October 2020 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


As the leaves change color, Halloween decorations adorn front yards, and the weather begins to cool, we in the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland remain active as ever.  Our 54th Annual State Convention is just around the corner, and the Board and Host Committee are making final preparations.  Our chapters are out in the community holding Meet the Blind Month activities, and we have received numerous White Cane Awareness Month proclamations in Maryland.  We continue working hard on our advocacy efforts and initiatives to make sure that blind Marylanders have equal access to education, employment, information, transportation, and the community.  Please read below for information about important happenings around the affiliate. 


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 virtual convention will take place anywhere and everywhere. 


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 Late registration is open now.  Visit http://nfbmd.org/convention to register and for the most up-to-date information about the convention.  Late registration after October 16, 2020 is $25 per adult and free for kids.  Those who register after October 16, 2020 will 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 Auction Donations

We are seeking donations for the NFBMD auction.  Given the virtual nature of the convention, we are only accepting donations of experiences and commitments to provide baked goods.  Some examples of experiences include taking the winner to dinner, giving cooking lessons, etc.  We are asking for donation commitments prior to November 3, 2020.  Please notify Convention Host Committee Chairman Scott White of your donation via email at Swhite@nfb.org or by phone at 410-868-9519.


Listen Live to the NFB of Maryland 2019 State Convention Stream

We will be streaming the 53rd Annual Convention of the NFB of Maryland.  To listen live, visit http://www.nfbmd.org/node/320.


Social Media Information for the NFB of Maryland 2019 State Convention

We will be using the hashtag #NFBMD.  Please use this hashtag when posting about the NFB of Maryland 2020 Convention on Twitter or Facebook.  Please send any pictures you take of Convention activities to Social Media Chairperson Karen Anderson at Kanderson@nfb.org or via text to 402-319-7645.  Please be sure to describe any pictures you post and send to Karen.


Thank You to Our Convention Sponsors

We would like to express our gratitude to the following NFB of Maryland Convention Sponsors. 

  • Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Title Sponsor
  • AdNet/AccountNet, Inc., Independence Sponsor
  • Maryland Relay, Independence Sponsor
  • Blind Savvy, USA, Equality Sponsor
  • Brown, Goldstein & Levy, Equality Sponsor
  • Sipbound Corporation, Equality Sponsor
  • Friends of the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Opportunity Sponsor
  • Maryland Technology Assistance Program, Opportunity Sponsor
  • The Flower Barn and The Clayground Studio and Gallery, Opportunity Sponsor
  • The Low Vision Shop of Maryland and Virginia, Opportunity Sponsor
  • 3D PhotoWorks, Freedom Sponsor
  • Custom Canes / You Cane Give, Freedom Sponsor


NFBMD State Convention Orientation – November 4, 2020

All first-time convention attendees are cordially invited to attend a First-Timers Orientation from 8 to 9:30 p.m., on Wednesday, November 4. The Ambassadors Committee will walk you through the events that will take place throughout the weekend, explain processes such as door prizes and voting, as well as make sure every first-time convention attendee is matched with a mentor.  Participants can access this orientation via Zoom using Meeting ID: 624 813 8327.


Accessing the 54th Annual NFBMD Convention

The 54th Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland will be accessible via Zoom, web streaming, Smart Speaker, Newsline, and Direct Dial Conference Line. 

  • Zoom: Click on the imbedded links in the agenda to launch the Zoom desktop client or mobile application.  Alternatively, dial 301-715-8592 and enter the ten- or eleven-digit Conference ID listed in the agenda followed by the pound key. 
  • Web Streaming: Visit http://nfbmd.org/convention/stream
  • Smart Speaker: Ask your Amazon device to launch Federation of Maryland.
  • Newsline: Find the stream on the Maryland information channel.
  • Direct Dial Conference Line: Call 339-209-4083.

*Please note, the web stream, Smart Speaker, Newsline, and Direct Dial methods of access are enabled for listening only and do not permit interactive engagement.  Consequently, those wishing to engage with the convention, including for the auction, door prizes, and other activities will need to do so using either the Convention Virtual Information Table or via email.


NFBMD Convention Tours

The Convention Host Committee is finalizing plans for virtual tours.  Visit NFBMD.org/Convention for the most up-to-date information about this year’s tours.  This year, you will have two options – one will begin at 3pm and the other at 4pm Friday, November 6, 2020.  Tours are free.


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 Vote

The National Presidential election will take place on November 3, 2020, and NFBMD urges everyone to vote.  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 of May 8, 2020, Maryland no longer uses the term Absentee Voting and instead uses the phrases “Mail-in Voting” and “Mail-in Ballots.” 


