Please note: the following is the full transcript of the Presidential Release on January 4, 2021.
Braille is here, Braille is here, we will sing its praise. It's a system for the blind to get a job!
(Music playing, "Braille is Beautiful")
Braille is beautiful! Go on and live your life. Don't need a bit of sight. In the end you'll find, Braille is beautiful! Put your fingers on the page. Tell your friends it's all the rage. It's all going to be okay. Braille is beautiful!
PAM ALLEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome. We will be beginning promptly tonight at 8:00. We're so glad that all of you are here with us. Happy New Year.
Just a few reminders, you can send questions to our Q&A section on any of the social media channels or to Cdanielsen@NFB.org.
Captions are available in Zoom as well as on 1CapApp. We'll have a link in the chat.
For Spanish translation this evening, we are utilizing the Zoom interpretation feature, and I will turn it over to Danny Martinez to share how to access that.
We will come back to Danny in a moment after our next song, but just to remind everybody tonight, we have in honor of Louis Braille's birthday and world Braille day a couple polls involving Braille asking when you learned Braille or if you're still thinking about it.
And also our other poll involving Braille asks "What do you love most about Braille?" So please take part in our polls tonight. Thank you, everyone. We'll start shortly.
(Music playing, "Accessible Technology")
(Music playing, "Braille Song")
Grab your stylus and your slate, come on, let's communicate.
Louie, Louie, oh, yeah, we got Braille now, yeah yeah yeah yeah. Braille, Braille, Braille. Braille, Braille, Braille.
You can read it with your elbow, attempt it with your big toe. Don't you do it with your tongue, though. It's Braille, Braille, Braille.
PAM ALLEN: Good evening, everybody. We'll be starting promptly at 8:00. We're so glad that all of you are here with us this evening. Please take part in our polls, both about Braille in celebration of world Braille day today. Also, you can submit questions through our Q&A feature or to Cdanielsen@NFB.org.
We are using the Zoom interpretation feature tonight for our Spanish translation. And we will put the information in the chat so everyone can access it.
Thank you so much, and we'll be starting shortly.
(Music playing, "Strive")
People contend that I should be content to let others lead me around, but I say no. I say no. I say no. Everybody needs somebody to help sometimes, but I'm in charge of me. I've got to strive, strive, strive a little harder, reach, reach, reach a little longer, work, work, work a little harder. Watch me, watch me, watch me, nothing is going to stop me. I'm spreading my wings, soaring on a dream. I can do anything.
I need to strive, strive, strive, a little harder, reach, reach, reach, a little longer, work, work, work a little harder, hope, hope, hope a little stronger. Watch me, watch me, watch me. Nothing's going to stop me. I'm spreading my wings, soaring on a dream. I can do anything!
(Music playing, "Live the Life")
Live the life you want, nobody can stop you. Shoot for the sun and break on through. So you're blind, you'll be fine, we've got good news: You can live the life you want. Yes, we know the truth.
PAM ALLEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome. Happy New Year. We're so glad that you could join us this evening for our presidential release.
Before we get started, just a reminder that we are doing Zoom interpretation, Spanish interpretation, through Zoom. We have a quick announcement concerning our Spanish interpretation, if Danny is available.
Okay. My apologies. We are having a few technical difficulties, but we have the information in the chat. So to make sure that everyone can access, we'll also remind everyone that we have closed captioning through the 1CapApp as well. So we are so glad that all of you are here with us tonight. Welcome, and I encourage everyone to participate in our polls concerning world Braille day.
It is now my pleasure to introduce for his remarks this evening, President Mark Riccobono.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you very much, Pam. Happy New Year. Should we get started?
PAM ALLEN: Sounds great.
MARK RICCOBONO: Okay. Okay. 2021.
Greetings, fellow Federationists. This is Monday, January 4, 2021. And this is presidential release number 501.
Happy New Year, fellow Federationists, and happy world Braille day. It is so great to be back together with each and every one of you on this release.
