March 2020 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


We find ourselves experiencing tremendous change due to the unprecedented challenges that have arisen from the COVID-19 crisis.  We are first and foremost a family, and I, along with the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland want to share our hope that our members and supporters are staying healthy and safe.  We recognize that we are living in a time of uncertainty, and for many, anxiety, and we want each of you to know you are not alone, the NFBMD is hear for you, and we’ll get through this together.  I urge you all to reach out to one another to check in, provide assistance, and give whatever support you can.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any member of the NFBMD Board if you need assistance or just someone with whom to talk.  Together, we will not only weather this crisis, but we will be stronger collectively and individually.


Please read below for information about news and upcoming activities.  I ask you to pay particular attention to those items with an April 15, 2020 deadline.


NFBMD Response to COVID-19

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is working to proactively respond to the COVID-19 crisis while maintaining regular operations.  We are of course performing our work virtually so as to comply with Governor Hogan’s Stay-at-Home order and national social distancing guidelines.  We have created a webpage to share information and resources in connection with COVID-19 that can be accessed by visiting  This page will be updated regularly.  The NFB National Office has also established a web page for information about COVID-19, which can be accessed at  COVID-19 information is also available in the Breaking News section of NFB Newsline.


 NFBMD has taken the following steps to respond to the coronavirus outbreak:

  • We have established an NFBMD COVID-19  Emergency Assistance Fund.  Blind individuals and their families may request financial assistance for essentials such as groceries and medication.  Anyone interested in donating to this fund may contact me for information on how to do so.  Additional information about this program is available later in this newsletter.
  • We have held an affiliate-wide call on COVID-19 to share information and resources.  The recording of this call is available at
  • We are holding weekly affiliate calls on Wednesdays at 8:00PM.  We are spending the first portion of each meeting sharing updated information and new resources related to COVID-19 and the remainder of the meeting as a forum for members to connect socially.  To join the meeting, use one of the following methods:
    • Online direct link:
    • Meeting ID: 624 813 8327
    • One tap mobile:
      • +16468769923,,6248138327# US (New York)
      • +13126266799,,6248138327# US (Chicago)
    • Dial by phone:
      • +1 646 876 9923 US (New York)
      • +1 312 6          26 6799 US (Chicago)
      • Meeting ID: 624 813 8327
  • Given that the usual methods of public transportation are diminished or altered, we are seeking volunteers to assist our members with running essential errands and transportation to medical appointments.  If you are interested in volunteering to assist with this initiative, please contact me at or at 443-426-4110.
  • We are monitoring and engaging in advocacy related to situations that arise due to COVID-19 that disparately impact our blind community.  If you know of an entity or establishment that is serving the public but is refusing to serve the blind, please contact me immediately at 443-426-4110 or at  Such situations may relate to drive-through restaurants not allowing blind pedestrians to order and purchase food, COVID-19 testing facilities refusing to provide services to individuals who cannot drive, inaccessible technology for those who are engaging in teleschooling, and similar refusals/denials of service. 
  • We are working hard to ensure that the blind of Maryland have equal access to essential services and information.  These efforts include but are not limited to:
    • working to ensure that Maryland Executive Orders and information are accessible;
    • Fighting to ensure that the upcoming elections have mechanisms for the blind to vote independently and privately; and
    • Collaborating with government entities to ensure that COVID-19 testing and response procedures are accessible.

Please visit the NFBMD COVID-19 webpage often for updated information and resources.


NFBMD COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund

We have established an affiliate COVID-19 fund to assist individuals and families that are experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 crisis.  This fund is available to blind individuals and families with a blind household member living in Maryland.  The financial assistance must be needed due to a change in circumstance, e.g. loss of employment income, because of COVID-19 or associated government directives like the Stay-at-Home order.  Assistance is limited to essentials such as groceries and medication.  This Fund is being administered by the NFBMD Financial Assistance Committee.  Anyone who is wishing to request assistance should contact me at or at 443-426-4110.


In addition, we are seeking contributions to augment the NFBMD COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.  Those interested in making a monetary donation may do so by sending a check to NFBMD, 15 Charles Plaza, #3002, Baltimore, Maryland 21201 or by using the PayPal donation link on our website located at


NFB and NFBMD Events Impacted by COVID-19

Your health and safety is of vital importance.  In order to ensure the safety of our members, all chapters and divisions will meet virtually until further notice.  Please pay attention to our listserves or reach out to your chapter and division presidents for information on how to join our virtual meetings.  We have established a Zoom platform for the majority of our meetings, and thus the usual conference phone number and password may not get you access to the particular meeting you wish to attend.


