2019 Agenda National Federation of the Blind of Michigan State convention

November 8, 9 and 10, 2019

Crowne Plaza Grand Rapids Airport Hotel

5700 28th Street SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49546

(616) 957-1770




Send all convention questions to convention@nfbmi.org.




Message from the President


In the year 1970, the Annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It was especially significant to the blind of Michigan at that time because it was at that convention that our charter of affiliation was presented.  In 1969 the Michigan Affiliate was

organized.   So, that makes this year, 2019, our 50th Anniversary.  The presentation of that charter of affiliation in 1970 also had special meaning to the organized blind of that generation because that charter was placed in the hands of our then state president Evelyn Weckerly.  Many of you do not know who Evelyn Weckerly is.  In the 1970’s her name became what our national president would call, “a rallying cry for the organized blind,” especially for those who were facing discrimination in the teaching profession.  Despite the fact that Evelyn had taught successfully for  one year and nine months  for the Mona Shores School District,  in 1968 she was notified that the district no longer considered her a satisfactory teacher and candidate for tenure.  The school board also neglected to give her timely notice. 

                So in 1968, with the help and support of the National Federation of the Blind, the battle began.  This represented a landmark case for us because it went through a number of hearings, all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court and back again.  Finally, in 1974, the Weckerly case was concluded.  In the September convention edition of the Braille Monitor, President Jernigan said the following, “In the years to come blind people will look back to the Weckerly case as a landmark and a turning point. It was here that the blind made their stand against discrimination, dug in and fought, and finally prevailed, compelling the school board to give recognition to the fact that the blind, too, are entitled to rights and human dignity and first-class citizenship”.  To those who ask: "Why should I join the National Federation of the Blind? What is the good of collective action? How can the Federation help me?" we can reply with a single word: Weckerly!   I bring this to you today in 2019 because no discussion of the NFB of Michigan and the 1970’s would be complete without the name Evelyn Weckerly.

                During the past fifty years the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan has been a driving force and constant presence in all things pertaining to blindness and the blind people of Michigan.  The year 1978 saw the adoption of Public Act 260 which established the Michigan Commission for the Blind.      We wrote it, we got it passed, and they told us it couldn’t be done.  In the 1980’s and 90’s, parents of blind children became part of our movement and formed our parents division which evolved into the Michigan Association of Parents of Blind Children.  Working with these parents we started Saturday School where blind children received further training   in Braille, cane travel, and life skills from the perspective of blind youth and adults who were competent role models and active in the Federation.

                Blind college students also organized in the 70’s and this evolved into what is now the Michigan Association of Blind Students.  Working together, our student and parent divisions became powerful advocates for the rights of blind students at all levels of education.  Through these efforts we were able to get legislation adopted in the year 2000 that would affirm the right of every blind child to read Braille.  Partnering with other donors, which of late has primarily been the state agency for the blind, our service, Newsline for the Blind, was introduced in the state of Michigan.  This service continues to give the blind and others who are unable to read conventional print complete access to an ever increasing variety of newspapers, magazines, and other media services simply through the use of a telephone, computer, cell phone, and even an Amazon Echo.

                Over the years our outreach efforts have resulted in partnerships and joint projects inside and outside the blindness system.  Others have come to know that working with the NFB of Michigan makes good sense.  Through these cooperative projects we hosted a number of camp activities that taught blindness skills to the young and promoted positive attitudes about blindness.  We continue to actively champion careers in STEM programs, (Science, technology, engineering and math).  Our science camps and Birding by Ear activities continue to reinforce the belief that the blind can actively participate in science educational programs and introduce strategies and techniques blind students can use when they go back to their schools and seek inclusion in their school’s science classes. Through the Braille Enrichment Literacy and Learning (BELL) program our state held two BELL academies to teach Braille and other skills to blind children.

                Most recently the state of Michigan has become a center for research and development in autonomous vehicles.  Working in collaboration with the University of Michigan and the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, we have hosted two seminars to introduce blind youth to the careers that will develop in this field and what skills will be needed to compete for jobs related to it.  We are also introducing the professionals working in this area to the organized blind movement and educating them concerning our true capacity.  We will not be content with merely being passive passengers who hope to benefit from this technology once someone decides to consider and include us.  We intend to be in the driver’s seat as a driving force and fully participate in all the job opportunities that will emerge so our talents, abilities and experience will be part of the process when these innovations are introduced into society. 

                Our national president, Mark Riccobono, in the October Presidential Release said that others may say that they believe in the capacity of blind people but we back it up by what we do.  It isn’t just in the big things and accomplishments I have outlined.  As I said last year, we see our power in action when we convince one more blind man, woman, or child to believe in his or her true potential. This can take place in our local chapters, small gatherings or just in a conversation between two friends.  The people you will meet at this convention, whether they were a major mover or shaker, or just someone learning how to deal with blindness and meeting the federation for the first time, all have one thing in common.   At some point in our lives someone connected with us and told us it was ok and respectable to be blind.  We only have to do what other successful people have done.  We need to dream a little bigger, work a little harder, reach a little higher, and invest time and energy in ourselves.  Then we will be able to transform our dreams into reality.  Happy 50th anniversary NFB of Michigan!  Let us go into the next fifty years and continue to build the National Federation of the Blind.


