July/August 2020 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


We have just successfully completed our first ever virtual National Federation of the Blind Annual Convention, and, as promised, it was the biggest and best yet.  As we turn our attention to our Fall activities and our 54th Annual National Federation of the Blind of Maryland State Convention, we also continue to work hard to protect the rights of blind Marylanders.  WE have a number of exciting activities in store over the coming weeks and months.


Please read below for information about news and upcoming activities.


2020 NFB National Convention – Virtual and the Best So Far!

Thank you for joining us for an incredible 80th Annual National Federation of the Blind National Convention.  We collectively attended nearly 250 unique meetings over five days, had dozens of exhibitors, engaged with numerous sponsors, and had nearly ten thousand participants.  In Maryland alone we had 593 registered participants, 186 of them first-timers, and an additional 200+ attendees with whom I personally spoke, texted, or chatted.  We had an amazing convention because of you.  We learned, we laughed, and we grew because of you.  Because of your involvement, we shattered the attendance record, we blew the Pre-Authorized Check Contribution Program amounts out of the water, and we had tremendous engagement in all workshops and activities. 


We brought home the PAC-rat, which is the critter given to the affiliate that has the most activity on the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Program.  I committed to holding a drawing to include anyone who joined the PAC program or increased their PAC contribution during the NFB National Convention, on the condition that we brought home a critter or met one of the two targets that Maryland PAC Chairman John Pare set for us.  We brought home the PAC-rat and exceeded both of John’s targets.  Congratulations to the Maryland Organization of Parents of Blind Children who won the drawing.  They win (or one of them does at least) dinner at the place of their choice with me.  MDPBC will decide how to allocate the prize in a way that makes sense for the Division.


I enjoyed meeting with many of you at the Maryland Caucus on July 17 and hearing your perspectives on resolutions.  It was a great deal of fun speaking with many of you at our daily virtual breakfast club when we walked through each day’s events and activities.  It was fun chatting with you in the CrowdCompass app, and literally hundreds of you emailed and texted me throughout the week to tell me your thoughts and opinions about just about everything.  I also had a great time with MDABS at our breakfasts on my balcony (appropriately social distanced and with the affiliate Board at the appropriately social distanced banquet. 


We had a number of members and leaders take on key responsibilities during the NFB 80th Annual Convention.  Special thanks go to the following:

  • Debbie Brown, Judy Rasmussen, and Lloyd Rasmussen led our daily Breakfast Club to go over that day’s Convention activities, answer questions, and help troubleshoot challenges;
  • Sondra Burchette and Dezman Jackson managed our direct-dial conference line, which was patched into the Convention, so that those less comfortable with technology could call one number without having to enter an access code;
  • The Maryland Library for the Blind and Print Disabled generously allowed us to use their direct-dial conference line for key Convention meetings and activities;
  • Chris Nusbaum, Derrick Day, and Brian Kesseling served as our Maryland Tech Team and helped members resolve technology challenges throughout the Convention;
  • All chapter presidents and Boards worked with their individual members to answer questions, share information, and engage members and participants;
  • Millie Rivera and the NFBMD Scholarship Committee engaged creatively and frequently with the 2020 Scholarship Class;
  • Judy Rasmussen led our Ambassadors as they helped orient first-time and new conventioneers;
  • The NFBMD Board did whatever needed to be done whenever it needed to be done; and
  • You all actively participated and dozens of you helped in ways too numerous to share.


We owe this incredible convention to President Riccobono and the staff of the National Federation of the Blind.  I was fortunate to be elected as your delegate, and with Zoom, users can have a virtual background.  Delegates were on camera during the convention much of the time.  This means that instead of seeing my very boring apartment walls, I can put up a picture of something else that shows up behind me when my camera is on.  I chose to have Hogwarts, which is the school where Harry Potter learned how to perform magic in the Harry Potter books and movies.  I did this as a tribute to the staff of the NFB who literally conjured this convention from thin air and made all the magic happen. 


