May 2020 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


This is perhaps the most difficult newsletter I’ve written to you all, as we find our country, our state, and our community and those communities with which we belong experiencing such challenging times.  Many of us have lost loved ones to COVID-19.  Others among us are experiencing tremendous financial hardship due to the COVID-19 response efforts which have suspended employment.  Others have had to learn how to telework, teleschool, and generally interact with a world that is often not accessible from a technology or practical perspective.  And in the past few weeks, we have experienced yet another tragic killing of an unarmed black man and civil disobedience in response to this killing. 


I want to remind you that though we, as blind people, share one thing in common – our blindness – we each come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences, including those due to race.  Though our organization’s mission focuses on blindness, blindness affects all races and what happens in our communities has an impact on our members.  I know that each of you will respect one another because of our shared commonality, but I hope that you will learn from one another because of our differences. 


Later in this newsletter, you will find reprinted a statement, entitled, “National Federation of the Blind Stands in Solidarity with All Those Impacted by Racial Injustice.”  I urge you to read it, think about it, and talk about it and what we can collectively do to make the world a more just place for our black brothers and sisters. 


Finally, I want to share with you a link to an Open Letter that President Riccobono wrote to our members nationwide, the title of which is “Love Conquers Hate.”  I join President Riccobono in saying, “I call upon members of our organization to recognize the solidarity we share as blind people and that the value we place on love within our movement is needed more today than at any other time in our history.”  The letter is available at  


I recognize that we are living in a time of uncertainty, and for many, anxiety, fear, and pain, and I want each of you to know you are not alone, the NFBMD is hear for you, and we’ll get through this together.  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 come out of these crises stronger than we’ve ever been. 


Please read below for information about news and upcoming activities.


National Federation of the Blind Stands in Solidarity with All Those Impacted by Racial Injustice

The below statement was issued on June 4, 2020 by President Riccobono, on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, after being unanimously approved by the NFB Board of Directors. 


For eighty years, the National Federation of the Blind has viewed addressing discrimination and promoting equality as essential elements of our work. Today we stand in solidarity with the black community in their fight for justice and in their pursuit of equal treatment under the law. We condemn the continued murders of black Americans including those of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Further, we acknowledge that these horrific deaths represent a vile and long-standing pattern of institutionalized racism that permeates the criminal justice system. While there are police officers that are doing good work, the fact remains that black and brown individuals are disproportionally impacted by police brutality, unfairly condemning people of color to prison cells and graveyards.


As a civil rights organization with a diverse membership, we strive to grow in our understanding of conditions that affect us. Throughout our history, we have participated in civil disobedience and honor the value that it holds to bring about social change. We are firmly committed to enacting our organizational diversity statement, which in part expresses, “We recognize that our views and convictions will be challenged, and we expect this challenge to take place in a climate of tolerance and mutual respect in order to maintain a united organization.” Recognizing that this is a time of intense grief, a time of learning, and a time of reflection, we stand with our members who are in pain and pray not only for peace but for justice. We stand in solidarity with our black members and publicly commit to do anti-racist work within our organization. We ask our nonblack members to take the time to self-reflect in ways we can participate to create an anti-racist world. With you in love, with you in justice, we affirm that #BlackLivesMatter.


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 open and operating consistent with State and local public health determinations.  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 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 Wednesday evening meeting, use one of the following methods:
    • Online direct link:
    • Meeting ID: 624 813 8327
    • One tap mobile:
      •         +13017158592,,6248138327# US (Germantown)
      •         +16468769923,,6248138327# US (New York)
      • +13126266799,,6248138327# US (Chicago)
    • Dial by phone:
      •         +13017158592 US (Germantown)
      • +1 646 876 9923 US (New York)
      • +1 312 6          26 6799 US (Chicago)
      • Meeting ID: 624 813 8327
  • WE have been and will continue to host virtual workshops on a variety of topics, including how to use Zoom, how to use the Victor Reader Stream, how to improve use of memory, how to make masks, and other matters of interest.  To suggest a topic or to offer to lead a workshop, please contact Debbie Brown at or at 301—881-1892.  Please visit our COVID-19 web page at to find the most up-to-date list of virtual seminars. 
  • Given that the usual methods of public transportation are diminished or altered, we are seeking and providing 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 provided transportation for those individuals who needed assistance getting to an in-person voting site in order to vote for the April 28, 2020 District 7 Special General Election and June 2 state-wide Primary Election.
  • We are providing assistance filling out forms and accessing the Maryland Beacon System, the platform that administers the Maryland unemployment application and reporting program since it is not fully accessible at this time.  Those needing assistance should contact Sharon Maneki at or call 410-715-9596.
  • We are providing assistance to members who do not have the technology or otherwise cannot complete their IRS Non-Filer Forms in order to ensure that those individuals receive their economic impact payments.  Such individuals are generally those receiving SSI, SSDI, Social Security retirement, or VA benefits and need to complete this form in order to receive the economic impact payment for dependents.  Those needing assistance should contact Sharon Maneki at or call 410-715-9596.
  • WE are working to ensure that drive-up COVID-19 testing facilities also serve the blind given that they cannot “drive up” as well as working to ensure that walk-up testing facilities are accessible to the blind.
  • 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; 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 at least June 30, 2020.  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
  • NFBMD Cruise – formerly September 27 – October 4, 2020 and now September 19 – 26, 2021

