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Weekly Update: December 2, 2018

Greetings, fellow federationists,

On Friday at our convention, members met to discuss membership building and fundraising, and there they shared stories of how they got involved in our organization. One of the common themes that came up regularly was being asked to do something by a current member.

It feels good when someone asks me to do something. It might also feel intimidating or daunting at times, but my overall feeling is one of gratitude. When someone asks something of me, they are, in essence, saying to me “I need help with a thing, and I trust you enough to ask you.” Being trusted feels empowering, and empowerment, particularly for us, is crucial.

My first real exposure to the NFB was in Nebraska, when then president Carlos Servan asked me if I would run for president of the Nebraska Association of Blind Students. I had no leadership experience to that point, and I was barely a member of the organization. Carlos saw something in me, though, and he made sure I had the support I needed to help our student division grow. That was the first time I can remember a stranger ask me for a big favor, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

As you do the work of your chapters, I would encourage you to include other people in your efforts. Reach out to people you don’t see very often or to people who you know, but who don’t attend chapter meetings. Trust others to help us do the work of the Federation. You will be amazed at the impact you will have.

Washington Seminar

Washington Seminar, where we go to educate our state representatives and senators on the truth about blindness, is just under two months away. If you are planning to attend, you can make your reservations now. If you are interested in attending and would like more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

The Washington Seminar is one of our most crucial efforts, and we need your help to advocate for the rights of all blind people. To learn more, you can go to

Letters from Santa

If you know a child who would like to receive a Braille letter from Santa Claus, you’re in luck. Santa has made our National Center staff honorary elves this year, and they will be sending out Braille letters to interested boys and girls. To sign up a child to receive one of these letters, you can go to

Rideshare Survey

We are still looking for feedback from people who travel with service dogs on the experiences they have using ride sharing services. If you or someone you know is a dog guide user, I encourage Lyft and Uber passengers to share their experiences—both positive and negative—at There is a survey there which will only take two minutes to complete, but which will be very helpful for all our members.

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 Corbb O’Connor, a recent-ish transplant, our webmaster, and someone who was instrumental in handling convention logistics in St. Cloud.

Corbb grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and had consistent training from highly qualified braille and orientation-and-mobility teacher. Thanks to the Braille Bill passed with the advocacy efforts of the National Federation of the Blind, the topic of braille came up at Corbb’s IEP meeting in fifth grade. Even though he could have had braille instruction every day for more than an hour, his parents let him decide if he wanted to learn braille. He did…but—in the words of his vision teachers—only as a “backup” to large print to be used “someday.” To this day, he regrets that decision and is sad that his parents let him decide. (Strangely, one of his most vivid memories is teaching himself the slate and stylus with the aid of a large print poster one summer afternoon!)

Throughout high school and college, Corbb consistently thought that he wasn’t as smart as everyone around him. In reality and in hindsight, the truth was he wasn’t able to read at the same speed because his eyes were strained from reading large print. He switched to audio textbooks, but—not having used synthesized speech until trying to make it through an “Introduction to Islam” textbook—he quickly found a remedy to insomnia.

Fast forward several years, and Corbb graduated from The George Washington University and the Louisiana Center for the Blind. While in the city of Ruston, Corbb met his now-wife Briley, learned how he should have been using a cane for the previous 14 years, and finally learned braille.

Before moving to Minneapolis, Corbb lived in Illinois; Washington, DC; Virginia; and Kentucky. He now leads a group of accessibility testers for the software company Siteimprove. He spends most weekends exploring the city with Briley and their three-year-old son Silas, and—most of all—he looks forward to powering up a Ham radio (call sign K0RBB) or climbing aboard a kayak.

Dates to Remember

  • Jan. 28-31, 2019: Washington seminar, Washington DC
  • July 7-12, 2019: NFB National Convention, Las Vegas, NV
  • Oct. 25-27, 2019: NFBMN Annual state Convention, St. Cloud

Have a great week!

Ryan Strunk, President
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota

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