I also wrote the below message to them and wanted to share it with you.  I hope you’ll join me in expressing your appreciation to our colleagues and fellow members at the National Federation of the Blind for putting on a truly spectacular convention.


I can’t tell you how impressed I am with all of your hard work, creativity, flexibility, and all the other adjectives that apply to you.  Most of you know that I’m not usually one who experiences a loss of words, but all that you have accomplished leaves me speechless (almost).  Each of you played such a vital role in bringing the 2020 NFB Convention to fruition, from the exceptional technology geeks that gave us platforms for the convention engagement to the Exhibit Hall to the voting system to sound to registration to door prize collection and on and on; to the Zoom moderators who made sure we adhered to our Code of Conduct (seriously, some of those meetings had so many moving parts my head spun); to those who handled fundraising, sponsorship, and marketing; to those who handled communication and social media; to those who generated registration lists, verified membership, and then verified voting eligibility; to those who set up the National Center for our Banquet party and created the most delicious banquet food I or my Board have ever tasted; to those who shared and organized login information for literally over 200 meetings; to those who kept the building TVs and AC running; to those who organized the agenda; to those who ran youth track and co-led Resolutions and supported the Scholarship Committee; to those who did all the things we don’t even know about; and on and on and on.  You truly conjured this convention with magic and elbow grease, and you did an outstanding job.  Thank you!  Thank you! Thank you!


Get ready for New Orleans in 2021!

One of the highlights of the national board of directors meeting at the 2020 NFB National Convention was learning that the 2021 National Convention will take place from July 6 – 11 at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana. Start saving up so that you can attend the 2021 convention. 


Crabbing for Student Scholarships: Date Change

We have postponed the NFBMD Crab Feast to Saturday, October 17, 2020.  Please purchase your tickets today.  This fundraiser supports the John T McCraw Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to blind post-secondary education students.

When: Saturday, October 17, 2020 - 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Where: Tall Cedars - 2501 Putty Hill Ave - Parkville, MD 21234

Tickets are $60 each if purchased before October 3, or $65 afterwards. Children 6 and under are free. 

Special Promotion: Buy or Sell 25 or more tickets and get your ticket FREE!

Dancing, 50 / 50 Raffle, Door Prizes, and more.

Menu Includes:
Steamed Crabs, Pit Beef, turkey breast, & Ham – All You Can Eat!
Plus a Buffet of Entrees Including Old Bay wings and Sausage, Sides, Salad, Cake…
Yuengling and Miller beer
Carbonated Beverages, iced tea, and Coffee

To purchase tickets, visit http://www.nfbmd.org/crabs

For additional information contact me at (443) 426-4110 or email President@NFBMD.org


Please note: At this time, we are scheduled to hold this event in-person.  However, this is subject to change based on local public health directives related to COVID-19 and related factors.  We will communicate directly with ticket-holders to advise them of any changes.  Those holding tickets for the August 8, 2020 event should use those same tickets for the October 17, 2020 event.


As we work to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are surveying Marylanders as to whether they would prefer an in-person event, a hybrid, or pick-up for the Crab Feast.  Please contact me at President@nfbmd.org or at 443-426-4110 to communicate your preference.


Attend the NFBMD Board of Directors Meeting

Everyone is invited to attend the NFB of Maryland Board of Directors meeting on Saturday, August 29 to help us plan the convention.  We will be meeting virtually.  The meeting will begin at 10:00AM and end at 1:00PM.  Lunch will be whatever you have in your homes. 


Below is access information:

  • Online direct link: https://zoom.us/j/6248138327
  • 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


NFBMD Bid for Opportunity and Scholarship Dinner Canceled!