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.  Mail in ballots must have been requested in advance.  They must be postmarked by November 3, 2020 or placed in an official drop off location/box on or before November 3, 2020.


Seeking Voting Experiences

We are seeking information about your experience voting in the National Election on November 3, 2020 and in early voting.  We are particularly interested in in-person voting.  Please answer the following questions and send an email to Ronza Othman at President@nfbmd.org.  Alternatively, call 443-426-4110 to share your in person voting experience.

  • what polling place did you use to vote?
  • What time of day did you vote?
  • Were you neutrally presented with the option to vote by ballot marking device (BMD) or paper ballot?
  • If you requested to use the BMD, was it set up and working?
    • If not, what was the problem?
    • How long did it take to resolve?
  • If you requested to use the BMD, was the poll worker able to explain to you how to use the BMD?
  • How many BMDs were there at your polling location?
  • Was there a line to use the BMD(s)?
    • If so, was it longer than any line for the hand marked paper ballots?
  • How long did the entire voting process take you?
  • Is there anything else we should know about your voting experience?


Notice of Official Business Meeting: Constitutional Review and Convention Rules of Engagement – November 6, 2020 at 9:00AM

We will be holding an Official Business Meeting of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland during the Board of Directors Meeting at the NFB of Maryland state convention at 9:00AM Friday, November 6, 2020.  At that time, we will hold official readings of two documents. 


Proposed rules of engagement: The first document is the Proposed Rules of Engagement for the NFBMD State Convention, which the NFBMD Board of Directors voted to use when we met in August 2020.  The Convention will vote on adoption of these proposed Rules of Engagement on Saturday, November 7, 2020 in our morning Convention General Session.  These proposed rules were sent via an email on Thursday, October 15, 2020.


Proposed language to revise our NFBMD State Affiliate Constitution: The second document includes proposed language to revise our NFBMD State Affiliate Constitution.  Our Constitutional Amendment Committee, which includes Chairperson Debbie Brown, Sharon Maneki, Marguerite Woods, and Dr. Marc Maurer,  worked hard to modernize our Constitution and incorporate needed changes now that we have an At Large chapter in Maryland.  We most recently updated this Constitution in 1982.  The Convention will vote on adoption of the proposed amended constitution on Saturday, November 7, 2020 in our morning Convention General Session.  The proposed amended constitution and explanations of changes were sent via an email on Monday, October 12, 2020.


 All documents referenced here may be viewed at http://nfbmd.org/node/401.


NFBMD Secures White Cane Awareness Month Proclamations Statewide

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland has secured a proclamation commemorating White Cane Awareness Month from each of the 24 Maryland jurisdictions as well as from Governor Hogan for the entire state.  This effort was only successful due to the hard work of every single chapter and division, as they contacted their local and nearby counties to procure the proclamations.  Congratulations, NFBMD.  Through these proclamations, we are ensuring that every Maryland jurisdiction understands and appreciates the critical role that long white canes and guide dogs play in maintaining our independence. 


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 or visit http://nfbmd.org/blindcruising. .


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.


Washington Seminar and NFBMD Day in Annapolis Go Virtual

As a result of the restrictions imposed by the Federal and State legislatures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Seminar and NFBMD Day in Annapolis will be held virtually.  We are beginning to prepare for both legislative advocacy efforts, and we believe that virtual legislative advocacy creates unique and new opportunities to educate our state and Federal representatives. 


Washington Seminar: The Great Gathering In will take place virtually on February 8, 2021.  Rather than having a single Day on the Hill for Maryland, we will have a Week on the Hill from February 9 through 11.  We hope to have constituent participation from each Congressional district as we meet with the respective representatives. 


Week In Annapolis: Rather than having a single day where we meet with all 47 state senators and 141 delegates, we will hold the NFBMD Week in Annapolis from January 19 – 22, 2021.  We hope to have constituents present from each district when we meet with the respective delegates and senators.


We will share more information in the coming weeks.


Important Upcoming Dates

  • November 6-8, 2020 – Annual State Convention, Everywhere
  • January 19 - 22, 2021 – NFBMD Week in Annapolis
  • February 6, 2021 – Regional Braille Challenge, Maryland School for the Blind
  • February 8, 2021 – Washington Seminar Great Gathering In
  • February 9 - 11, 2021 – Maryland Week on the Hill
  • March 12, 2021 – Basket and Bag Bingo, Catonsville, Maryland
  • July 6 – 11, 2021 – NFB National Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • August 7, 2021 – NFBMD Crab Feast, Parkville, Maryland