I have a handful of announcements to share with you today, and then I want to spend some significant time discussing some really important priorities of the Federation for 2021. Then of course I'll share some Federation family news with you, and then we'll get into hopefully some time for some questions, and of course we will have the customary endings.
First of all, special announcement from our Independence Market. For this week of world Braille day, the week of, the Independence Market will be offering a special deal on the Louis Braille bicentennial silver dollar. It will be offered at a reduced price for this week only of $50 plus shipping and handling. Buy as many as you want. This commemorative silver dollar was minted by the United States government thanks to the work of the National Federation of the Blind. It was minted in 2009, and the mint has not sold it since then. You can get it from our market in honor of Louis Braille's birthday this year. So I encourage you to take advantage of that.
Also our Independence Market staff want you to know that throughout the month of January, there are a number of other items on sale, including camera bags, cube clocks, egg separators, and binoculars.
Also you should know that the NFB face masks are back in stock. You can get the masks which are a medium blue color with the NFB logo in the center. You can get them from our market. The price is $4 per mask or three masks for $10.
The market will be having special sales every month during this year, so you should stay tuned for the special products promotions coming from the market on a monthly basis.
To order, you can call the Independence Market at (410)659-9314, extension 2216, or you can email IndependenceMarket@NFB.org. We do hope our e-commerce system will be up and running again very soon. I hope to have information on a presidential release in the near future.
I also want to start the year by thanking each and every one of you who helped us match our more than ever gift contribution from Freedom Scientific. We once again matched Freedom Scientific's $50,000 before the end of the year, and so we were able to secure that funding thanks to the generous contributions of many of you out there. We don't have a total dollar amount that we raised at the end of the year to match these funds, but we're confident we matched them and then some. So thank you again to Freedom Scientific, Vispero, their CEO and all the staff there for their commitment to the work of the National Federation of the Blind. And thank you to all of you who helped us match both the Vispero gifts at the end of the year totaling $100,000.
Patti Chang, our director of outreach, wants me to remind you about our dream maker circle. If you missed joining the dream maker circle in 2020, 2021 is a good year to get it done. Our dream maker circle is a way for you to pledge an end-of-life gift to the legacy of the National Federation of the Blind and to continue your commitment to our organization. Depending on your circumstances, this can be done quite quickly, in less than 30 minutes, and often at no cost. Feel free to reach out to Patti here at our national office to hear about how you can best contribute to this. You can reach her at our main number at extension 2422 or email her at pchang@NFB.org.
Now, this being January, we're getting ready for our Washington Seminar. And our great gathering in will be happening on Monday, February 8, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time and all of you will be able to participate because it will be virtualized through Zoom. So mark 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time 35 days from now. You'll want to be part of the kick off of our 2021 Washington Seminar. There will be a number of other meetings happening in conjunction with the Washington Seminar and you should reach out to your state affiliate if you want to learn about how to be involved in the meetings with members of Congress.
Also we will have a number of meetings happening this month to get members ready for the Washington Seminar. So watch the listserv for information about that.
I want to talk to you about the Department of Transportation, which issued a final rule for travelers who are traveling via air with service animals. On December 10, 2020, the Department of Transportation released the final rule pertaining to air travelers using service animals. It goes into effect on January 11, 2021. The rule permits airlines to require passengers to complete the DOT service animal air transportation form. We have done quite a bit of advocacy on this form and the accessibility or maybe I should say the inaccessibility of this form that DOT has proposed. On December 22, 2020, the National Federation of the Blind issued an open letter to all airlines urging them not to require the form. It is optional for airlines.
I want to commend Raul Gallegos, President of our National Association of Guide Dog Users for his leadership and advocacy on this issue. We're going to continue to work on this issue. I know Raul is continuing to engage with the Department of Transportation around this, and you should watch for further announcements from our national division.