After careful deliberation, and in light of the current public health emergency, NFBMD has decided to cancel the 2020 Bid for Opportunity and Scholarship Dinner and Auction.  We plan to resume this event in Spring 2021 as usual.  Thank you to those who donated auction items.  They will be used next year.  Of course, given that this was one of our largest sources of income to support our John T. McCraw Scholarship Program, we would welcome donations and contributions to the State affiliate.  To donate, please mail a check to NFB of Maryland, 1800 Johnson Street, Suite N1, Baltimore, MD 21230 or use the Paypal donate link on our website at nfbmd.org.


NFBMD Basket Bingo – September 20, 2020

At this time, the 2020 NFBMD Basket Bingo, sponsored by the Central Maryland Chapter and NFBMD, is scheduled for the afternoon of September 20, 2020.  Tickets with a date of March 13, 2020 will be honored.  Should we have to reschedule this event once more, the Basket Bingo Committee will reach out to ticket-holders.


Rise Up: The State Convention is Coming!

You will not want to miss the state convention which takes place on November 6-8, 2020.  This year’s convention will take place anywhere and everywhere.  You will note that our convention has gone virtual.  There will be no in-person events at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel. 


This year, our National Representative will be Pam Allen, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, Chairman and First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors, and Executive Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. 


Convention pre-registration is open now.  Be looking in your mailbox for hard copy registration forms or visit http://nfbmd.org/convention.  Registration is $20 per adult and free for kids on or prior to October 16, 2020.  Registration after October 16, 2020 is $25 per adult and free for kids.  Those who register after October 16, 2020 may not be eligible for door prizes, voting, and other convention aspects requiring access to systems and platforms other than Zoom.


Please plan to join us anywhere and everywhere for our annual convention.


Seeking Resolutions for the State Convention

The Convention is the supreme authority of the National Federation of the Blind, and this too is true of the affiliates.  One of the most important charges of the Convention is to consider and vote on resolutions that come before it; those resolutions become the policy of the organization.  To that end, individuals interested in submitting resolutions should send them to NFBMD Resolutions Chairman Jesse Hartle by email at jesse.hartle63@gmail.com by October 16, 2019.


Seeking Convention Sponsors and Exhibitors

We are seeking sponsors for our 2020 NFB of Maryland State Convention.  There are various levels of sponsorship, and the various levels include different benefits.  Entities and individuals interested in serving as an NFBMD Convention sponsor should contact Anil Lewis and Jen White at NFBMD.Outreach@gmail.com to request additional information.


We are also seeking exhibitors for our Friday Exhibit Hall.  Individuals and entities interested in exhibiting should also contact Anil Lewis and Jen White at NFBMD.Outreach@gmail.com to request additional information.  The Exhibit Hall will be virtual.


Zoom Password Requirements Effective September 1

The Zoom platform is requiring meetings and events to incorporate a password beginning this Fall.  NFBMD is implementing this change effective September 1, 2020.  Any meeting hosted by the NFBMD Zoom account will use the same password.  This includes the Wednesday night COVID-19 calls, Sligo Creek, Greater Baltimore, and Central Maryland Chapter Meetings, Parent Division activities, chapter board meetings, and so on.  Note that Carroll County and TLC Chapter meetings as well as Student Division Chill Hours use a different account and will thus have a different password.


The password for NFBMD-hosted meetings will be the numeric equivalent of “NFBMD,” which is 63263. 


NFBMD Response to COVID-19

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland continues 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 http://www.nfbmd.org/covid19.  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 https://www.nfb.org/resources/covid-19-resources.  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: https://zoom.us/j/6248138327
      • 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 deborahb14@verizon.net or at 301—881-1892.  Please visit our COVID-19 web page at http://www.nfbmd.org/covid19 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 President@nfbmd.org 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 NFBMD@earthlink.net 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 NFBMD@earthlink.net 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 President@nfbmd.org.  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 continue to operate 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 President@nfbmd.org 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 http://www.nfbmd.org/COVID-19Fund


