September 2019 English Transcript

Greetings, fellow Federationists. Today is Thursday, September 5, 2019 and this is Presidential Release Number 486. Welcome to, at least, the symbolic version of fall, right here after Labor Day. We've had a great summer in the National Federation of the Blind, thirty-five Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academies held in the National Federation of the Blind across the country as well as many other great activities. I know a number of affiliates and chapters had picnics and various summer outings.

Now we're into the fall, convention season. This month, some people are celebrating National Guide Dog Month, so hello to all of our guide dogs at chapter meetings across the country, and I encourage people to get active in our guide dog user's division of the National Federation of the Blind. I was thinking about the work that we have done to protect the rights of guide dog users going all the way back to our getting white cane laws introduced into states. These laws also protected and continue to protect the rights of blind people who use guide dogs. And of course, all the way to today, where we're undertaking many activities and that seems like a good reminder for each of our chapters that we do have an Uber and Lyft monitoring activity that we're doing.

If you are a guide dog user or travel with someone who is and have an experience in Uber or Lyft, good or bad, please fill out our monitoring survey on our website, our ride share survey so that we can continue to collect data and hold both Uber and Lyft accountable for their equal treatment or lack thereof of guide dog users. A good reminder here in National Guide Dog Month.

I have a few announcements for you this month. I do want to let you know that the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults is continuing. The Braille Readers are Leaders contest, again, coming up later this fall and into the winter. The Braille Readers are Leaders contest is for both blind children and adults. Participants may register beginning Friday, November 1st, 2019, and you can register all the way up to the end of the contest period which is February 1st, 2020.

The Braille Readers are Leaders contest is now free nationwide and so chapters and affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind are encouraged to promote this reading contest that encourages the reading of braille and collaboration around the sharing of the braille code and opportunities to talk about braille and to teach braille and certainly to encourage both children and adults to up their reading speed in braille. The contest reading period begins on December 1st and ends on February 1st. So this contest could be a fun chapter related activity to engage in.

Contest categories include the K to grade 1 category, grades 2 to 3, grades 4 to 5, grades 6 to 8, grades 9 to 12 and the adult category. More information will be available in the next month at actionfund.org. We will certainly distribute it on our FNB listservs as well. I encourage all of our affiliates and chapters to participate and encourage participation in the Braille Readers are Leaders contest. There will be prizes and certainly a great opportunity to promote braille and help with the teaching of braille across the nation. If you have questions right now, you can email braillreadingcontest@actionfund.org to get information before it's posted to the website.

As you know, October is Meet the Blind Month, and I do want to again encourage Meet the Blind Month activities. Our chapters should be out and about in the community promoting the message and the public education efforts of the National Federation of the Blind. Find some creative ways to get your chapter and members out in the community. To do that, we are encouraging also events related to web accessibility and demystifying the way that blind people use technology in our everyday lives.

As you know, there have been a lot of news stories about how lawyers are taking advantage of the laws and unfairly suing small businesses over the inaccessibility of their websites. Well, as we know as blind people, number one, we need access to those websites to get critical information to live our lives, to do our banking, to find out about local businesses, any number of things. And the fact of the matter is that compared to the number of websites out there, the number of lawsuits are filed in this area are very small.

We encourage you to use Meet the Blind Month as an opportunity to talk about web accessibility and the real barriers that blind people face from inaccessible websites, but you may have other creative things you want to do in areas of our public education work that you want to promote. I encourage you to do that during Meet the Blind Month in October. We want information about Meet the Blind Month events, so please provide your event's details, date, location, other information. You can send that via email to web@nfb.org and we will be sure to put up your information on our Meet the Blind Month page. We also encourage you to promote the work that your chapter is doing for Meet the Blind Month in social media using the hashtag meet the blind. I look forward to hearing the reports of some of the creative things for the month of October.

I want to also remind you that we are doing a series of open house telephone calls for perspective members of the National Federation of the Blind. So these aren't new members, these aren't long-time members but people that are thinking about it or that you would like to think about membership in the National Federation of the Blind. These national open house calls are for those individuals. Our next one is September 18th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We do ask people to RSVP for the calls. The October call will be October 20th at 4:00 p.m. Eastern and we will have one in November and December as well.

If you have prospective members that you want to encourage to be part of these calls, please ask them to or assist them in sending an e-mail to RSVP for a call to membership@nfb.org. We want prospective members to come learn about our organization and ask questions. We had a good first open house in August and I'm looking forward to the one coming up here in September. You can also help people RSVP or encourage them to by calling the national office, 410-659-9314, asking them to dial extension 2509.