There will be many more events and activities to talk about on the release going forward. We have a busy year ahead, no doubt about that. And a very hopeful and forward-looking year.
One thing you're probably wondering about, speaking of events, is our national convention, which is coming up in July. A lot of folks keep asking what's happening with the national convention. We have been watching the situation very closely, and the national board has not yet made a final decision about the convention, but it's my belief that it is extremely, extremely likely that we will be having a virtual convention this summer, as disappointing as that is. We haven't made the final decision, but I think you should mentally prepare yourself for a virtual convention, as much as we would like to be together in person. We've been carefully monitoring all the situations and factors, and I'm guessing that's going to be likely, but no decision has been made yet.
I want to spend some time on this release talking to you about our priorities for 2021 in the National Federation of the Blind. Many of you know that I grew up in the great state of Wisconsin, where the motto of the state is "Forward." One word. Very simple. I've adopted that as our Federation motto for 2021. I sometimes tell people "Forward Federation." Now, Wisconsin adopted the motto "Forward" to indicate its innovative spirit, its intention to lead. And in the National Federation of the Blind, innovation is one of our core personality traits. And we emphasize leadership in our organization and the development of leaders. Sometimes leadership means that you need to take a step back and reevaluate and reset our goals and priorities and our focus. And that's something I want to talk to you about tonight in terms of our 2021 priorities.
Many of you may or may not know that in the last month or so, there's been a significant conversation, especially in social media, about sexual assault and misconduct within the blindness community. And a lot of that conversation has been focused on activities within the National Federation of the Blind. And that of course is a primary concern for us as members and leaders of this movement. We established our code of conduct three Januarys ago, but we recognize there's a lot more work to do. 2018 was only the beginning of our efforts to really ramp up what we need to do in this movement. And our commitment for 2021 is to do even better, to accelerate our progress at a significant rate.
We want the National Federation of the Blind to be a safe and healthy space for all blind people, for our families, for our friends, and that includes our three affiliated training centers. Between now and the national convention, we are going to be pouring significant efforts into increasing our safety and respect for all members within this organization. And it's going to mean we're going to have some hard discussions about how we move forward and also where we've been.
On December 16th I published an open letter that details some of the immediate actions that we're thinking about and how we're going to move forward.
I also detailed my personal regret and commitment that I haven't always done as much as I could do. You can read that open letter in the January Braille Monitor as well as the revision to the code of conduct that the board of directors adopted in its fall meeting early in December.
But that's just the beginning. We're kicking off 2021 with some additional announcements, specific actions that we're taking starting this evening, to accelerate this work in the National Federation of the Blind. And it's going to take each and every one of us to make this happen, to achieve what we want in moving forward.
So first I'm really happy to announce that we have established a partnership with RAINN. RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. And the purpose of this partnership is to assist us in furthering a safe, inclusive, and welcoming culture free of sexual misconduct, as part of all NFB programs and activities. You can visit RAINN's website at RAINN.org. And by the way, you should be aware if you need it, they have a national sexual assault help line which you can reach at any time you need it. It's free to anybody. You can reach that by calling 1-800-656-HOPE.
Our work with RAINN is initially going to include two important phases, and that work is going to be kicking off this month. We're having the kickoff meeting here in a couple of days.
Phase one is going to be to create and conduct a mandatory training program regarding sexual violence and misconduct for staff, volunteers, and leadership within the organization. Now, we're a big organization. We have a lot of members. So we have to start somewhere. And in March of this year, we're going to start with all of the boards of our state affiliates, our national division, all of the staff at our national office, all of the staffs at our affiliated training centers, as well as the students at those training centers. And that will just be the beginning. We're very excited about this relationship with RAINN and about the training, and we're eager to find out how we're going to sustain this training going forward for the thousands of members within our organization and those members to come.
