February / March 2021 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


Happy Spring!  It has been an incredibly busy few months for the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.  We had a successful Week in Annapolis followed by tremendous work to advocate for our state legislative priorities.  We had an incredible Washington Seminar where we garnered support for our Federal legislative priorities.  And we have worked tirelessly on improving access to information, systems, services, and resources related to COVID-19 testing and vaccination.  As we move into the spring season, we will continue the momentum on legislative priorities as well as a number of other initiatives.  Please read below for information and activities around the State.


NFB National Convention Is Coming!

The National Federation of the Blind 2021 Annual Convention, held anywhere and everywhere, will soon be upon us.  This convention promises to be the biggest and best in history, even bigger than last year’s record-breaking convention.  The Convention dates have changed slightly in that the Convention will last five days instead of six.  The new dates are Tuesday, July 6 through Saturday, July 10, 2021. 


This year, Maryland is the host affiliate of the NFB National Convention.  Our members are hard at work planning tours, the opening ceremony, and various activities to showcase our Maryland and Federation pride. 


We want to bring home the prize for most registrants once again this year.  In 2020, Maryland registered 594 participants, and I know we can register even more this year.  I urge you all to register for the convention as soon as you can by visiting https://www.nfb.org/registration.  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 President@nfbmd.org or at 443-426-4110.


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, 2021, and the deadline to apply for an NFBMD Scholarship is April 15, 2021.


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, 2021.
  • 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 New Orleans, Louisiana from July 6 through 11, 2021 (scholarship finalists will receive convention assistance).
  • To apply:


State Scholarship Program: Each year, the NFB of Maryland awards the John T. McCraw Scholarship to up to four students with a combined maximum total of $10,000.  Though the Scholarship Committee will determine the amount awarded to each individual scholarship finalist, the minimum amount per scholarship is $2,000 and the maximum amount is $3,500.  NFBMD may award a scholarship to a former McCraw scholarship recipient. 

  • Scholarships are merit-based and awarded based on academic achievement, community involvement, and leadership.
  • Application materials must be submitted (online or postmarked) by 11:59PM on April 15, 2021.
  • 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 or part-time, post-secondary course of study in a degree program in the Fall of 2021 and Spring of 2022 (priority will be given to full-time students); and
    • Attend the entire National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in New Orleans, Louisiana from July 6 through 11, 2021 and the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Baltimore, Maryland from November 12 – 14, 2021 (scholarship finalists will receive convention financial assistance).
  • To apply:


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.  Due to public health considerations associated with COVID-19, the 2021 NFB BELL Academy will be offered virtually rather than in person.  NFB BELL will be condensed into three nationally taught and coordinated sessions with support from NFBMD.  Tracks will be available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students.


The dates of the three sessions are as follows:

  • Session 1: June 7 – June 18, 2021
  • Session 2: July 19 – July 30, 2021
  • Session 3: August 9 – August 20, 2021


Each registered student will receive Braille and other fun materials for lessons, connect with experienced teachers, and build relationships with other blind students and mentors.


The NFB BELL Academy is appropriate for blind and low vision children ages four through twelve who:

  • do not receive enough Braille and nonvisual skills instruction in school;
  • could benefit from more Braille exposure over the summer; and/or
  • would enjoy connecting with blind role models.


Registration is free to families.  Participants may register by visiting https://www.nfb.org/form/nfb-bell-academy-home-edition.  Anyone needing assistance with registering should contact NFBMD BELL Coordinator Lizzy Muhammad at lizzy.muhammad@outlook.com or at 484-624-9778.


Complete and Share the NFB Diversity and Inclusion Survey

The National Federation of the Blind is gathering information on diversity and inclusion from members and leaders in the organization. Please take approximately fifteen minutes to complete this important survey before it closes on March 31, 2021. The survey includes a short optional and confidential questionnaire about you. Your perspective and experiences are needed to develop diversity and inclusion initiatives for our movement. If you have questions or need assistance with the survey please connect with Diversity@nfb.org or call 410-659-9314 extension 2413.


<https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NFB-Diversity-Inclusion> 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Survey (English)


<https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NFB-Diversidad-Inclusion> En Español: 2021 Encuesta sobre Diversidad e Inclusión


Do You Feel Lucky?