Michael Powell


National Federation of the Blind of Michigan


Tell your Friends

We encourage you to talk about the convention to your friends on social media. Our official hash tag is #NFBMI19


Also, visit our website at http://www.nfbmi.org, join our Facebook Group, and subscribe to our Email discussion list.



Childcare will be available in the hospitality suite, room 472, during the Friday  Evening session from7 to 8:30 PM and during general session, breakouts, and  the banquet on Saturday and Sunday.


Free Literature

A variety of free literature is available for the taking near the Centennial Ballroom. Please feel free to browse and take whatever literature is of interest to you. Literature is available on a variety of blindness topics and in multiple formats. Please contact Diana Mohnke with any questions or

suggestions for literature you would like to see at convention.


Sponsor Messages

Following are messages from our White Cane sponsors. Thank you for your support.



HIMS, Inc. is a global manufacturer and distributer that has provided braille, magnification and accessible healthcare devices since 1999. At HIMS, Inc. innovation is driven by feedback from customers and employees. The company strives to enhance the lives of our customers, by providing tools designed to increase productivity and independence. Our US headquarters is located in Austin, Texas and is responsible for all of our North American operations including sales, support and repair of all HIMS products. We are proud to employ blind and visually impaired individuals at all levels domestically and overseas. image We are committed to providing high-quality products that meet the needs of our customers at work, school and home, but our commitment goes much farther than this. We continuously strive to lead the way in new product development. It is the success of our customers in personal and professional ventures that provides the inspiration for our new products. In many cases, our innovations are the direct result of feedback from customers, teachers, parents and colleagues.

Phone number:  512-914-1925

Website:  www.hims-inc.com


Brailliant BI14

Smart things come in small packages

HumanWare’s most compact braille device to date, the Brailliant BI14 is designed for ultimate efficiency without sacrificing ergonomics or comfort, helping visually impaired users stay connected and stay on track anywhere, anytime.

1 800 722-3393
See things. Differently.


Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired - Now Hiring

Coming on board with IBVI means joining a family of professionals who realize the key to a fulfilling career is teamwork.

Each person brings unique skills, stories and experiences that strengthen the IBVI culture and make us who we are.

We offer a generous relocation package, on-the-job training and a host of other benefits to ensure our associates thrive.

Now Hiring: Customer Service, Tool Kitting, Machine Operators and Retail Store Workers.  For more information contact:

Michele Repischak, Recruiter

Michele.Repischak@ibvi.org - 414-778-3054

AIRA Access

Aira is proud to be a part of the NFB family. We are grateful to President Riccobono and all of you for being vital stakeholders in the creation of the AIRA service, enhancing access to information. Always on your terms. Whenever you need it. And however you want it. As part of our partnership, we are glad to offer AIRA Access for the annual NFB of Michigan Convention. What is Aira Access? It is the ability for anyone to download the Aira app and use Aira for free, finding a hotel room, a conference room, reading a hotel menu, describing exhibit hall tables, or calling an Uber or Lyft to get to the airport.  To download the AIRA app go here: www.aira.io/app you will see a banner at the top of the app that says, “Tap to use AIRA as a Guest for Free.”


Want to learn more before you are onsite?  https://aira.io/access


Here’s to a great Convention!


Friday November 8

1:00 - 6:00 Exhibit Hall – Atrium


Stop by our exhibit hall with a variety of companies and vendors, eager to share their latest products and services. See some of the latest in access technology, learn about services which may benefit you, and purchase some great products.


Exhibitors include:


White Cane Sponsors


HIMS, Inc.


Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired


Other Exhibitors


A. T. Guys

Able Zone

Bureau of Services for Blind Persons

Capital Region Chapter National Federation of the Blind of Michigan

E. M. VITU,  Inc.

Guide Dog Foundation

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Kalamazoo Chapter of the NFB of Michigan

Lions District 11-B1 Winter Camp for the Blind

Looking Bus

Michigan Association of Blind students (MiABS)

Michigan Department of Education, Low Incidence Outreach

NFB Detroit Chapter

Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind

SASS/Birding by Ear and Beyond.


1:00 – 4:00 College Prep Pep Rally – Ontario

Gain the tools to apply for school and be successful as you continue your journey in life.

Facilitator: Fred Wurtzel, Board member, NFB of Michigan


4:00 - 7:00 PM            Registration –Centennial Ballroom Foyer

Registration: $20, Banquet tickets: $40; Saturday lunch: $15

A limited number of lunch and banquet tickets will be available at convention.


4:00 PM                      Resolutions Committee – Erie

Please try to have resolutions submitted in writing prior to the convention to Chairperson Steve Handschu at stephenhandshu@gmail.com.

If you feel the NFB of Michigan needs to take a position on an issue, Please bring your resolution or idea to the meeting. This is where we set policy for the organization. All are welcome.


