Braille Spectator, Fall 2021

A semi-annual publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland


Ronza Othman and Sharon Maneki, co-editors


Published on and on NFB Newsline by The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland


Ronza Othman, President


Comments and questions should be sent to



In this issue:


•    The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland 2021 Annual Convention: Focus Forward!

•    The BELLs Ring in Home Again

•    Chapter Spotlight: The Baltimore County Chapter

•    This Deaf-Blind Paralympian was Told to Navigate Tokyo Alone; So She Quit Team USA

•    Why Should We Do DEI

•    Maryland Elections Board, Blind Advocates Reach Agreement on Efforts to Improve Ballot Privacy for Voters with Disabilities

•    Remembering Lloyd Rasmussen

•    Stronger Together: From Where the Federation Flag Flies Highest to All Corners of Our Movement

•    Profile of an NFBMD Leader: Anil Lewis

•    A Disabled President’s Memorial Still Isn’t Fully Accessible to Disabled Visitors, A New Report Finds

•    Spectator Specs


The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland 2021 Annual Convention: Focus Forward!

By Ronza Othman


The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland (NFBMD) will be holding our 55th Annual Convention from November 12 to 14, 2021 in Baltimore at the Holiday Inn Downtown Baltimore Inner Harbor.  Our theme this year will be “Focus Forward!”  This is because we, the members of the NFBMD, celebrate our foundation and history while focusing on a future where every blind person can live the life they want.  This year’s theme celebrates our resilience, creativity, and unrelenting commitment to equal access to information, education, jobs, civil rights, and all the aspects of life in which we participate and envisions a future where we navigate the world free from discrimination.  At this year’s convention, we will highlight our efforts, celebrate our successes, and map our way forward. 


We will meet in person with activities beginning Friday morning and adjournment at noon on Sunday.  All participants are required to abide by the NFBMD In Person Events Policy, which may be accessed at


Our national representative this year is Julie Deden.  Julie is the executive director of the Colorado Center for the Blind.  Julie has been a member for more than 30 years and brings a rich perspective on equality, opportunity, and independence.  Julie’s spouse, Dan Burke, will also join us at the convention.  Dan serves as the director of public relations for the Colorado Center for the Blind and previously served as the president of the Montana affiliate.


We will begin early on Friday, November 12, with the Resolutions Committee followed by the meeting of the Board of Directors.  The host committee, consisting of the Greater Baltimore Chapter, the Maryland Association of Blind Students, and the Maryland Parents of Blind Children, are hard at work finalizing arrangements for fun and exciting activities including the opening ceremony and Friday night hospitality in the form of a talent competition. 


We will, once again, have an exhibit hall, where a number of organizations will demonstrate services and goods specific to the blind.  We are also planning some workshops, including a technology crowd sourcing seminar, where participants can demonstrate or describe their favorite applications, low-tech gadgets, and other technology they find useful.  We will hold a seminar for job seekers, hosted by our Employment Committee.  We will have a seminar to enhance our understanding of and appreciation for diversity, equity, and inclusion. 


The parents division is hosting a seminar on Friday afternoon for parents and teachers.  The students also will have a seminar on Friday afternoon.  The merchants division will have a meeting and reception Friday evening.  The seniors issues division will hold its annual seminar Friday afternoon.  The Blind Parents Committee, those interested in deaf-blind issues, and those interested in guide dogs also will meet Friday.  The newly reorganized Western Maryland (formerly Cumberland) Chapter and the At-Large Chapter will meet in person for the first time.


Saturday and Sunday promise to be equally exciting.  We will have many dynamic and interesting presentations during general session.  As usual, we will work with our partners to ensure high quality services for the blind.  We also will hear from our elected officials with whom we’ve worked to enact legislation to help us live the lives we want.  We will hear from Federationists with interesting careers and those with tips and tricks on efficient use of readers and other accommodations.  And we will hear from a blind Paralympian.


The banquet on Saturday evening promises to be as exciting as ever.  We will hear from our national representative, award our NFBMD scholarships, and give some additional awards and recognition. 


We have a number of surprises in store this year.  Please take advantage of the discounted rates for registration by pre-registering prior to October 15.  On-site registration will be available, but we need to have a sense of how many will attend in light of the pandemic, so we ask all those who can pre-register to do so.  To register, visit  For more information about pre-registration and to download the convention agenda once it becomes available, visit 


The convention will be a time to have fun and grow, a time to meet new friends and renew old friendships, and a time of inspiration and enthusiasm. Come to the convention to experience the love, hope and determination we need to make our dreams a reality.  Come to celebrate that we, in the NFBMD focus forward to ensure that all blind Marylanders can live the lives they want.


The BELLs Ring in Home Again

by Lizzy Muhammad-Park

[Editor’s Note: For the second year in a row, our in-person NFB Braille Enrichment in Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academies in Maryland were sidelined due to the pandemic.  Though we were not able to hold in-person sessions due to public health considerations, our children were nonetheless able to experience the BELL magic.  Lizzy Muhammad-Park served as our Maryland BELL coordinator, and she did a tremendous job.  Below is our 2021 NFB BELL Academy roundup.]


We hosted another year of the NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition. I am happy to share that Maryland was represented in each of the three two-week sessions held in June, July, and August. We had two students return to the program from last year, and three new additions to the Maryland BELL family (all of whom were age 6 or younger) so keep your eye out for some younger to join us in the near future. We also have been able to accommodate more students with various access needs, so if your child would like to participate, but you had reservations about signing up, please be assured that all are welcome in our program.


Just as they did last year, parents signed their children up for one-hour sessions at either 11 a.m. EST or 6 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. These classes were taught by well-known Federation teachers from across the country, and once again students were expected to watch videos before class and use the materials sent in the mail from our national office. The materials were used for Braille and cane games, as well as arts and crafts. Students connected with NFB-APPROVED mentors who explained class concepts, provided additional Braille tutoring, and taught them about the Federation’s “can do” philosophy. A huge thank you to Miranda Williams and Sharon Hughey for assisting me in mentoring this year. 


