February 2020 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:

February gave us an extra day this year, and we took advantage of it to work on our many priorities.  The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland continues to be busy raising expectations for the blind and fighting for our rights.  Many of us gathered at the Columbia Mall to usher in a new business on Leap Day called Chop Chop to support the Maryland Association of Blind Merchants.  As one passer-by stated, “This mall is full of blind people!”  Read below for information about news and upcoming activities.


Raising Expectations in Annapolis!

We continue to advocate for our legislative priorities at the Maryland General Assembly.  We held our Annual Day in Annapolis on Thursday, January 16, 2020, and more than 60 Federationists participated.  We spoke with representatives from all 47 State Senator offices and 141 Delegate offices.  Thank you all for your hard work! 


On February 12 and 13, we testified at legislative hearings in support of SB326 / HB604 to rename the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled and to ensure that one member of the Maryland State Library Board is blind.  You can view the testimony for one of the hearings, including heart-felt words by nine-year-old Oriana Riccobono explaining why a blind person must protect our library, by clicking http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Committees/Media/false?cmte=w%26m&....  We are making substantial progress on this issue – the Maryland State Senate passed it 46 / 0 on February 27, 2020, and the Maryland House of Delegates is expected to bring it to a vote on the floor on March 2 or 3 because the House Committee gave it a favorable report and voted it out of Committee.  Should the House of Delegates pass the bill, then the two chambers will make sure both the Senate and House bills are the same and eventually, barring a veto, Governor Hogan, will sign the bill into law.  You all did a tremendous job on this issue!


On February 20, 2020, we testified at the Maryland House of Delegates on HB557, which ensures that blind people have equal access to information with regard to dockless electric scooters.  The Senate version of the bill, SB607, will have its hearing on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.  Anyone wishing to attend this hearing should contact Sharon Maneki at 410-715-9596 or at NFBMD@earthlink.net.  Last year, the House of Delegates passed the bill, the Senate Finance Committee sat on the bill for a very long time and eventually passed it but by the time they got it out of Committee, there wasn’t enough time for the full Senate to vote on it.  We’re hoping the bills will move more quickly this year, but we need your help to make sure this happens.  Keep reading to find out what you can do.


The funding for the Center for Excellence in Non-visual Access is currently in the Governor’s Budget.  Members attended the Senate and House hearings for the Department of Disabilities budget, and we expect this money should be protected.  Great work on this initiative.


The hearings on our legislative priorities to restore the secret ballot and desegregate voting based on disability, SB757 / HB1314, will take place on Tuesday, March 3, and Thursday, March 5, 2020.  If you wish to attend the hearings, please contact Sharon Maneki at 410-715-9596 or at NFBMD@earthlink.net.


The Maryland legislature is extremely busy this year with a tremendous number of bills.  In order to make sure that our delegates and senators know our matters are critical to us, we need to contact them to tell them to support our initiatives.  Our Director of Legislation and Advocacy, Sharon Maneki, has posted information on our lists about how to do this as well as visited many chapters.  We will shortly repost all this information in one list message.  You may also contact Sharon Maneki directly to request it at 410-715-9596 or at NFBMD@earthlink.net.  Thanks for all you do!  Legislative advocacy is the true embodiment of collective action.



Raising Expectations in Washington!

We had a very successful Washington Seminar where we raised expectations about blindness.  On February 11, Maryland joined Federationists from throughout the country on Capitol Hill to let Congress know about the priorities for blind Americans. The three issues that we discussed 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  https://www.nfb.org/programs-services/advocacy/legislative-agenda or on Newsline.  Maryland’s Congressional delegation highlighted your efforts when four out of the fifteen Members of Congress who attended our NFB Congressional Reception on February 11, 2020 were from Maryland.  These members were Senator Cardin, Majority Leader Hoyer, Congressman Raskin, and Congressman Sarbanes.  NFBMD will continue working to ensure that the entire Maryland Congressional delegation cosponsors all of our bills.  If you have questions about the status of any Federal legislation, please contact me at President@nfbmd.org.


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 NFBMD@earthlink.net for more information or visit http://nfbmd.org/bingo


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 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. 


In January, the Federal judge presiding over the case heard oral arguments (this means the lawyers talk about the case but witnesses don’t testify) in our Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and the Board’s Motion to Dismiss.  Many Federationists were there in person to show the Court and the Maryland State Board of Elections that our right to a secret, desegregated ballot is a vital civil right.


