Braille Spectator, Spring 2022

Braille Spectator, Spring 2022



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:



Focus Forward!

By Ronza Othman
[Editor’s note: Ronza Othman serves as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland (NFBMD).  Below is the presidential report she gave at the NFBMD state convention on November 13, 2021.]


This past year has been one of the more unique and remarkable years in our organization’s 55-year history.  As I look back on this past year, I can’t help but think about the parallels between our own experience and that of Alexander Hamilton.  Last year, our convention theme was “Rise Up,” which is a key pillar of the Alexander Hamilton story, our nation’s story, and the story of the NFB.  This year, we, while celebrating our history and the foundation it laid, focus forward on the movement we want for our children and those who come after us.  The musical “Hamilton,” of which many of us are fans, gives us insight into what it means to build something meaningful and lasting, and how we, each of us, play a critical role in shaping what the future looks like for the blind of Maryland.


To focus forward does not mean however that we discard our past.  Instead, it means that we honor what came before us and expand on what those who came before us built; we shape it into a movement that is not only responsive, but in fact at the forefront of social change.  What we build needs to be agile and adapt to what Maryland’s, and in fact the country’s blind citizens need to live as successful, independent, confident blind people.  As Hamilton would say, we want to build something that is going to outlive us.


This past year was among the most challenging years in our affiliate’s history.  The COVID-19 pandemic continued to decimate our routine programming and fundraising efforts.  We had to rethink how we operate as an organization to ensure that we don’t leave behind those who are new to blindness and those without access to technology while simultaneously continuing to deploy technology resources as our primary means of communication.  We found that there are true advantages to virtual engagement while working creatively to ensure that no member is left behind.  We also started planning for what the future looks like in a post-pandemic world, and we reimagined how to integrate in-person activities with virtual experiences.  As we close 2021, several of our chapters have determined they are shifting from the traditional model of in-person monthly meetings to a mix of virtual and in-person meetings.  These chapters have chosen to focus forward in a way that is inclusive, safe, and productive.


As we look to the future of how we fight for the civil rights of the blind, our primary focus is and will always be on our individual members.  Even in a pandemic, our march towards equality and equity continues.  Through these individual advocacy efforts, we are more than merely part of the narrative.  We are writing the narrative for Maryland’s blind.  That narrative is one of persistence, equality, and commitment to living the lives we want.


In 2019, I shared with you the story of Olivia Chamberlain.  Olivia was at that time an employee of the Department of Defense (DOD), working in their childcare program.  She had an outstanding work record prior to a new supervisor coming on board; that supervisor had low expectations for blind people and did not believe Olivia could manage a classroom safely due to her blindness.  That supervisor refused to continue providing Olivia with reasonable accommodations she had been using successfully for four years.  The NFBMD got involved and filed a discrimination complaint on Olivia’s behalf.  Later, the NFB national office assisted, and Olivia and DOD reached a settlement, wherein Olivia got her accommodations, was reassigned to a different position of her choice, and the NFB was reimbursed for its attorney’s fees.  Here, neither Olivia nor the NFB, including the Maryland affiliate, was willing to settle for someone else writing our narrative.  Now, because of the intervention of the NFBMD and the NFB national organization, Olivia is able to focus forward in her career on her terms. 


The NFBMD worked to help another young person focus forward.  We’ll call her Sheila in order to preserve her privacy.  Sheila is an individual with additional mild cognitive challenges secondary to her blindness.  Sheila graduated from high school and joined the work force.  Though she needed some additional supports, she was successful and happy in her career.  Sheila’s parent was very supportive and had high expectations for Sheila as a blind person.  However, that parent passed away, and other family members did not share those high expectations.


Sheila’s family members petitioned to have Sheila declared incompetent so that they could make all financial, medical, and other decisions for Sheila.  Sheila contacted the NFBMD, and we intervened.  The NFBMD commissioned an independent medical expert to assess Sheila’s ability to care for herself and make decisions concerning her money, health, and future.  Our expert found, as we expected, that blindness is no barrier to Sheila living independently, and that Sheila’s cognitive challenges did not render her incompetent.  We notified Sheila’s family of our findings and promised to fight them if they continued with their effort to declare her incompetent.  I’m pleased to report that Sheila’s family backed down, and she is living her life independently.  We continue to provide her assistance and support, but she chooses when, how much, and in what areas she wants assistance.  Because of the intervention of the NFBMD, Sheila can focus forward on the future she wants for herself unhampered by her family’s misconceptions and outright harmful attitudes about blindness and disability.


The pandemic had significant employment consequences for many, particularly our blind vendors who operate businesses as part of the Randolph Sheppard Program.  The Maryland Association of Blind Merchants (MABM), under the outstanding leadership of Melba Taylor, has worked incredibly hard to help blind vendors shore up their businesses and where necessary, adapt their business models for the pandemic.  MABM has also worked to help vendors transition to other types of work so they can earn a living wage.


Additionally, the NFBMD assisted those who could not continue working to ensure access to unemployment benefits.  Unfortunately, the Maryland Beacon Unemployment System was largely inaccessible when it launched, and even with accessibility mostly remediated, it is clunky and hard to use.  Individuals need to access the system to complete an initial application and then weekly to recertify their entitlement to the benefit.  The process of applying for unemployment is also very bureaucratic and riddled with red tape.  As a result, many blind individuals have not been able to submit their applications or weekly recertification, and many others have had their applications caught up in the system.


The NFBMD, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Labor, administered a program to assist those seeking unemployment.  One such participant in that partnership is Abdullahi Abbas.  Abdullahi initially could not submit his application.  Then he experienced challenges with the weekly certification.  Once we sorted those things out, he was told his Beacon account was locked.  Once we were able to unlock the account, we learned that his benefits card was frozen.  Once we corrected that issue, we learned that the Department of Labor wanted additional documentation from previous tax filing years.  And the vicious cycle continued. 


We were able to work with the Department of Labor and Abdullahi to correct all of these issues.  The NFBMD remained involved until Abdullahi received his benefits unhampered.  Since the pandemic began, the Maryland affiliate has assisted more than two dozen other blind individuals to access the Maryland unemployment program so that they could receive the benefits to which they are entitled.  These individuals, with our help, have been able to focus forward so they can maintain housing, obtain food, and live their lives in spite of the pandemic.


During the pandemic, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) suspended its residential rehabilitation programs.  However, we in Maryland were not willing to wait until BISM decided to reopen because our members needed to learn the skills and philosophy to live independently and successfully.  As a result, we advocated with Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) to get seven Marylanders to NFB-affiliated training centers.  Qualik Ford and Erin Daring have since graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB).  Ayda Amoun, Eddie Poindexter, Juhi Narula, and Katelyn Siple are all currently attending LCB.  And shortly, Linda Wellman will begin training at the Colorado Center for the Blind.  Throughout much of the pandemic, the state of Maryland imposed a moratorium on paying for out-of-state travel.  The NFBMD decided this would not be an obstacle for blind people who wanted to get training, so we paid for students to travel to the NFB-affiliated training centers ourselves.  These seven individuals, and the NFBMD, were unwilling to wait for some possible future date in the distance to get the skills they need; they insisted they get the foundation for their futures at the time they chose.  By attending adjustment to blindness training, these individuals are focusing forward on the lives they plan to have – lives where they define who they are and what they do.  And like Hamilton, they are not throwing away their shot.


One of these students, Ayda Amoun, is an asylee from Sudan.  Ayda was blinded as an adult as a result of a violent attack.  Ayda came to the United States to build a better life for herself, because resources for blind women were non-existent in her home country.  In December 2020, a local refugee resettlement aid organization contacted the NFBMD to connect Ayda to us and to find out if we could help her find resources for gaining independence.  Ayda spoke limited English and, because of her status as an asylee, is not entitled to Social Security benefits.  Fortunately, DORS recognized the urgency in getting Ayda adjustment to blindness training and appreciated the need for her to get that training immediately.  Ayda was fearful of flying alone, so the NFBMD arranged for an escort to take her to LCB who could also provide some language interpretation.  The affiliate worked to prepare her for her training, including helping her get a government-issued ID for travel, getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and purchasing necessary items and equipment she would need for training, including a smart phone.  I’m pleased to share that Ayda enrolled in LCB in April 2021 and is doing well.  Ayda is a prime example of someone who was determined to focus forward on her terms, in her chosen time period, and she didn’t let her challenges get in her way.


We have been working both in the general assembly and in the courts to end segregated voting based on disability in Maryland.  Marie Cobb, Ruth Sager, and Joel Zimba are the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit that the NFB and the Maryland affiliate filed against the Board of Elections to fight for desegregated voting.  Many others contacted their elected officials and shared their voting experiences and challenges, which was instrumental to the legal and legislative advocacy efforts we’ve mounted on this issue.  In Maryland, it is unconscionable that ballots of those with disabilities are a different shape, size, and appearance than those using the hand-marked ballot, making the ballots of those with disabilities identifiable.  I’m pleased to share that after four years of legislative advocacy and two and a half years of legal advocacy, the Maryland State Board of Elections and the NFB have entered into settlement.  Though the settlement does not go as far as we would like, it is a good first step toward desegregating voting for individuals with disabilities.  The settlement requires that certain polling locations have more than one ballot marking device (BMD), requires at least 10 individuals use the BMD at each polling location, implements mandatory training on the use of BMDs, implements certain consequences for failure to reach the 10-person minimum threshold, and reimburses the NFB for its legal fees.


Voting is one critical way we focus forward.  Participation in our own governance, including choosing who represents us in the halls of government, is foundational to defining what our future looks like.  As the “Hamilton” lyric states, “if you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?”  To that end, we are committing not to stop at the point where the settlement ends.  Instead, we will stand for the right to vote independently and privately.  We will continue the fight to fully desegregate voting. 


More, we will advocate to ensure that those who opt to use vote by mail can submit their ballot independently.  As a result of legal advocacy on the part of the Maryland affiliate and the NFB, Maryland has an accessible platform to mark the ballot.  But submitting the ballot requires physically printing the paper ballot that was marked, signing the ballot, addressing, and mailing the ballot.  This, for many blind people, cannot be done independently, which means our ballots are not secret as required by law.  As we focus forward, we will tackle this and many other issues to ensure voting in Maryland is accessible, private, and desegregated.


We continue to focus forward on equal access to information.  In 2018, Cindy Morales, Linwood Boyd, Melissa Sheeder, and the NFBMD and NFB filed suit against Walmart for Walmart’s use of inaccessible check-out kiosks.  In one particularly egregious incident, a Walmart employee who operated the inaccessible kiosk to assist Cindy Morales, used the kiosk to get cash back from Cindy without her consent.  The lack of accessibility for Walmart kiosks created an environment and opportunity for a Walmart employee not only to have access to Cindy’s private financial information, but also to steal from her. 


Unfortunately, this summer, the assigned judge ruled in favor of Walmart, who argued that Walmart did not have a legal obligation to make kiosks accessible.  And as the lyrics in “Hamilton” the musical say, “When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game.  But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game.  Oh, you get love for it, you get hate for it, but you get nothing if you wait for it.”


And we in the NFB have skin in the game and refuse to ‘wait for it.’  That is why we have initiated an appeal of this travesty of justice. 


We know in the National Federation of the Blind that it is critical to teach blind children Braille and other skills as early as possible in order for them to compete on terms of equality with their sighted peers.  However, we face a critical teacher shortage in Maryland; this teacher shortage has particularly impacted teachers of blind students, the consequences of which are terrifying.  One Maryland school district has not been able to hire a Teacher of Blind Students for nearly four years.  Other districts are operating with significantly fewer teachers of the blind than they need to effectively serve our blind students.


The NFB and the NFBMD decided to create solutions to remedy this problem.  We approached the Maryland State Department of Education with a novel idea.  We wanted to create a loan forgiveness program for teachers who got their TBS certification and taught blind students in Maryland schools for a substantial period of time.  As a result of this effort, in October, the NFB, NFBMD, Maryland State Department of Education, and Louisiana Tech University launched a program to train and certify teachers of the blind, and in exchange for a commitment of working in Maryland schools for a set period, the cost of their tuition would be forgiven.  This will doubtlessly attract more teachers of blind students to Maryland, and we intend to retain them.  With this program, we are focusing forward on our children so they can receive the quality education to which they have a legal right. 