Our BELL Academy In-Home Edition gave blind students the chance to learn from teachers and mentors with a positive blindness philosophy and chat with other blind students. Much like last year, BELL was provided at no charge to the families thanks to the hard work and benevolent nature of our NFB national office. I'd like to take this time to also thank the parents who signed their children up for the program and assisted in the learning process: without you, our In-Home Edition of BELL would not be possible. Please spread the word about next year's event as details become available. I'd also like to send a heartfelt thank you to our Maryland affiliate president, Ronza Othman, for her support throughout the program, and for allowing me to serve in this position once more. It is with a heavy heart that I say farewell to the coordinator position as I re-enter my personal education journey. I am honored to have had the chance to work with the students, parents, mentors, and other affiliate coordinators. You'll still see me around, and if next year's coordinator will have me, I will gladly mentor a few students. I can't wait to see everyone again next year. Who knows, maybe even in person!



Chapter Spotlight: The Baltimore County Chapter

by Ronza Othman

[Editor’s Note: The Maryland affiliate has a rich and varied history that is not widely known.  As we move forward with our membership initiative, we will continue highlighting a particular chapter or division in each edition of this publication.  After all, members are the lifeblood of our organization, and chapters help build the foundation for membership.  Since the spring 2019 issue, we have been spotlighting a Maryland chapter in each issue to share how that chapter originated, what makes it unique, and other interesting information about it.  In this edition, we will highlight the Baltimore County Chapter.]



The Baltimore County Chapter was founded in 1995, and though it is currently our smallest chapter, it has been a mighty chapter.  This chapter originally was established in Towson, and throughout its history, it has met in Dundalk, East Baltimore, and eventually its current home of Pikesville.  The leaders of this chapter have a rich history of bringing the membership together, including hosting chapter meetings in their homes.


The chapter has been intentional about meeting on week nights in order to ensure that those with religious needs and those with other obligations could participate in the NFB.  Many of the members of the chapter also belonged to other chapters as well, but the Baltimore County Chapter offered an alternative to those whose schedules did not align with the nearby Greater Baltimore Chapter meetings.


The chapter’s first president was Donald Combs, an employee of the Maryland Office on Blindness and Vision Services.  The chapter met at Towson Senior High and then at Donald’s apartment.  Donald’s work duties increased, and he ultimately decided not to serve in the presidency. 


Ken Canterberry, who at the inception of the chapter served as its treasurer, assumed the presidency and served for many years.  During Ken’s leadership, the chapter met at a hospital in East Baltimore.  The chapter decided it was important to be out in the world in order to dispel misconceptions about blindness, so it spent the next few years rotating its meetings at various restaurants along Eastern Avenue. 


Hilda Cullison assumed the presidency next.  The chapter continued its efforts to show blind people doing ordinary things in the world as a way of dispelling misconceptions about blindness.


The current and long-serving President Ruth Sager assumed the mantle from Hilda.  Ruth moved the chapter meetings into her home in Pikesville.  Phil Sager has served as its treasurer.  Barry Hond is a long-time member of the chapter, having been involved at the chapter’s formation.  Bernice Lowder also is a long-time member of the chapter.  Ruth has kept the chapter together through love and tenacity.


At its largest, the chapter boasted about 30 members.  At its smallest, it boasted five, very committed Federationists.  Regardless of its size, it has forever and continuously served the blind of Baltimore City and County, dispelled myths and stereotypes about blindness for the public, and given its members a sense of family.


This Deaf-Blind Paralympian was Told to Navigate Tokyo Alone; So She Quit Team USA

by Dave Sheinin

The Washington Post

[Editor’s Note: We in the National Federation of the Blind have always argued for reasonable accommodations so that we can participate fully in all aspects of life. The following story about Becca Meyers, a deaf-blind athlete, is an example of standing up for her right to reasonable accommodations.]


TIMONIUM, Md. — Five years ago, Becca Meyers was on the floor of her room in the Olympic Village at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, balled up and sobbing, frustrated and terrified. She had stopped eating because she couldn’t find the athletes’ dining area. Even after her parents rescued her and pumped her full of calories and confidence in time for her to win three gold medals and a silver for Team USA, she made a promise to herself:


She would never put herself through such a nightmare again.


On Sunday evening, roughly five weeks before the start of the Tokyo Paralympics, Meyers, a deaf-blind swimmer with a chance to medal in four events, pulled the plug on her Olympic dream — most likely forever. With a click, she sent an email informing U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials of her decision to withdraw from Team USA.


The decision was rooted in both self-preservation and a larger sense of duty and purpose.


“I would love to go to Tokyo,” Meyers, 26, said in the living room of her parents’ home in the Baltimore suburbs. Tokyo would have been her third Paralympic Games; her first was London 2012, when she was 17. “Swimming has given me my identity as a person. I’ve always been Becca the Swimmer Girl. I haven’t taken this lightly. This has been very difficult for me. [But] I need to say something to effect change, because this can’t go on any longer.”

Born with Usher syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that left her deaf from birth and that progressively has robbed her of her sight, she requires a personal care assistant (PCA) to function as an athlete and as a member of society.


Since 2017, in the aftermath of Rio, Meyers has had an understanding with the USOPC that permits her mother, Maria, to travel with her to international competitions as her PCA. The results have been spectacular. In 2018, she won five gold medals at the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Cairns, Australia, and in 2019, she won four medals and set two world records, the eighth and ninth of her career, at the World Para Swimming Championships in London.


For the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, however, Meyers’s needs have collided with the drastic restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Competitions are being held almost entirely without spectators, and significant limitations on foreign delegations mean personal care assistants, including Maria Meyers, will not be permitted into Japan for the Paralympic Games. For Becca Meyers, that meant she wasn’t going to Japan, either.


“She’s given her entire life for this. It’s unacceptable. It’s heartbreaking,” Maria Meyers said. “She is terrified to go [alone]. And I mean terrified — like, rolled up in a ball, shaking.”