As we come up to October and Meet the Blind Month, I was reflecting on the fact that White Cane Awareness Day is coming up. Sometimes been known as White Cane Safety Day, and in the last few years we've been rebranding it to White Cane Awareness Day. A reminder to our chapters that we do have a free White Cane program in the National Federation of the Blind where we assist blind people in getting a long white cane. You can access that on our website, by helping people fill out the form and get long white canes. It's a good activity for Meet the Blind Month. It's a good thing to promote during White Cane Awareness Day. It's the most extensive effort anywhere in the country to get blind people free white canes and to promote independence with the white cane.

I would also encourage you to develop program in the chapters to teach people how to use the white cane. The best teachers that I have had in terms of how to use the cane effectively as a tool for independence and confidence are blind people. Sometimes at our national convention, sometimes going out to lunch after a chapter meeting I learned from blind people how to effectively use the white cane and this is a very good activity to incorporate into our chapter meetings.

I think it's also worth talking about the characteristics of the white cane and why we have developed the NFB style white cane which is lightweight and has a metal tip. There may be other improvements we can make to the white cane. We're always seeking feedback on the canes that we provide and what would be useful to blind people. The canes that we provide, especially in the free white cane program, have been developed based on the feedback of blind people. The canes way decades back used to be solid pieces of wood that didn't have much tactile feedback, that were very heavy.

We've tried various things throughout the decades, and as you know, we now offer kids' sized canes up to very, very long canes for taller people. Please offer your feedback to our organization about what you would like to have in a white cane. We continue to talk to manufacturers about ways to improve the white cane.

Also, I mentioned earlier on the release our white cane laws, and October is a time that we reflect on the progress that we've made in getting white cane laws established that protect our right to be out in the world traveling independently with the white cane or the guide dog. So this is a great program that you could do any time of year but during Meet the Blind Month or as we lead up to Meet the Blind Month, great discussions to have about why we promote independence in the way that we do in the National Federation of the Blind.

Since we're post-Labor Day, I also want to remind you that Congress is back in session. It's a great time to promote our legislative priorities. We will need you to make calls to Congress, send e-mails, urge your members of Congress to promote our legislative priorities in the National Federation of the Blind. There are a number of other items we're tracking in Congress related to access to ride sharing, access to autonomous vehicles and future voting initiatives that, based on how the bills get drafted, will help or hurt blind people. So we're tracking all those things and you may see some urgent calls to action if some of those bills move forward. But please be in touch with your members of Congress about our legislative priorities. As you know, you can find those at our website.

I want to welcome the newest members to our Dream Makers Circle. This is the group of individuals who have committed to a gift upon their passing away to the National Federation of the Blind, an important way to help build, continue to build our organization after we are not able to be active members. Thank you very much to Alan and Joy Harris of Alabama for becoming the newest members of our Dream Makers Circle, and thank you to all of those out there who have already made that commitment.

I do have a few Federation family notes here in the month of September. Our Missouri affiliate reports the passing of Laverne Tobin on August 13th. Laverne and her husband, Alvin, have been active members of the Jefferson City Chapter since 1982. The affiliate welcomes prayers for Alvin, their family and our members that had the opportunity to know Laverne.

Denise Brown, who is president of our Greater Philadelphia Chapter reports that Mr. Tyrone Small passed away after an accident recently. Mr. Small was an active member of our chapter. He was a blind business owner, a friend to many in the Philadelphia area. You should keep him and his family, especially his wife, Helene, and the members of our Philadelphia Chapter in your thoughts and prayers as well.

Our Maryland affiliate reports the passing of Jasmine Williams Young, a member of the NFB of Greater Carol County Chapter. Jasmine passed away very unexpectedly at a young age on August 3rd. She was known for bringing joy and energy to our chapter and you should keep her and her friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

And finally, from our Illinois affiliate reports the death of Mary Monte earlier this summer. Mary was an active member of our Chicago Chapter, active in fundraising and many other aspects of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. I encourage you to keep Mary and all of our members who have left us during the past few months in your thoughts and prayers.

Now that we're into fall, we're into back-to-school activities and of course, our fall conventions. There's many great things happening. We're finishing up the construction here at our national headquarters. It should be done, oh, hopefully in the next month or so. I have a number of trips out to affiliates to help build the Federation. I'm looking forward to doing that and to undertaking other priorities that we set at our national convention. I'm also looking forward to hear about the great Meet the Blind Month activities that our chapters are planning. So thank you for your work to help advance our priorities and to move our organization forward.

Before I close the release, we will, of course, have some of the customary endings in true back-to-school fashion, but let me thank you for your service and say let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.