The second thing that we're going to do most immediately with RAINN is review and augment the NFB's code of conduct to include the strongest possible policies, practices aimed at preventing sexual misconduct and assault within our organization. We're relying on RAINN's expertise to assist us in identifying the best practices and incorporating them directly into our code of conduct. And we plan to do that very quickly before our national convention.
We'll also be devising ongoing training and resources in collaboration with RAINN and their expertise, their nationwide leading expertise in these areas. Where we know blindness, they know sexual assault and violence prevention, and we're going to be identifying through their expertise how we're going to sustain these efforts and what we need to do after the national convention.
I certainly expect, just on my limited dealings so far with RAINN, that this relationship will continue well into the future and that we will continue to innovate with their guidance how we make our organization an example of a safe and healthy space free of sexual misconduct and assault.
That's one thing. And that effort is starting well really today. And we're going to need all of you to help with those efforts and guide those efforts as RAINN gives us their expertise and best practices in these difficult subjects.
There's one other thing, though, that we're doing this evening, starting this evening, that is an important part of this conversation. Tonight we are launching a survivor-led task force as part of our efforts to implement a sustainable positive culture change within the National Federation of the Blind. We've been waiting to announce that this evening because we wanted to make sure that we had a wide audience to talk to about this and that our task force was ready to start receiving information as soon as possible.
Our task force, as I've said, is going to be entirely led by survivors and is going to serve as an intermediate advisory team to the National Federation of the Blind leaders, members, and third-party partners. And that will be in place until we find more long-term solutions. We've set the time line for the initial work of the task force through the national convention, and based on its recommendations, it may continue after that or there may be some other new sustainable system for survivors within our organization to find support and relief.
The task force has a number of charges working with the leadership of the National Federation of the Blind, and the task force is truly meant to represent the voice of survivors in every aspect of this work going forward. This task force is led by six Federation members who are survivors and who are dedicated to making the Federation the safest and best place it can be for all blind people. They will provide a safe space for survivors to give input, to share information and stories, to assist in developing aspects of our work going forward. They will also make recommendations alongside RAINN and our other efforts to make sure that we can develop sustainable long-term structures through the Federation both to support survivors and to have a misconduct-free zone within our organization, throughout our organization.
I and other leaders of the organization will meet with the task force as often as they want, and we've already agreed to meet at least on a weekly basis. And survivors will lead this change for us at every step of the way.
As we build our relationship with RAINN and we make progress down this road, I expect that the voice of survivors will come through because of these six individuals and their coordination of efforts for our organization, and I really want to extend my appreciation to them for stepping up to help lead this effort and make sure that it is survivor led.
The task force includes these six members at the moment: Marci Carpenter of Washington, Kathryn Webster of Virginia, Sarah Meyer of Indiana, Cheryl Fields of Ohio, Daphne Mitchell of New Mexico, and Briley O'Connor of Minnesota. And again, thank you to these six ladies for their tremendous dedication and commitment to put themselves out there to coordinate this work. It will not be easy. It will be demanding. And I have already appreciated their guidance and expertise in really protecting the voice and amplifying the voice of survivors within our organization.
Now, where can you find more information about this? Well, you can go right now to NFB.org/survivors and find the initial announcement. You can second an email to survivors@NFB.org. And at any time you can call our main number here (410)659-9314 and dial extension 2238 to leave a voice mail, and one of our task force members will get back to you.
You can use any of these methods to share your ideas. If you need support, you can reach out to this group for help. If you just want to talk about these culture change efforts and what it means for the National Federation of the Blind and what your perspective is, reach out to them. And they will be advising me and other Federation leaders about what else we need to do. I certainly expect that this is only the beginning of the tremendous efforts that they will guide us toward in 2021.
