[Tall-Corn] FW: [Nfbnet-members-list] Open Letter of Apology from President Riccobono

Scott Van Gorp svangorp at nfbi.org
Thu Dec 17 02:41:17 UTC 2020

Sorry if you get this more than once. I sent from the wrong email the first
time. FYI from our national president.


Scott Van Gorp, President
National Federation of the Blind of Iowa
Phone: 515-720-5282
 <mailto:svangorp at nfbi.org> Email

 <http://www.nfbi.org/> Website 
082570/posts> Facebook 
 <https://twitter.com/nfb_iowa> Twitter 
Live the life you want.

The National Federation of the Blind of Iowa is a community of members and
friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation's blind. Every day
we work together to help blind people live the lives they want.




From: NFBNet-Members-List <nfbnet-members-list-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf
Of National Federation of the Blind via NFBNet-Members-List
Sent: Wednesday, December 16, 2020 11:21 AM
To: nfbnet-members-list at nfbnet.org
Subject: [Nfbnet-members-list] Open Letter of Apology from President





Open Letter of Apology from President Riccobono

Content warning: the following letter addresses sensitive topics regarding
sexual misconduct and violence.

Dear Fellow Federationists:

Many NFB members, former members, and people within our blindness community
are hurting. For some, the pain comes from their lived experience of being
abused or violated by one of our members and/or made to feel like no one
else was listening or came to their defense at a Federation event or
training program. For others, what they feel is empathy for survivors who
were harmed by participating in the National Federation of the Blind,
recognizing that we have not done enough within our movement and
systemically within our community. We are deeply sorry that this is true and
apologize for where we have failed. As the elected President of this
movement, Icarry the responsibility of this pain. I am profoundly sorry that
anyone has been harmed by experiences in our movement. As a husband, father
of three children, and leader who tries to live by a strong set of ethical
values, I hurt for the survivors, and I deeply regret that I have made
mistakes along the way. At each opportunity that I have to sit with my young
children, I am directly reminded how fragile the balances are in our lives
and how much our actions can have a lasting impact on others. I live with
the regret and sorrow for the mistakes I personally made in dealing with
inappropriate behavior in the past. Sometimes my mistakes have only been
illuminated later through the honest reflection of a friend or the
vulnerable sharing ofsomeone who has been harmed. How do you adequately
write a letter to apologize for that? How do you spread this sentiment to an
entire movement of people including those who have left our organization?
How do we, collectively, create an adequate action plan to promote healing,
prevent future incidents, and continue our development of a culture that is
welcoming, safe, and eliminates the barriers to bringing concerns forward
for resolution? This letter attempts to explore those questions, but this is
merely a single moment in these needed conversations.

Our hearts break for the survivors of abuse and sexual misconduct who have
bravely shared incidents that have happened within our organization over the
decades. During the past couple of weeks, a number of courageous individuals
have shared painful stories about their experiences on social media and in
individual conversations. We thank those brave survivors for sharing their
stories because we recognize how difficult that is and how each story
creates a unique set of emotions and challenges. We deeply regret that over
our eighty years we have not handled each situation appropriately or been
able to heal the pain that such incidents create. We do notreject these
feelings of pain. In fact, we want to find and establish better ways to hear
them and continuously eliminate the actions that caused them. We have no
intention of debating the circumstances of any instance. Instead we
acknowledge that if a survivor was left feeling the situation went
unaddressed, then we have failed. The membership demands we do better. I, as
President, demand this of myself and expect it from our movement. We will do
better. In addition to calling upon all Federationists to listen better,
honestly reflect upon your own biases, and to actively align our actions to
our words, I call upon you not to dismiss those who cannot believe that our
intentions are sincere or those who have had the courage to come forward.It
is our individual and collective action, positively focused on making things
better that will create belief. That is what has been true for us since
1940, and it will continue to be true for us going forward.

Let us get down to the hard facts. Words appear to mean nothing without
actions, so below I've outlined six steps that we are committing to in the
near future. Before I list them, please understand that these are initial
steps, and we are committed to exploring and implementing whatever policies,
programs, trainings, or resources necessary beyond these steps to
appropriately address these horrible situations.