But while we as an organization worked diligently on outward facing initiatives, we also rededicated ourselves to supporting our members.  When many of our members struggled to use inaccessible systems to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations, we took matters into our own hands and organized a vaccine clinic at our national headquarters.  There, we vaccinated more than 120 people, doubtlessly saving lives.  We even invited members of the Maryland Council of the Blind to the clinic, because we serve all Maryland’s blind, regardless of affiliation. 


We continued to provide COVID-19 relief in the form of our COVID-19 Financial Assistance Program.  To date, we have provided nearly $16,000 in financial support for blind Marylanders.  The COVID-19 grants paid for housing, utilities, groceries, medication, and necessities for more than 25 people.  For each of those individuals, this grant was a critical lifeline during the pandemic.  I am grateful to the many generous donors who augmented the affiliate’s COVID-19 response fund so that we could help as many people as possible. 


The pandemic also forced us to reimagine how we do advocacy.  For decades, we have held an annual Day in Annapolis on the second Thursday of the Maryland legislative session.  We all have fond memories of trooping to the general assembly, often in big NFB center vans, Emma with no heat and that unique smell that only Emma has.  We arrived at the capitol and made our way into whatever room Sharon Maneki secured for us that year.  Sometimes we had a legislator greet us, more often we had some other group try to tell us we were in their room.  Then we’d be assigned our groups, and the two ballots would come out, or whatever other visual aide we were using that year.  And off we went in our groups of fours and fives to attend seemingly 10,000 appointments that day; in reality, there were probably 15 or 16 appointments per team. 


And at the end of the day, after we’d met with all 188 Maryland legislators, we’d head to Buddy’s where we’d have a boisterous debriefing over ribs. 


Well, the pandemic made us have to reconfigure how we educated our elected officials.  We also didn’t have the technology resources to conduct 188 meetings in a single day – though we did try to arrange it if for no other reason than to preserve tradition.  Instead, we expanded Day in Annapolis to Week in Annapolis, and we managed to meet with the 188 elected officials over a week.  Instead of being “in the room where it happens,” we created the Zoom rooms where it happened.


Meanwhile, the Maryland General Assembly had never contemplated operating in a virtual environment.  In fact, the platform it used for citizens to sign up to provide oral or written testimony was wholly inaccessible.  Blind and other disabled people were locked out of democracy. 


In usual NFB style, we mobilized to compel the general assembly to fix the problem.  I’m pleased to say that within two weeks of our raising the issues to the general assembly, they had completed a redesign and upgrade of the MyMGA portal such that it was accessible.  It was critical to focus forward on preserving our right to engage with our elected representatives, and we were quite successful.


We continued our work in the Maryland General Assembly in 2021 and made significant progress on getting a bill adopted that strengthens the enforcement mechanisms in Maryland k-12 education technology procurement.  While it is clearly the law that school districts are required to obtain and use systems, programs, and resources that are accessible, the pandemic created an urgency that often resulted in sacrificing accessibility for expediency.  More, schools don’t know which platforms and resources are accessible, and by the time they learn they are not, those platforms and resources have already been purchased and integrated into the infrastructure.  This legislation will give school districts the tools they need to procure accessible and hold accountable vendors that fail on accessibility commitments or otherwise misrepresent the accessibility of their products. 


We have spent much of the summer working with school districts and other stakeholders to rework the bill so that it receives support from all involved.  We are focusing forward on ensuring that school districts procure accessible equipment and technology so as to invest in the future of our blind children and education system.


This past March, Maryland was invited to step in as the host affiliate for the 2021 National Federation of the Blind National Convention.  I’m proud to say our members rose to the occasion spectacularly.  More than 50 members came together to arrange for virtual tours, write articles and blog posts, commission merchandise, plan entertainment, create an educational and intriguing opening ceremony, solicit contributions for the grand prize, execute fun and energetic fit breaks, administer contest after contest and so much more.  I want to express tremendous gratitude to everyone who planned and executed the literally hundreds of tasks related to Maryland’s host duties, and I particularly want to thank Juhi Narula for co-chairing this effort despite being enrolled full-time in adjustment to blindness training.  I have no doubt that Maryland will be remembered as one of the most creative and energetic host affiliates in NFB history. 


This past year, we lost several key members of our organization.  Don Morris, Jean Faukner, and Lloyd Rasmussen, among others, were towering figures in our movement.  A common theme in the musical “Hamilton” involved individuals asking, have I done enough?  We can say with certainty that Don, Lloyd, Jean, and so many others who have led our movement and who are no longer with us have definitely done enough.  “Legacy, what’s a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden that you never get to see,” “Hamilton.”  These incredible people, through their decades of advocacy and commitment to advancing the rights of the blind, planted seeds that have and will continue to sprout into a legacy that lives in all of us.  Don, Jean, and Lloyd, we love and miss you, and we’re so grateful for all that you’ve given us.


This past year, the Maryland affiliate has dedicated significant time, energy, and resources to shoring up our foundation as an organization that welcomes and embraces all blind people and those who are concerned with blindness issues.  We have hosted several trainings and workshops on consent and boundaries and will continue this work in the coming months and years.  Every elected leader in the affiliate attended at least one training on consent, boundaries, and power dynamics.  Our parent and student divisions held a joint workshop that featured, among other critical topics, how to apply such principles to young people and kids.  The affiliate board of directors attended the NFB’s RAINN (stands for Rape, Abuse & Incest, National Network) training.  Each chapter received a primer on consent, boundaries, and power dynamics.  We are committed not only to ensuring the safety of all members and participants, but we know that just like in most areas, we are and will be the gold standard of how to do this right. 


We also are working to expand our efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion in Maryland.  This remains an area of vital importance for us, and we commit to dedicating more time and energy in this area.  Those interested in working on DEI in Maryland are encouraged to contact Committee Chair Qualik Ford.


These are just some of the highlights from the past year.  This affiliate is among the strongest in the nation not simply because of its size but because of its energy, love, and commitment.  Every time we have asked individuals to step up, they have done so without reservation.  Instead, they’ve done so with enthusiasm.  Whether it is through our participation in the NFB BELL Academy, or supporting the NFB Teachers of Tomorrow program, attending IEP meetings, helping individuals receive COVID-19 vaccines and tests, planning and executing a state convention and supporting a national convention, buying raffle tickets, candy bars, and nuts, and so on and so on.  All of it matters.  All of it is critical to advancing the rights of the blind in Maryland. 


In his 2021 NFB banquet speech entitled “Reflection, Revolution, and Race: A Growing Understanding within the Organized Blind Movement,” President Riccobono said:


“We know who we are, and we will never go back. Together as blind people, we march forward and learn from our past: a past that is filled with successes and failures, both informing our future. Our past taught us that we must speak and act for ourselves. Our present demands that we do the hard work necessary to go beyond where we have perceived our own limits to be. Our future requires a unified and authentic blind-led revolution to fulfill the dream. This is the commitment we make to each other. This is the love, hope, and determination felt in our march.”


George Washington said in “Hamilton,” “I know that we can win.  I know that greatness lies in you.  But remember from here on in, that history has its eyes on you.” 


When history looks back on the NFBMD, it’ll see the narrative we wrote for ourselves, that we rose up and stood for the rights of the blind.  After all, we have worked to build this movement, and because we’ve fanned the flame, it’ll outlive us.  That, my fellow federationists, is how we focus forward: by doing what needs to be done today, by remembering the lessons and gifts that we gained from those who came before us, and by knowing that we define our future ourselves.  Fellow federationists, as we conclude an incredibly challenging year, I’m filled with hope.  Because of you, because of the National Federation of the Blind, our future is limitless!



The Eleventh Hour Session

By: Sharon Maneki
[Editor’s Note: Sharon Maneki serves as NFBMD’s director of legislation and advocacy.  One function of this role is spearheading our legislative advocacy efforts.  Sharon is well-known in Annapolis for her tenacity and innovative methods for garnering support for our initiatives.  Below is a round-up of our 2022 legislative efforts.]


In Maryland, the governor and all of the members of the general assembly are elected for terms of four years. Candidates for governor, senator, and delegate will stand for election on November 8, 2022.  The last session of the term is always especially hectic and more unpredictable.  Delegates and senators want to make the most of their last opportunity in the term to bring home the bacon to their constituents and to accomplish unmet goals.  The session was further complicated because we entered session in January under the cloud of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which created changes and disruptions to the operations of the Senate and House of Delegates.  Consequently, we had to be more flexible and persistent to have dialog with legislators.    


When the session began on January 12, 2022, all committee hearings were held virtually and visits to the offices of legislators were very restricted.  We were not deterred by COVID-19 rules. We contacted the 188 members of the general assembly and met with them over Zoom to explain our priorities for the 444th session.  Our Week in Annapolis, which began on January 20, ended up being a week in a half because of the ever-changing schedules of delegates and senators.  On February 14, Senate committees started holding in-person hearings.  Senators became more in-person accessible.  Trying to talk to members of the House of Delegates remained challenging throughout the session because they frequently worked from home since they did not have daily floor sessions.  House committees did their work virtually throughout the 90-day session. 


We overcame the COVID-19 challenges and achieved our goals of greater accessibility for the blind and print disabled citizens of Maryland.  Many thanks to Governor Hogan and to the general assembly for continuing to fund the Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access to Commerce, Education and Information (CENA), so best practices in the development of accessible hardware and software will become widespread in Maryland. 




For the second year in a row, the NFBMD worked to convince the general assembly that accountability procedures were needed to ensure local school systems purchase educational accessible digital tools.  The bill failed last year because of opposition from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland.


We began working on the 2022 bill soon after the 2021 session ended.  The Greater Baltimore chapter invited Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson to its June meeting to emphasize the importance of accessible education and to demonstrate the failure of local school systems throughout the state to properly accommodate students with disabilities.  Ferguson represents the 46th district.  Many of our national staff and the Jernigan Institute itself are part of the 46th district.  Ferguson and Ross Seidman, senior advisor of the Office of the Senate President, were invaluable in bringing all the stakeholders together to see if we could agree on a bill.  President Ronza Othman, John Pare and Sharon Maneki represented the organized blind movement.  Our partners at the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) were Assistant Superintendent Marcella Franczkowski, Conchita Hernandez who serves as the statewide blind and low-vision specialist, Val Emrich who serves as director of instructional technology, and Brandon Riesett who serves as a technology accessibility specialist; they understood the accessibility problems and were very persuasive in pushing for strong legislation. Delegate Michele Guyton, sponsor of the house bill in the 2021 session, stuck with us and made significant contributions to our discussions.  Seidman kept the process moving by using the feedback of the group to put many drafts of a possible bill together.  All sides made compromises.  We had a stronger bill to present to the Maryland General Assembly in 2022. 


Senator Craig Zucker and Delegate Michele Guyton introduced companion bills SB617 and HB547. Many thanks to Senate cosponsors Ferguson, Lam, Klausmeier, Hayes, Waldstreicher, Jackson, Hettleman, Beidle, and Jennings.  We also appreciate the following cosponsors of HB547: Delegates Bartlett, Belcastro, Cardin, Feldmark, Foley, Forbes, Fraser-Hidalgo, Jackson, Johnson, D. Jones, Kaiser, Korman, Krebs, Lehman, Lierman, Love, Metzgar, Patterson=, Ruth, Shetty, and Stein. 


