February 2022 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:

It has been an incredibly busy month 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, including legislative hearings on our initiatives. 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. We have also commemorated Black History Month through a number of activities and events at the local chapter level. As we wind down the winter, 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.

Enhancements to 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. Both scholarships have been significantly enhanced this year. The deadline to apply for an NFB scholarship is March 31, 2022, and the deadline to apply for an NFBMD Scholarship is April 15, 2022.

National Scholarship Program:

Each year, the NFB awards 30 merit-based scholarships totaling $240,000.

  • Each scholarship recipient will receive $8,000 and additional prizes.
  • 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 mentored by blind role models.
  • Application materials must be submitted (online or postmarked) by 11:59PM on March 31, 2022.
  • 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 2022 (one scholarship may be awarded to an individual who works full-time and attends school part-time);
    • Be age 18 before July 5, 2022; and
    • Attend the entire National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind (and all scholarship activities) in New Orleans, Louisiana from July 5 through 10, 2022 (scholarship finalists will receive convention financial assistance).
  • To apply:

State Scholarship Program:

The NFB of Maryland will award up to four scholarships of $4,000 each as part of the John T. McCraw Scholarship Program. 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, 2022.
  • To be eligible, applicants must:
    • Be legally blind in both eyes;
    • reside in Maryland or be pursuing post-secondary studies at a school in Maryland;
    • be age 18 prior to July 5, 2022;
    • 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 2022 and Spring of 2023 (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 5 through 10, 2022 and the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Towson, Maryland from November 11 – 13, 2022 (scholarship finalists will receive convention financial assistance).
  • To apply:

Pay Your 2022 Dues As Soon As Possible!!

In light of the pandemic and the suspension of in-person chapter meetings, NFBMD maintains an online portal for individuals to pay their chapter and division dues. We are asking members to pay their 2022 dues as soon as possible so we can ensure that our rolls are accurate for the annual national membership data call.

Individuals may use NFBMD’s Dues Portal to pay their 2022 annual dues, and/or lifetime membership dues for those chapters that have lifetime membership. The portal lists all NFBMD chapters and divisions and their dues amounts. Individuals may pay for as many chapters and divisions as they wish. The portal is located at http://nfbmd.org/dues. Alternatively, individuals may mail a check to their chapter or division treasurer.

Get ready for New Orleans in 2022!

The NFB 2022 National Convention will take place from July 5 – 10, 2022 in New Orleans Louisiana. We are very excited to pass the convention hosting torch to the Louisiana affiliate. The convention will take place at the New Orleans Marriott, and you may make your reservation by calling 800-654-3990. The overflow hotel is the Sheraton New Orleans, and the Exhibit Hall will be located here. To reserve a room at the overflow hotel, call 855-516-1090. The rooming rate is $109 per night plus tax at both hotels. Preregistration for the convention will open on March 1 and will close May 31, 2022.

First time national convention attendees may apply for the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship, which is a grant the NFB provides to people who have not attended a national convention in person previously. The deadline is April 15, 2022. Visit this link for more information on how to apply. https://nfb.org/get-involved/national-convention/kenneth-jernigan-convention-scholarship.

Those from Maryland who are seeking financial assistance should speak with their chapter president to find out what assistance their local chapter may have available. The affiliate’s Financial Assistance Application Form is now live and must be submitted by March 31, 2022. It can be found at http://www.nfbmd.org/financialassistance. Please note that though the Financial Assistance Committee will give due consideration to every application, the affiliate has limited resources and is unable to grant every request. For questions about the Financial Assistance Application Program, please reach out to your chapter president or me at President@nfbmd.org.

Raising Expectations in Annapolis!

We continue to advocate for our legislative priorities at the Maryland General Assembly. We held our Annual Virtual Week in Annapolis from January 20 – 27, 2022, and more than 65 Federationists participated. We spoke with representatives from all 47 State Senator offices and 141 Delegate offices. Special thanks to those who served as team leads, zoom hosts, and meeting participants for this effort. Thank you all for your hard work!

