My first convention of the National Federation of the Blind was in 1996. A lot of what I heard at the convention gave me hope for my future. It was the first time I was plugged into a network of blind people who had my shared experience and who were prepared to mentor me. During our banquet at this year's convention I shared how important the choice of being a member of the National Federation of the Blind has been to me and what it means to us as a movement.
That first convention sent me on a journey for which I have not yet found the limits. Our conventions continue to do that for blind people each year. Now that our 2019 Convention is over, I cannot help but wonder what new opportunities our first-time convention attendees will experience in the coming year, or how the lives of the hundreds of blind children who attended the convention with their families will be improved by getting this early start on their journey to freedom and independence. Our Las Vegas convention was filled with love, hope, and determination. We also were able to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments we have made over the past twelve months. Read my Presidential Report to share in our progress. If you were unable to be with us in Las Vegas, I encourage you to catch the convention highlights. Most importantly, I hope you begin making your plans for our 2020 Federation family reunion. You can start today by putting an entry into your calendar for June 30 to July 5, 2020. We will have our eightieth anniversary convention in Houston, Texas, and it promises to be our biggest ever.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
Dr. Marc Maurer, our Immediate Past President, tells us that at his first convention he attended each and every meeting. Wow! That would not be possible today without time travel. National Convention 2019 was unique from start to finish.
We visited Las Vegas and stayed at the Mandalay Bay for six days full of seminars, meetings, workshops, and exhibits. Our registration numbers topped 3,200. General sessions packed full of great, informative speakers helped convention goers to understand that we can live the lives we want, and showed us all of the myriad ways that the Federation makes that possible. After-hour, informal get-togethers taught just as much through fun and fellowship. If you were unable to join us or just want to relive the highlights, visit our convention page to look through our agenda and to listen to the presentations.
We hope you will join us next year in Houston, Texas!
More than 3,200 members and friends attended our convention this year. It is hard to capture the mood of a convention and how life changing and affirming attendance can be. We try by sharing what members posted:
"My NFB family, you inspire and encourage me every time we get together. I can’t put into words the ways, but every single year you make me better."
"Spending the first morning of #NFB19 at the Jernigan Institute technology seminars and just learned that the element magnesium was discovered by a blind scientist. I love finding disability representation that I didn’t learn about in school."
"Mandalay Bay was challenging to navigate but by the second or third day we figured it out. I am grateful for the confidence to conquer unique situations and my friends who did it with me."
"Empowered, inspired, but very, very tired."
"One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was to join @NFB_voice 19 years ago. The diversity and strength of this organization has kept me going more than once. Happy to be home at #NFB19!"
"Tonight’s banquet address by our president, Mark Riccobono was not just a speech, it is a living manifesto. Freedom rings tonight and always at the National Federation of the Blind. #NFB19."
And our President tweeted, "Back at my desk after a great #NFB19. It is always exciting sorting through the learning and feedback for the year ahead."
Microsoft Does Not Support Subminimum Wages
Microsoft insists that its suppliers pay disabled workers at least the minimum wage. Microsoft rejects the antiquated notion that disabled workers’ efforts are worth less than nondisabled employees. Jenny Lay-Flurrie recently blogged about it. You can read more about Microsoft’s policies in “The Power of Inclusion, Extending Our Learnings from the Supported Employment Program.”
NFB Announces Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship Grants
We are committed to the development of innovative techniques for achieving nonvisual access to information through the design and development of accessible information and technology systems. It is crucial for developers to learn about accessibility during their formal education. Through our Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship Program under a Nonvisual Accessibility Initiative grant administered by the Maryland Department of Disabilities, we are excited to be working with professors on incorporating accessibility concepts into their curriculum in a required course.
Congratulations Professor Joyram Chakraborty, PhD, from Towson University; Professor Austin A. Lobo from Washington College; and Susan Vowels, DBA, from Washington College on their selection as recipients of the Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship Grant.
Autonomous Vehicle Demonstration at #NFB19
“We are pleased to collaborate with Lyft and Aptiv, companies that recognize the importance of incorporating input from the blind so that driving will be accessible to all.” – President Riccobono
Approximately fifty NFB19 attendees were able to participate in an autonomous vehicle demonstration for future accessibility. Each ride consisted of a vehicle operator, a vehicle host who answered questions about the technology, and the NFB19 participants. After the ride, participants offered feedback to enhance accessibility. Lyft is committed “to ensuring that the future of mobility is inclusive.” Read the Lyft Blog regarding the demonstration.
NFB Recognizes Educators and Leaders at 2019 National Convention
Because we value innovation in and around blindness, as well as great educators and superior leaders, the NFB recently presented our Jacob Bolotin awards, giving away $50,000 to individuals and organizations; recognized Alison Steven as our Blind Educator of the Year; honored Adrienne Shoemaker as our Distinguished Educator of Blind Children; and presented Ever Lee Hairston with our Jacobus tenBroek accolade. You can read more about our awards in our press room.
Convention Sponsors Support the Work of the NFB
The national convention and the work that the National Federation of the Blind does throughout the year is supported by our partners. Not only do these organizations provide financial assistance, they work with us on important initiatives including education programs, work opportunities, and technology advancements. We thank all of our sponsors, with special recognition to our Elite and Platinum sponsors of this year’s convention:
- Aira Tech Corp – Elite Sponsor
- Google, Inc.
- Microsoft Corporation
- OrCam Technologies
- Vanda Pharmaceuticals
Throughout our local chapters and state affiliates, to our national headquarters and diverse committees, the National Federation of the Blind is an organization of collective action. Here’s what you can do to get involved this month.
- Read President Riccobono’s 2019 banquet keynote – “Choice, Exploration, and Resistance: The Road to Freedom for the Blind.”
- Share our convention highlights.
- Thank our convention sponsors on social media.
- Read our 2019 resolutions.
Mark your calendars.