“I haven’t been sleeping. I’m so stressed,” Becca Meyers said. “My training started to suffer because of this situation, and I just haven’t been able to be the best I can be. I know I can be the best I can be with the resources I need. It’s worked for the last four years.”


Whose call is it?

The question of who is responsible for the policy is where the story gets complicated. In explaining the situation to Meyers and her family, the USOPC has cited the restrictions imposed on foreign visitors and delegations by the Japanese government and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.


“There remain no exceptions to late additions to our delegation list other than the athletes and essential operational personnel per the organizing committee and the government of Japan,” Rick Adams, chief of sport performance and national governing body services for the USOPC, told Mark Meyers, Becca’s father, in a June 29 email, a copy of which Meyers provided to The Washington Post. “As I said to you both on the phone and over email, I fully empathize with your concerns and wish we could fine [sic] a way as we have in the past.”


However, the Meyerses, having worked connections in the U.S. government and the Olympic and Paralympic movement, have reached a different conclusion.


“We contacted the Maryland secretary of state. We had somebody contact the Japanese government, the ambassador — they all say it’s not the government [and] it’s not the organizing committee. It’s the USOPC that’s blocking this,” Mark Meyers said. “They can ask for more [official credentials]. … They just did not plan for her. They knew about this [issue] in February. They said, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you.’ They’ve had time to fix this, if they asked the right people. They’ve chosen not to.”


Added Becca Meyers: “No one has ever asked me what I need. No one has ever asked me that question. When we had a meeting in May to discuss this, I presented my case and I said, ‘Okay, how do we make this work?’ They talked right over me. They dismissed me. They said, ‘This is what we have; you’re going to have to deal with it.’ ”


In a statement provided to The Post, the USOPC responded: “We are dealing with unprecedented restrictions around what is possible on the ground in Tokyo. As it’s been widely reported, [the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games], at the direction of the government of Japan, is not permitting any personnel other than operational essential staff with roles related to the overall execution of the games, into the country.

“This position has resulted in some athletes advising us that they will not accept a nomination to Team USA for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are heartbroken for athletes needing to make agonizing decisions about whether to compete if they are unable to have their typical support resources at a major international competition, but our top priority is ensuring the safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and the citizens of the host country.”


Foreign Olympic and Paralympic committees have been forced to reduce the size of their delegations relative to past Games. Within those reduced numbers, individual countries have some discretion in determining who is in and who is out. The Meyerses figure the USOPC doesn’t want to give one of its spots to Maria, because once you let one PCA in, you have to let them all in.


Instead, the USOPC has told the family there will be one dedicated PCA for the U.S. Paralympic swim team, which consists of 34 athletes, plus six coaches who can assist with personal needs.


“This is the Paralympics. We should be celebrating everyone’s disabilities,” Becca Meyers said. “We’ve broken barriers in society, defying all odds. And yet this is how we’re treated? Like a burden on the team?”


The Meyerses believe PCAs of Paralympians should be designated as essential personnel, a category that, for example, has been extended to include golfers’ caddies and the grooms who attend to horses in equestrian events during the Olympics.


“They all need support,” Becca Meyers said of the teammates who will go on to Tokyo without her. “The other athletes need a dedicated PCA as well, but now they’re sort of fending for themselves. They’re trying to figure out how they’re going to get around. I’ve talked to some of them, and they’re afraid.”


“She’s given her entire life for this,” Maria Meyers said of her daughter. “It’s unacceptable. It’s heartbreaking.” (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)


A dream deferred

Among the 34 U.S. Paralympic swimmers, nine are designated as sight-impaired — but Meyers is the only one of the nine who is also deaf. Her sight has degenerated in recent years to the point where her Paralympic category was downgraded from S13, the least impaired of three categories of sight-impaired Paralympic swimmers, to the middle category, S12. (Swimmers who are totally blind, or close to it, are categorized as S11.)


In addition, while cochlear implants have helped Meyers hear to some degree in quiet settings, she relies largely on lip-reading when in crowded, loud situations — such as the kind that might be found around every turn at a Paralympics. And this summer, with masking mandated at all times in Japan, her lip-reading skills would be essentially worthless.


“I’d love to wrap something around their eyes and stick something in their ears,” Maria Meyers said of the officials denying her daughter a dedicated PCA in Tokyo, “and drop them in the middle of the Village and say: ‘Okay, now get yourself to the pool. Good luck.’ ”


Two years ago, Meyers decided to leave her home club, North Baltimore Aquatic Club, to join Nation’s Capital Swim Club in the Washington area. There, she trained under Bruce Gemmell, best known as Katie Ledecky’s coach in Rio, where Ledecky won four golds and a silver. Meyers’s star was ascendant; she had a sponsorship deal with Speedo and a pair of ESPY awards as best female athlete with a disability on her résumé.


“As soon as she got in the water — I don’t want to oversell it, but she immediately reminded me of Katie,” Gemmell said. “She basically said: ‘I want to work. I want to get better. I don’t care what obstacles there are.’ She was so focused. … I talked to her the other day, and I called her a superhero. I think I understated that.”


When the pandemic arrived, Nation’s Capital Swim Club, like practically every other team in the country, had to scramble to get pool time, and the 5 a.m. practices at an outdoor pool — in darkness that reduced her limited sight to zero — simply wouldn’t work. So Meyers moved back to Timonium, working out mostly on her own at a local gym that eventually reopened its pool and seeing Gemmell only sporadically. But she maintained her level of fitness and performance, and at the Paralympic trials last month, she posted the best S12 400-meter freestyle time in the world this year.


At the time, she still held out hope she could convince someone in power to allow her to bring a PCA to Tokyo.


“Your heart just breaks for her,” said Gemmell, an assistant coach for the U.S. women’s swim team in Rio. “It seems to me if our focus is athletes first, which it should be but which it isn’t always — if athletes first is what we’re doing, then we as a USOPC, we need to do better. We must do better.”