Now, these are two big and important actions, but they're not the only actions. They're the ones we're taking to start 2021. I cannot emphasize enough, it is going to take all of us in this movement to do this, to do it right, to do it in a way that leads not just the blindness field but every field. The National Federation of the Blind has taken every challenge and has tried to exceed expectations. That's what we're going to do here. And we're going to do it led by survivors within our organization. And I'm really proud of those individuals who is come forward to share their stories and who have pushed us to be better within this movement. Every chapter meeting, convention, training, seminar, educational program, and enrichment opportunity offered by the National Federation of the Blind needs to be safe and welcoming to all. And that's our big goal. And we're not going to meet it in 2021. It's going to take a longer time than that. But we're going to charge as confidently as we can toward it during this year.
Now, we're going to have to do some other things as well, but that's priority number one.
I also want to note that we will be continuing to work on our broader diversity and inclusion efforts. We've hired a staff member here at the national office to help us increase our diversity and inclusion efforts. We will be continuing to find new ways to accelerate the pipeline of individuals from diverse perspectives to get into elected positions within the Federation and to help shape our organization. Our board has developed an accessibility policy for affiliates that's consistent with our national accessibility policy to make sure that each and every one of our affiliates is doing everything it can to be fully inclusive to all blind people. And we will be building training and resources to assist affiliates in effectively implementing those accessibility practices.
We will be continuing in this effort to be led by our committee on diversity and inclusion. You can reach the committee by sending an email to diversity@NFB.org. The committee continues to coordinate around priorities and find ways to open up new spaces to improve diversity within our movement and advance those often-difficult conversations.
I talked to Sean Callaway, one of the cochairs of the committee before the release, and he wanted me also to note for you that the committee will be having an open meeting. Anybody can listen in, whether you're a member of the committee or not. That open meeting will be happening in March. I'm sure more information will be hitting our listservs and in both of these areas of course, you don't have to be a member of the task force or appointed to the committee on diversity and inclusion at the national level. These issues belong to all of us. We need to help be part of the solutions, the change, and the action that happens within our organization. So please share your ideas, get involved, and one last note about both these priorities: In many June releases I have talked about the priority of membership. Both of these are membership-driven developments. They're essential to growing this movement in a way that we want going forward. So these are two priorities for our membership efforts for 2021, and I invite you, ask you, encourage you to please get involved with them because we need you.
Now, there are some other priorities that I could talk about. I've taken a lot of time already. I do want to note that we will be continuing to expand our right to live in the world by continuing our advocacy work in the 117 Congress which has recently been sworn in and the new administration that's coming in 16 days. We will be aggressively seeking opportunities to advance the Federation's agenda to empower blind people and to create opportunities for us to take charge of our own lives, to have the equal rights in all aspects of society. And 2021 is an important time for us to increase our engagement in those areas. You know, we did a great job pushing voting in 2020, but it wasn't enough. We didn't have accessibility in enough places. And 2021 is going to be an important year for getting states on board for the next major elections! And it's not just that. It's protecting the rights of blind parents, where we still need state laws to protect blind parents and blind caregivers, improving services in so many areas, making sure that the voice of blind people is included is so critical. We have already done great work in 2020 on a number of things. We're going to continue that in 2021.
I do want to, though, congratulate and thank the members of the Federation who worked on getting our blind Randolph-Sheppard vendors some relief. The most recent COVID legislation that was passed and ultimately signed by the President included a $20 million appropriation for our blind vendors, and I should say this relief bill, thanks to Congress and the work of our advocates across the country, is going to provide relief to blind entrepreneurs who have simply been sidelined because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And each of you helped make that happen, helped make it a priority to support these entrepreneurs that were shut out of so many other programs. So thank you on behalf of our blind merchants. And I know that our efforts to engage in advocacy and legislation at the big levels, like federal legislation, and in individual efforts will make a big difference in 2021.
I do want to give you a few Federation family notes to close out this portion of the release, and I regret to have to let you know about a number of members that we lost at the end of 2020. So I would invite you to keep them all in your thoughts and prayers this evening. In early December, we lost Gail Cephas to COVID-19. She was a member of the NFB of the District of Columbia.
