October 2019 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


As the leaves change color, Halloween decorations adorn front yards, and the weather begins to cool, we in the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland remain active as ever.  Our 53rd Annual State Convention is just a few weeks away, and the Board and host chapter are making final preparations.  Our chapters are out in the community holding Meet the Blind Month activities, and we have received many White Cane Awareness Month proclamations in Maryland.  We continue working hard on our advocacy efforts and initiatives to make sure that blind Marylanders have equal access to education, employment, information, transportation, and the community.  Please read below for information about important happenings around the affiliate. 


The State Convention is Almost Here!

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 register on site for the Convention.  Below are the prices for the various convention activities (prices are per person unless otherwise stated):

  • Registration = $25
  • Banquet ticket = $45
  • Parent or Senior Luncheon ticket = $25
  • Friday boxed lunch = $20
  • Picnic & a Play ticket = $20 on-site
  • Transportation from New Carrollton Train Station = $35; this covers round-trip travel (contact me if you wish to reserve a seat on the bus)
  • Childcare = $30 per child and $50 per family for the entire weekend   


The agenda may be found here: http://nfbmd.org/node/323.


You may visit the following link for the most up-to-date convention information: http://nfbmd.org/convention


Please plan to join us at the Crown Plaza.  You won’t want to miss all the fun.


Listen Live to the NFB of Maryland 2019 State Convention Stream

We will be streaming the 53rd Annual Convention of the NFB of Maryland.  To listen live, visit http://www.nfbmd.org/node/320.


Social Media Information for the NFB of Maryland 2019 State Convention

We will be using the hashtag #NFBMD.  Please use this hashtag when posting about the NFB of Maryland 2019 Convention on Twitter or Facebook.  Please send any pictures you take of Convention activities to Social Media Chairman Karen Anderson at Kanderson@nfb.org or via text to 402-319-7645.  Please be sure to describe any pictures you post and send to Karen.

Discounted Parking Available for State Convention

Visit Baltimore has provided a link where Convention attendees can reserve parking in advance and receive a 10% discount on parking.  We cannot guarantee that parking will be available on the days convention participants need at garages participants prefer.  However, this promotion is available while supplies last.  The discount is only available to reservations made in advance through this link.  Visit https://parking.com/baltimore/partners/visitbaltimore?lot_id=&showListOnly=0&view=daily&sw&ne&facility&valet&general=&displayFullCity=0 and book parking.


Thank You to Our Convention Sponsors

We would like to express our gratitude to the following NFB of Maryland Convention Sponsors. 

  • Brown, Goldstein & Levy, Independence Sponsor
  • Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Independence Sponsor
  • The San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Equality Sponsor
  • Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Opportunity Sponsor
  • Friends of the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Opportunity Sponsor
  • Maryland Technology Assistance Program, Opportunity Sponsor
  • Sprint Accessibility, Opportunity Sponsor
  • 3D PhotoWorks, Freedom Sponsor
  • Visit Baltimore, Freedom Sponsor



National Convention Date Change

The 2020 national convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be held July 14-19 in Houston, Texas. While the convention was originally planned for two weeks earlier, the Federation agreed to move its convention to accommodate activities in the city of Houston. We believe this change will further enhance the program, exhibits, and dynamic content provided at America's civil rights and resource convention of blind people and their families. More information regarding convention arrangements will be published in the December issue of the Braille Monitor.


Meet the Blind Month Activities

We have had and will continue to have a robust Meet the Blind Month in Maryland.  Below are some of the activities our chapters have conducted in order to demystify blindness and get out into our communities. 

  • At Large Chapter:
    • October 10, 2019: Meet the Blind Panel Discussion for the Zeta-Healthy Aging Program (Z-HAP) (Panel discussion about blindness resources and skills)
    • October 12, 2019: An Afternoon at the Movies (Movie and Fundraiser) - Scent of a Woman Film Showing and lunch (movie, lunch, and discussion about blindness related themes)
  • Central Maryland Chapter & MDPOBC
    • October 5 and 6, 2019: Wizarding Weekend on Magical Main OEC (Old Ellicott City) (themed community festival including a scavenger hunt, costume contest, wand raffle, potions lessons, and participation of dozens of local businesses to promote the National Federation of the Blind)
  • National Harbor
  • October 12, 2019: Ninth Annual Resource Day for People with Blindness or Low Vision (bringing a variety of entities who engage with, serve, or are led by the blind together so the public can learn about them)
  • Greater Baltimore Chapter
    • October 5, 2019: Farmers Market Booth – Federal Hill Farmers Market (booth so shoppers can learn about NFB)
  • TLC Chapter
    • October 27, 2018: Trick or Trot (participate in community activity where families meet community organizations)
    • October 29, 2019: Screening of Do You Dream in Color, for Federal employees and contractors, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Baltimore County Chapter
    • Matching Fundraiser: Millers Deli, Pikesville


Update on Voting Lawsuit

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.  In early September, the Board of Elections filed a Motion to Dismiss our lawsuit, claiming: 1) the Board could not get the appropriate number of BMDs from the manufacturer; 2) the policy the Board adopted in June 2019 to require 5 people to use the BMD at each polling location solves our problem of not having private ballots; and 3) it would be too costly to obtain a sufficient number of BMDs.  The Board later corrected itself, saying it could indeed get enough BMDs from the manufacturer to make the BMDs the default, but it was standing by its other two reasons for not thinking it should have to do so. 


On September 20, 2019, we filed for a preliminary injunction to compel the Board of Elections to have to use the BMDs as the default means for all voters in the 2020 General Election unless a voter specifically asks for a paper ballot.  We argued that we should not have to sacrifice our privacy and civil rights for the illusion of security and that since the Board is able to obtain enough machines, they should do so.  We also argued that since the Board couldn’t successfully get even two people to use the BMDs before, they aren’t going to succeed in getting five to use them unless the BMDs are the default method of voting.


In mid-October, the Board filed an Answer to our Motion, arguing that it would, in essence, be too costly and burdensome for the State to make using the BMDs the default voting method in Maryland.  We now wait for the judge to rule on our preliminary injunction request.


Meanwhile, we know for certain there will be a Special Primary and a Special General Election most likely in January and March, respectively, in Congressional District 7 to fill the vacant seat of the late Elijah Cummings.  Our preliminary injunction request did not envision a special election, and thus, we will be forced to go through the special election cycle without the ability to vote in secret, and we know that segregated voting due to disability will remain in place for that election.  Despite this, we will not stop fighting until Maryland desegregates voting for voters with disabilities. 


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 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.


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

  • October 1 – 31 – Meet the Blind Month
  • 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
  • July 14 –19, 2020 – NFB National Convention, Houston, Texas
  • August 8, 2020 – Crab Feast
  • November 6-8, 2020 – Annual State Convention


In this issue ...
The State Convention is Almost Here!
- You may visit the following link for the most up-to-date convention information: http://nfbmd.org/convention
- We will be streaming the 53rd Annual Convention of the NFB of Maryland.  To listen live, visit http://www.nfbmd.org/node/320.
National Convention Date Change
Meet the Blind Month Activities
Update on Voting Lawsuit
NFB RideShare Testing Program
use Amazon smile
7 Important Upcoming Dates