The Tokyo 2020 banner that once hung from the mantel in the Meyerses’ living room — the one with the “1” scrawled into the white space of the second “0” when the Games were postponed until 2021 — came down a few weeks ago. One fight was over, but as Becca realized, another was just beginning.


“It’s been really hard,” she said. “But I know I have to step up and say enough is enough. I need to protect the younger kids. I have to do something to force change.”


Why Should We Do DEI?

by Ronza Othman

[Editor’s Note: In recent years, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Maryland affiliate, have begun devoting time, energy, and resources, to incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles into our thinking and programming.  One question some have asked is why the NFB has placed such an emphasis on DEI and how DEI impacts our core mission of helping blind people live the lives they want.  The below attempts to answer that question and will hopefully spark a dialogue among the membership.]



How does an organization with thousands of members from different backgrounds, experiences, and interests but with one shared commonality come together to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?  We listen, we hear, we think, and we grow.  This is how we’ve faced every challenge in our 80-year history, and we’ll be stronger for the experience.


In the past few years, I’ve been visiting with members of all of our chapters and divisions to talk about what diversity, equity, and inclusion means to each of us and how we can incorporate DEI into our programs.  I’ve learned that on this issue, like every other issue, our members are a cross-section of society.  There are some who believe DEI is critical to our future and integral to our present.  There are some who believe DEI is important, but will over time enhance what we do, and that societal shifts will be absorbed into the NFB naturally.  There are some who believe DEI is not something on which we should focus our energy and resources because we have other more important work to do. 


I fall into the camp of individuals who believe we need to take active steps to incorporate DEI into our programs.  More, I believe we need to talk about DEI in a way that changes thought patterns.  I don’t believe DEI should solely be programs we operate or trainings we give—though both are important.  I believe DEI is a mindset, and I believe it is critical to our future as an organization.


Diversity means understanding all of the ways we are different from one another.  This may be based on protected factors like race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, gender identity, LGBTQ status, and so on.  But different characteristics may also include political affiliation, generational membership, life experiences, ideology, economic status, geography, and basically any other characteristic we can think of.  Equity means creating full access, opportunity, and advancement for everyone irrespective of their differences.  Inclusion is the extent to which people feel a sense of belonging within an organization.  Diversity is about our differences, equity is about fairness regardless of those differences, and inclusion is about the culture that celebrates those differences, makes everyone feel welcome, and fosters fairness.  All three are interrelated but distinct from one another.


I believe that the NFB has come a long way in terms of incorporating DEI into its mindset.  But I believe some of our members haven’t yet understood or bought into the need for DEI in what we do organizationally.  This is why I am writing this article.


I am brown.  I am Palestinian-American and the daughter of refugees whose family won the green card lottery days before I was born.  I am Muslim, and Arabic is my first language.  I am a cisgender woman.  My family was very, very socio-economically disadvantaged growing up.  I am an attorney.  I am a survivor of trauma.  I am blind.  These are some but not all of the characteristics that comprise me.  These are some of the characteristics that make me diverse, and when I join most groups, these are some of the characteristics that make me different, or these are some of the characteristics that make me the same as others. 


For example, most members, but not all, of the NFB, are blind.  Our sighted members are statistically fewer than our blind members.  But we need their perspectives and experiences for the NFB to work, e.g., parents of blind children, educators, sighted partners and family members.  I am cisgender, and statistically, I am in the majority.  But we need all gender identities to participate and feel included in order for our organization to work.  I am brown, and statistically, that means I am in the minority.  But we need people of all races in order for this organization to work.  I am Muslim, and that means I am in the minority, but we need those from all faith backgrounds and also those who don’t ascribe to a faith tradition to participate and feel included in order for our organization to work 


I didn’t always feel that my differences were welcome in the NFB and in the blindness community as a whole.  For example, I struggled early on a great deal as a result of being a Muslim.  I have severe dog allergies, and so if I tried to avoid being around service animals, people made comments about how my entire religion hates dogs (which is untrue).  I remember a state convention when an invocation was very spiritual and the speaker commanded everyone to “stand up and embrace Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”  In Islam, though we believe in Jesus, it is sacrilegious to refer to Jesus as the Lord and Savior.  I did not stand up, and another member sitting next to me began pulling on me, physically forcing me to stand up.  I told her I was intentionally not standing, and she told me I was being rude and disrespectful.  I tried to resist, but in the end, her physical strength forced me to my feet.  It wasn’t possible to make this a teachable moment during an invocation where people are supposed to be silent.  This was a humiliating and demoralizing experience.  It could have been avoided though, if my neighbor would have respected my differences and created an inclusive environment for me.  It also could have been avoided if the speaker thought ahead of time about the fact that many members of the convention were not Christian and gave a more inclusive invocation.


More recently, I attended a chapter meeting that began with a prayer.  I was not expecting the prayer, and it echoed some of the same language about Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior.  I felt blindsided by it and did not have the opportunity to step away.  I thought long and hard about whether to share my discomfort, and ultimately, I decided I had an obligation to do so.  If I, as a state president, stay silent, then how could I expect non-elected leaders to speak up?  I realized it was my duty to share this perspective.  This too is why I am writing this article.


The NFB is an organization founded around our shared commonality of blindness.  We come together to educate, advocate, and lead on issues important to the blind.  We bring our differences with us because they are integral to who we are.  WE possess shared differences, e.g., our race, our religion, our gender and gender identity.  But we also have to recognize that sometimes, by incorporating a particular characteristic that is important to some of us but not all, we are excluding others of us.


I’ve heard from people who have said they believe the NFB is a Christian organization and that they do not feel welcome as non-Christians.  I understand why they feel that way because sometimes my fellow members impose their particular characteristics on me so I feel that way too.  This is the anatomy of a majority – the majority doesn’t often realize that others think differently or have different characteristics.  This is usually not intentional – it is just how majorities work.  I believe we have come forward a great deal, but we still have work to do.  Every member should feel welcome in the NFB irrespective of any characteristic they possess, and it is incumbent upon all of us to create that inclusive culture.