On December 5, Monica Meadows also passed away of pneumonia and COVID. Monica was a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia Atlanta metro chapter. She was a member for over 15 years and had become a lifetime member of the state affiliate about 10 years ago.
On December 6, Stuart Maclean, longtime member of the Mecklenburg chapter of the Federation who had recently moved to Tennessee passed away.
On December 15, Jean Faulkner, a longtime member and the President of the greater Cumberland chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland passed away. Jean was 78.
In the early part of this year, just a few days ago, we received a note from Ryan Strunk, who is President of the NFB of Minnesota, reporting the passing of long time Federation leader Joyce Scanlan, who passed away from heart failure. Joyce first became active in our Minnesota affiliate in 1970. She served as President of the affiliate from 1973-2007. She served for a long time as a member of our national board and for many years served as our first Vice President. Joyce led the charge to establish blindness, learning in new dimensions, BLIND, Incorporated, and served as its executive director from its founding in 1986 until her retirement in 2003. I think I first met Joyce when she was national representative to the NFB of Wisconsin convention in 1999. And her impact on me as an up-and-coming Federation member and leader has been long lasting as I know it has been for many people in Minnesota and beyond and certainly for the students at our training center in Minnesota. So I would encourage you to keep her husband Tom, also a longtime leader of the Federation, and all those who loved Joyce and these other members of the Federation in your thoughts and prayers and show appreciation for the tremendous legacy they have left us with.
I do have one joyful piece of news here at the end of this portion of the release, and that is to say that Mason Sawyer East was born on December 10th, weighing 8 pounds 4 ounces and measuring 21.25 inches long. The first-time proud parents of Mason are David and Angie East, members of the Jefferson City Missouri chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. I'm told everybody is doing well, and so we want to send congratulations to the new proud parents and welcome Mason as the newest member of the National Federation of the Blind.
Pam, I think those are the things that I had to talk about on this release. I'm going to send it back over to you.
PAM ALLEN: Okay. Thank you so much, President Riccobono.
Before we get into our questions this evening, I wanted to share the results of our poll. Our poll asked how old you were when you learned Braille. And 35% of our participants learned Braille between the ages of 1-10. 14% between 11-20. 14% also between 21-30. 8% between 31-40. For those 40 and over, 13%. And 16% are still thinking about learning Braille. So thanks to everybody for participating in our poll tonight. We had a minor technical glitch with our second poll, so we will save that for another opportunity. But thanks to everyone for participating.
And I just appreciate everyone for sending in questions this evening. Again, you can submit questions through the Q&A feature on the web, in the app, or email Cdanielsen@NFB.org. Thank you again for everyone who is submitting questions.
Now, our first question tonight, President Riccobono, is related to our world Braille day. And since it is significant, we've had several questions come up concerning our Braille certification training program. So I wondered if you could share some information about that.
MARK RICCOBONO: Pam, it's a great question and it's a program I know we have been leading for 14 years. I know because the kickoff meeting for our work in the National Federation of the Blind on that project happened on December 13th, 2006. I missed the kickoff meeting because my son Austin was born that day. But someone who was at the meeting and really leads this effort for us I think is best to answer this question, so I've asked her to come on the release to do that. That's Jennifer Dunnam, manager of this program. So Jennifer, could you give us a quick overview about the Braille transcription certification program?
JENNIFER DUNNAM: Thanks, President Riccobono. I would be happy to.
Braille literacy is such a key predictor of success in so many arenas. So the National Federation of the Blind has been really proud to operate the courses that lead to certification for Braille transcribers and Braille proofreaders. We operate these courses under a contract with the national library service for the blind and print disabled and we've done that for about 14 years. The courses have been offered in some form or fashion since the 1930s or so.
Our role in the process of the certification is to take people through the courses that teach them how to transcribe and proofread Braille, and once a student has met all of the course requirements, then we send that name on to NLS for certification.