In addition, we have postponed the below events. 

  • Basket and Bag Bingo – formerly March 13 and now August 21, 2020
  • NFBMD Bid for Opportunity and Scholarship Auction – formerly April 4 and now September 19, 2020
  • National Harbor Tenth Anniversary Celebration – Formerly March 13 and now TBD
  • MDPOBC Bake Auction – formerly March 21 and now TBD
  • MDPOBC Spring Seminar – formerly May 2 and now TBD
  • MDABS Student Seminar – formerly May 2 and now TBD
  • Muir’s Tavern Homecoming Fundraiser – formerly May 9 and now TBD
  • New Presidents and Leaders Seminar – formerly April 4 and now TBD

Note: We will share rescheduled dates for all events as soon as they are determined.


Nonetheless, at this time we expect a number of activities to remain as planned:

  • NFB National Convention – July 14 – 19, 2020
  • NFBMD BELL Academies – July and August, 2020
  • NFBMD Crab Feast – August 8, 2020
  • NFBMD Blind Cruising 2020 – September 27 – October 4, 2020
  • NFBMD State Convention – November 6-8, 2020


Please contact me at or at 443-426-4110 with questions about any of the above.


A Successful 2020 Legislative Session in Annapolis!

In this tremendous time of uncertainty and stress, I am so incredibly delighted to be able to share that our efforts in the Maryland General Assembly in 2020 were successful.  This is particularly impressive considering the Maryland General Assembly ended its legislative session three weeks early in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 


Uplifting the Maryland Library for the Blind: On Monday, March 16, 2020, the Maryland State Senate passed HB604, and the House of Delegates quickly followed on March 17 when it passed SB326.  Both bills are identical in that they: 1) change the name of the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled; and 2) ensure that one member of the Maryland State Library Board is a blind patron.  Senator King was our lead sponsor in the Senate, and Delegate Cathi Forbes was our lead sponsor in the House.  Delegate Forbes is brand new to the Maryland legislature and this is her first bill.  Our bills passed each house in which they were introduced and then sailed through passage by the opposite chamber.  Though we only needed one of the chambers to pass the other chamber’s bill, it is a testament to your hard work as advocates that both chambers passed both bills.  We are only awaiting the Governor’s signature for the legislation to be officially enacted. 


Non-Visual Access to Information Related to Electric Dockless Scooters: On Monday, March 16, 2020, the Maryland State Senate passed HB557, and the House passed SB607, its identical companion bill on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.  This bill: 1) requires electric dockless scooter sharing companies to include tactile contact information on their scooters; and 2) requires electric dockless scooter companies to make their websites and mobile applications accessible.  Senator Benson was our lead sponsor in the Senate, and Delegate Attar was our lead sponsor in the House.  Delegate Attar introduced this as her first ever bill in the 2019 legislative session, and though we got good traction on the bill, the legislative session ended a day early due to the passing of the Speaker of the House of Delegates, which prevented us from getting this legislation finalized last year.  Nonetheless, Delegate Attar and Senator Benson spearheaded the effort to move the bill quickly this session, and they, with your hard work and advocacy, were successful.  We now await for Governor Hogan’s signature on this bill.


Desegregating Voting Due to Disability: We were less successful with SB757 and HB1314, which were identical bills that required the Maryland Board of Elections to use an accessible voting method as the default voting method in Maryland in order to desegregate voting due to disability.  Though we had successful bill hearings, the General Assembly did not act on this initiative during the 2020 session.  Nonetheless, we will continue fighting for this critical bill next year and as long as it takes to restore the secret ballot.


Center for Excellence in Non-Visual Access Funding: The funding we fought to protect in the Maryland 2021 budget for the Center for Excellence in Non-Visual Access is in the final budget.  Once again, we were successful at ensuring that the blind in Maryland receive services that are accessible by helping to create a resource for entities to use when needing to know how to make technology or information accessible.