In addition to getting cosponsors for each bill, we had to persuade legislators that there was a problem that could be solved by legislation.  We created a video to give concrete examples of accessible and inaccessible programs.  Many thanks to Monica, Isaiah, and Jonah Rao, and Naudia Graham who identified accessible and inaccessible platforms and demonstrated the difference.  The video turned out to be a great tool for members to persuade legislators during our Zoom meetings.  The video was also helpful to members of the Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee who determined whether our bills would proceed to the entire Senate and House for further consideration.  To view the video “Blind Students Demonstrate Accessibility of Software Used in Classrooms,” visit


During committee hearings, we continued to provide firsthand information about the struggle to access instruction due to the lack of accessibility.  Many thanks to Derrick Day, a sophomore at Westminster High School and Dominique Sanders, the mother of Riley who is in the third grade at Harford Hill Elementary School in Baltimore County for their excellent testimony. Once again, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland proposed lots of amendments to the bills. Once again, all of the stakeholders had to make some compromises. The Senate passed SB617 on March 2.  The House Ways and Means Committee heard HB547 on February 24 but took no action until April 7.  Our members and their families and friends persisted in emailing and calling Eric Ebersole, chairman of the Early Childhood and Special Education Subcommittee, and Vanessa Atterbeary, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, urging them to take action. On April 8, the House passed SB617 and HB547, but had different amendments than the Senate bill. On April 9, at the 11th hour, one day before the session ended, the Senate agreed with the House amendments to SB617, so the bill was officially passed.  I am pleased to report that Governor Hogan signed SB617 into law on April 21, 2022.  


Provisions of the new law:               

The law goes into effect on July 1, 2022, but the law will not be fully implemented until 2024.


(I) “Beginning September 1, 2023, an invitation for bids or request for proposals for a digital tool issued by the state board or a local school system shall require a vendor to submit an accessibility conformance report that includes a voluntary product accessibility template.

(II) the accessibility conformance report required in subparagraph (I) of this paragraph shall explain how information and communication technology products, including software, hardware, electronic content, and support documentation, conform to the most recent section 508 standards for information technology accessibility under the federal rehabilitation act of 1973.

(4) (3) (I) a local school system shall establish a process to evaluate a digital tool being considered for development or purchase for conformity with the requirements of this section.

(II) the evaluation process established under subparagraph (i) of this paragraph shall include evaluation of the digital tool for equivalent access and nonvisual access by an employee or a contractor of the local school system who:
1. Specializes in accessibility and web content accessibility guidelines; or 2. Is a blindness specialist who is knowledgeable in accessibility.
(III) (5) (4) a procurement contract for a digital tool shall require a vendor to indemnify the state board or a local school system for liability and costs arising from the failure of the digital tool to meet the requirements of this section.


On or before October 1, 2023, and each October thereafter, each local school system shall submit a report to the department on the accessibility of the digital tools the local school
system developed or purchased for use during the immediately preceding fiscal year.
(2) the department shall compile the information received under paragraph (1) of this subsection and make the information available on the department’s website, including the status of the accessibility of the digital tools used in each local school system.


II) Beginning October 1, 2024, following an evaluation of technology–based instructional products digital tools, a local school system shall select, from among the available products that offer pedagogical value, the available product that best meets the equivalent access standards and has the greatest functionality for equivalent access for students with disabilities, including blindness.

(2) (I) If a local school system determines that a product that meets the equivalent access standards is not available, or if obtaining an available product would fundamentally alter the nature of the instructional activity or would result in an undue burden, the local school system shall notify the department.

(II) After the department receives a notice under subparagraph (I) of this paragraph, the department shall consult with the department of information technology and the department of disabilities to ensure that another product is purchased that will offer an effective educational option to allow the local school system to obtain a product that does not meet the equivalent access standards but provides the best equivalent access functionality.

(III) If, after the consultation process, the department determines that there is an available product that meets the equivalent access standard, a local school system shall obtain that product.

(IV) If, after the consultation process, the department determines that there is no available product that meets the equivalent access standards, a local school system may, with the department’s approval, obtain a product that does not meet the equivalent access standards but provides the best equivalent functionality.”


The bill also provides modest penalties against vendors who do not correct accessibility issues in their product after being notified of the problem. 


The members of the NFBMD have had many partners and friends in the Maryland General Assembly.  We wish those members who are retiring or pursuing other interests much success and happiness in their future endeavors.  We look forward to many years of success with those members who will return to the general assembly.  Everyone should exercise his or her right to vote.  Thank you for helping the blind of Maryland to live the lives we want. 



Good News about ABLE Accounts


[Editor’s note: One purpose of this magazine is to share information that will enable Maryland’s blind to live the lives they want.  Below is an important update about Maryland ABLE accounts.]

Do you have a Maryland ABLE account?  The purpose of this account is to help persons with disabilities achieve a better life experience (ABLE) without losing benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.  Anyone who became disabled before age 26 is eligible for an ABLE account.  The Maryland ABLE December 2021 Newsletter offers the following good news: The Annual Contribution Limit Increases in 2022.


“ABLE’s standard Annual Contribution Limit is tied to the annual gift tax exclusion set by the IRS.  The annual exclusion for gifts will increase to $16,000 for 2022, up from $15,000.  Therefore, effective January 1, 2022 the standard Annual Contribution Limit for an ABLE account will increase to $16,000 per calendar year.”


This is good news because prior to 2022, account holders could only contribute $15,000 a year to their ABLE account.  You still may not have more than a total of $100,000 in your ABLE account.  For more information about the Maryland ABLE program, visit


Will You Help Us Right this Wrong?


[Editor’s note: Many of you may recall that Rachel Olivero, a leader in the NFB and NFBMD, strongly believed blind children could and should learn to code.  Rachel became involved in a project, coordinated in partnership with Lego, where children wrote code that operated robots.  Kids could compete with other groups of kids to see which robots performed best.  One key leader in this initiative is Gina Fugate.  Gina is a low-vision teacher of blind students at the Maryland School for the Blind (MSB), and she leads MSB’s coding programs.  Please read on for Gina’s and NFBMD’s call to action regarding accessible coding.]


Did you know that the Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) has been involved in First Lego League (FLL), where students of MSB learned to code and operate robots through their coding, since 2012?  Did you know that interest was so high for this hands-on robotics experience that a second team, 180 Optimum, also was formed in order to provide an opportunity for students not attending the MSB full time?  That’s right.  Blind and low-vision kids, just like kids around the world, were so excited about this opportunity that they met on Saturday mornings for four to six hours in order to participate fully in FLL via 180 Optimum.


FLL is part of FIRST, which stands for, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.  FIRST claims that it “. . . prepares young people for the future through a suite of inclusive, team-based robotics programs.”  During what is often called ‘robot season,’ teams gather at regional events to compete against 15 to 19 other teams.  Teams can go onto state, national, and even international competitions.  The day-long events involve teams competing in three rounds of a two-and-a-half-minute robot game that involves a programmed robot completing specific tasks on a large mat complete with Lego models that reflect the season’s theme.


For blind and low-vision students to independently program the Lego EV3 robot, our teams use the Quorum Programming Language and Quorum Studio.  The combination of the evidence-based programming language, as well as the accessible programming environment empowers blind students to have the opportunity to compete against sighted peers.  Upon arrival to FLL events, both the DOT5UDOGS and 180 Optimum teams seized the opportunity to teach sighted peers and other attendees that blind people can program robots, do research, and collaborate on teams.  Beyond the obvious success in participating in FLL, the DOT5UDOGS and 180 Optimum teams have never placed last in any aspect of the competition despite the challenge of inaccessible documents, videos without narrative description, a significant delay on the robot (Lego doesn’t support Quorum), and no extended time for any aspect of the game.


Quorum Studio is accessible with screen readers and Braille displays.  It also provides additional accessibility features like magnification.  Andreas Stefik, one of the co-founders of the Quorum Programming Language, is responsive to accessibility challenges and participated in “Lego Day” at the MSB.  The full-day presentation was hosted at the MSB in May of 2019 and included two FIRST representatives, along with assistive technology specialists, and others who have supported our teams in their journey.  The NFB was among those partners.


Unfortunately, despite Lego Day, the Lego EV3 Mindstorms was retired in June 2021.  Spike Prime, the new kit, does not provide support for Quorum and there is no funding to support a friendly hack.  Lego has not heeded the call to collaborate with Stefik to ensure inclusion.  As a result, our teams will run out of parts for the Lego EV3 system since it is no longer produced; the teams previously purchased new kits each year to allow for optimal batteries and motors, in addition to allowing each team member to have access to multiple parts and builds.


Out of approximately 50 robot educational coding toys, none of them are natively inclusive to the blind for text-based programming.  Quorum Lego Robotics was possible via a hack and gave the DOT5UDOGS and 180 Optimum teams an opportunity to directly experience robotics just like other students internationally.  Although Lego and FIRST were well aware of our teams’ success, as well as their call for improvements in accessibility and inclusion, the Lego EV3 was discontinued and the progress, or perhaps tolerance, that was made completely regressed.  Current discussions with FIRST have revolved around the game mat despite the fact that an inaccessible robot is a game stopper.


The truth is that the DOT5UDOGS and 180 Optimum teams did everything right.  They played hard, they modeled inclusion despite so many aspects that exclude them, and yet efforts have not been heard by Lego or FIRST.  Inaccessible materials, particularly including the robot, is purposeful exclusion.  Will you help us right this wrong?  We will share calls to action in the coming weeks and months.


Student Spotlight: Katelyn Siple


[Editor’s note: Katelyn Siple is someone many of you likely know, as she first met the federation as a child when her family sought our assistance with IEP advocacy.  Katelyn returned to the NFB when she was a John T. McCraw Scholarship winner in 2019, and since then she has been elected as the secretary of the Maryland Association of Blind Students, attended and graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and begun serving as NFBMD’s 2022 summer intern.  Katelyn is one of the 2022 National Federation of the Blind National Scholarship finalist.  Katelyn will be completing her junior year at Lancaster Bible College, working toward a bachelor’s in communications and biblical studies.  Below is Katelyn’s 2022 scholarship application essay, which will introduce Katelyn in her own words.]

I had been wandering around in the cold for a while and had no idea where I was.  Getting lost was a common occurrence for me, even on my small college campus.  I swept my cane with no strategy, looking for something that would tell me where I was and how to get to my next class.  I thought maybe if I could just listen for something; doors opening, people walking, I might be able to figure it out. It was getting colder by the second and to me, a drama queen with no travel skills it felt like I’d be lost forever.  When a professor saw me from the window of her second story office and braved the cold to walk all the way downstairs and outside to rescue me, I knew something had to change.  This is just one of the experiences that led me to the decision to receive formal adjustment to blindness training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.


During my time in training, I discovered that independence equals choices and choices equals freedom.  For me, freedom looks like feeling like I belong in a public place or in a group of friends.  Freedom feels like being able to get around in the way that works best for me and having the ability to make my own choices.  When I arrived, I was a shy out-of-place girl with hardly any skills and even less confidence, who viewed everything that happened to her as a tragedy and could never get past her blindness.  I now approach blindness with a confidence I fought long and hard for.  Even if I don’t know every independence skill, I can be creative, flexible, and adaptable in a world that wasn’t made for me.  I can solve problems and meet the needs of others.  I have a skillset that is valuable, complete with God-given talents and a drive to learn how to do what others say is impossible.


I am a 24-year-old college student studying the fields of communication and intercultural studies at Lancaster Bible College.  I recently deferred from college to attend training but will be returning in the fall of this year.  I hope to use my communication skills to help others, and further the work of important causes including the National Federation of the Blind.  I chose to minor in intercultural studies, so I can use my faith and passion to offer help and hope to other cultures as well as my own.  I have a deep love for writing and a deep longing to help others.  My goal is to find a career where my talent and passion can be used for the purpose of offering hope and help to others.


Another benefit of training was learning the options that are available for blind people.  My limited thinking caused me to believe blind people could only do certain jobs.  One of my mentors helped me realize that it is possible for blind people to work in fields that have been strictly thought of as too visual.  I have strongly considered becoming a midwife because it would be a dream come true to invest in the lives of women during such a wonderful life-changing time, and witness first-hand the miracle of birth.  I have also considered becoming a counselor because I am enthusiastic about mental health and helping people through difficult situations.


I hope to use this same approach in my work with the National Federation of the Blind.  I serve as the secretary of the Maryland Association of Blind Students, and as the secretary of the writer’s division on the national level.  Since becoming part of the federation I have found it to be a place of mentorship and encouragement.  I have looked for ways to give back to the organization just as it continues to give to me.  Knowing how it feels to be a blind person experiencing hopelessness because of a lack of resources and a negative blindness philosophy, I want to do my part to help others in that situation.  I am thankful for all the federation has done for me and I am honored to be considered for this scholarship.