I have also heard from some that the people who are insisting on incorporating DEI are trying to prevent people with certain differences from participating in the organization, e.g., those who are religiously devout.  I challenge that notion and vehemently disagree.  Those of us who come from underrepresented communities have had to carve out our space so we can educate everyone on our particular characteristics.  This is true in society, in history, everywhere.  The majority does not need to carve out its own space because it already has space in the mainstream.  More, the majority does need to create space for others.


Let me be clear.  We are asking for people who are not part of underrepresented populations to be inclusive; we are asking them to think about things they say and do that imposes their particular characteristics on all of us.  I am not, for example, asking blind Christians to stop being Christian.  I am asking them to consider that words they use in an invocation may more than exclude me – their words may alienate me.  I will commit to do the same when thinking about people who possess characteristics that are different from my own.


I believe we in the NFB have made a great deal of progress in DEI during the past decade.  I believe we have more progress to make.  The NFB Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is leading the way for us nationally, and the NFBMD DEI Committee is providing advice and guidance to the affiliate and local chapters.  I implore each of you to remember that DEI isn’t a concept to be advanced only by those who are underrepresented.  It is each and every single member’s responsibility.


Maryland Elections Board, Blind Advocates Reach Agreement on Efforts to Improve Ballot Privacy for Voters with Disabilities

by Danielle E. Gaines

Maryland Matters

August 4, 2021


[Editor’s Note: the battle for ending segregating voting for individuals with disabilities continues. The article below describes the settlement between the Maryland State Board of Elections and the National Federation of the Blind, et al.]


The Maryland State Board of Elections has settled a longstanding dispute over ballot-marking devices that disability advocates say forced them to cast a segregated ballot.

The terms of the settlement were publicly announced Tuesday by the National Federation of the Blind, which filed a lawsuit over ballot privacy in August 2019.

At issue are the state’s ballot-marking devices, which allow voters who are blind or have other disabilities to use headphones, magnification, touchscreens and other features to independently cast ballots. But the machines also produce a ballot printout that’s a different size and shape than the paper ballots cast by a vast majority of Maryland voters.

In recent elections, many precincts in the state saw only one single ballot cast using a marking device—making the voter’s identity and candidate choices entirely obvious and violating the right to a private ballot, advocates argued.

Under the terms of the settlement as announced by the federation, the Maryland State Board of Elections will take several steps to address privacy and access concerns:

•    The elections board will ensure that additional ballot-marking devices are available at the polling places of three plaintiffs—voters Marie Cobb, Ruth Sager, and Joel Zimba—who documented access and equipment issues in the lawsuit. The state will also ensure that additional machines are in place at polling places where there have been issues in past elections and at precincts that would experience significant delays waiting for a replacement if a machine breaks down.

•    Training materials issued to election judges by the state will instruct them to ensure that at least 10 voters at each polling location use a ballot-marking device, which will help protect privacy. Election judges at polling places that do not meet the 10-voter requirement will be subject to additional monitoring and training.

•    When the state next buys or leases election equipment, officials will include the capability for ballot-marking machines to produce a ballot substantially similar in size, shape, and content to hand-marked paper ballots as a factor in picking which voting system to purchase or lease.

•    Elections officials will not discourage the use of ballot-marking devices or encourage the use of hand-marked paper ballots in public messages or election judge trainings.

The elections board will also give the National Federation of the Blind data about the use of ballot-marking devices and complaints by voters with disabilities for each election through 2024.

A $230,000 financial settlement to cover the legal fees and costs of the National Federation of the Blind and the plaintiffs is subject to approval by the Board of Public Works. The panel is expected to take up the settlement agreement at its Sept. 1 meeting, according to court filings.

“After almost five years of advocacy, litigation, and negotiation, we are hopeful that this settlement represents the first steps on a path to true equality for Maryland’s blind and disabled voters,” Ronza Othman, a civil rights attorney and president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, said in a written statement. “Ultimately, Maryland must completely eliminate its segregated voting system for blind and disabled voters, and we will continue to work toward that goal even as we celebrate the progress represented by this agreement.”



Remembering Lloyd Rasmussen

by Ronza Othman

[Editor’s Note: Lloyd Rasmussen was a long-time member of the Sligo Creek Chapter and the NFBMD.  He always supported our efforts with enthusiasm and vigor.  Lloyd passed away due to heart complications on September 13, 2021.]


Our brother in the Federation, Lloyd Rasmussen, passed away on September 13, 2021.  Lloyd was a brilliant man, having been one of the first blind people to become an engineer and work in his field; he served at the Library of Congress National Library for the Blind and Print Disabled for nearly 46 years.  He helped develop and implement dozens of NLS programs.  If you listen to talking books, you have Lloyd to thank.  If you use BARD, you have Lloyd to thank.  If you have an NLS Braille display, you have Lloyd to thank.  And these are just a few of his contributions.


Lloyd was a fierce advocate for Braille, and he worked to make sure others could access it.  In fact, Lloyd was responsible for creating and formatting our state convention Braille materials for literally decades.


Lloyd was an outstanding sound engineer and technology enthusiast.  In fact, Lloyd has served as the audio engineer for all of the NFB of Maryland Braille is Beautiful plays. 


Lloyd loved music.  As a member of the Cane Raisers, he wrote or sang many of the songs that are now our Federation melodies.


Lloyd also was a man of strong faith.  He led the affiliate’s Sunday morning devotionals for many years.


Lloyd was also an amateur radio operator, having begun when he was in third grade.  His call sign was W3IUU. 


Lloyd previously served as president of the Sligo Creek Chapter in the 1980s.  He served in many leadership roles since moving to Maryland in 1975.  When he passed, he was the chapter secretary.


Lloyd leaves behind his beloved wife of 40 years, Judy Rasmussen.


Stronger Together: From Where the Federation Flag Flies Highest to All Corners of Our Movement

by Ronza Othman

[Editor’s Note: The Maryland affiliate served as the affiliate host for the 2021 NFB National Convention.  The below article appeared in the August/September issue of the Braille Monitor, the NFB’s flagship publication.]