On February 16 and 24, we testified at legislative hearings in support of SB0617 / HB0547, the Accountability Act for Accessible K-12 Education for Students with Disabilities. We are making substantial progress on this bill, as the Senate Education, Health, and Environment Committee unanimously advanced this out of Committee on February 24, 2022. Next, the full Senate will take up the bill in early March; if the Senate passes it, the bill will move to the House of Delegates for consideration. Meanwhile, the House Committee where the bill lives will follow a parallel path to the Senate. As long as both the House and Senate vote to pass either version of the bill, it’ll become law provided the Governor does not veto it. President Ferguson’s office has provided tremendous leadership on this issue and has helped us advance this bill. We are grateful for his support and leadership. We are also grateful to Senator Zucker and Delegate Guyton for serving as the lead sponsors of this bill.

The funding for the Center for Excellence in Non-visual Access is currently in the Governor’s Budget. Members will attend the Senate and House hearings for the Department of Disabilities budget, and we expect this money should be protected. Great work on this initiative.

Thus far, we have also provided written and/or oral testimony on eleven additional bills. These cover areas of access to information, education, housing, health care, and employment. We are also actively seeking a legislative solution to the current paratransit crisis that exists throughout the state.

The Maryland legislature is extremely busy this year with a tremendous number of bills. In order to make sure that our delegates and senators know our matters are critical to us, we need to contact them to tell them to support our initiatives. Our Director of Legislation and Advocacy, Sharon Maneki, has posted information on our lists about how to do this as well as visited many chapters. You may also contact Sharon Maneki directly to request it at 410-715-9596 or at NFBMDSM@gmail.com. Thanks for all you do! Legislative advocacy is the true embodiment of collective action.

Raising Expectations in Washington!

We had a very successful Washington Seminar where we raised expectations about blindness. On February 9, Maryland joined Federationists from throughout the country virtually to let Congress know about the priorities for blind Americans. The four issues that we discussed were:

  • Access Technology Affordability Act — HR 431 / S 212
  • Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act — HR 4853
  • 21st Century Mobile Apps and Website Accessibility Act
  • Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act — HR 2373 / S 3238

You may read the Washington Seminar fact sheets by visiting https://nfb.org/programs-services/advocacy/washington-seminar/washington-seminar-priorities/legislative-agenda or on Newsline. NFBMD will continue working to ensure that the entire Maryland Congressional delegation cosponsors all of our bills. If you have questions about the status of any Federal legislation, please contact me at President@nfbmd.org.

Basket and Bag Bingo is Coming!

Would you like to win over $4,000 in prizes? Would you like to play 23 games of BINGO? Snacks and raffles will also be available. Join us at NFBMD Basket and Bag Bingo on March 11, 2022 in Catonsville. Buy your tickets early because we always sell out.

We are busy arranging and filling baskets and procuring bags (purses). We need financial contributions to help with these purchases. Please let us know whether you would like to sponsor a basket or bag for $100. All contributions of any amount are welcome. You may also purchase your ticket for $25. Please purchase your ticket online at at https://nfbmd.org/bingo. For questions or to purchase your ticket via check, contact Sharon Maneki at nfbmdsm@gmail.com.

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. Tickets are available from chapter presidents and affiliate Board Members. Help us sell all 1,000 tickets!

NFBMD State Board Meeting – April 2, 2022

The Board of Directors of the NFB of Maryland will hold an in-person Board Meeting on Saturday, April 2, 2022. The meeting will take place from approximately 9AM – 3PM at the NFB in Baltimore. Lunch will be available for purchase for approximately $20. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to know in advance who will be attending. Please let me know by March 20, 2022 if you plan to attend by emailing President@nfbmd.org or calling 443-426-4110. We must abide by both the NFB COVID-19 visitor policy, which requires vaccination and masking, and the NFBMD Policy on In-Person Gatherings, which requires temperature screening, masking, and social distancing. This event will not be hybrid due to logistical challenges.