Ruth Sager: Modeling How to Live the Life We Want

By Mary Ellen Jernigan

[Editor’s Note:  Ruth Sager was a vital member of the NFBMD in numerous ways.  Ruth served as the president of our Seniors Division, president of our Baltimore County Chapter, and mentor and friend to so many.  She also served for many years as president of our national Seniors Division and as the founder and instructor of the senior program at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM).  The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland honored Ruth with our highest award, the Kenneth Jernigan Award, at the NFBMD state convention on November 13, 2021.  Ruth passed away on April 9, 2022.  Below is what Mrs. Jernigan, chair of the NFBMD Kenneth Jernigan Award Committee, shared with the convention in presenting the award to Ruth.]


The recipient of tonight’s award is a woman with spirit and adventure. She was living the life she wanted before this slogan became part of our NFB philosophy. After graduating from college, she studied abroad in France. She managed to get herself a job teaching English at the school for the blind in France. She received a scholarship so that she could continue studying abroad in Belgium.


Ruth Sager found the NFB in 1977 when she lived in Virginia. No matter where she lived, the federation was a strong part of her life. When she moved to Connecticut in 1986, she became president of the Hartford Chapter. In 1989, she moved to Louisiana to become an independent living instructor at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. During this period, Ruth also served as the secretary for the NFB of Louisiana affiliate.


In 1995, Ruth moved to Maryland. Shortly thereafter, Ruth began her career at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) as an independent living instructor. Ruth worked for BISM for approximately 20 years. She was very interested in helping seniors obtain or maintain their independence. When Ruth first came to BISM there really weren’t any specified programs for seniors. Ruth was very instrumental in changing that. Today, thanks to Ruth’s efforts, we are able to have many graduates from the Seniors Achieving Independent Living (SAIL) program at this convention.


Although Ruth worked in the field of blindness, she always continued her own personal involvement in the federation. In 2003, Ruth became president of the Baltimore County Chapter and served in that office for 18 years. Ruth also served as president of the NFBMD Seniors Issues Division.  This division was established in 2002, and Ruth was its president from 2004 to the present.


Ruth became president of the National Seniors Division in 2012. As the president of the National Seniors Division, Ruth was instrumental in promoting special retreats. These are weeklong programs to give seniors a taste of learning the skills of blindness.


Ruth Sager deserves this award not only because of her own personal growth, but also because of her leadership and willingness to always give back to the community. Ruth Sager lives the life she wants and does her utmost to make sure everyone else, especially seniors losing vision, have the same opportunity to live the lives they want.


Chapter Spotlight: National Harbor

By Amber Woods and Sharon Maneki

[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.  The chapter to be highlighted in this issue is the National Harbor Chapter.]


Michelle Clark lost her sight later in life.  As a member of the NFB, Michelle understood blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future.  She regained her independence, became employed, and continued community activities that she enjoyed prior to losing her sight.  Michelle appreciated the love, hope, and determination that she received from the federation.  She wanted to spread our liberating philosophy to others, especially newly blind people.  As a long-time resident of Prince George’s County, Michelle was fed up with the lack of service for blind children and adults who lived in the county.  She was determined to start a local chapter of the NFB so that together, we could provide more opportunities for the blind.     


At state conventions of the NFB, the banquet is usually the highlight of the convention because of the inspirational speech by our national representative.  After the banquet at the 2009 convention, Michelle and a small group of friends began planning for the chapter.  The National Harbor Chapter was born in January 2010.  Built in Prince George’s County in 2008, the National Harbor is a complex of boutiques, restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues.  The National Harbor was not only a source of revenue for the county, but it increased the county’s stature.  Since, it put Prince George’s County on the map, members decided to name the chapter National Harbor to represent the opportunity the chapter would bring to blind people.


Local chapters of the NFB are similar because all of them implement national and state programs and projects.  At the same time, each local chapter is different because they have their own personalities and styles of operation.  For instance, every chapter fundraises, but the type of fundraising differs depending on the skills and interests of the members.  Most of the fundraisers in the National Harbor Chapter are parties or celebrations.  Since its founding in 2010, each January, the chapter celebrated its anniversary with a large party until it had to suspend in-person gatherings due to COVID-19.


All chapters of the NFB celebrate Blind Equality Achievement Month, but each celebration represents the unique characteristics and interests of the chapter.   For many years, the National Harbor Chapter conducted a resource fair every October.  The purpose of this fair was to introduce members to blindness services and services in the county.   The resource fair also was a great opportunity to educate Prince George’s County personnel about the capabilities and needs of blind people.   


Throughout its history, the chapter has emphasized improving services.  Many blind people in the area cannot get to Baltimore to obtain the skills of blindness.  Therefore, the chapter has always tried to bring services to its members.  Teaching Braille is a great example of this tradition.  Through its Estelle B. Williamson program, the Friends of the Library for the Blind gave the National Harbor Chapter a $2,000 grant to purchase supplies for its Braille club.  Ava Ferebee has been teaching Braille to chapter members since the inception of the program in approximately 2011.  Ava taught Braille in one of the offices at the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) in Lanham and received a well-deserved certificate of appreciation from DORS.  When the chapter moved its meeting place to Reed Temple, Ava came early to teach Braille to members before the meeting began.  When COVID-19 started and the chapter was not meeting in person, Braille class continued.  Ava taught people over the phone.  Today, Ava teaches beginning Braille and Rosalind Mackall teaches Grade II Braille.  If you want to learn Braille, contact Ava Ferebee at


Ava and Rosalind do not only teach Braille. They also are active members of the chapter.  Ava was secretary for many years and currently serves as a member of the board of directors.  Rosalind served on the board of directors for many years and has chaired some chapter committees.  She currently serves as second vice president of the chapter.


Amber Woods, who succeeded Michelle Clark as president of the chapter, has continued and expanded the service tradition of the chapter.  Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults.  The National Harbor Chapter wanted to help its members manage their diabetes.  In March 2021, Amber began to work with Prince George’s County Department of Family Services to see if blind people could take diabetes classes that were already being offered by the county.  County employees, especially Jackie Harley, the health promotion coordinator of the department, were very receptive.  As a result, members of the chapter, and a few members from throughout the state, took a six-week Living Well by Managing Diabetes workshop.


Before members could fully participate in the class, we had to eliminate accessibility barriers.  The National Harbor Chapter was awarded a grant for $2,500 from the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland Department of Disabilities.  The grant enabled Prince George’s County to purchase materials for the class from the Maryland Living Well Center of Excellence, which is part of the Maryland Department of Health. They purchased the following tools: Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, 5th Edition; Relaxation for Mind and Body; and Exercises for Chronic Conditions.  The leaders utilized these tools to conduct the workshops.  These materials were converted to MP3 files.  They were not only a valuable resource in the class but also will be a great resource for each blind student throughout life.


These classes were unique because each student developed their own goals.  The teachers did not preach, they presented evidence.  Topics for the workshop included: defining diabetes, carbohydrate counting, dealing with stress, addressing low and high blood sugar, appropriate exercise, and healthy eating/menu planning.


The following is what three participants had to say about this class:

“I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2009,” said Joyce Brooks.  “I have taken many diabetes classes that did not break down or explain thoroughly what type 2 diabetes really is.  This class was different because the instructors were passionate and wanted us to manage our diabetes better.  This class was an eye-opener.  Because of this class, I was able to get off insulin and now only have to take one pill a day.  I plan to continue to use the audio materials and look forward to continuing better health.”


“In this program, I learned how to set goals as a person with diabetes,” said Dee Kpodo.  “For example, my current goals are to exercise three times a week, to eat more green vegetables, and to check my glucose daily.  My glucose readings have improved since beginning to make these changes.  I have learned how to take control of my health.”


“This class saved my life,” said Amber Woods.  “I had no idea that my blood sugar was so high.  Through this program, I have learned that I must monitor blood sugar since I do not sense the symptoms for low or high blood sugar.  I appreciated the interactions with my peers and the instructor’s eagerness to ensure our materials were accessible.  This made retention easier and allowed me to take control of my health.”


Many thanks to Jackie Harley and Prince George’s County for including the blind in a valuable program offered to its citizens.  The National Harbor Chapter intends to continue providing education on diabetes now that we have opened this new door of opportunity.  The National Harbor chapter is changing what it means to be blind in Prince George’s County. 


For more information on these classes, please contact Amber Woods, president, National Harbor Chapter at 301-978-6686 or Jackie Harley at 443-386-1508.


Tribute to a Colleague and Friend: Michelle Slaughter Clark

By Melissa Riccobono


[Editor’s Note: Melissa Riccobono is a frequent contributor to this magazine.  She served as the affiliate president from 2008 to 2014.  Melissa knew Michelle Clark quite well, and the two worked together to found the National Harbor Chapter when Melissa was NFBMD president.  Below are Melissa’s reflections about her friend and colleague.]


It was late November, 2009 when I received my first phone call from Michelle Clark. I was president of the NFBMD at the time, and Michelle was calling to let me know how much she enjoyed our state convention, and to talk to me about the possibility of starting a chapter of the NFBMD in Prince George’s County.  I had never spoken to Michelle before, and I remember thinking several things when I hung up the phone after our conversation that day.  First, she seemed incredibly motivated and passionate about starting a new chapter.  Second, she certainly seemed to know a lot of people.  And third, while this project seemed extremely promising, I would consider it a win if we had our first meeting to discuss chapter organization in September or October of 2010.  After all, organizing chapters takes time. And the holidays were coming, which always slows work on any passion project a little.  And, Michelle was, after all, just coming off of a “convention high.”  Real life, particularly her work as a busy professional, would surely delay things some…


Yes, I freely admit, I completely underestimated Michelle Clark and her abilities to get things done!  I cannot remember precisely when the first organizing meeting for the National Harbor Chapter took place for sure, but it was absolutely not in the fall of 2010.  It was in the winter of 2010—I believe in late January!  And the room was full during that first meeting.  There were not just five to 10 interested people, but at least 30 people who came to see what the NFBMD and proposed National Harbor Chapter were all about.  Some came, I’m sure, because they were invited by someone who knew someone.  Some people maybe came only because they heard food was going to be served.  But I venture to guess the majority were in the room that day because they were invited by Michelle Clark.  That was just the type of person Michelle was.


During her time as president of the National Harbor Chapter, Michelle filled many more rooms for meetings, many more parks for picnics and even a crab feast, and many banquet halls for National Harbor Anniversary Celebrations.  Her warmth, enthusiasm, and ability to meet people exactly where they were in life truly set Michelle apart as a leader and friend.  Michelle always wanted her events to be welcoming, and did all she could to make sure everybody received the help they might need in order to participate fully in whatever activity was taking place.  Michelle never shied away from talking to anyone. Whether a chapter member, a possible donor or community partner, or someone she met on Metro Access, Michelle was always eager to share her knowledge of and love for the NFB and the ways her involvement in this organization had changed her life.


Michelle was extremely community minded.  She always strove to connect blind people with as many resources as possible, which led to her creation of County Resource Day.  This event took place for several years in October, and highlighted a variety of blindness specific, and more general organizations which offered a variety of help to citizens of Prince George’s County.  This was another event which started as a small idea, but grew because of Michelle’s organizational skills and ability to partner to a very impressive event bursting with fellowship and great information.


Michelle was also a woman with a very strong faith.  She was an extremely active member of her church, and she helped to organize prayer breakfasts in Prince George’s County as fund raisers for the National Harbor Chapter on more than one occasion.  Michelle also possessed a beautiful voice she often used to express her faith and feelings of joy.  I am sure there are recordings of some of the songs she sang over the years.  If you get the chance to listen to one of these, don’t miss the opportunity.  I always felt more joyful myself after listening to Michelle sing.


Another way I often shared joy with Michelle was through her wonderful contagious laugh.  Whenever I asked Michelle how she was, she always answered, “I can’t complain.”  This was true even when her health was causing her pain or other troubles; Michelle always remained as positive as she could, and always wanted to bring joy and love to others.