Improvements to Reporting of Incidents

We are currently thoroughly reviewing the pathways for reporting incidents
and how those paths are handled. We are open to revamping all of the
reporting mechanisms we have. We are in discussion with outside consultants
who are expected to do a complete review of our processes with a specialized
emphasize on sexual misconduct and harassment. We will rebuild all of our
procedures if needed. We expect our revised processes to involve a
third-party entity, but since we do not yet know how that will turn into
actionable efforts within our organization, we cannot be specific about that
process. Our hope is to be more transparent about our partnership
andtimelines for action during the first quarter of 2021. We hear you about
the uncomfortable position some people feel is created by the current
reporting system when a person must report through members they will later
need to deal with personally. Regardless of the reporting mechanisms we
maintain and create, we must be very clear on one point: Every elected
leader of this organization must be prepared to take concerns seriously and
to act upon information they are given as quickly and thoroughly as
possible. Furthermore, the safety of blind youth who are under our
supervision is our highest priority, and any incident that is discovered
must be dealt with immediately.

Open Meeting and Supporting Survivors

We are committing to hold an open meeting or series of listening sessions to
discuss these issues and solicit feedback on what support and resources
victims and survivors need. We have not yet detailed what the open meeting
and conversations will be. Because we do not want to unintentionally
contribute to further pain among survivors, we want blind people with lived
experiences and our consultants to guide that process. In the meantime, we
continue to answer calls and emails from Federation members seeking clarity
about these issues and offering solutions that we will carefully weigh as
our learning continues. We are grateful to those of you who havereached out
directly offering your personal experiences as a guide to future
development. The members of the Federation are expected to shape what we do,
and your readiness to bring solutions makes a big difference. Our goal is to
provide support and healing to victims and survivors. 

Enhancing the Code of Conduct Work

Prior to recent events and the stories that have emerged, we were in the
process of considering and implementing several enhancements surrounding our
code of conduct and its related procedures and programs. We have now paused
those efforts. Why? Because we are listening. We have done horribly at
messaging and sharing our internal procedures and our plans for effectively
administering our organization's code of conduct. I say paused because we
want to carefully evaluate where we are and our next steps guided by the
expertise of anti-sexual-violence experts from outside our movement. If we
must completely reset, that is what we will do. For now, ourcode and
existing procedures are in place to set expectations within our
organization. We will carefully evaluate current grievances to ensure that
they continue to be safely and swiftly investigated even while our
procedures are under review.

Illuminating Expectations 

You may already know, but the board made its annual revisions to the code
and procedures process on December 5, 2020. When we went to post the
revisions, we realized that the FAQ we planned to post after the December
2019 review did not happen. No excuses, that was a pretty big dropped ball.
That document is intended to answer questions like what happens when a
grievance is filed, how is information kept confidential, and what
communications can a filing party expect? Overall, we have failed to
communicate broadly the procedures we have been using. For example, we allow
for advocates to participate with parties who are involved with code of
conductinvestigations. Moreover, these FAQs will also be informed and
expanded based upon questions that continue to be raised. They will also
evolve as we implement additional avenues for raising concerns and for
training members of the organization. We take ownership for the
misinformation that is now circulating. Please keep those questions and
suggestions coming.

Continuous Training

Training on issues around misconduct and abuse is something we have only
skimmed the surface of in the recent past. We have done a minimal amount of
training for affiliate presidents and workshops at our national convention.
We were not satisfied that our training was sustainable, so we have been
seeking other partners. That has been unreasonably slow. No excuse, we
understand. We are going to be putting together training with the specific
goal of preventing misconduct and abuse at Federation events and to
strengthen the level of comfort with reporting. We have also hired an
individual to assist in a number of areas including
coordinatingtraining-that person only started on November 30, which is why
we had not yet introduced her to the membership. 

Consistency across NFB Training Centers

A lack in consistency in practices across the three training centers that
are affiliated with the National Federation of the Blind has been raised as
a concern. It is worth noting that only BLIND Incorporated, the Colorado
Center for the Blind, and the Louisiana Center for the Blind have made the
specific partnership commitments necessary to be formally and officially
affiliated with the organized blind movement. On a regular basis, I have
been meeting with our training center directors with the specific goal of
better aligning our practices and policies. There is more work to do there.
We expect these centers to fully commit to our code of conductpractices and
set the highest standard of professional practice in all programs. During
the most recent revisions of our code of conduct, we discussed the topic of
consistency in handling and reporting concerns at our centers. We will be
conducting a full review and implementing consistent training for the
personnel at each of our centers. I stand with those who have been harmed by
any employee, contractor, or volunteer at one of our centers, and I am
prepared to help eliminate ineffective practices and urge the termination of
those employees and contractors (as well as the exclusion of volunteers) who
violate our policies in this area. 