So before I really talk about specifics, I want to say that the courses can be taken by people who are sighted or people who are blind. A person who is fluent at reading print does not need any prior knowledge of Braille when they start because the course starts at the very beginning of Braille. The successful student who doesn't use print will need fluency in Braille to read the nuances of the course exercises, but above everything, the people who successfully achieve certification are those who pay attending to the little details and then are self-motivated and patient, because it's not something you can really rush through, and who are really interested in getting all the details right. Because the end goal of the certification is to support literacy through producing Braille that is accurate and complete so that the Braille reader has the same access to information as a print reader who is reading the same material, whether read on paper or through a Braille display. People say, why do we need transcribers when we have Braille software. Well, transcribers and those who produce Braille use these computerized tools to speed that work up, but they add value by correcting some of the tricky errors and things that the software makes, and especially making sure that if there's content displayed in pictures, charts, diagrams, that all of that gets rendered in a way that's complete and understandable if the info is being read in a tactile manner.
So there are several certificates a person could obtain. To get a credential for transcribing print into Braille, there's the foundational course in transcribing which is kind of the prerequisite to the rest of it. And then once a person gets that, they could go on to become a transcriber of math or music.
If someone is not interested in transcribing but wants to check the work of transcribers, then they can achieve certification as a proofreader. And after that if they have mathematical leanings, they can go to become a math proofreader.
The course requirements are completed by email or in some cases paper mail as well. All the course materials are free to download for anyone, whether you're enrolled or not, but if a person meets the eligibility and wants to enroll in the courses to work with one of our fantastic course instructors, they should submit an application to do that. And the applications and all the course material and a lot of other information could be found at NFB.org/transcribers. Anybody that's got questions about the courses can email us at transcribers@NFB.org, or call (410)659-9314, extension 2510. Anyone who thinks they might be interested should really check it out because Braille production is always looking for good people to do this really rewarding work.
So thank you, Mr. President.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you, Jennifer. In fact, we're looking for someone to help with this work. So if you're looking for a career opportunity in that regard, we have an opening.
Pam, do we have other questions?
PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much, Jennifer.
Our next question is related to what you talked about a little bit earlier the question is why don't we bring a lawsuit against the airlines regarding accessibility of the form to bring guide dogs on planes.
MARK RICCOBONO: Well, that's always a tricky question. I don't think the form is bad enough to bring a lawsuit over. We told them how to fix it. With all of our lawsuits, when we find inaccessibility, we always give entities a chance to fix it. Some people think we jump right to suing. Doesn't happen. We invite people to fix it first.
Secondly, the law is tricky in this space as it relates to this issue. So our advocacy strategy at this point is to encourage the airlines not to require blind people traveling with guide dogs to use the form. But we're optimistic that the Department of Transportation will get the form done right, even if it takes a while.
PAM ALLEN: Okay. All right. Great. Thank you.
Our next question is related to Washington Seminar and when will information be posted about the issues and how can people access that.
MARK RICCOBONO: The issues. Well, we're not ready to reveal the issues yet. It's a changing land scape. We're continuing to evaluate the situation in Congress. We have them outlined and we're planning to talk about the issues later this week with our affiliates, but we're not quite ready strategy wise to talk about all of the issues and what they're going to be. We will do plenty of training with folks on the issues. I think last year beyond the Washington Seminar issues, we had another, I don't know, dozen plus federal issues we were working on. So strategically it's always tricky to make sure we get the right ones in to the Washington Seminar based on the strategy. So they will be coming out soon. Information will be on the web. We'll be disseminating. It of there will be trainings. It's coming. I know you're eager. You will not hit these meetings ill prepared, trust me.
PAM ALLEN: Okay. Great.
Our next question is related to how can someone obtain a copy of the code of conduct.