I am so grateful I had the opportunity to know Michelle Clark, and I am pleased to be able to share this tribute with all of you.  Her presence will be missed in the National Harbor Chapter, at state and national conventions, at gatherings were food and fellowship take place, and in so many other places and ways in our NFBMD family.  Rest in peace, my bold, passionate, big-hearted friend.  I am sure you are singing wherever you are, that you are enjoying great food and wonderful conversations with those you love, and that you are helping to organize something, or giving your thoughts on the ways things can be improved, more welcoming, or just more fun.  Your spirit can now soar, with no pain to hold you back.  We will miss you here with us, but you will never be forgotten, so in a way, you will always still be here.


Student Spotlight: Shawn Abraham


[Editor’s note: Shawn Abraham is a prominent member of the federation.  He serves as treasurer of the Maryland Association of Blind Students, volunteered at NFB BELL Academy in Glen Dale, Maryland for many years, graduated from the Colorado Center for the Blind, and taught at the Colorado Center for the Blind 2021 summer program.  Shawn also received an NFBMD John T. McCraw scholarship in 2020.  Shawn is one of the 2022 National Federation of the Blind National Scholarship finalist.  Shawn is a rising senior at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, working to earn a bachelor’s in political science and international relations.  Below is Shawn’s scholarship application essay, which will introduce Shawn in Shawn’s own words.]


“You’re lucky to have grown up in America,” my mother would tell me.  She reminded me constantly that I had to work harder than sighted people did, of the fate that would have awaited me in India, with its stifling attitudes about disability.  But it seemed like every auntie and uncle in our community had packed up those same attitudes, and brought them to the U.S. with them.  After the litany of doctor’s appointments ended, the blindness confirmed, I was shuffled from priest-to-priest, nun-to-nun, prayed over at every church and religious gathering.  The Lord was tearfully entreated, in multiple languages, to cure my affliction.  I wondered if, in America, even God answered more prayers.


My family found the National Federation of the Blind soon after, and attended a couple conventions.  But I believe the message of independence was lost on most of them.  “Send him to a blind school,” people told my mother.  But she did not.  She advocated for my education before I knew how, gave me braille books as a child, and flew me to blindness summer programs.  At school, I was painfully aware of my difference.  Blindness made me feel alone.  Additionally, the other Indian kids could not comprehend why I was Catholic, why my mom was divorced, why my name sounded so white.  In middle school, one of my closest Indian friends said to me, “You’re not even Indian, are you?  You’re just a tan Christian.”


I would tell my mother that I wanted to study politics, not the South Asian prescribed regiment of science or technology.  Many shouting matches ensued.  These interests did not make any sense to my traditionally-minded mother.  Finally, I had enough.  I felt like my culture was choking me.  So, I stuffed that culture, along with my blindness, into a small, airtight box, and threw away the key.


It was many years before this perspective changed.  It finally happened at the 2020 Washington Seminar.  I met other blind students who were also South Asian.  We huddled together in a hotel room, blasting Hindi music, sharing our experiences, the words tumbling out in a rush.  We reached out to discover the invisible threads that bound us together.  It was like a touch, a sigh, a word in our language that could be simply shared and did not need to be explained.  Because, we understood.


This was only the beginning.  My friendships grew, and so did my confidence.  I taught cane travel at the Colorado Center for the Blind to high school students.  Teaching challenged me in unexpected ways.  I was always told that as a blind person, fashion and style were beyond my reach.  But with years of diligent effort, I am now someone who has routinely taught seminars and written articles on the topic.  I competed in collegiate wrestling on the national level, served on the Maryland Association of Blind Students board for almost three years, and became a resident assistant on my school’s campus.


As for my culture?  When a friend started an organization about bicultural identity, I began to write articles on the subject.  I voraciously devoured every morsel of knowledge that I could on South Asia.  I gorged myself on classes, podcasts, and books.  I hosted multiple panels on culture and disability.  I didn't so much open the box as smash it to pieces.


The world is changing, and quickly.  Just as society sees the visual way of doing things as unquestioningly superior two alternatives, so has the world revered western culture.  But today, other countries are rising.  The richness of their people, my people, have too long been ignored.  This is why I am studying political science with a strong focus on international relations.  It is what has driven me to learn the basics of three languages, and grow proficiency in three others.  In my career, this means finding solutions to international problems that require intercultural competence.  And in my own life, it means embracing my cultures and encouraging others to do the same, so that they too, may reach into their own boxes, and discover what they may have been missing.


Readers Speak: What They Want Us to Know

By Lauren McLarney, Blaire Freed, and Ronza Othman

[Editor’s note: The below is a transcript of a panel that was conducted at the NFBMD state convention on November 13, 2021.  Blaire Freed and Lauren McLarney both serve as human readers to blind individuals and organizations.  They shared their perspectives, advice, and experiences on this panel that Ronza Othman moderated.]



Ronza Othman: One key tool for blind people is the use of a human reader to access information that would otherwise be inaccessible.  This next panel includes two outstanding readers.  As blind people, we have our perspective on how to work with a reader and what works and what doesn’t.  It is interesting to think about what it is like from the perspective of a reader.   Lauren McClarney is an attorney who previously worked at the National Federation of the Blind in the Governmental Affairs Department.  She volunteers as a reader for the NFB and is known as one of the Scholarship Committee’s favorite readers.  She speedreads.  She also has a side business working as a reader and fashion consultant for the blind.  Blaire Freed works as a human reader for a federal agency.  She works with attorneys, physicians, and other blind professionals on a daily basis.  She also is a human reader employed by the NFBMD, including reading for our state scholarship committee. 


Can you tell us how you got into reading for the blind?


Lauren McLarney: The answer is a lot less interesting than I suspect Blaire’s is going to be.  But for starters, thank you for the introduction, Ronza, but reader and attorney are synonymous.  If you know anyone who is a lawyer or works with a lawyer, all we do is read. 


I got involved reading for the scholarship committee at the National Federation of the Blind when I worked there.  The scholarship committee procedures are mostly confidential, but sighted staff are recruited to read aloud some of the essays, I was one of those people who was recruited. And it turned out I just really liked the people who are on the scholarship committee and they liked the speed at which I read.  After I left the NFB staff to go to law school, like a real nerd during finals, I volunteered to come back and read for the scholarship committee because I just had fun.  Now I’ve been doing it for more than 10 years.  Then I got invited into the secret special meeting, and that was extra fun.  That’s how I got involved with reading.


Blaire Freed: I did contract work most of my career the last 30 years.  One of the contracts was with the Department of Health and Human Services.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  My first time reading for somebody, he asked me to read, and I read through these applications that were 70 pages long.  I read at a “normal” pace.  He said, “you can read faster.”  So, I sped up my pace a little bit more.  A few minutes later, he asked me to read faster.  So, I sped up some more, and then he asked me to read faster.  This kept happening.  Eventually, I was reading at a speed where I couldn’t understand what I was reading myself.  And then, I heard his JAWS reading [blah blah blah really fast sounds].  I realized there’s no way I’m going to be able to read at the speed of JAWS.  So, you read what you can.  That was my first experience, maybe four or five years ago.  So now I work as sometimes the eyes and the hands of a variety of people.  That’s how I got started, completely by accident.


Ronza Othman: What is your favorite part about reading for blind people?


Blaire Freed: My favorite part is probably that the person I’m reading for is able to execute a decision based on the information that they received because I read something that they weren’t able to read.  And so, you hear it at the end; sometimes you don’t know where it’s going, and you’re reading, and you’re reading, and they ask you to go back, and you go back three paragraphs, then they say to go back to the third sentence, and then they say hold on, and there’s this dead silence, and it sounds like it’s going for 10 minutes but it’s probably 10 seconds.  And then all of a sudden, they say, “OK, done,” and I’m thinking, “what did you do?” and “how did you do it?”  All I heard was “repeat this,” “go back,” “go forward,” and then all of a sudden, you’re done.  I figure I did something right.  For me, the best part is the reward.


Lauren McLarney: I have three favorite parts.  First, my ego likes hearing how fast I am, because any time I read anything aloud for a sighted person, without fail, they’re like, “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down, I have no idea what you just said.”  It always makes me feel crummy.  Then when I am reading for blind people, who, as Blaire said, are used to processing through JAWS at the speed of light, when I’m fast, people are all like, “this is so great, you’re so fast, I love it.”  My ego likes that.


Another thing I like is when I read essays for the scholarship committee, I get to be the voice of the applicant in some ways.  It brings their story to life.  If any of you have applied for the scholarship program, you know that you have to tell them about yourself, and I like bringing to life what they’re saying about themselves instead of it just being read in a synthetic voice. 


The third thing that I like is getting insight into what is a good essay.  For me personally, when I quit the NFB to go to law school, I had to write a personal statement.  I read hundreds, if not thousands of essays.  So, I know the things you see over and over again, and I know what gets people excited.  It’s fun to watch the committee go, “I like her,” meaning whoever the person is you’re reading about, and you know what makes that person come alive on the page.  I now feel like I can put that into practice for myself.


Ronza Othman: What part of being a reader do you dislike?


Lauren McLarney: Well, when I make a mistake, it’s a little embarrassing.  I also think it is a challenge to decipher what kinds of errors to identify and what errors not to identify.  For example, if I’m reading an essay, and it has a typo where the word “there” is wrong, like “I’ve always wanted to go their” spelled “t-h-e-i-r”, I say that out loud; other times, the error might not be an obvious error, like too many spaces between paragraphs.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that out loud.  I remember for the first few years of reading out loud, I’d point out the errors in the president’s letter.  I’d be like, “period, double period, triple period.”  At some point, someone was like, “we don’t need to know that.  We don’t care.”  They want the errors in the applicant essays, but not the errors in the president’s letters.  They just want the content.  I find deciphering when to say out loud an error and when not to, to be a challenge.  Also, when someone asks, “does it say anything about X?”  I think, oh God, I have to skim it really quickly.  There’s a little bit of pressure there, but that might be pressure I’m putting on myself.


Blaire Freed: When I mispronounce something I’m not impressed with myself to say the least.  I try to get the cadence correct, so if there’s a comma, or colon, or semicolon, I try to pause appropriately.  When you’re reading quickly, sometimes that doesn’t happen.  There’s also an inflection in the voice.  I sometimes kind of end up interpreting something, and I think, “is that how that person meant that to be when they wrote it?”  Maybe I’m reading something from someone who is very technical, like a physician or a nurse, or it could be policy, or it could be a poem from somebody 200 years ago, somebody long dead.  I’m thinking, “I don’t know how to read poetry.”  I think that’s about the only part of it that I don’t like.  You don’t always get a lot of feedback when you’re a reader, so I don’t always know if I’m doing something helpful or helpful with a glitch, or helpful with five glitches, or at the end the person is going to call my boss and say, “yeah, can you get me somebody else?  She was nice but…”  That’s the part that is an unknown.


Ronza Othman: What things do people that you read for do that drives you nuts?


Blaire Freed: If I talk over the person inadvertently, that drives me nuts.  If they’re talking at the same time, I have to remind myself, “shut up, they’re the one who needs the assistance, so listen to them.”  Then there will be a pattern where they will say “We’re going to read A, then B, then C, and then D.”  So, then I get into this groove, and the pattern’s going, and then they say “hold on,” and then I stop and hold my breath and ask myself if I did something wrong.  No, it’s fine, they’re fine.  They’re thinking.  I have no idea what their perception of me is, I have no idea what I look like or sound like to them, so that’s always something that sits in the back of my mind if there’s a pause.  I may have done nothing wrong, and they may have done nothing wrong.  Talking over someone drives me nuts because I do it all the time.


Lauren McLarney: I think I mentioned this earlier.  I don’t like when someone says, “Does it say anything about X?”  Because one of the things that I’ve learned to do as a reader is I’m an aide for the blind people who are listening to me.  It isn’t up to me to decide what is important, what is not important, what they want to hear, what they don’t want to hear; I don’t select what I think is more important than other things.  I’m just reading the words on the page.  So, when someone is asking me to exercise any discretion, to hurry up and skim through a document and tell me if they say anything about sports, that’s not really what happens but I’m giving it as an example, I don’t like having to exercise that discretion, because sometimes they might have mentioned something that’s sporty, but not sports; I don’t want to decide, so I’ll just read it anyway. 


