family.


Melissa Riccobono chaired the Maryland NFB BELL Committee in 2019, and she and her Committee worked hard to ensure that the programs were fun, educational, and ready to go when the students arrived; this is a tremendous undertaking.  I hope you will join me in expressing tremendous appreciation to Melissa and her Committee, Sharon Maneki, Debbie Brown, Judy Rasmussen, Erin Daring, Danielle Earl, Heather Guy, and Amy Crousse.  We are all very grateful to the many volunteers who gave selflessly of their time and energy to ensure the NFB BELL Academies in Maryland ran smoothly – we could not have done it without you.


To hear more particulars about what the NFB BELL students learned, please join us at our NFB of Maryland State Convention in November.


Eat Delicious Food and Help Chapters and Divisions Earn Money!

We have two upcoming opportunities to eat delicious food to support NFB of Maryland chapters and divisions.  For these fundraisers, local businesses give nonprofits a percentage of their sales in an evening.  That means you can eat at a particular local restaurant and an NFBMD chapter or division gets a cut of your check.


The Maryland Association of Blind Students will be holding its fundraiser on Monday, September 23, 2019 in the evening at all three Mothers Grille locations.  Mention you are with the NFB/MDABS to make sure a part of your check goes to MDABS.  For more information about this event, please contact Ellana Crew at or at 443-758-7211.

  • Mothers Federal Hill Grille – 1113 S Charles, Baltimore, MD 21230
  • Mothers North Grille - 2450 Broad Avenue, Timonium, MD 21093
  • Mothers Peninsula Grille – 969 Ritchie Highway, Arnold, MD 21012


The NFBMD Central Maryland Chapter will be holding its fundraiser on Monday, September 30, 2019 between 11:00AM and 10:00PM at Tino’s Italian Bistro in Columbia.  You do not need to mention you are with the NFB for the Central Maryland Chapter to receive a part of your check.  For questions about this event, please contact Sharon Maneki at or at 410-715-9596.

  • Tino’s Italian Bistro – 8775 Center Park Drive, Columbia, MD 21045


NFB Sues the Maryland Board of Elections to Restore the Secret Ballot

In August, the National Federation of the Blind, the NFB of Maryland, and three blind members, Joel Zimba, Marie Cobb, and Ruth Sager, filed suit in Federal Court against the Maryland Board of Elections.  The suit asserts that the Maryland Board of Elections maintains a segregated system of voting that denies blind voters their right to a secret ballot and equal voting experience as non-disabled voters.  The suit claims this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act and that the Board of Elections’ actions are discriminatory based on disability.


The NFBMD has worked tirelessly for years to try to get the secret ballot restored for the blind and ensure secrecy in voting through non-litigation means.  In June, the Board of Elections voted to raise the minimum number of individuals who were supposed to vote using the electronic ballot marking device (BMD) from two people to five people.  However, since it has been impossible to get even two people to use the BMDs in many precincts over the last two election cycles, the decision to increase the number to five is going to be equally ineffective.  Thus, we determined it was necessary, and frankly past time, that we sued to restore our right to desegregated and secret voting.


NFB RideShare Testing Program

We continue to 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 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


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.



use Amazon smile

Since this is the season of anniversaries, weddings and graduations, be sure

to use Amazon smile and choose NFBMD for your charity when you purchase that special gift.    Go to


Important Upcoming Dates

  • September 23, 2019 – MDABS Fundraiser at Mothers Grille
  • September 30, 2019 – Central Maryland Chapter Fundraiser at Tino’s Italian Bistro
  • October 1 – 31 – Meet the Blind Month
  • October 15 - National White Cane Awareness Day.
  • November 8-10 – Annual State Convention – Crown Plaza Baltimore Downtown
  • February 10, 2020 – Great Gathering In, Washington Seminar, Washington, DC
  • March 13, 2020 – Basket Bingo
  • June 30 – July 5, 2020 – NFB National Convention, Houston, Texas
  • August 8, 2020 – Crab Feast