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


In addition, the following events will take place but will be conducted virtually.

  • NFB National Convention – July 14 – 18, 2020 (see additional information later in this newsletter)
  • NFBMD BELL Academies – June, July, and August, 2020 (see additional information later in this newsletter)


The following events are still scheduled as planned, but they are subject to change based on Maryland social distancing and public health orders.

  • NFBMD Crab Feast – August 8, 2020
  • NFBMD State Convention – November 6-8, 2020


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


NFB National Convention Is Coming – Registration Closes June 15!

The National Federation of the Blind 2020 Annual Convention will soon be upon us.  Though we will have a virtual convention in that we will not be travelling to Houston, this convention promises to be the biggest and best in history.  The Convention dates have changed slightly in that the Convention will last five days instead of six.  The new dates are Tuesday, July 14 through Saturday, July 18, 2020. 


NFBMD is hoping to have some in-person activities in Baltimore should public health and social distancing rules permit us to do so.  We are hoping to have an in-person Caucus on Friday, July 17 and an in-person banquet on Saturday, July 18, 2020.  We are also exploring other events that may take place in person.  Any events that are in-person will also have a virtual component for those who cannot physically travel.  We will share information about the Maryland events associated with the 2020 National Convention as we finalize them. 


Given that our National Headquarters and our National President are in Maryland, and given that the virtual NFB Convention will be broadcast from Maryland, I am taking the position that Maryland is now the host of the 2020 NFB National Convention.  Other affiliates claim that every affiliate is a host of the 2020 National Convention, but I think we can show them that Maryland is the true host.  We can do this by having the largest number of Convention registrants and participants.  I am urging you all to register for the convention by June 15, 2020 by visiting  Registration is free!  If individuals need assistance filling out the online registration form, they may contact their chapter presidents or me for assistance.  I can be reached at or at 443-426-4110.


a drawing if Maryland wins the attendance banner

Currently, Maryland is in second place in terms of most registrants, and we can’t let Texas (or anyone else) beat us.  To that end, in order to show our appreciation for our members, friends, and supporters who register for the NFB National Convention, we will be holding a drawing if Maryland wins the attendance banner.  First prize is $100, second prize is $50, and third prize is $25.  We can only draw for this token of appreciation if Maryland has the highest attendance of all affiliates, and so please encourage your fellow convention attendees – or those interested in attending their first convention – to register.


The Rookie Round-Up

The Rookie Round-Up, which will provide information for first-time Convention attendees, will be at 8:00PM on Tuesday, July 7.  Those who register and indicate this is their first convention will receive information on how to join.  Maryland will be holding a conference call for our members who will attend their first national convention on Thursday, July 9 at 8:00PM.  We will be distributing information about this meeting in the coming weeks.  First-time conventioneers should plan to attend both the Rookie Round-Up and the Maryland First-Timers Meeting.


NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition!

the NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition will teach critical nonvisual techniques and Braille literacy to blind children nationwide ages 4 through 12.  Due to the public health considerations associated with COVID-19, the NFB BELL Academy will be offered virtually rather than in person.  NFB BELL has been condensed into three nationally taught and coordinated sessions with support from NFBMD.  Each two-week session will take place Monday through Friday for 45 minutes at 11:00AM and 6:00PM (participants need only attend one of the daily sessions).  The dates of the three sessions are as follows:

  • June 1 – June 12, 2020 (full and not accepting additional participants)
  • June 22 – July 3, 2020
  • July 27 – August 7, 2020

Note: the 11:00AM session from June 22 – July 3, 2020 will be conducted in Spanish.


Each registered student will receive the materials to complete all sessions alongside their parent/guardian by mail.  There will be two daily opportunities to connect with an experienced teacher by phone or web during each session.  NFBMD will provide additional support and assistance throughout the sessions.