Ronza Othman: Does it bother you when people for whom you are reading are brash, like you could be in the middle of reading, and they say, “next” instead of using whole sentences to communicate back with you?


Lauren/Blaire: [in unison] No.


Blaire Freed: It’s feedback, and we need feedback.  If you don’t tell us to go faster or slower, to pause, if you don’t tell us how to do it the way you need to have it done in order for you to understand it, it isn’t a successful exercise.  I’d rather someone just came right out and said whatever it was that they needed.  One guy once asked me, “Would you like to get a drink?  Your voice sounds a little horse.”  I’d probably been reading for an hour and a half and had run out of water but didn’t want to interrupt him because he seemed to be getting a lot accomplished.  So, I was relieved for that and learned to just ask if I need a break or water or a cough drop. 


LIFE SAVERS. I love LIFE SAVERS when you’re reading.


Ronza Othman: What are some reading hacks that you use?


Blaire Freed: I’d say if you’re at your house, you could always get some hot tea with a little lemon, and that sooths your throat if you’re doing a lot of reading.  It probably just calms you in general, makes for a nice day if it is herbal tea.  And the LIFE SAVERS.  I’m partial to cherry and lemon.


Watermelon JOLLY RANCHERS are too big.  See this is an important topic.  Watermelon JOLLY RANCHERS are too big, so if suddenly they ask you something after they said “hold on,” and you stick the watermelon JOLLY RANCHER in your mouth, and then they say “ok, go ahead,” you’ve now got this huge lump of a rock in your mouth.  You sound garbled [making garbled noises], and it doesn’t work well.  That’s why LIFE SAVERS are good, because they’re small enough that you can chomp on them if you need to real quick.  And there’s a whole roll of them.  This is the other beautiful thing.  Don’t get the peppermint ones or the spearmint ones, because they don’t coat your throat.  You need the sugary ones, the whole roll, so if you get stuck having to bite into one, it’s OK, because there’s a whole bunch more.  And you might get a surprise, like every once in a while, there’s a grape one in there.  That’s pleasing if you like grape. 


They should change the name to job savers. 


Lauren McLarney: I would like the record to reflect that despite the fact that you could not hear him, Anil [Lewis] is literally bowled over laughing, like horizontal. 


My much less funny hack: Don’t drink soda while you’re reading.  You burp a lot. 


Ronza Othman: What other feedback do you have for blind people who use readers?  How can we be better clients?


Lauren McLarney: I think just expressing what you want is probably the clearest thing.  I’ve never met anyone in the federation who is not decent at expressing what they want.  What you want is important, so if you are asking me to read a name, which I often do in scholarship committee, I used to read the names really fast because I just wanted to get to the essay.  But these people are typing the names, so read it slow and spell it out.  The president’s letter, which is part of the scholarship application, presidents submit letters for applicants from their state, are something.  Tim Elder has written some pretty colorful letters, and he has made it clear that he wants me to deliver them as written.  And they may be written like, “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE! THIS PERSON IS ON FIRE!” He’s told me that’s how he wanted them read.  I’ve had other blind people who said, “I want you to go fast.  I don’t want you to be colorful.”  Just telling me what you want is probably the best advice I can give.


Blaire Freed: I agree.  I’m a plain-spoken blunt person anyway, so I appreciate if someone just tells it out like it is.  I also agree with the comment about soda.  I’m not a soda drinker, but every once in a while, something just slips in there and you never know.  You could be going through this very serious paragraph, and all of a sudden there’s a bit of a hiccup, and it’s on your end.  It sounds like a burp, and you just try to cover over it.  You keep talking because you are embarrassed about it.  But I’m pretty sure the other person heard it anyway.  There’s this myth that blind people have sharper hearing, so I’m convinced that they heard it 10 seconds before it came out.  So yeah, I agree, no soda.


Audience Question: What is a reader?


Ronza Othman: I’m coming to learn more and more that some people don’t know what a reader is.  Others think they have Be My Eyes so don’t need a human reader otherwise.


Having a human reader in proximity with physical access to whatever documents you are working with is really helpful.  Technology is helpful too, not denigrating technology.  But readers are more than people who deal with documents.  They might scribe something for you.  You might hand them something right then and they’ll read it for you.  It might be somebody you take shopping with you who can read you price tags and sizes and color.  It’s someone you might take when going on a trip where you need to take care of certain business.  It’s essentially, you, as the client, the user, the blind person, are the person who is in charge, who makes all the decisions about what’s happening.  But the reader provides the eyes.  You’re the brain and they’re the eyes. 


Audience Question: How do you get access to readers?


Ronza Othman: We in the NFB of Maryland have some on staff for when we need to do certain things.  Some employers provide human readers as a reasonable accommodation.  People hire them directly, or they get friends who volunteer to be their reader.  There are networks of readers that crop up.


Chesapeake City Resident Continues to Create Despite Disability

By Matt Hooke

Published in the Cecil Whig, October 17, 2021

[Editor’s note: In Maryland, we get a proclamation from all 24 counties and Baltimore City to celebrate White Cane Awareness Day on October 15.  Don Hausz, an enterprising member of the NFBMD At-Large Chapter, decided to get some extra publicity for the NFB.  He obtained the proclamation, as well as convinced the newspaper to write and publish the article below.  This article demonstrates the capabilities of blind people and is a good example to commemorate Blind Equality Achievement Month, celebrated every October.]


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CHESAPEAKE CITY — Don Hausz built a wishing well in his Chesapeake City yard, complete with a small metal bucket, yet has never seen his creation, because he is blind.


“A doctor said to me when I was about 10 ‘son remember these words, you see with your brain, not with your eyes,’” Hausz said.


Hausz was born legally blind, but had some usable vision.  At age 15 he lost the vision in his left eye, and in his early 40s he lost vision in his right eye.


“It scared the death out of me,” Hausz said, when asked about how losing his sight changed his life.


Hausz owned a business working on fire suppression systems for around 40 years, along with a sheet metal company.  Hausz continued to go to job sites after losing his vision, but shifted to working more behind the scenes, learning how to run the business instead of doing his business.


“I’d be working in somebody’s kitchen, and once I got into the kitchen I was acclimated to where I was,” Hausz said.  “I’d work on a job all day and the owner wouldn’t believe that I was blind.”


Hausz learned much of his skills from his father, a teacher who taught aviation during the day, and at night taught at the union carpentry school.


“In the summertime that was my job,” Hausz said.  “I worked with my father, we did construction, we built dormers, we built homes.”


For one winter project as a teenager, Hausz created a chess set out of engine parts, giving him experience in welding.  In Long Island, Hausz served as a volunteer fireman and worked as an EMT.  At the fire department, Hausz served as a videographer.


Hausz moved to Chesapeake City around four years ago.  He moved away from Stony Brook mainly because of the lower property taxes in Cecil County.  He chose Chesapeake City because it has many of the same amenities, such as restaurants and regular concerts that Stony Brook had.


Accessible transit options are more limited in Cecil County than in Long Island.  In his home county of Suffolk, they had a ride sharing program that could go anywhere to the county.


“It’s a little more difficult down here,” Hausz said.  “The accessible transit is more limited, it’s more geared to going from home to an appointment or you could probably get to Walmart or something like that but it’s much more limited.”


A variety of services and technologies help Hausz interact with the world.  Every morning, through the National Federation of the Blind Newsline, Hausz reads Newsday, the newspaper of record for Long Island where he grew up.  His smartphone is set up for voice over, so he can hear every single swipe that he makes and every app on his phone.


Hausz encouraged the County Council to pass a proclamation last year honoring White Cane Awareness Day on Oct. 15, part of the Blind Equality Achievement month.


Council president Bob Meffley met Hausz through his son, whose company put a boiler in Hausz’s home.


“He said ‘I got everything done except the heater,’” Meffley said.  “In the crawl space he laid on his back and everything was perfect.  Every line was straight as an arrow.  He did it by feel.”


Hausz then asked Meffley why the council had not done anything to commemorate White Cane Day.


“I didn’t know anything about it,” Meffley said.  “I was surprised by the amount of people who are blind and use the white cane.”


Hausz said awareness of White Cane Day is important because it increases knowledge of the blind, as people are able to recognize that someone using a white cane is visually impaired.


“It just makes people surrounding that individual know that person is visually impaired,” Hausz said when asked about the white cane.


2021 Rachel Olivero Accessibility Innovation Award

By Ronza Othman

[Editor’s Note: In 2019, NFBMD established the Rachel Olivero Accessibility Innovation Award in honor of a leader in the affiliate who sadly passed away that year.  Rachel Olivero modeled creativity, innovation, and tenacity in technology access.  This award is given periodically to individuals who made significant contributions to technology accessibility.  President Ronza Othman gave the following presentation at the 2021 Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland Banquet in November.]


One vital person who is indelibly part of the fabric that comprises the rich history of the NFBMD was Rachel Olivero.  Rachel changed the landscape of how we do what we do through her innovative spirit.  For Rachel, no job was too big, and no ask was unreasonable.  For Rachel, even the mundane and monotonous work was a challenge because she came up with innovative ways to do it better, faster, more easily.


Rachel joined the Maryland affiliate in 2007 after having grown up in the Wisconsin affiliate and then moving to the Indiana affiliate.  She moved to Maryland when she joined the Access Technology Team at the National Center.  Though she left for Nebraska for a few years, she continued to support Maryland even during that time.  She returned home to us in 2015. 


Sadly, we lost Rachel very unexpectedly in 2019 to complications from pneumonia.  She was 36. 


Her legacy lives on in Maryland though, and she will indelibly be part of our story.  She built our website and led the effort to modernize it.  She built our connections database, which has more than 9,000 unique contacts, and she led the effort to keep it operational.  In fact, I think she was the only person who truly understood it.  She built our convention registration platform.  She built our crab feast, spring concert, and any other online registration system we have. 


She often went along with Sharon [Maneki], Melissa [Riccobono], or me to IEPs so she can tell the school districts what the best technology is for the particular student’s needs.  She worked with employers and members to figure out what software worked with what other software so that our members could work independently. 


And if there wasn’t a solution out there for a particular challenge, she built one.


Rachel’s life mission was to advance technology accessibility.  She poured her heart and soul into doing this, and she was very successful.


Rachel was particularly notable for her huge backpack.  You could count on her to have a number of radios (she was an emergency preparedness guru and a ham radio operator).  And if you ever needed anything fixed, tightened, loosened, cut, or broken, Rachel would whip out her handy multi-tool and take care of it for you.


In 2019, the NFBMD established the Rachel Olivero Accessibility Innovation Award.  We give out this award only when we feel that someone has demonstrated the virtues that are reflective of Rachel’s. 


This year is one such year.


The recipient of the 2021 Rachel Olivero Accessibility Innovation Award is someone who has dedicated their career to ensuring the blind have access to information.  This person has advocated in a variety of settings to make sure that policy-makers understand the need for accessibility and worked to ensure future generations have access to accessible books in audio format and Braille.


This individual:

  • Worked to develop and then modernize the National Library Service (NLS) talking book program;
  • Developed the NLS refreshable Braille devices and helped coordinate the program;
  • Taught others about the need for accessibility in libraries and other venues;
  • Was one of the first blind engineers;
  • Served in the Maryland affiliate for many years holding numerous positions;
  • Prepared Braille agendas, play scripts, and virtually any document we needed;
  • Performed sound engineering duties for chapter meetings and state conventions;
  • Wrote and performed in NFB songs to draw attention to accessibility;
  • And so much more.


Sadly, this person passed away in September, so we will be giving this award posthumously.  There is no one who more embodied the characteristics that the Rachel Olivero Accessibility Innovation Award celebrates.  Consequently, this person deserves to be honored for their outstanding work in this area.


The recipient of the 2021 Rachel Olivero Accessibility and Innovation Award is Lloyd Rasmussen.  We present the award tonight to his wife of many years, Judy Rasmussen.


I’ll read the inscription on the plaque.


Rachel Olivero Accessibility Innovation Award

Presented to

Lloyd Rasmussen

For your dedication to equal access to information, for your creativity in spreading knowledge to the blind, and for your leadership in eliminating accessibility barriers.

