December 2019/January 2020 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


Happy New Year! As we begin a new decade, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is working harder than ever to fight for the rights of Maryland’s blind.  May 2020 bring the Federation and each of you tremendous happiness and success!  I apologize for not sending out a Minute Message in December – I was very ill and unable to write to you all.  I’m doing much better now and look forward to seeing you at the various activities we have coming up.  Read below for information about news and upcoming activities.



Annapolis Begins!

The 2020 session of the Maryland General Assembly began on January 8, and we have been working hard to prepare for our Annual NFBMD Day in Annapolis, which will take place on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  We will visit all 188 Delegates and Senators about a week after the legislative session begins in order to maximize the time we have to push our issues through both chambers.  If you would like to participate in the 2020 NFBMD Day in Annapolis on January 16, please reach out to Sharon Maneki at or at 410-715-9596.  This year, our legislative priorities include: 1) restoring the secret ballot to disabled voters by ensuring a single voting system for all; 2) Ensuring nonvisual access to information concerning electronic dockless scooters; 3) changing the name of the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to the Maryland Library for the Blind and Print Disabled and ensuring that a member of the Library Board is blind; and 4) protecting the $250,000 appropriation in the Governor’s budget for the Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA) to Education, Public Information, and Commerce. You may read the fact sheets about each issue by visiting and or on the Information Channel on Newsline.


Washington Seminar Is Coming!

On February 10, Maryland will join Federationists from throughout the country on Capitol Hill to let Congress know about the priorities for blind Americans. The three issues that we will discuss are: cosponsoring the Access Technology Affordability Act (H.R. 2086 / S. 815); cosponsoring the Greater Accessibility and Independence through Nonvisual Access Technology Act (H.R. 3929); and cosponsoring the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act (H.R. 5312 / S. 3095).   You may read the Washington Seminar fact sheets by visiting or via Newsline.  The Great Gathering In will take place at 5:00PM on Monday, February 10, 2020 at the Holiday Inn Capitol.  Maryland will be visiting our Congressional Delegation on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, and there will be a reception for Congressional members beginning at 5:00PM at the Capitol.  If you plan to attend the Great Gathering In, the Congressional meetings, the Reception, or all of the above, please let me know by emailing


Basket and Bag Bingo is Coming!

Would you like to win over $4,000 in prizes? Would you like to play 23 games of BINGO? Snacks and raffles will also be available. Buy your tickets early because we always sell out.

We are busy arranging and filling baskets and procuring bags (purses). We need financial contributions to help with these purchases. Please let us know whether you would like to sponsor a basket or bag for $100. All contributions of any amount are welcome.  You may also purchase your ticket for $25.  Please contact Sharon Maneki at for more information. 




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 was published in the December issue of the Braille Monitor.


Blind Cruising 2020 – Deadline for Initial Deposit Extended

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland will be hosting a cruise fundraiser from September 27, 2020 to October 4, 2020.   The affiliate will receive a portion of the cost of each cabin that is booked.  All are welcome, including members of the NFBMD, other affiliates, families, colleagues, and friends.  For additional information or to reserve your cabin, please email  Details are as follows:

Ship: Carnival Pride

Date: September 27 – October 4, 2020

Port of Departure: Baltimore, Maryland

Number of nights: 7

Ports visited: Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; and Freeport, Bahamas

Key Dates:

  • First deposit due: March 1, 2020 = $25 per person
  • Second deposit due: April 15, 2020 - $250 per person plus full names of sailors
  • Final payment due: June 15, 2020


Types and prices of cabins (this is a per person price based on double occupancy and includes cabin fee, port charges, and taxes); we have a limited number of cabins, so prices may change once our block is filled.

  • Balcony cabin (extended balcony) = $951.64 per person
  • Balcony cabin (standard balcony) = $928.64 per person
  • Balcony cabin (obstructed view) = $885.64 per person
  • Ocean View cabin = $835.64 per person
  • interior cabin = $770.64 per person
  • if anyone needs a triple or quad cabin, they should let us know.


NFB and NFBMD Scholarship Programs

The National Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland each administer a separate scholarship program for post-secondary students.  The deadline to apply for an NFB scholarship is March 31, 2020, and the deadline to apply for an NFBMD Scholarship is April 15, 2020.


National Scholarship Program: Each year, the NFB awards 30 merit-based scholarships totaling at least $120,000. 

