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President's Update: Happy New Year

Greetings, fellow federationists,

I received an email from President Riccobono the other day which started off with the line “happy federation new year.” I hadn’t really thought about this before, but I think it’s a fun way to consider the work we do in our organization. The national convention is where we meet and celebrate our successes, but it’s also a place where we craft policies for the coming year, and we appropriately refer to them as resolutions. As we look forward to the coming Federation year, I’m excited about the possibilities, and I look forward to exploring all of them with you.

Unlike January, however, we don’t have downtime at the start of our new year, and so I offer you the following in that spirit.

Presidential Report

If you weren’t able to catch the presidential report at this year’s national convention, or if you’d like to give it a second glance, it has now been posted online. You can read the 2019 presidential report here.

News on Abolishing Subminimum Wages

Many of you may have seen this article from Disability Scoop about how congress just passed the Raise the Wage act. While the bill is chiefly aimed at raising the minimum wage to $15 over the next 6 years, there is a section in the language which outlaws the practice of paying people with disabilities less than the minimum wage.

Unfortunately, given the politics of the moment, the larger bill is not likely to pass the senate. Nevertheless, this is a landmark for the rights of people with disabilities because it is the first-time language of this sort has been included in federal legislation. I’m hopeful that this will help to raise awareness of the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, and that we will finally do away with this abhorrent practice.

State Rehabilitation Council

My application to the State Rehabilitation Council has finally been processed, and I will attend my first meeting as a member in August as the official representative of the NFB of Minnesota. I appreciate the opportunity to represent our positive philosophy of blindness. I will keep you all posted as notable developments arise.

In addition, Judy Sanders and Brian Dulude have also been appointed to the council as representatives for senior independent living and vocational rehabilitation respectively. I look forward to working with them, as well as the rest of the council, in the coming years.

Interviewing the next SSB Director

Our expertise has been sought in the hiring process for the next director of State Services for the Blind. I am pleased to represent us in the first round of interviews, which will take place on Tuesday, July 23. It will be important for the next director of SSB to have a positive outlook on blindness and a deep understanding of the capabilities and potential of blind people, as well as the qualities of a good director.

While Carol Pankow will be a tough act to follow, I’m hopeful that our next director will help us to increase opportunities for blind people, and I will do my part to ensure our perspective is represented.

A Bite of Randomness

As I finish this update, the following song came across my stream. St. Patrick's Day has always been one of my favorite songs, both because St. Patrick’s Day is my birthday, and because the chords and lyrics are just brilliant. This was one of my first forays into jazz, and it has always held a special place in my heart.

Member Spotlight

If you would like to be featured in an upcoming member spotlight, please send me a brief bio or a few notes about you, and I’ll be sure to include you in a future update.

This week we get to know Chelsey Duranleau, the recently elected treasurer of our Metro Chapter and a technology instructor at BLIND Inc. Chelsey is a font of great stories, and this is no exception. She says:

I grew up in New Hampshire and attended a “mainstream” school. In some ways, my blindness wasn’t really a factor – I rode my bike, went roller blading (this was the 90s, after all) and climbed trees. I sang in the choir all throughout school and participated in other extracurricular activities during high school. My parents always encouraged me to follow my dreams and never let my blindness hold me back from anything… Except… when it came to having responsibilities. My parents never expected or required me to do chores around the house, while my brother did yardwork and shoveled, I could stay inside and read or watch TV. I think this caused a lot of resentment for my brother. It made me feel inadequate and like I wasn’t good enough. I was the amazing blind girl who could do all kinds of things, but nothing that I felt like mattered or had any substance or value. I was the kid that wanted to do chores. Sometimes, when I was home alone, I cleaned the bathroom or washed the dishes, just to prove to others that I could do more than be my parent’s wonder-child.

I tell this story to demonstrate the power of high or at least age-appropriate expectations for blind children and adults and how lack of these expectations can really impact how blind children see themselves, even later on as adults. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job, is that I can help other blind adults see that they can succeed, as long as they believe in themselves and have positive role models around them.

Dates to Remember

  • Sept. 14: Walk for Opportunity, Rochester
  • Oct. 25-27: NFBMN Annual state Convention, St. Cloud
  • Feb. 10, 2020: Great Gathering-In, Washington DC


Have an incredible week.

Ryan Strunk, President

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