On February 4, 2020, the Board of Elections administered the Special Primary Election in the Seventh Congressional District.  Our members experienced tremendous difficulty voting privately, secretly, and independently, which was proof that none of the Board’s policy changes were effective.  On February 7, we filed a Motion to Seek Leave to Supplement the Preliminary Injunction Motion, which means we were requesting approval to provide additional evidence.  However, the Judge did not consider our new evidence of all of the issues that happened in the Special Primary Election and issued a ruling on February 10.


The Judge ruled in our favor with regard to the Board’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit.  This means that we can continue with the litigation.  However, she ruled in favor of the Board when she denied our Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.  This means that she is not requiring the Board of Elections to make the Ballot Marking Devices the default method of voting for the 2020 General Election. 


If you had a challenging experience with the BMDs, were not given neutral language upon check-in, or have other matters related to the Special Primary you wish to discuss, please contact me at President@nfbmd.org.


We are optimistic about the overall lawsuit and will continue fighting to ensure that the blind have a secret, non-segregated voting experience. 


National Convention is Coming!

The 2020 national convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be held July 14-19 in Houston, Texas. The Main Convention Hotel will be the Hilton Americas - Houston, 1600 Lamar Street, Houston, TX 77010.  Room rates are $105 per night for singles, doubles, triples, and quads, plus 8.25% sales tax and 17% occupancy tax.  Reservations may be made by calling 1-800-236-2905.  You will need to pay the first night’s room and taxes on a credit card or mail a check to the hotel to reserve a room. 


The overflow hotel is the Marriott Marquis Houston, which is about three blocks away, or across the park (also accessible indoors by walking through the Convention Center.  The nightly rate is $119 plus taxes.  To make reservations at the Marriott Marquis Houston, call 1-877-688-4323.  


Convention registration opened on March 1, 2020 and closes on May 31, 2020.  Visit the following link for Convention information including registration information.  https://www.nfb.org/convention



Those seeking financial assistance should speak with their chapter president to find out what assistance their local chapter may have available.  The affiliate’s Financial Assistance Application Form is now live and must be submitted by April 15, 2020.  It can be found at http://www.nfbmd.org/financialassistance.  Please note that though the Financial Assistance Committee will give due consideration to every application, the affiliate has limited resources and is unable to grant every request.  For questions about the Financial Assistance Application Program, please reach out to your chapter president or me at President@nfbmd.org.


Supporting Our Maryland Scholarship Program!

Please join us on April 4, 2020 at our NFB of Maryland Bid for Opportunity and Scholarship Dinner.  This is an annual event that raises funds for the John T. McCraw Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships for post-secondary students in Maryland.  The dinner and auction will begin at 5PM and end at about 9PM.  It will take place at the VFW Post 9619 in Morningside, located at 6527 Suitland Road, Morningside, Maryland 20746.  Tickets cost $40, and those interested in attending should purchase tickets by March 28, 2020 by mailing a check payable to “NFB of Maryland” to Debbie Brown, 11923 Parklawn Drive, #104, Rockville, MD 20852 or purchase online by visiting http://nfbmd.org/bidforopportunity. Individuals may also contact Debbie Brown at deborahb14@verizon.net, or call (301) 881-1892 to donate items for the auction.


Blind Cruising 2020!

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland will be hosting a cruise fundraiser from September 27, 2020 to October 4, 2020.   There are a few cabins left in our block.  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 NFBMD.outreach@gmail.com.  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: Until All Cabins Booked = $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.

Note: There are no longer cabins available at all price points, so please email to inquire about availability.


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. You can get your tickets from chapter and division presidents, Board members,  affiliate leaders, or from me at President@nfbmd.org. 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.


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.


Important Upcoming Dates

  • March 13, 2020 – Basket and Bag Bingo at The Lodge, 2832 9 Mile Cir. Catonsville, MD.
  • 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.
  • April 15, 2020 – Deadline for Second Blind Cruising 2020 Payment.
  • May 2, 2020 – MDPOBC and MDABS Joint Seminar, Baltimore, MD
  • May 9, 2020 – Muir’s Tavern Homecoming Fundraiser, Baltimore (Federal Hill), MD
  • June 15, 2020 – Final Payment Due for Blind Cruising 2020
  • July 14 –19, 2020 – NFB National Convention, Houston, Texas
  • July 20 – 31, 2020 – NFB BELL Academy – Salisbury, MD
  • August 3 – 14, 2020 – NFB BELL Academy – Baltimore, MD
  • August 3 – 14, 2020 – NFB BELL Academy – Glenn Dale, MD
  • 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