On behalf of the Maryland affiliate, I’d like to extend gratitude and appreciation to Federationists throughout the country and world who made the 2021 NFB National Convention the best one so far.  Maryland had the privilege of being the 2021 host affiliate, and we hope everyone enjoyed the myriad of activities we planned.  Our activities touched on aspects of our movement, our region, our history, and our culture, and hopefully the members had fun and learned something they hadn’t previously known.  Below is a summary of many of our activities both in the months leading up to the convention and during convention itself.


We only learned that we would host the Convention in February.  Usually, affiliates get a year’s notice, and sometimes several years notice.  But Maryland Federationists rose to the challenge with joy and excitement.  WE had more than 50 individuals volunteer to serve on the National Convention Host Planning Committee, and we broke into eight different subcommittees.  Everyone worked hard to ensure that the programming leading up to the convention and during the convention for which the host affiliate was responsible was robust and meaningful.


Marylanders are very competitive, so pretty quickly a theme of holding contests as often as possible emerged.  Each contest winner received $20 and a squeezable crab. 


WE held contests as part of each Presidential Release from April through June.  The April contest featured some key aspects and dates related to the convention, and contest participants needed to identify both the speakers and the music in the vignette.  No one won the April contest.  The May contest featured Maryland Jeopardy; congratulations to Marci Carpenter of Washington for winning this contest.  The June contest featured Federation music,  and Ellen Ringlein of Maryland was the contest winner. 


We also included articles in the April through June Braille Monitor, which highlighted our plans for the convention, Maryland-themed recipes, and even an article on how to crack codes.  The code article had an imbedded contest.  Congratulations to Brook Sexton of Minnesota for deciphering the June Braille Monitor hidden message.


WE launched a blog that was posted on with various stories.  These ranged from Maryland dialect to how to prepare crab to how to eat crab.  We also posted a stoop story, which is a very Maryland concept – wherein Marylanders sit on their front stoops and swap stories with their neighbors and passersby. 


The goal of the blog posts and contests was to get Federationists excited about the convention.  Given the hundreds of people who participated in the contests and read the blog posts, we think it worked.


We hosted another contest, which was first revealed at the Rookie Round-Up and shared once again at the NFB Board Meeting.  This information scavenger hunt featured aspects of the convention that participants would learn throughout the week, like overall registration.  Congratulations to Rose Warner of Maryland for winning this contest.


Hopefully you attended one of our four tours, the B&O Railroad Museum, the NASA Goddard Space Center, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Museum, and our NFB headquarters building tour.  We enjoyed sharing a bit of our state’s culture and important sites with you.


We also hosted LOL Comedy Night, where nine Federationists competed before a live virtual audience to see who would be crowned the 2021 LOL Comedian.  Congratulations to Yvonne Neubert of Tennessee for making us all laugh out loud.


We organized some fun Maryland-themed fit breaks this year.  Afterwards, we took an informal poll on whether people preferred the fit break where Sharon Maneki taught the students the Whip & Nay Nay or the fit break where Pam Allen argued with Homer Simpson and ate Maryland and Louisiana themed food, which transitioned the convention host duties from Maryland to Louisiana.  It was a tie. 


We hosted a daily Breakfast Club to walk through the agenda and share access information for that day’s meetings.  The Breakfast Club was intended to bridge the technology gap for those less comfortable with technology, and attendance was tremendous.  We have been offering the Breakfast Club for members of the Maryland affiliate, and we are delighted that the entire membership was able to benefit from it this year. 


We also held a drawing for the banquet parties that registered by June 30.  Congratulations to Kay Spears and the West Valley Chapter of the NFB of Arizona.  They received a dozen crab cakes and they ate them at their banquet party.


A convention is not a convention without swag.  Maryland sold convention Scrubs to commemorate the 2021 convention.  They are navy blue with an image of a red crab.  Superimposed on the red crab is the NFB logo in white with the words “It’s a Maryland thing” beneath the crab.  Many Federationists wore their Convention Scrubs to their in-person banquets, and I imagine many more wore them as they attended the virtual aspects of the convention.


Finally, we brought the convention into Maryland during the Opening Ceremonies via our Clockwise Tour of Maryland.  And, because we are us, we included a contest.  Congratulations to Katelyn MacIntyre of Arizona on winning the Opening Ceremonies contest by identifying ten unique sounds from the Clockwise Tour. 


We are the Maryland affiliate, and we’re where the headquarters of our life-changing organization resides.  But though the Federation flag flies highest here, we are so similar to our 51 sister affiliates in many ways.  We hope the clockwise tour inspired you to think about and honor our differences while celebrating the things that bring us together in our shared experience as members of the National Federation of the blind.  We know that while we reflect on our history, we must focus forward, and with love, hope, and determination, we are Stronger Together.



Profile of an NFBMD Leader: Anil Lewis

By Melissa Riccobono

[Editor’s note: Most of us know the names of our affiliate’s leaders, and we associate them with the projects and events they have led.  However, we don’t always know how they came to be leaders in our organization.  We are continuing a series that profiles our affiliate’s leaders so our members can get to know them better on a personal level.  Our next leader profile features Anil Lewis, Board Member of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.]


Members of the National Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland have definitely heard of Anil Lewis. As the executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, Anil gives a powerful, heartfelt, and thought-provoking speech to the national convention every year. As a member of the NFBMD board of directors, Anil is visible at state conventions in the exhibit hall, and of course, we hear him singing, “Under the Sea” as Sebastian in our annual Maryland Crab Race. Interacting with people, and seeing the difference the work we do in the NFBMD and in the NFB is what most motivates Anil.


