Category Archives: Blind Children

NFBV Seeks a Marketing Coordinator

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) seeks a marketing coordinator for its youth program, Project RISE.

Program Description

Project RISE, (Resilience, Independence, Self-Advocacy, Employment) is a transition program, focusing on providing blind and low vision students with the skills necessary to become competitively employed. These skills will be useful whether the students attend an institution of higher education, a vocational school, or enter the job market directly after high school. Project RISE combines the knowledge of successful blind professionals, the positive philosophy of the NFB, and a strong curriculum to give blind students, between the ages of 14-21, the skills and confidence they need to be successful. This program has the potential of changing the future of blind students. Throughout the year, Project RISE will be coordinated in northern Virginia but we will be expanding the program to include students from across the Commonwealth.

Throughout the 9 months, for Northern Virginia students, students will meet one Saturday a month, for about five hours, participating in workshops designed to make them more competitive in the job market. For students across the Commonwealth, students will meet quarterly and work with mentors throughout the year. Some topic areas include: travel and transportation, independent daily living skills, communication and interview techniques, and dressing appropriately for job settings. Throughout Project RISE, students will have access to successful blind mentors. Finally, students will have volunteer or work experience during the summer months. The Saturday programs will run from September to April, with the final session as a weekend spent at the National Federation of the Blind national center during the month of May.

Role Description

The Project RISE program is looking for a Marketing Coordinator to lead our recruitment and publicity efforts. The Marketing Coordinator will focus on building relationships with and selling our program to parents, vocational rehabilitation professionals, TVIs, and other staff pertinent to the growth of transition-aged youth. You’ll be responsible for setting specific objectives to develop a cohesive marketing plan for our program. This position reports directly to the Program Coordinator and involves a variety of tasks, including recruiting and retaining students, designing marketing campaigns, and publicizing the RISE program on a diverse set of platforms. Ultimately, you should be able to increase our participant count to 25 and ensure brand consistency for years to come.

Application Deadline – Sunday, July 22

Approximate Time – 10 hours a week

Required Tasks

  • Set specific marketing goals and meet/exceed them;
  • Recruit and retain upward of 25 students to participate in our 9-month program;
  • Design and implement marketing strategies aligned with mission and vision of Project RISE and NFBV;
  • Develop digital campaigns to broaden awareness and sustain branding;
  • Put out biweekly press releases;
  • Build lasting relationships with community members, including TVIs, O&M instructors, teachers, etc.;
  • Distribute fliers, newsletters, and brochures to relevant stakeholders;
  • Research market to identify new and innovative opportunities for funding and participant audiences;
  • Generate innovative ideas to promote our program;
  • Create a program logo;
  • Manage Project RISE web site;
  • Perform other tasks as outlined by the Program Coordinator.

Application Details

This position is an independent contractor position and there are no benefits associated with this role.

We anticipate an August 1 start date and a position duration of 3-4 months.

To apply, send your resume in a Microsoft Office Compatible format to Tracy Soforenko,

Telephone interviews will be scheduled for the week of July 23.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact President Soforenko: 202-285-4595.

The Vigilant: April 2018

The Vigilant: April 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

In the 80s TV Show, The A Team, the character Hannibal led a diverse crew in adventures with explosions, excitement and humor. Hannibal was a project manager who would gleefully state, “I love it when a good plan comes together.” I occasionally say the same thing then remember that the source is this silly TV show.

In the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, we are making and delivering on these plans.

Project RISE

On Saturday, April 7, I had the pleasure to participate in an outstanding session with Project RISE, our pre-employment transition service for students. The program was high energy with tremendous interaction between students, mentors and volunteers. We reviewed resumes and cover letters, conducted mock interviews, discussed informational interviews and connected positive blind role models with a truly engaged set of students. It was truly empowering for all involved. I can’t wait for our members from throughout the Commonwealth to meet these students at upcoming events.

Code of conduct:

Many of our chapters and divisions are talking about the Code of Conduct. Some of you attended our conference calls on the Code of Conduct held in March. If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out to me. Elected officers in our chapters, divisions, and at the affiliate level are asked to send me (via email) Section XI with your name replacing Federation Leader. An introduction from President Riccobono and the Code of conduct can be found in this month’s Braille Monitor.