You enhance the present; you build the future.

November 13, 2021


And in Maryland tradition, the recipient of this award also receives, in addition to this plaque, a multi-tool, which was one of Rachel Olivero’s favorite things. 


Please welcome Judy Rasmussen.



2021 Convention Awards

By Ronza Othman

[Editor’s note: Each year, NFBMD grants a number of awards to various individuals who promote and advance the civil rights of blind people.  Some of those awards recognize federationists who have worked diligently to gain independence, and other awards recognize our partners and supporters.  Below is a summary of the awards that were given at the 2021 NFBMD annual convention in November.] 


Several awards were presented at the 2021 Convention of the NFBMD.  During the general sessions, President Mark Riccobono and President Ronza Othman presented the Distinguished Legislative Service Award to Delegate Brooke Lierman.  Lierman was recognized for her fierce leadership, enthusiastic support, and stalwart advocacy in connection with NFBMD’s legislative priorities during Lierman’s tenure in the Maryland General Assembly. 


Monica Rao received the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award at our convention banquet.  Monica was a homeschool teacher for her three blind children, even before the pandemic made homeschooling popular.  Monica taught all three children all of the standard subjects as well as assistive technology, Braille, orientation and mobility, and other blindness skills.  Mercy, Isaiah, and Jonah have had a great teacher who just happens to be their mom.


We presented the Jennifer Baker Award during the NFBMD banquet.  Jennifer Baker learned to read and write Braille despite her multiple disabilities.  With this award, we recognize other students who have overcome their struggles to learn to read and write Braille and gain confidence in the skills of blindness.  Qualik Ford, a recent graduate of the Maryland School for the Blind, received this prestigious award.  Qualik is deaf-blind and had numerous other health and personal challenges. Qualik also serves as president of the Maryland Association of Blind Students, and since November 2021, has served on the board of directors of the NFBMD.


Bill Borner, a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter, received the Anna Cable Award.  The Anna Cable Award is given in honor of Anna Cable, who lost her vision later in life.  Anna lived to be 108 years old, learned to travel independently, and learned to read and write Braille.  Bill Borner received this award because of his zest for life.  Despite numerous health problems, Bill has volunteered in numerous ways with the Greater Baltimore Chapter, joining the board of directors of the chapter in 2021.  Bill only came to the federation in 2020.  Bill is a great example of Anna’s spirit because of his determination to live independently and participate in all aspects of community life.


At the 2021 convention, we, in partnership with the Turner family, awarded the Bernard Turner Award.  This award is granted to people who lost their vision between ages 18 and 60.  The family of Bernard Turner created this award in his memory and to honor his accomplishments as a blind person.  Bernard lost his sight at age 40.  He learned the skills of blindness and went on to live the life he wanted.  He went back to work and retired as an instructional technology supervisor with the Arnold & Porter Law Firm. 


The recipient was Joyce Martin, from the Sligo Creek Chapter. 


The Maryland Parents of Blind Children gifted Bill Jacobs with a token of appreciation to commemorate MDPOBC’s gratitude and appreciation for Bill’s long-time service.  Bill retired in 2021 from the position of treasurer of MDPOBC.


NFBMD awarded the Kenneth Jernigan Award, our highest honor, to Ruth Sager.  Read more about this award on page 19 in this issue.


Start thinking about who should receive these various awards at the 2022 state convention, to be held November 11 to 13, 2022!


Profile of an NFBMD Leader: Millie Rivera

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.  This leader profile features Millie Rivera, member of the NFBMD board of directors, board member of the TLC chapter, and NFBMD state scholarship committee chairperson.]


Although Millie Rivera was recently elected as a board member of the NFBMD, she is no stranger to many types of leadership in the NFB, and the NFBMD.  Millie won the top scholarship of the NFB in 1988, helped to found a student division in Pennsylvania, served on the board of the National Association of Blind Lawyers for 10 years, was a member of the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, and coordinated programs for teens for NFBMD for many years.  Millie also served as the scholarship chair for NFBMD, and is now a board member of the TLC chapter as well.


Millie was born blind, and grew up in Puerto Rico.  She is one of seven children, and two of her sisters also are blind.  Millie moved to the mainland for high school in 1979, and has lived and worked here since.  She attended college at Cornell, and received adjustment to blindness training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.


In her professional life, Millie recently retired from a position at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she worked for 30 years and one day.  Before that, she worked in a private law firm in California.


Millie is very much looking forward to her retirement, not because she will slow down, but because she can pay attention to things she is most passionate about.  She has recently joined the NFBMD Senior Issues Division and looks forward to helping it to grow.  She loves babysitting one day a week for her great niece.  She also is quite involved with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, where she assists in educating legislators about the needs of and resources that could assist people experiencing all types of mental illness.  Millie also is very active in her church, and is enjoying participating in bible study classes online.


Millie says she enjoys her participation in NFBMD because helping wherever she is needed is very natural for her.  She enjoys interacting with all types of federationists, both young or older.  She loves the fact that so often federationists are upbeat people who are problem solvers.  Millie feels her NFBMD involvement gives her so many wonderful things, and she loves the give and take of people helping one another she receives from her participation.


Congressional Lawmakers Want Investigation into USPS Program for the Visually Impaired

By Stetson Miller

Published by WJZ News in Baltimore, February 17, 2022

[Editor’s note: The following news item was broadcasted on WJZ Channel 13 in Baltimore. It featured Rania Dima, a member of both the At-Large and Sligo Creek chapters of the NFBMD. During the 2021 national convention, we passed resolution 2021-05. In this resolution, “This organization strongly urge the United States Congress to require the U.S. Postal Service to report to the Congress on steps that USPS intends to take to improve timely delivery of library materials and equipment to ensure that these items are truly treated as First-Class mail.”  The NFBMD has a leadership role in helping our national advocacy and policy team implement this resolution. Read the following transcript of the TV coverage that explored this issue or visit to listen to the live coverage.]


Maryland U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and other congressional leaders want the post office’s inspector general to investigate a program for the blind and visually impaired after reports of delayed delivery of materials under the program.


USPS’ Free Matter for the Blind or Other Physically Handicapped Persons program delivers free braille books, audiobooks and other materials to people who cannot read conventional print because of a disability.  The program is funded by Congress.


According to the National Federation of the Blind, resources sent through the program are regularly being delayed in the mail, and they say that is causing a significant hardship for the blind and physically handicapped community.


“This is an area we’ve spotlighted because we’ve seen a particularly big problem when it comes to the delivery and it has a particularly harmful impact,” said Senator Van Hollen.  “These are individuals who are incapacitated in many ways when they don’t receive these materials in a timely fashion.”


Urbana resident Rania Dima testified about how the delays have been impacting her during a hearing on Capitol Hill last July.


“I began the process of learning braille and that material is sent to me through the United States Postal Service as free matter for the blind,” Dima said.


Dima has slowly been going blind and deaf because of a condition she has called Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that affects both hearing and vision.


In 2019, she started to learn braille. In 2020, she said the delivery of the materials through the program got slower and at times, took one to two months to arrive.  She says the delays are longer than what she has been experiencing with other mail services.


“As somebody who is trying to learn braille and reliant on the mail to deliver these books to me, I do feel marginalized and gaslighted because again the service is provided to us and so we should be grateful but it’s not.  I don’t know where the mail is going,” said Dima.


John Owen, the director of the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled says deliveries that they send for the program have been a problem since mid-2020.


He told WJZ that Free Matter for the Blind materials are supposed to be treated with the same priority as First Class Mail.


“The mail that we send free matter is important that it shouldn’t be treated as second class mail,” Owen said.


Senator Van Hollen says the inspector general has indicated that they will start an investigation into the program and he expects a report by June.

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2021 NFBMD Resolutions

[Editor’s note: The convention is the supreme authority of this organization, and perhaps its most important function is to set the policy of the federation.  Below are the three resolutions that the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland adopted on November 14, 2021.  NFBMD is actively working on these matters, and Resolution 2021-01 is now the law in the state of Maryland.]


Resolution 2021-01

Regarding Access to Educational Platforms and Materials


WHEREAS, access to the full curriculum is vital for participation in in-person and virtual education settings for all students; and


WHEREAS, accessibility barriers impede full access to the educational environment for blind and low vision students and for others with print disabilities; and


WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) all require schools to afford students with disabilities the same opportunities that are provided to non-disabled students; and


WHEREAS, the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the United States Department of Education (Ed) issued a Joint Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on June 29, 2010, noting that "individuals with disabilities must be provided with the same aids, benefits, or services that provide an equal opportunity to achieve the same result or the same level of achievement as others"; and


WHEREAS, on November 12, 2014, USDOJ and Ed issued a Joint DCL stating that: "Students with disabilities, like all students, must be provided the opportunity to fully participate in our public schools," and that "a critical aspect of participation is communication with others"; and


WHEREAS, in September 2017 and on March 12, 2020, Ed unequivocally reminded school districts that students with disabilities retain full rights to educational opportunities, including access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) whenever school districts provide any educational opportunities to nondisabled students; and


WHEREAS, federal guidance with respect to these laws and principles makes it clear that information and communication technology (ICT), including digital content and services such as educational apps and websites, must be accessible to blind and low-vision students; and


WHEREAS, many school districts in Maryland have ignored their longstanding accessibility obligations to blind and low-vision students, purchasing and implementing educational technologies that are only partially accessible to these students or are not accessible at all; and


WHEREAS, despite clear guidance from Ed, the shift to part-time or full-time remote instruction in many Maryland school districts due to the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically highlighted the learning disparities and challenges faced by blind and low- vision students, especially since many remote learning solutions are inaccessible; and


WHEREAS, at the 2020 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, we passed Resolution 2020-01, which demanded "that the Maryland State Department of Education and school districts throughout the state purchase and implement the use of educational materials that are fully accessible to blind and low vision students"; and


WHEREAS, our advocacy effort culminated in the introduction, at our urging, of the Accountability Act for Accessible K-12 Education in the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly; and

WHEREAS, this legislative solution failed because of opposition from entities representing county education departments and school districts; and


WHEREAS, this organization, through the assistance of Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, has met in good faith with these entities to try and craft a solution that will ensure compliance with state and federal law in this area through appropriate coordination, monitoring, and penalties for noncompliance: Now, therefore,


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this fourteenth day of November, 2021, in the city of Baltimore, that this organization urge local, county, and state officials and their representatives to continue to work with us to craft legislation, regulations, and/or agreements that will ensure the procurement of accessible educational technology; and

BE it further resolved that we continue to demand that the Maryland State Department of Education and school districts across the state respect and vindicate the right of blind and low-vision students to the benefit of public education by procuring only information and communication technology that is fully accessible.


Resolution 2021-02

Regarding MTA MobilityLink

WHEREAS, many members of the blind community in Maryland who cannot use fixed-route public transit services rely heavily on the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) MobilityLink service to integrate into the community, commute to school and work, keep medical appointments, purchase food and other necessities, and attend religious services and other gatherings; and


WHEREAS, MTA has reduced its number of MobilityLink drivers by five hundred, which is nearly half of the number it employed in 2019; and


WHEREAS, the on-time percentage for MobilityLink fell from more than 94% to 67.5% as of August 2021, the worst on-time performance in over five years, and anecdotal evidence indicates the on-time percentage in the fall of 2021 is even lower; and


WHEREAS, throughout the summer and fall of 2021, the MTA MobilityLink Program provided services that were frequently significantly late, resulting in catastrophic outcomes for its users including missed dialysis and other medical appointments and the inability to acquire prescribed treatments and medications; and


WHEREAS, clients were also required to wait in unsafe conditions, such as inclement weather including lightning, for seven hours or more; and


WHEREAS, MTA has also experienced frequent and prolonged outages to its telephone system, which has frustrated riders and hindered their ability to schedule trips, check on late rides, and share concerns; and


WHEREAS, clients were often unable to obtain correct, useful, or effective communication from the Mobility Call Center; and


WHEREAS, MTA operates a Taxi Access Program that is intended to alleviate some of the burden on its prescheduled MTA Mobility van drivers and to create flexibility for clients; and


WHEREAS, taxi companies who participate in the Taxi Access program are understaffed and are not transparent, responsive, or effective, rendering this program in need of major overhaul; and


WHEREAS, rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft provide transportation services in states such as California, Illinois, and New York much like the Maryland Taxi Access Program, giving clients instant access to vehicles, the ability to communicate directly with drivers, and an overall reduction in wait time for transportation services: Now, therefore


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this fourteenth day of November, 2021, in the City of Baltimore, that this organization urge the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to establish safeguards and backup measures to resolve the current MobilityLink crisis and halt the ongoing and devastating service breakdown; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that MTA redouble its efforts to hire a sufficient number of drivers and upgrade its phone systems to provide timely, safe, effective, and efficient MobilityLink services; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Governor Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly to provide sufficient funding for MTA to modernize its MobilityLink program and to hold MDOT and MTA accountable for ensuring that riders receive timely, safe, efficient, and effective MobilityLink services; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the MTA to continue to expand the Taxi Access Program to include rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft, and to increase the use of contracts with other transportation providers and take any other lawful and appropriate measures, in order to alleviate the challenges created by the driver shortage.