NFBMD Policy on In-Person Gatherings

As the affiliate, chapters, and divisions begin resuming and/or increasing in-person activities such as fundraisers, chapter meetings, and seminars, please remember that the NFB of Maryland Board of Directors adopted a Policy on In-Person Gatherings, which is applicable to all events and activities. You can review the policy by visiting: https://nfbmd.org/eventpolicy.

Membership Efforts

One key priority in 2022 is for NFBMD to conduct a robust membership building effort. This is based on the needs and desires of several chapters within Maryland. The Board of Directors voted in January to reorganize the Baltimore County Chapter; in addition, the Western Maryland Chapter reorganized in mid-2021 and is working to expand its size and presence. The Eastern Shore Chapter has determined that it too needs to expand its prominence, size, and presence. The Greater Baltimore Chapter has determined there are many blind and low vision people in the local area to whom it wishes to reach out. The TLC Chapter has decided it too is committed to continuing to grow. Every chapter and division in Maryland expressed a desire and commitment to recruiting, developing, and retaining members.

As a result, our Membership Committee, led by Dezman Jackson, will be working on various membership initiatives in 2022. We need your help! If you know of blind and low vision Marylanders who are not yet members of the Federation, please introduce them to their local chapter. Please share ideas with Dezman and me as to how we can connect with people who are not yet members or how to reconnect with those whose membership has lapsed. Please invite those individuals to share with you, with Dezman, and with me, what they would want to get from membership in the Federation and any barriers to joining. Please let Dezman and me know if you are interested in supporting the Membership Committee with recruitment and retention initiatives. Membership building is truly the responsibility of each of us, and we need your help!

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. Qualik Ford and Bill Borner co-chair this committee. We encourage those interested in joining the committee to reach out to me at President@nfbmd.org.

The Committee provides state-wide guidance and support to chapters and the affiliate on DEI. One goal for 2022 is to increase the presence of DEI in our activities and to hold more DEI-focused activities. The Committee has and will continue to share informational communications on certain topics and observances to promote DEI but needs assistance in this area from those with lived experience and/or expertise. One particular highlight will be a day-long training for all elected affiliate, chapter, and division board members, the DEI committee, the scholarship committee, the membership committee, and those working with children. This training will take place on March 5, 2022 and will feature an introduction to diversity, equity, and inclusion; recognizing and minimizing micro-aggressions; and understanding and combatting implicit bias.

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.

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 Stay-at-Home orders. 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, 1800 Johnson Street, Suite N1, Baltimore, Maryland 21230 or by using the PayPal donation link on our website located at https://www.nfbmd.org/COVID-19Fund.

Important Upcoming Dates

  • March 1, 2022 — Preregistration opens for NFB National Convention
  • March 5, 2022 — DEI Training for Affiliate Leaders (chapter and division boards; affiliate board; scholarship, DEI, Youth Activities, BELL, Resolutions, and Membership committees; those working with youth), virtual
  • March 11, 2022 — Basket and Bag Bingo, Catonsville, Maryland
  • March 31, 2022 — Deadline for National Scholarship Applications.
  • March 31, 2022 — Deadline for applications for NFBMD Financial Assistance for National Convention
  • April 2, 2022 — NFBMD State Board Meeting, Baltimore, Maryland
  • April 15, 2022 — Deadline for NFBMD Scholarship Applications.
  • April 15, 2022 — Deadline for Jernigan Fund applications for National Convention
  • May 31, 2022 — Deadline to Preregister for NFB Annual Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • July 5 – 10, 2022 — NFB National Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • July 25 – August 5, 2022 — NFB BELL Academy, Baltimore, Maryland*
  • July 25 – August 12, 2022 — NFB BELL Academy in Home Edition, Virtual
  • August 6, 2022 — NFBMD Crab Feast, Parkville, Maryland
  • October 1 – 31, 2022 — Blind Equality Achievement Month
  • November 11 – 13, 2022 — NFBMD Annual Convention, Towson, Maryland

*We are still determining dates and locations of other Maryland NFB BELL Academies.