Anil has been a part of the NFB since 1998. Writing in detail about all of the things he has done since that time would produce an article 100 pages long! Here are just some highlights: Anil has served as president of the Metro Atlanta Chapter of the NFBGA, president of the NFBGA, National Board Member of the NFB, and scholarship chair of the NFB. In 2010, Anil moved to Baltimore in order to join the staff at the NFB, where he worked as communications director for the Blind Driver Challenge, a member of the NFB Advocacy and Policy team, and, for the past several years, the executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute. Anil is currently the president of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the NFBMD, and a board member of the NFBMD.


Aside from all of his work with the NFB, Anil is the father to an almost 25-year-old son, Amari. He enjoys watching movies, listening to music, especially live music, and binging on Netflix if he has a free weekend. Anil also enjoys reading fiction.


Anil believes his leadership in the NFB came about mostly because he saw a real need for things to be done, others believed in him and pushed him to help do what needed to be done, and interacting with people along the way, and seeing the results of the work he and others were doing only made him want to continue the work and do more and more.


Anil loves people. He loves listening to their stories, learning from them, and also teaching them and helping them grow. Anil is often a dynamic presence in a room, but he says he likes best those times he can converse with people one on one or in small groups. He enjoys most when he can help to make an impact one person at a time, and actually witness that impact taking place.


A Disabled President’s Memorial Still Isn’t Fully Accessible to Disabled Visitors, A New Report Finds

By Theresa Vargas

The Washington Post

May 19, 2021

[Editor’s note: Cheryl Fogle-Hatch is a consultant to museums on accessibility. The article below illustrates both the need for museum consultants and Cheryl’s effectiveness in promoting accessibility.]


My 6-year-old noticed the raised dots first.


My family was playing tourist on a recent weekend, making our way from one monument on the National Mall to another, and we decided to start our walk at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. As we stood at one wall, looking at scenes depicted on metal panels, my son ran his hands over a cluster of dots in a lower corner and asked about them.


What followed was a conversation that has no doubt taken place countless times in front of that wall. We talked about Braille. I explained to him that, through touch, it allowed people who couldn’t see with their eyes to read about the images on those panels. I told him it was there to make sure everyone could experience the memorial.


This week, I learned I was wrong.


The Braille at the memorial is not easily readable. It is more artful than helpful, and in some places, completely undecipherable, according to a report that will be released Thursday by the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee.


I was allowed to get an early look at the 13-page report, which will be the subject of an online discussion Thursday titled “Accessibility is NOT optional.”


The report details the accessibility shortcomings of a memorial that has long been seen as a testament to the heights people with disabilities can reach. FDR didn’t just steer the country through the Great Depression and World War II; he did that from a wheelchair.


“It’s the only memorial that shows one of our great presidents had a disability, and I think for it to not be sensitive to all disabilities is a shame,” Gordon Gund, who is blind and is scheduled to speak at that online discussion, tells me on a recent afternoon. “It’s not inclusive as it ought to be.”


In many ways, the story of the memorial captures the country’s evolving views of disabilities. Roosevelt served as president from 1933 until his death in 1945, and during that time, he tried hard to conceal from the public that polio had left him unable to walk unassisted.


Before his memorial opened in 1997, demonstrators chanted at the site, “Don’t hide FDR’s source of strength.” They called for the memorial to include a statue of the president seated in his wheelchair. But that didn’t happen—not then, and not for several more years.


It wasn’t until January 2001 that the life-size bronze statue of Roosevelt in a wheelchair was displayed at the memorial.


“The unveiling is a major national moment, the removal of the shroud of shame that cloaks disability,” a Washington Post article quoted Alan A. Reich, then president of the National Organization on Disability, saying at the time. “The statue will become a shrine to people with disabilities, but it will also inspire everyone to overcome obstacles.”


Gund recalls standing in the crowd that day, feeling the weight of that moment.


“I was moved that, at last, that well-kept secret was out for everybody’s good,” he says. “It really was taking the cloak off. It was exposing the truth.”


Now, 20 years later, exposing the truth comes in a different form. It involves looking closely at who can and who can’t experience a public space, and the reasons for that.


Gund says he was familiar with some of the Braille issues at the memorial, but he describes the new report as showing him accessibility issues that he didn’t know existed. One finding that stood out to him was that the barriers placed around broken fountains are difficult to detect by a person who depends on a white cane to get around, a description that fits Gund.


“If objects are greater than 27 inches in height, a person’s cane will go under the object and the person will not detect it,” reads the report. “In my opinion, the most dangerous fountain is the in-ground fountain in Room One because it drops a couple of feet straight down with no difference in elevation between the lip of the fountain and the surrounding sidewalk. The stanchions should be replaced by a guardrail—posts drilled into the sidewalk would be cane-detectable.”


The report was written by Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, who is blind and created MuseumSenses, a website to discuss the work she is doing to make museums, galleries and other cultural organizations more accessible. She was commissioned to inspect the site by the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee, which aims as part of its mission to document, preserve and share the work that has gone into disability representation at the site.


Fogle-Hatch says she hadn’t visited the memorial before going on March 17. The report provides a detailed account of her experience there. It shows her struggling to navigate the website for the memorial, and then once there, trying to piece together the Braille like a puzzle.


“The Braille ranges from somewhat readable to completely unrecognizable,” the report reads. “This includes the quote in the Prologue Room and the letters on the workers mural and the quotes on the columns in Room One. . . . The Braille on the columns is completely unreadable because the dots are indented. They feel like holes in the stone, and they are not recognizable as dots.”


In a 1997 Washington Post article that detailed the problems with the Braille, one blind visitor lamented, “If they’re going to go to the trouble to put the dots there, it would be helpful if there were actually something you could read.”


Fogle-Hatch points to that article to show the issue has been raised for decades, and yet nothing has been done about it. A simple solution, she says, would be to add small signs that explain in readable Braille that the Braille on the memorial is an artistic rendering that is not to scale.


Fogle-Hatch says her report is not meant to be adversarial toward the National Park Service, which oversees the memorials on the National Mall. It acknowledges that officials are aware of some of the accessibility issues and have put together plans to eventually address them. Fogle-Hatch also recognizes that government entities have many priorities and tend to move slowly.