The NFBMD spring raffle is underway. During the month of May, you have the opportunity to win $50 Sunday through Friday, or $100 on Saturday. Purchase a 3-digit number raffle ticket for $5. You will be the only one who has this number. Between now and April 15, you may purchase a $5 ticket from your chapter president or certain members of your chapter.  If you want to buy or sell tickets, please contact Melissa Riccobono at MelissaARiccobono@gmail.com. Help us sell all 1,000 tickets to win prizes!  Provided we sell all 1,000 tickets, we will enter the individuals who sell winning tickets into a drawing for a cash prize.  We will also award prizes to those who sell the most tickets, provided we sell our entire stock of tickets. 


NFBMD Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives

NFBMD is actively working to expand our knowledge of and emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.  These initiatives also include those related to sexual harassment and misconduct, consent, boundaries, and power dynamics.  It is our intent that NFB of Maryland activities, events, and programs be safe and welcoming to all, and to that end we are devoting resources and time to increase our awareness and enhance our strategies on DEI.  WE rolled out a training to all chapters in January and February on topics related to consent, boundaries and power dynamics.  Our affiliate Board of Directors will participate in the NFB-sponsored training on sexual harassment and violence prevention, provided by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).  We plan to roll out some specific training for parents and young people in May on these topics as well.  Our state and chapter leaders will attend workshops on DEI in the spring.  WE will engage in conversations on DEI and related topics and hold trainings during our State convention in November and in the time leading up to it.  Our NFBMD DEI Committee, led by Anil Lewis, is engaged and working to promote the incorporation of DEI throughout our affiliate.  If you have questions about these initiatives or have suggestions for how we can best incorporate DEI into our programs, please don’t hesitate to contact me at President@nfbmd.org or at 443-426-4110 or Chairperson Anil Lewis at GreaterBaltimore@nfbmd.org.



Access to COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Resources

Due to lack of accessibility, blind Marylanders have experienced challenges accessing COVID-19 testing facilities and vaccination locations.  NFBMD has been working with the Maryland Department of Disabilities to ensure access to these services for the blind throughout Maryland.  To that end, we disseminate through all of our listserves an accessible spreadsheet containing vaccination locations, their contact information, and links for scheduling a vaccine appointment.  We realize that many of the county and medical provider vaccination sign-up portals are not accessible, even if we share their information in an accessible format.  To that end, we are exploring holding a vaccination clinic in Baltimore in April.  We are also beginning discussions about holding a vaccination clinic in Montgomery or Prince Georges Counties.  If individuals would be interested in participating in such a vaccination clinic, please email me at President@nfbmd.org.  Please be sure to specify whether you prefer Baltimore or PG/Montgomery county and whether you could travel to either.  We realize that there are many members who cannot get to either location, and we are actively working with MDOD to find solutions for every blind Marylander.


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


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:

-              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 on this incredible trip.


Maryland Braille Readers Are Leaders!

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 also included an adult category.  Participants came from 28 states and Canada, for a total of 120 participants.  The contest began on December 1, 2019 and lasted for seven weeks. 


Our contest participants did a tremendous job. 

  • Hank Genelin, Springfield, VA (a student of the NFB BELL Academy in Baltimore) – First Place, Grades K – 1
  • Nadiya Albrecht, Finksburg, MD- First Place, Grades 4 - 5
  • Jonah Rao, Columbia, MD – First Place, Grades 6 – 8
  • Isaiah Rao, Columbia, MD – Second Place, Grades 6 – 8
  • Nadiya Albrecht, Finksburg, MD – Breaking Limits Award
  • Luis Villanueva, Kensington, MD – Breaking Limits Award
  • Paul Wales, Silver Spring, MD – Breaking Limits Award

Congratulations to all of the winners!


Important Upcoming Dates

  • March 31, 2021 – Deadline for National Scholarship Applications.
  • April 15, 2021 – Deadline for NFBMD Scholarship Applications.
  • April 15, 2021 – Deadline for Blind Cruising 2020 Deposit
  • May 31, 2021 – Deadline to Register for NFB Annual Convention, Anywhere and Everywhere
  • June 7 – June 18, 2021 – NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition Session 1
  • July 6 – 1, 2021 – NFB National Convention, Anywhere and Everywhere!
  • July 19 – July 30, 2021 – NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition Session 2
  • August 9 – August 20, 2021 – NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition Session 3
  • September 10, 2021 – Basket and Bag Bingo, Catonsville, Maryland
  • September 19 – 26, 2021 – Blind Cruising 2021, Carnival Pride, Departing from Port of Baltimore
  • October 8, 2021 – NFBMD Crab Feast, Parkville, Maryland
  • November 12 – 14, 2021 – NFB of Maryland 55th Annual Convention, Baltimore, Maryland