April 2022 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:

I am blessed to be part of the premier advocacy organization on blindness and independence. As usual, we have had a tremendous month, including a student division bowling outing, a senior workshop, a state board meeting, the return of in-person chapter meetings in a few places, and our advocacy coming to fruition in the form of a new law. As we move toward the NFB National Convention, we are hard at work preparing to gather together – in person and virtually – to set the policies of the Federation. Read on for important information in the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.

Victory in Annapolis!

We advocated for our legislative priorities at the Maryland General Assembly this session, and we were victorious! Senate Bill 0617, the Accountability Act for Accessible K-12 Education for Students with Disabilities passed both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly and the Governor signed it into law this month.

This law strengthens accessibility for students with disabilities such that school districts must procure accessible learning platforms and use accessible materials. The law also shifts the burden of accessibility so that vendors must cure inaccessibility within one year of notification and pay penalties if they fail to do so. The law also establishes the accessibility standard school districts must use for all digital tools. This bill will significantly bridge the gap students with disabilities and their nondisabled counterparts experience in accessing learning materials and platforms.

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 for single and double occupancy (triples and quads cost more). Preregistration for the convention opened on March 1 and will close May 31, 2022.

We will share information about our Maryland Convention Orientation (virtual the week before Convention) and Maryland Caucus (in person during Convention) in future newsletters.

We can’t wait to see you in New Orleans!

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.

Update to NFBMD Policy on In-Person Gatherings

As the affiliate, chapters, and divisions resume and/or increase 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. The Board updated this policy on April 2, 2022. You can review the policy by visiting: https://nfbmd.org/eventpolicy.

Blind Cruising 2023

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland will be hosting a cruise fundraiser from December 3 – 10, 2023. 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, please contact our travel agent, Cindy Kiper at ckiper@dreamvacations.com or 813-418-0647.

Details are as follows:

  • Ship: Carnival Legend
  • Date: December 3 - 10, 2023
  • Port of Departure: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Number of nights: 7
  • Ports visited: Nassau, Bahamas; Princess Cays, Bahamas; and Freeport, Bahamas

Key Dates:

  • First Deposit due: July 31, 2022 or until all cabins are booked, whichever is sooner - $25 per person
  • Second Deposit due: March 31, 2023 - $250 per person plus full names of sailors
  • Final payment due: August 15, 2023

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) = $787.86 per person
  • Balcony cabin (standard balcony) = $782.86 per person
  • Ocean-view cabin = $617.85 per person
  • interior cabin = From $527.86 to $537.86 per person
  • if anyone needs a 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.

Initial Deposit of $25 per person can be made in one of two ways:

  • Mail checks payable to NFB of Maryland, 1800 Johnson Street, Suite N1, Baltimore, MD 21201
  • Pay online at https://nfbmd.org/blindcruising
    *Online payments add an additional $2 per person for processing.

We hope you will join us on this incredible trip.

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 was 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 occurred on March 5, 2022 and featured 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.

NFB BELL Academy Baltimore and In-Home Edition!

The NFB BELL Academy provides children with Braille and nonvisual skills instruction through fun, hands-on learning activities. The NFB BELL Academy—which stands for National Federation of the Blind Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning®—is a nationwide (United States and Puerto Rico) summer program that prepares blind and low-vision children to grow into confident and independent blind people who live the lives they want. Activities at NFB Maryland BELL are provided in a day program. In addition to Braille crafts, games, and other engaging projects, children learn vital independent living skills, interact with blind adult mentors, and enjoy field trips to sites related to the NFB BELL Academy curriculum. Through these activities and interactions, the children learn that blindness or low vision does not define them or their future.

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
  • Would enjoy connecting with blind role models

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is offering one two-week in person NFB BELL Academy session in Baltimore, Maryland, From July 25, 2022 – August 5, 2022. The National Federation of the Blind is also offering one three-week virtual program of the NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition July 18 through August 5, 2022, for which options are available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students. Space is limited.

To register for NFB BELL Academy In Person in Baltimore or In Home Edition, visit: https://nfb.org/programs-services/nfb-bell-academy. For questions, contact NFB of Maryland NFB BELL Academy Coordinator Brittany Bomboy at 757-969-3724 or by email at Bnbomboy@gmail.com.

NFBMD Advocacy Skills Training Sessions

Would you like to brush up on your advocacy skills for yourself and others? Save the dates: April 30, May 21, August 20, and October 1. We will explore a different advocacy issue each of these days. The trainings will take place on these Saturday afternoons, from 1:30 to 5:00, over zoom.

On April 30, we will discuss the general advocacy considerations. We will look at such questions as how to help and when to help.

On May 21, we will discuss how to further employment by using DORS and how to keep that dream job if discrimination occurs.

On August 20, we will tackle how to get the best IEP for students.

On October 1, we will explore avoiding social security pitfalls.

Please register for the April 30 session by sending an email to nfbmdsm@gmail.com.

Important Upcoming Dates

  • April 30, 2022 – Advocacy Seminar Part 1, Virtual
  • May 10, 2022 - NFBMD Seniors Division Conference Call Seminar, Virtual
  • May 21, 2022 - Advocacy Seminar Part 2, Virtual
  • May 31, 2022 – Deadline to Preregister for NFB Annual Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • July 5 – 10, 2022 – NFB National Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • July 18 – August 5, 2022 – NFB BELL Academy in Home Edition, Virtual
  • July 25 – August 5, 2022 – NFB BELL Academy, Baltimore, Maryland
  • August 6, 2022 – NFBMD Crab Feast, Parkville, Maryland
  • August 20, 2022 - Advocacy Seminar Part 3, Virtual
  • October 1 – 31, 2022 – Blind Equality Achievement Month
  • October 1, 2022 - Advocacy Seminar Part 4, Virtual
  • November 11 – 13, 2022 – NFBMD Annual Convention, Towson, Maryland
  • December 3 – 10, 2023 – NFBMD Blind Cruising 2023, Bahamas