But what makes the report significant is that it puts these issues in front of the public, instead of leaving them tucked away in government documents that most people won’t see. It lets officials know that people are paying attention and are waiting for a memorial that tells the story of disability representation in the country to show—not just through a statue, but also through action—how far that’s come.


“We’re just reminding them that it’s important,” Fogle-Hatch says. “Over the years, I’ve had people say to me, ‘There is a memorial on the Mall where there is Braille on the walls.’ Well, sort of.”



Spectator Specs


Lloyd Rasmussen, a long-time member of the Sligo Creek Chapter died on September 13.  Please see an article about Lloyd earlier in this edition entitled “Remembering Lloyd Rasmussen.”


Joanne Rosfeld passed away on June 18,2021, after a long illness.  Joanne was a member of the National Harbor Chapter.  She was also active in the NFB of Virginia. 


On July 19, Star Shemah White died due to complications from diabetes. Star was active in both the D.C. and Maryland affiliates. She worked to make sure that blind children had a quality education. She promoted and worked in both the District of Columbia and Glendale, Maryland BELL academies. Star always participated in the Maryland State convention. We will miss her dedicated spirit.


Theresa Thomas passed away on Thursday, August 5. Theresa was a member of the Sligo Creek Chapter since the 1990s and more recently became involved in the Greater Baltimore Chapter. Theresa was an enthusiastic Federationist and was a great membership recruiter. Theresa faced many challenges due to the complications of diabetes, but she always managed to come to national and state conventions when most people would have been content to stay home. We will miss her spirit and dedication.


Ruby Collier, a member of the Eastern Shore Chapter, died at age 96 on August 11. Ruby was active in both the Chapter and the BISM support group for seniors. Ruby always did what she could to help her fellow blind brothers and sisters.


Mike Records of the Western Maryland Chapter passed away in April.  He was active in the 1990s and early 2000s before becoming ill. 


Many parents and students will remember Ruth Hinsen, who was the director of outreach at the Maryland School for the Blind for many years. Ruth lost her battle with cancer on Saturday, August 14. She was a great promoter of independence for blind students.


Long time Federationist Don Morris died on September 5, 2021 after a long illness. Don was a person with lots of energy and spirit. He served on the Board of Directors of the NFB of Maryland and was its first vice president for many years in the 1990s. He received the Kenneth Jernigan Award which is the highest award that NFBMD gives to Federationists. Don worked on the national level, especially in promoting our capital campaign which led to the building of the Jernigan Institute. He also served in the National Association of Blind Merchants. Don served as the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) for decades. During his tenure at BISM, he was an avid promoter of rehabilitation programs of both seniors and youth. Don was also a great entrepreneur. He operated a very successful facility in the business enterprise program at the national fire academy in Emmitsburg Maryland for decades. His success with this location was phenomenal. He really showed what blind people can do when they have opportunity. Whenever anyone asked Don how he was doing, his response was always “lovely.” He was a lovely person indeed! We will miss his dedication to encouraging blind people to live the life we want.


May they rest in peace.


New Source for Acquiring Assistive Technology

Nora Walker from the Maryland Technology Assistance Program, under the Department of Disabilities provided the following announcement:


I’m pleased to say that our High-Tech Assistive Technology Reuse Center (MATR) is open by appointment! MATR takes donations of used high-tech assistive devices (anything from adapted keyboards and trackball mice to CCTVs and communication devices), sanitizes and refurbishes them and makes them available to people for free. We are the first state AT program with a high-tech reuse center, and are very excited to be able to increase peoples access to Assistive Technology in this way. Right now, we have more than 80 items listed for FREE on the MATR site, and we only hope to grow this number.

I want to make your organization aware of this program, so you and your constituents can help by donating any old assistive devices you may have that are no longer in use and making them available to others. To donate, contact, and don’t hesitate to reach out to with any questions.


Governor Hogan and Disability Rights Activists Celebrate the 31st Anniversary of the ADA

President Mark Riccobono joined Governor Hogan and the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, Carol Beady, in celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In President Riccobono’s remarks, he applauded the governor and secretary for their leadership on disability issues. Maryland has been very successful as an innovator and a leader in disability rights “because they allow people with disabilities in the forefront of the conversation about policies.” Governor Hogan gave a commendation citation to Becca Meyers “recognizing her many contributions to the disability community both here in Maryland, across the country, and around the world.” (Read about her elsewhere in this issue.) Governor Hogan also issued an executive order recognizing July as Maryland Disability Culture and Achievements Month. The executive order reads:


EXECUTIVE ORDER 01.01.2021.08

Maryland Disability Culture and Achievements Month


WHEREAS, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was enacted to end disability based discrimination and promote economic self sufficiency, equality, and inclusion for all people with disabilities;


WHEREAS, Maryland has the nation’s first principal State department of disabilities responsible for developing, maintaining, revising, and enforcing disability policies and standards throughout State government;


WHEREAS, People with disabilities are the largest and most diverse minority in the population, representing all ages, races, ethnicities, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds;


WHEREAS, People with disabilities have talents and skills that enrich our state and its communities;


WHEREAS, People with disabilities have a unique culture expressed in the literature, poetry, dance, film, theater, and music that they develop;


WHEREAS, Historically, people with disabilities have achieved positive and lasting societal improvements in justice, self-empowerment, and equality; and


WHEREAS, The benefits that disability culture and achievements create for society should be recognized;



A. All units of State government subject to the direction and control of the Governor shall annually observe July as “Disability Culture and Achievements Month.”

B. The Department of Disabilities shall, during Disability Culture and Achievements Month, collaborate with, and provide information and technical assistance to, other units of State government to develop, coordinate, and promote activities and events throughout Maryland celebrating:

1. Disability culture, including literature, poetry, dance, film, theater, and music developed by people with disabilities; and

2. Societal achievements, including in justice, self-empowerment, and equality, of people with disabilities.


GIVEN Under my Hand and the Great Seal of the State of Maryland, in the City of Annapolis this 26th Day of July, 2021.