MARK RICCOBONO: Ah. Well, the code of conduct, as I noted, is in the January monitor which is out now. You can get it there. It is on every page of the Federation's website. NFB.org. If you go to your links list and hit C, you'll get to the code of conduct. It's on every single page of our website. You can't miss it. And you can go there, you can read the code, you can also link to the form to fill out if you do have a grievance to file. And very soon we will likely be posting an FAQ that answers some more questions about the code of conduct process. I say very soon maybe because we actually have it drafted but since we have on boarded RAINN to look at the process end to end, in consulting them, we may decide not to put up the information about the current code only because it's likely to change over the next 6 months.
But go to NFB.org, read it, understand it. If you have questions, send an email to code@NFB.org and our staff or a member of the code of conduct committee would be happy to answer your questions. The code applies to all NFB members, employees, contractors, and it applies throughout every affiliate and national division, every member of the organization is covered by the code.
PAM ALLEN: Okay. Great. Thank you.
Another question involves any updates for NFB-NEWSLINE.
MARK RICCOBONO: Well, we do have a couple of new publications on NFB-NEWSLINE. I don't have those here in front of me, but we're always adding new things to NEWSLINE. Hopefully folks have had an opportunity try out the new version of the mobile app and give feedback on that. There aren't any other major breaking news items for NEWSLINE right now that I think of, but you can always check out NEWSLINE online section of our website to get updates as well.
PAM ALLEN: Okay. Question concerning fitness accessibility. Many products and machines are not accessible. Any updates on our work in that arena?
MARK RICCOBONO: It's a great question as I sit here with my Fitbit wondering how many more steps I need to get to 10,000 today.
We're continuing to work on this space. We are working with some other partners who are doing outreach to fitness facilities, and our blindness initiatives department is taking the lead on reaching out to certain manufacturers. As you should know, we've been trying to get a legislation passed to create standards in this area, and we do intend to keep pushing that in the new Congress.
We're also very hopeful now that we have a blind person who is leading the United States Access Board, that will have another very strong voice in the mix with the fitness facilities and the manufacturers to start building in more and more accessibility. You're seeing it happening in more places with audio description being included. We don't have any specific updates in that area, but I would encourage you, if you have a product you're interested in using, to write a letter to the manufacturer and feel free to copy our advocacy and policy team on that letter so we can continue to track the companies that are being outreached to. And of course our sports and recreation division at the national level is a great resource in this area as well.
PAM ALLEN: Okay. And we had a question concerning our monitoring of Uber and Lyft and if we are still engaged in that process and what's happening in that area.
MARK RICCOBONO: Yeah. Well, Uber and Lyft, we're continuing to monitor them. At least in an informal way. We're continuing to try to negotiate with both of these rideshare entities. And we're considering our options in terms of going to court to really get strong enforcement with both of these entities. They both look at the issue of equal access differently. We have varying relationships within each of those entities. But equal access in rideshare both from the accessibility side of the app to equal access for individuals using guide dogs is a top priority for us. You will definitely see more about this in 2021.
PAM ALLEN: Okay. Great. Well, thank you so much, President Riccobono.
And if there are any questions or other information that we did not have a chance to follow up on this evening, our communications team will be following up with everybody.
Thank you everyone who submitted questions via chat and in other forms. We greatly appreciate it.
I will turn it back over to you, President Riccobono.
MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you, Pam.
In closing, the first presidential release of 2021 on this world Braille day, I do want to note that we will be having an NFB BELL in-home edition this summer again. And information about that will be coming very soon.
But I thought it was most fitting to kick off 2021 as we move forward, to hear the voices of some of our BELL in-home edition students from 2020 giving us some of the customary endings. So I wish everybody a fantastic year in 2021. We're going to go get it done together, and I'm looking forward to what we're going to do together.
Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.
SPEAKER: What's a cat's favorite color? Prrrrple.
SPEAKER: What did one plate say to the other plate? Dinner is on me!
SPEAKER: Why was the broom late for work? Because it overswept.
The preceding release was given by President Mark Riccobono of the National Federation of the Blind.
Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.