Registration is free to families.  Participants may register by visiting  Anyone needing assistance with registering should contact NFBMD BELL Coordinator Lizzy Muhammad at or at 484-624-9778.


NFB Has a National Scholarship Finalist

This year, Brianna Broadwater, an incoming freshman, has been selected as an NFB National Scholarship Finalist.  She will compete along with her 29 scholarship class members for a number of different scholarships that range in amount from $3,000 to $12,000.  Brianna will attend the virtual National Convention and the NFBMD State convention in Towson this November, so you will have the opportunity to get to know her.  Please join me in congratulating Brianna.


NFBMD Scholarship Finalists

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is pleased to announce that this year, three students have been selected as 2020 John T. McCraw Scholarship finalists.  James “Garret” Mooney is a rising third-year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law.  Shawn Abraham is a rising sophomore at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.  Rachel Walker is an incoming freshman at East Carolina University.   They will all be attending the NFB National Convention virtually and the NFBMD State Convention in Towson, so you will have the chance to get to know them.  They will receive their NFBMD scholarships at the state convention in November provided they remain eligible.  We are thrilled with this year’s scholarship class and know you will be impressed as well.



NFB Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Winners – Maryland Is Awesome!

Maryland had an impressive showing in the annual Braille Readers Are Leaders competition, sponsored by the American Action Fund in concert with the National Federation of the Blind.  Participants compete for prizes by reading and tracking the number of Braille pages read; an adult then verifies the reading log.  This year, there was an adult category for the first time.  Participants came from 22 states, for a total of 93 participants.  The contest began on December 1, 2019 and lasted for seven weeks.  Maryland’s Aisha Safi was the overall national contest winner, having read a whopping 7,798 pages.  Aisha is in the fourth grade.


Our other contest participants did a tremendous job as well. 

  • Aisha Safi, Chevy Chase, Maryland: First Place - Category Grade 4 and 5
  • Mercy Rao, Columbia, Maryland: Second place – Grade 6, 7, and 8
  • Zanyiah Bell, Bowie, Maryland: Third Place – Category Grade 3 and 4
  • Isaiah Rao, Columbia, Maryland: Category Third place – Grade 6 - 8
  • Paul Wales, Silver Spring, Maryland, category grade 9, received the Breaking Limits Award. 

Congratulations to all of the winners!


Update on Voting Access

NFBMD has worked tirelessly to ensure that Maryland’s blind voters were not excluded from being able to vote given the Maryland State Board of Election’s decision to move the Maryland Primary Election on June 2, 2020 and the Maryland District 7 Special General Election on April 28, 2020 to Vote-by-Mail.  Originally, the Board was not going to have any in-person voting sites, which would have precluded many voters with disabilities including the blind from being able to access the elections.  Though Maryland administers an absentee ballot for making selections that NFBMD fought to make accessible several years ago, this method will not work for all blind voters because it excludes those without printer capabilities and those who cannot mail out their ballots (this ballot can be voted accessibly but it is not submitted via the internet and thus must be printed and sent in to cast the vote). 


NFBMD advocated to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Maryland Department of Disabilities, and directly to the Office of the Governor, and through our efforts and those of our Disability advocacy partners, the Maryland State Board of Elections reversed course and implemented same-day in-person voting sites in Maryland.  Each of the three counties in District 7 had one in-person voting site for the Special General Election on April 28, 2020.  Each of the 24 counties had at least one in-person voting site for the Maryland Primary Election on June 2, 2020, with several of the larger counties having four and Baltimore City having six locations. 


We thank everyone who voted in person on April 28 and June 2, 2020.  Given our ongoing efforts to desegregate voting in Maryland due to disability, we are asking those who voted in person in either election to share their experiences with us, particularly if you experienced challenges with the Ballot Marking Device (BMD) or were not able to easily vote independently for any reason.  Please contact me at or at 443-426-4110.



Important Upcoming Dates

  • June 22 – July 3, 2020 – NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition
  • July 14 –18, 2020 – NFB National Convention, Houston, Texas
  • July 27 – August 7, 2020 – NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition
  • 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
  • November 6-8, 2020 – Annual State Convention, Towson, Maryland
  • January 21, 2021 – NFBMD Day in Annapolis
  • February 8, 2021 – Washington Seminar Great Gathering In
  • February 9, 2021 – Maryland Day on the Hill
  • September 19 – 26, 2021 – Blind Cruising 2020, Carnival Pride, Departing from Port of Baltimore