WHEREAS, the ability to cast a secret ballot independently is a cornerstone of our democracy that enables citizens to vote their conscience without fear; and


WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that voters with disabilities be afforded an opportunity to exercise the right to vote that is equivalent to the opportunity afforded to voters without disabilities; and


WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states that public entities that receive federal financial assistance may not discriminate against people with disabilities in their programs, services, or activities; and


WHEREAS, the ES&S ExpressVote accessible ballot marking device (BMD) procured by the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) and deployed at all early voting centers and polling places for federal and state elections produces a ballot that is different in size and content from the ballot that is hand-marked by the majority of voters, and, as a result, denies blind voters and other voters with print disabilities a secret ballot; and


WHEREAS, the deployment of the ExpressVote as a secondary ballot marking system to be used primarily by the blind and other voters with print disabilities results in a separate and unequal voting system that poll workers frequently do not know how to set up or operate, forcing many blind voters to either vote with assistance or to wait while poll workers figure out how to set up the machine; and


WHEREAS, SBE's lease with ES&S for the ExpressVote ended on March 30, 2021, and was extended to March 30, 2023, with an option to extend to March 30, 2025, yet SBE has done nothing to plan for the acquisition of additional ExpressVote BMDs or to acquire a sufficient number of new, cheaper tablet-based BMDs so that all voters could use the same ballot-marking system; and


WHEREAS, the Maryland State Board of Elections provides an accessible online ballot-marking tool that allows blind and low-vision voters to mark a by-mail ballot privately and independently using a computer and their own access technology, but requires that the marked ballot be printed out, signed, and returned by mail or placed in a drop box; and


WHEREAS, many blind voters do not own or have easy access to printers and as a result must rely on a friend, family member, or copy center to print their ballot, and also need sighted assistance to sign the ballot, which jeopardizes both the secrecy of their ballot and their independence; and


WHEREAS, accessible electronic ballot return enables blind and low-vision voters to return a by-mail ballot privately and independently using their own access technology without needing to print or sign the ballot; Now, therefore,


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in convention assembled this fourteenth day of November, 2021, in the city of Baltimore, that this organization reaffirm its commitment to ending segregated voting for people with disabilities by insisting that one voting system be created for all in-person voters; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we condemn and deplore the failure of the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Maryland State Board of Elections to remedy this ongoing violation of voting rights when they have known about the problem for the last seven years; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the State Board of Elections thoroughly investigate the use of modern voting systems and that the Governor and Maryland General Assembly fund both this investigation and the ultimate adoption of a new voting system that eliminates the barriers created by the current separate and unequal voting system; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the State Board of Elections join the twenty-first century and allow both electronic delivery and return of ballots by voters with disabilities—as currently permitted by the states of Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia—so that Maryland voters with print disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to vote by mail privately and independently as required by federal law.


Spectator Specs


On November 20, 2021, Linda Wellman died unexpectedly.  Linda was a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter and the NFBMD Senior Issues Division.  Linda had been blind for only a few years, but she embraced the NFB mantra, “Live the life you want with gusto and determination.”  For instance, before COVID-19, Linda was determined to remain fit and swam at least two miles a day.  Linda wrote a play about blindness and presented this play at a community theater.  She was planning to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind Adjustment to Blindness program in January.  Her determination and spirit were great examples for all of us to follow.  May she rest in peace.


On November 28, 2021, Mary Nichols lost her very long battle with cancer.  Mary was a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter for decades.  Mary and her husband, Orlo, were married for 54 years.  Throughout the years, they advised many blind parents seeking to adopt children, as they successfully adopted four blind children of their own in the 1970s and 80s.  Mary was a woman of great faith. We will miss her spirit and her dedication to the federation.


On December 20, 2021, long-time federationist Marsha Dyer passed away after battling cancer.  Many of you may remember Marsha from her long service on the national center staff, her service on the scholarship committee, and her role as the reader for the resolutions committee from 2008 through 2018.  Marsha was a staff member from 1990 to 2018 and continued to do some proofreading work on a part-time basis until the fall of 2021—an outstanding record of service.  Marsha was a long-time member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter and a founding and lifetime member of the NFBMD TLC Chapter.  She will be dearly missed.


On January 15, 2022, Michelle Clark passed away unexpectedly at the age of 61.  Many of you know Michelle as a founding member of the National Harbor Chapter.  She served for many years as the chapter president as well as a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Maryland.  Michelle also was well known for her beautiful and powerful voice and was a prominent member of our national performing arts division.  Michelle worked for the “phone company”, Verizon, for 26 years and shared hilarious stories.  Later, she became a 508 expert for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Michelle’s laugh was big and boisterous, and she unleashed it often.  Her husband Jerome shared that she talked about the NFB often and was so grateful to those of you who were part of her life.  Many of Michelle’s family were members of the National Harbor Chapter. You can read more about Michelle on page 24 in this edition of the Braille Spectator.  Please keep Jerome and the rest of Michelle’s family in your thoughts and prayers.


In January 2022, Lance Finney passed away.  He was the director of the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) in the 1980s and retired from this position in 1994.   During his tenure, we were able to obtain a new building to house the library.  It had been housed in a leased building that was a former bowling alley and a used car dealership.  Lance was a good friend of the federation who definitely appreciated our advocacy and love of the library.  He spent is retirement years in Florida but continued to volunteer for libraries.  He considered his work with LBPH as the highlight of his career.  May he rest in peace.


On March 14, 2022, Carol Siegel died after a long illness.  Carol was an active member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter since 1968.  In the late 80s, Carol served as the secretary of the chapter. She will be best remembered in the chapter for brailling 50/50 tickets.  Carol did this task with great enthusiasm.  The chapter probably has an adequate supply for the next 10 years. She had a long career at the Maryland Library for the Blind and Print Disabled and worked there for more than 30 years.  She had a zest for life and loved to travel.  She rarely missed a National Convention and used the occasion to learn about the state holding the convention and to take extra side trips.  Carol was also interested in international customs.  She travelled to Kenya and lived in a village to really experience the culture.  We will miss her spirit of curiosity and dedication to the NFB.


Joe Harris passed away at the end of March 2022.  Joe was an active member of the Cumberland Chapter from 2000 to about 2017.  During some of this time, Joe served as treasurer for the chapter.  He also provided much needed transportation for many members.  Joe was blind at heart.  He was a strong believer in serving others.  He was a veteran of the Vietnam War and an active member of various Lions Clubs.  Joe learned of the NFB when he lived in South Dakota.  When he moved back to Cumberland, he wanted to stay involved, so he joined the Cumberland Chapter.  Due to poor health, Joe and his wife moved to California to be closer to their family.  May he rest in peace.


On April 9, 2022, Ruth Sager passed away after battling cancer.  Ruth was the president of the NFB Seniors Division, as well as the president of the Greater Baltimore Chapter.  She recently retired after many years as the president of the NFB of Maryland Blind Seniors Division.  She worked at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland supporting seniors, and prior to that served as the home management instructor at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.  Throughout her life, she worked diligently to help blind people learn the skills they need to gain and maintain independence.  Ruth is survived by her husband, Phil, her children Victor, Sarah, and Ben, and her two grandchildren.  Read more about Ruth on page 19 in this issue.  Please keep Ruth, her family, and all who love her in your thoughts and prayers.


On April 27, 2022, Jim Omvig passed away after a long illness.  Jim was a pioneer in the blind community and a long-time leader in the federation.  Jim worked for the Social Security Administration in Baltimore.  He also served as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland between 1982 and 1984.  Jim was a towering figure in the rehabilitation field and advocated for advancements that have shattered the ceiling for blind people to achieve independence.  Please keep his wife, Sharon, and their family, as well as who loved Jim in your thoughts and prayers.


Frederick “Don” Banning passed away at age 82 on May 19, 2022.  Don lived in Maryland and was a member of NFBMD many years ago, prior to moving to Louisiana.  Don served as second vice president of the NFB of Louisiana and held many leadership roles in the federation.  He was a special education teacher and touched the lives of thousands, including Jesse Hartle, whom he taught when Jesse was a child.  Please keep Don and all who loved him in your thoughts and prayers.


May they rest in peace. 


New Babies

Congratulations to Nikki Prichard-Tippett, a member of the NFB of Maryland At Large Chapter and former president of the Maryland Tri-County Chapter, and her husband Frankie, who welcomed a baby boy on January 10, 2022.  Jackson Levi Tippett came in at 6 pounds and 11 ounces and 18 inches long. Mom, dad, and older brother Gavin are doing well and delighted Jackson has arrived.


Congratulations to Ben Danforth and his family. Below is how Ben Danforth, the treasurer of the Sligo-Creek Chapter announced the birth of his daughter:

“My wife and I are happy to announce the birth of our fourth child and second daughter, Astrid Ursa Danforth. She was born on February 22 and weighed 8 pounds 12 ounces and was 21.5 inches long at birth. Astrid and her mom are at home now and doing well. Astrid is getting to know her family, including her siblings Matilda, Ezra, and Linus.”

Welcome to the newest members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland!



Congratulations to Juhi Narula, Katelyn Siple, and Aida Amoun, who all graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind adjustment to blindness training program.  They made the choice to live the lives they want by getting training, learning independence, and gaining a positive philosophy on blindness.  Juhi returned to finish her last semester of college at the University of Maryland, where she is studying business administration.  Katelyn will resume her undergraduate studies at Lancaster Bible College this fall, where she is studying communications.  Aida plans to enroll in community college and work towards becoming a Braille teacher.  We can’t wait to see the remarkable things these three will accomplish.


Congratulations to Mindy Demaris, who was selected as the 2022 Teacher of the Visually Impaired Teacher of the Year by the Braille Institute.  Mindy is our Teacher of Blind Students (TBS) at our NFB BELL Academy in Salisbury, Maryland.  Mindy is a TBS/TVI with the Wicomico Public School District.  She will receive the award in Los Angeles in June as part of the National Braille Challenge festivities.  We are so proud Mindy is part of our family.  This honor is well-deserved!


Congratulations to Sharon Kim, a member of the Sligo-Creek Chapter, who graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park in December 2021 with a bachelor’s in sociology. Sharon plans to go to graduate school.


In January 2022, Millie Rivera and Terry Powers began their new careers: retirement.  Both were federal government employees. Millie was an attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for 30 years and one day.  As a trial attorney, Millie protected civil rights and reduced employment discrimination.  She also worked as an analyst developing policies to eliminate discrimination in other federal government agencies.  Millie serves as a member of the TLC Chapter board of directors, a member of the NFB of Maryland board of directors, and chairperson of the NFB of Maryland Scholarship Committee.  Read about Millie’s achievements on page 40 in this issue.


Terry Powers worked for 35 years as an automation clerk at the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health.  Terry was popular among the staff because of her friendly personality and her willingness to take the extra time and trouble to assist other employees in fulfilling the important mission of the National Cancer Institute.  Terry currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the NFB Krafters Division and is looking forward to having more time to pursue her crafting hobbies. Terry is also a long-time member of the Sligo Creek chapter and has served on its board of directors for many years.


Congratulations and best wishes to these new retirees!