Presidential Release:

I want to encourage you to play the Presidential Release at your chapter meeting. President Riccobono eloquently described the reasons why in this month’s Braille Monitor.

Visiting Chapters:

On April 19, I am excited to attend the Greater Alexandria Chapter’s First Birthday party.

On May 12, I will have the pleasure to meet with the Tidewater and Peninsula Chapters for a joint meeting in Norfolk.

I hope to visit more chapters in the coming months so feel free to let me know what you are doing and how I can help.

National Convention:

Our National Convention is fast approaching. In the March Vigilant we provided details about our state and national programs for first time convention participants (deadline 4/15) and expectations for requesting financial assistance. The 2018 National Convention is going to be outstanding but we really need you there to make the convention the best ever. We will need help from our members in a number of ways:

  • Monday, July 2 – work the Welcome table
  • Tuesday, July 3- Work the Host Committee Hospitality suite
  • Wednesday and Thursday – July 4 and 5 – Work the Virginia Table in the Exhibit Hall
  • Wednesday, July 4, attend the Virginia Caucus and meet up with our NFB of Virginia Federation Family
  • Friday, July 6 – Work the Hospitality Suite (breakfast and lunch only)
  • Friday, July 6 – Cheer for the Opening Ceremonies organized by the Virginia, Iowa, and Florida affiliates
  • Sunday, July 8 – Attend the Banquet and we hope we will have a Scholarship Finalist to Cheer

These are all special events that are over and above the typical convention agenda. But we need you there to make it work.

2018 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Applicants

This year, we had a large and diverse set of national scholarship applicants. It is my pleasure to interview these individuals and I want to wish them all our best as they compete amongst a very demanding pool.

  • Abu-El Hawa: Vienna – Northern Virginia Community College
  • Elijah Anderson: Smithfield – Christopher Newport University
  • Steve Cantos: Arlington – George Mason University
  • Nick cantos: Arlington – Virginia Southern University
  • Leo Cantos: Arlington – George Mason University
  • Phuong Dang: Falls church – George Mason University
  • Christian Howard: New Market, MD – Liberty University
  • Traci Jones: Ashland – Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • Mausam Mehta: Staunton – Undecided
  • Gerald Meredith: South Chesterfield – Virginia State University
  • Robert Parsons: Henrico – Undecided
  • Sarah Patnaude: Midlothian – George Mason University
  • Kassahun Sahilu: Alexandria – Northeastern University

I would love to connect you with our applicants for added mentorship and camaraderie. Please reach out to these individuals to encourage them to participate in local chapters and truly connect with our Federation Family.

Board Meeting – May 19

On Saturday, May 19, we will hold our National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Board of Directors meeting on the DBVI campus in Richmond. We are beginning to work on the agenda so please feel free to reach out to me for suggestions for the agenda. The Virginia Association of Blind Students will again arrange for a lunch to be available for purchase at the meeting.

BELL Academies – Arlington and Harrisonburg

We are actively recruiting students to participate in the two Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academies to be held this summer. The program in Harrisonburg is scheduled from June 18-29 and the program in Arlington is scheduled from July 16-27. Details on the programs can be found on the Virginia BELL Academy Frequently Asked Questions page.

I am encouraged by all the exciting activity in the Virginia AFFILIATE and look forward to our work together.

In addition, we are looking at other special events that are being planned by the host committee.

Help me keep the NFB of Virginia spirit alive!

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” – Marcus Aurelius

An Open Letter to Federation Chapters Regarding the Presidential Release

The following is reprinted from the April issue of the Braille Monitor.

An Open Letter to Federation Chapters Regarding the Presidential Release
by Mark Riccobono

Dear Federationists:

In my role as President of the National Federation of the Blind, I love attending local chapter meetings since that is the place where the heartbeat of the organization begins. The chapter meeting is my monthly grounding in what is central to our organization—connecting with our Federation family, hearing about the ups and downs members experience, sharing my own ups and downs, explaining what we are doing as a movement, and engaging in conversations about where we have been and where we wish to go together at all levels of our organization. Unfortunately, I cannot physically be at every local chapter meeting across the country. Yet some of the engagement and dialogue that I would have in person is facilitated through the Presidential Release.