  • Scholarships range in amount from $3,000 to $12,000.
  • Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, leadership, and community service.
  • The 30 scholarship finalists are announced in the spring and attend the National Convention, where they are awarded a specific scholarship.
  • Application materials must be submitted (online or postmarked) by 11:59PM on March 31, 2020.
  • To be eligible, applicants must:
    • Be legally blind in both eyes;
    • Reside in the United States, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico;
    • Be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time, post-secondary course of study in a degree program at a U.S. institution in the Fall of 2020 (one scholarship may be awarded to an individual who works full-time and attends school part-time); and
    • Attend the entire National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind (and all scholarship activities) in Houston, Texas from July 14 through 19, 2020 (scholarship finalists will receive convention assistance).
  • To apply:


State Scholarship Program: Each year, the NFB of Maryland awards the John T. McCraw Scholarship to two students in the amounts of $2,000 and $1,500 each.  NFBMD may award a third scholarship to a former McCraw scholarship recipient. 

  • Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement and community involvement.
  • Application materials must be submitted (online or postmarked) by 11:59PM on April 15, 2020.
  • To be eligible, applicants must:
    • Be legally blind in both eyes;
    • Be a legal resident of Maryland or be pursuing post-secondary studies at a school in Maryland;
    • Be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time, post-secondary course of study in a degree program in the Fall of 2020; and
    • Attend the entire National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Houston, Texas from July 14 through 19, 2020 and the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Towson, Maryland from November 6 – 8, 2020 (scholarship finalists will receive convention assistance).
  • To apply:


LBPH and BookShare Partner to Give Us More Books!

The Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) has partnered with BookShare, an online repository of thousands of books, to make BookShare service available to patrons of LBPH free of charge.  To be eligible, individuals must be a member of LBPH and not have an existing BookShare membership.  For more information, contact LBPH at 410-230-2424.


Do You Feel Lucky?

The NFBMD spring raffle is underway. During the months of May and June, you have the opportunity to win $50 Sunday through Friday, or $100 on Saturday. Purchase a 3-digit number raffle ticket for $10. You will be the only one who has this number. Between now and February 10, you may request a specific number from Melissa Riccobono and pay the $10. You might want to request your birthday, your anniversary, or some other significant number. After February 10, tickets will be available from chapter presidents and you will not necessarily be able to get the specific number you want. If you want to buy or sell tickets, please contact Melissa Riccobono at Help us sell all 1,000 tickets!  The individual who sells the most winning tickets will win a prize, provided we sell all 1,000 tickets.


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. 


The hearing on MSBE’s Motion to Dismiss our lawsuit is scheduled for 1:00PM on Friday, January 17, 2020 at the Federal Courthouse, located at 101 W Lombard Street, Baltimore.  I encourage as many NFB members as possible to attend the hearing so that we show MSBE and the judiciary that this issue is important to us.  Please meet in the lobby, just past security, at 12:30PM.  If you have questions, please call me at 443-426-4110.


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.


The parties are currently in discovery, meaning we are exchanging information, evidence, and depositions. 


Meanwhile, we know for certain there will be a Special Primary and a Special General Election  in February and in April, 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 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.


Important Upcoming Dates

  • January 16, 2020 – Day in Annapolis, Annapolis, Maryland
  • January 17, 2020 – MSBE Hearing, Federal Courthouse, 101 W Lombard Street, Baltimore, Maryland
  • February 8, 2020 – Regional Braille Challenge, held at the Maryland School for the Blind.
  • February 10, 2020 – Great Gathering In, Washington Seminar, Washington, DC
  • February 11, 2020 – Visit to Maryland Congressional Delegation in Washington DC
  • March 13, 2020 – Basket and Bag Bingo at The Lodge, 2832 9 Mile Cir. Catonsville, MD.
  • March 27, 2020 – Board of Directors Meeting; Location TBD
  • March 31, 2020 – Deadline for National Scholarship Applications.
  • April 4, 2020 – Scholarship Dinner and Bid for Opportunity at VFW Post 9619, 6527 Suitland Rd, Morningside, MD
  • April 15, 2020 – Deadline for NFBMD Scholarship Applications.
  • July 14 –19, 2020 – NFB National Convention, Houston, Texas
  • August 8, 2020 – Annual Crab Feast - Tall Cedars, 2501 Putty Hill Ave., Parkville, MD 21234
  • September 27 – October 4, 2020 – Blind Cruising 2020, Carnival Pride, Departing from Port of Baltimore
  • November 6-8, 2020 – Annual State Convention, Towson, Maryland