7:00 PM Driving Blind with HIMS - Ontario

In this session, Hims will feature new and improved access to google drive from the Polaris, and will also include a bit of a general overview on other braille products.

Earle Harrison, Sales Manager, Midwest Region, HIMS, Inc.


7:00 - 9:00 ONE- TOUCH, techniques and strategies for self-defense developed for blind persons. - Erie

Learn how to defuse, avoid and protect yourself in difficult situations. RSVP is requested at stephenhandschu@gmail.com

Steve Handschu certified ONE TOUCH instructor


9:00 PM-midnight Michigan’s Got Talent – Centennial Ballroom

Hosted by the Michigan Association of Blind Students. Registration $5. 

Join the Michigan Association of Blind Students and the Michigan Affiliate in its inaugural talent competition, "Michigan's Got Talent," where members of the affiliate, chapters, divisions, exhibitors, and guests are welcomed to compete for one of three grand prizes. Aside from the cash bar, light appetizers, and great company, competitors are welcomed to enter the competition with their best showcase for a chance to be heralded as one of the affiliate's greatest talents. Whether it be musical, comedic, or some other art form, join us in a fun-filled event that will entertain us all.



Saturday, November 9


All general sessions and the banquet will be held in the Centennial Ballroom


8:00 - 8:45 AM           Registration –Centennial Ballroom Foyer


9:00 AM Call to order. Opening remarks and welcome.  Acknowledgement of visitors and guests.    Pledge of allegiance, one minute brand message, NFB pledge.  

9:15 AM Report from national office Jim Gashel.

9:45 PM NFB of Michigan scholarships J.J. Meddaugh.

10:00 AM Report from Bureau of Services for Blind Persons: Bill Robinson .

10:25 AM Questions, answers and discussion.

10:35 AM Raising expectations, what makes us different and how we back it up: Motivational speaker Buna Dahal

11:00 A Smart Way to Navigate Transit - Nirit Glazer, Looking Bus

11:10 AM Autonomous Vehicles, involving the Blind in Design and More: Fred Wurtzel, NFB board member, Robin Ross and Steve Vozar from May Mobility

11:45 AM Autonomous bus visit outside of hotel.

12:00 PM Adjourn for lunch

Boxed lunches will be available near the main ballroom for those who preregistered. Lunch ticket is required and must be purchased in advance or at Registration. If you preordered lunch, pick it up here.


1:00-2:30 PM  Michigan Association of Blind Students Annual Meeting – Centennial Ballroom

Learn about the latest happenings with your student division. Jeff Crouch, President


1:00 – 2:30 PM Senior Focus – Ontario

Learn about tools and resources for seniors and how to get involved. Whether you are just losing your sight or been blind your entire life, we hope to create a group to help you learn and grow. Mary Wurtzel, Facilitator.


1:00 – 1:45 iPhone Apps and Tools you can use – Erie

Sabrina Simmons, 2nd Vice President, NFB of Michigan


2:00 – 2:45 Finding the Next 100 members, How to Build an Affiliate – Ontario

An interactive and candid discussion to identify our successes and challenges in communicating our message and reaching new members. J.J. Meddaugh, 1st Vice President, NFB of Michigan.


3:00 – 3:45 Getting Started with the iPhone: The Basics – Ontario

Sabrina Simmons, 2nd Vice President, NFB of Michigan

3:00 – 3:45 Getting to know HumanWare Products - Erie

Bring your questions about HumanWare products along with you to this breakout session. Find out how others are using these tools every day.

Also, see the new features included in the most recent update of the Braillenote Touch +. 

Joel Zimba, Blindness Product Specialist, HumanWare.


3:00 – 3:45 Selling Your Dream, Getting Support from your State Agency – Centennial

Attempting to get training? Looking for technology to perform better in the workplace? This session on working with your vocational rehabilitation agency is geared to understanding the approach, methods, and arguments that can get your goals and plans supported by your VR counselor and their resources.  Presenter: Robert Parsons, President, Kalamazoo Chapter


General Session


4:00 PM          Science camp:  Sense-Sational Adventures in Summer Science.  Fred Wurtzel, Donna Posont and others.  Hear the report and watch the debut of our 2019 video from our student scientists and mentors as they studied the subject of sound this summer


4:40 Chapter Role Call: What’s Happening around the state in our affiliate?

5:00 PM          Adjournment


6:00 Social Hour, Centennial Ballroom Foyer

Cash bar available.


7:00 PM          Banquet


Banquet address from our national representative James Gashel

Student scholarship and other award presentations


9:00 PM          Auction

Come bid on some amazing items and support our affiliate. Credit cards accepted.




Sunday, November 10


9:00 AM          Business session of the convention begins

  1. President’s report
  2. Secretary’s report
  3. Treasurer’s report
  4. Election of officers
  5. Resolutions
  6. Washington seminar
  7. Chapter and committee reports
  8. Old business
  9. New business
  10. Convention adjourns at 12:00 PM


Thank you for participating in the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan 2019 state convention. We hope to see you again in Metro Detroit, November 6-8, 2020.