Other Initiatives: We have also worked hard on a number of other initiatives in the legislature that, though they were not part of our 2020 Day in Annapolis priorities are nonetheless important to our movement.  Sometimes we work to push an initiative, and other times we work just as hard to prevent one from going forward that will harm our members.  This year, we were directly involved in 20 separate bills.  Below are two that are of particular significance.

  • Textbook Access: We worked to ensure that a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that created a mechanism for college students to find no-cost or low-cost textbooks also required anything listed in that directory to be accessible.  This bill has passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
  • Deaf Blind Facilitator Program: We worked with the Maryland Department of Disabilities to move the Telecommunications Access of Maryland (TAM) Program out of the Maryland Department of Information Technology (DOIT) into the Department of Disabilities so that our members can receive better quality services and better access to those services.  This bill also creates the statutory authority for a deaf blind facilitator program that will ensure telecommunication for the unique needs of deaf blind Marylanders is addressed through the implementation of this new program.  This bill has passed both legislative chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.


Your Advocacy: You are vital to our efforts.  More than 60 of you attended our Annual Day in Annapolis where we met with all 188 members of the Maryland General Assembly.  Dozens of you attended hearings, and many of you testified.  Still, hundreds of you wrote letters to your delegates and senators about our initiatives.  This is collective action at work, and this is why we are such a powerhouse advocacy organization.


Tremendous Gratitude: We are successful in Annapolis and with legislative advocacy because we have a true Master leading us.  Sharon Maneki commands any room in Annapolis she enters, and Delegates and Senators flock to her to say hello and ask her opinion about issues.  She is a mastermind of advocacy strategy, and we are lucky to have her mind, energy, and efforts pushing our agenda.  I’m personally so grateful she is on our side instead of on the opposition, and I know those of you who have seen her in action agree.  Please join me in expressing heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Sharon Maneki, our Director of Legislation and Advocacy.


National Convention is Coming!

At this time, our plans to hold the NFB National Convention in person in Houston have not changed.  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. 


I have been assured that should we have to make changes to the way we hold our 2020 National Convention due to COVID-19, individuals will be able to get their hotel deposits back.  Thus, I strongly encourage you to make your hotel reservations as soon as possible.


Convention registration was somewhat delayed but is now open and closes on May 31, 2020.  Visit the following link for Convention information including registration information.


NFB National Convention Financial Assistance Application Deadline – April 15, 2020


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  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


In addition, first-time National Convention attendees needing financial assistance may also apply for a Kenneth Jernigan National Convention Grant.  Applications are due by April 15, 2020.  Because one aspect of the Jernigan Grant application is a letter from the affiliate president, I am asking anyone who is applying for a Jernigan Grant to reach out to me at or by calling 443-426-4110.  For specific information about the Jernigan grant and to access the application form, please visit


NFBMD Scholarship Program

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland administers a scholarship program for post-secondary students.  The deadline to apply for an NFBMD Scholarship is April 15, 2020.


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:


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, but the deadline to make your reservation and pay a $275 per person deposit ($250 if you already paid the initial $25 per person deposit) is April 15, 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:

  • Deposit due: April 15, 2020 - $275 if initial $25 deposit was not paid; $250 per person plus full names of sailors otherwise
  • Final payment due: June 15, 2020


The cabin prices have gone down for our block. 

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) = $826.64 per person
  • Balcony cabin (standard balcony) = $803.64 per person
  • Balcony cabin (obstructed view) = 760.64 per person
  • Ocean View cabin = $680.64 per person
  • interior cabin = $695.64 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.


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 This raffle has gone digital, so please get in touch with me or an NFBMD leader to get your tickets today.  Help us 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. 


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


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





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

  • April 15, 2020 – Deadline for NFBMD Scholarship Applications.
  • April 15, 2020 – Deadline for Second Blind Cruising 2020 Payment.
  • April 15, 2020 – Deadline for NFBMD Financial Assistance Applications
  • April 15, 2020 – Deadline for NFB Jernigan Grant applications
  • 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
  • August 21, 2020 – Basket and Bag Bingo at The Lodge, 2832 9 Mile Cir. Catonsville, MD.
  • September 19, 2020 – Scholarship Dinner and Bid for Opportunity at VFW Post 9619, 6527 Suitland Rd, Morningside, MD
  • September 27 – October 4, 2020 – Blind Cruising 2020, Carnival Pride, Departing from Port of Baltimore
  • November 6-8, 2020 – Annual State Convention, Towson, Maryland