Let me also add that our training centers have made a great difference in
raising the standard of training for blind people in this nation and all
around the world. As a graduate of one of our centers, I share that pride
for the training I received but also the pain that even one person coming
through one of our centers would have had a harmful experience. The
employees at our centers are some of the most dedicated and thoughtful folks
I know, and they are committed to the safety and wellbeing of program
participants. However, that does not excuse harmful incidents that have
happened in our training programs. I know our centers are committed to
doingbetter. I know the executive directors and boards of each of these
training centers will be prioritizing the advancement of these
conversations. Most importantly, I know they feel your pain in a very deep
and personal way.

Again, these are immediate actions and commitments. This is not a complete
roadmap for the years to come, but it outlines some of the forthcoming
actions we are focusing on. We know that we need to examine more ways to
support our members such as mental health resources and the expertise of
crisis professionals. Members of the Federation have a right to demand
information about what is being done, and Federation leaders are expected to
share that information. When we committed to the code of conduct in 2018, we
made a commitment to a much-needed journey. Our commitment has not wavered
even if we have not been outwardly demonstrating a commitment that youcan
trust. As leaders, we will continue to work to earn your trust and we will
remain committed to continuous improvement and an open dialogue for
organizational change. We are committed to finding ways to heal that pain,
while preventing any future pain that results from unacceptable behavior. We
are going to need the ideas and support of the members of this movement to
do that in a meaningful and effective manner, so all are welcomed. 

You continue to be our wise teachers. You who have shared your personal
experiences and who have dared to open yourselves continue to guide us. In
the National Federation of the Blind, we value diversity, we strive to be
fully inclusive, and we want to be the safe space for all blind people.
Every blind person in this nation deserves what this movement has to offer,
and we recognize we have work to do so that every blind person feels like
there is a place here for everyone. We are going to get there together. We
apologize that we have not yet made it all the way, but we pledge that the
commitment is deep and it is real. We are not done with our changes.

With love and commitment, we are #MarchingTogether.

- Mark Riccobono, President
officeofthepresident at nfb.org
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19462&qid=4709062> ,

The National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors shown below
requested that the President write an open letter regarding our commitments.
By signing below, each of us affirms our support and commitment to the
content of the letter above. Anybody with concerns regarding the content of
this letter, the commitments that have been expressed, or potential
incidents that may have happened at Federation events are welcome to contact
any of the individuals endorsing this statement.

Pam Allen, First Vice President and Board Chair, pallen at louisianacenter.org
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19463&qid=4709062> ,

Ron Brown, Second Vice President, rb15 at iquest.net
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19464&qid=4709062> ,

James Gashel, Secretary, jgashel0923 at gmail.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19465&qid=4709062> ,

Jeannie Massay, Treasurer, jeanniemassay at gmail.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19466&qid=4709062> ,

Denise Avant, davant1958 at gmail.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19467&qid=4709062> ,

Everette Bacon, baconev at yahoo.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19468&qid=4709062> ,

Amy Buresh, amy.buresh74 at gmail.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19469&qid=4709062> ,

Shawn Callaway, callaway.shawn at gmail.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19470&qid=4709062> ,

Norma Crosby, ncrosby at nfbtx.org
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19471&qid=4709062> ,

John Fritz, president at nfbwis.org
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19472&qid=4709062> ,

Ever Lee Hairston, ever.hairston at gmail.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19473&qid=4709062> ,

Carla McQuillan, president at nfb-oregon.org
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19474&qid=4709062> ,

Amy Ruell, aruell at comcast.net
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19475&qid=4709062> ,

Joe Ruffalo, nfbnj1 at verizon.net

Terri Rupp, terri.rupp at gmail.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19477&qid=4709062> ,

Adelmo Vigil, nfbnewmexicopresident at gmail.com
<https://www.nfb.org/libraries/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=19478&qid=4709062> ,








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