Reminder to Prepare to Vote

In the wake of the global pandemic, many states, including Maryland, have modified the manner of voting for the November 3, 2020 Presidential General Election.  Maryland plans to significantly reduce it’s in-person early voting centers and same-day voting sites.  As a result, individuals should plan ahead in order to ensure access to a voting location.  NFBMD encourages those who are able and who are not in high-risk categories to vote in person if possible.  To find a list of voting locations, visit the Maryland State Board of Elections website at: https://elections.maryland.gov/


As a result of previous litigation that NFBMD undertook, Maryland is required to offer an accessible absentee voting system.  This enables the blind to gain access to an accessible computer-based ballot using their assistive technology.  The voter marks the ballot using the voter’s computer and then prints, signs, and mails in the ballot. 


As of May 8, 2020, Maryland no longer uses the term Absentee Voting and instead uses the phrases “Mail-in Voting” and “Mail-in Ballots.”  To submit a request for a Mail-in Ballot, visit: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration/InstructionsStep1. You will have the option to choose to have a paper ballot mailed to you or the link to an electronic ballot emailed to you.  You will need to know the number on your Maryland State ID to request a Mail-in Ballot.


NFBMD urges everyone eligible to vote to do so.  Individuals not yet registered to vote may do so online by visiting: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration/InstructionsStep1.  Early voting runs from October 26 through November 2, 2020. 


We also urge NFBMD members who are able to do so to serve as election judges.  To sign up to be an election judge, visit: https://elections.maryland.gov/get_involved/election_judges.html.



Blind Cruising 2021

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland will be hosting a cruise fundraiser from September 19, 2021 to September 26, 2021.   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 contact our travel agent, Cindy Kiper at kkiper@cruisesinc.com or 813-418-0647.



Details are as follows:

Ship: Carnival Pride

Date: September 19 – September 26, 2021

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 or December 31, 2020 (whichever is earlier) = $25 per person

-              Second deposit due: April 15, 2021 - $250 per person plus full names of sailors

-              Final payment due: June 1, 2021


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) = $958.64 per person

-              Balcony cabin (standard balcony) = from $935.64 to $946.64 per person

-              interior cabin = From $727.64 to $737.64 per person

-              if anyone needs an Ocean View or triple or quad cabin, they should let us know.

Note: Cabin types are going first come first serve, so please email to inquire about availability.


We hope you will join us in 2021 on this incredible trip.


NFBMD 2021 Cruise Drawing

NFBMD will hold a drawing at the NFBMD State Convention Banquet on November 7, 2020.  In order to be eligible, individuals must donate at least $10 between August 15, 2020 and November 1, 2020 and indicate that they wish to be entered into the drawing.  Each donor’s name will be entered into the drawing for each $10 contribution.  This means if an individual donates $100, that individual will have 10 chances to win. 


Individuals may donate using the NFBMD Paypal button at http://nfbmd.org or by mailing a physical check payable to NFB of Maryland to the address listed below.  Individuals should notate the comments section of Paypal and the check memo line to indicate “Cruise Drawing” in order to be entered into the drawing.


1800 Johnson Street, Suite N1

Baltimore, MD 21230


Important Upcoming Dates

  • August 29, 2020 – NFBMD Board of Directors Meeting, 10:00AM – 1:00PM via Zoom
  • September 20, 2020 – Basket and Bag Bingo at The Lodge, 2832 9 Mile Cir. Catonsville, MD.
  • October 17, 2020 – Annual Crab Feast - Tall Cedars, 2501 Putty Hill Ave., Parkville, MD 21234
  • November 6-8, 2020 – Annual State Convention, Everywhere
  • January 21, 2021 – NFBMD Day in Annapolis
  • February 6, 2021 – Regional Braille Challenge, Maryland School for the Blind
  • February 8, 2021 – Washington Seminar Great Gathering In
  • February 9, 2021 – Maryland Day on the Hill
  • September 19 – 26, 2021 – Blind Cruising 2021, Carnival Pride, Departing from Port of Baltimore