Playing the Presidential Release at your local monthly chapter meeting fuels progress toward our organizational objectives by allowing me to:
Speak directly to our membership in an environment where questions can be raised, issues can be discussed, and we can spark meaningful conversation
Share what we are doing at a national level and strengthen the common bond we hold in our movement
Cultivate the understanding and feeling that we are an authentic national network and that our local work has value that stretches beyond our community
Inspire people to act to advance our collective interests
Share happenings in the Federation family to connect our members with Federationists they may have met outside the local community
Build a direct connection between the leadership and the membership
These are all important to our movement, and I hope this letter helps you to have a deeper understanding of why they should be important to your chapter. Careful attention goes into the Presidential Release to ensure that it contains important information, builds relationships, and includes some humor—known as “customary endings.” Good chapter meetings are busy and packed with program—which should include the Presidential Release. If your chapter is not consistently playing the Presidential Release every month, this letter is to ask you to work closely with your chapter president to make sure it is part of the monthly program.

The very first Presidential Release was made on November 12, 1973, and I first heard a Presidential Release in the fall of 1996 after I became president of the student division for the Wisconsin affiliate. The question of why chapters of the National Federation of the Blind should offer the Presidential Release at the monthly chapter meeting has been around as long as I have been in the organization, and I suspect it came up before that time. As we come to the forty-fifth anniversary of this organizational asset, it seemed appropriate that the question get attention directly from the horse’s mouth—or maybe it is the horse’s hooves since this is being composed on a computer.

What is the Presidential Release?

The Presidential Release is a monthly communication that is planned and presented by the President of the National Federation of the Blind. It is a direct message from the President of the national organization to the members at the local level, and it is intended to be shared within a local chapter meeting. The Presidential Release was originally distributed on cassette tape to chapter presidents and other Federation leaders. In 2012 it began being distributed on a flash drive which dramatically cut the time for duplicating and distributing the release. Not too long after that we began posting the audio file to, and starting with the August 2015 release, #441, we added an RSS feed allowing it to be podcast. Shortly after that we added a new version of the Presidential Release which is intended to reach out to members who primarily speak Spanish—the first Spanish release was November 2015, #444 . In the same timeframe that we moved away from cassette tape distribution, we established a telephone number that could be called to listen to the release, and that capability was later moved to NFB-NEWSLINE where you can now find the release on the National Federation of the Blind channel. In January of 2018 we began posting the English and Spanish transcripts of the Presidential Release at to provide access to members who are deafblind. To make sure our list is comprehensive, I should mention that the Presidential Release can also be accessed on devices like the Amazon Echo or by pulling up the NFB Connect mobile application on iOS or Android. To get the release with Amazon Alexa say, “Play the Presidential Release podcast.” In general the Presidential Release is made eleven times a year, and it is available prior to the first Saturday of the month on the website and via the podcast feed. We generally have the Presidential Release posted within twenty-four hours of recording it, and the Spanish and text versions follow later in the month. I am not aware of any Federation chapters that meet earlier than the first Saturday. Therefore every chapter should plan to have the Presidential Release at their chapter meeting as long as a new one has been produced for that month

What is the purpose of the release?

The Presidential Release is intended to be a common bond shared among all of the chapters of the Federation. Our organization is strong because it is a wide, diverse network of chapters working on common issues. The release is also an opportunity to make the President of the Federation more personally known by the members. Obviously I cannot be at every chapter meeting, but the release allows me to share some personal reflections, information about what is happening, and some personal notes that might not otherwise be widely distributed. The release is also a reminder for members of the Federation that they can reach out directly to me to share ideas, information, and feedback. I am always surprised when a member asks if they can have my email address since it is on the Presidential Release every month.

The release is also a tool that chapters can use to spark discussion about the topics that are raised. For example, discussion of organizational priorities, the national convention, pressing legislative concerns, or new Federation projects are an opportunity for chapters to discuss how those national themes fit into the priorities of the chapter and how the chapter can contribute. The goal is to have a united organization where we coordinate work at all levels—local, state, and national—and we find ways to maximize opportunities for blind people.

When should the Presidential Release be played at chapter meetings?

The most important thing to know is that presenting the audio version of the Presidential Release should be a regular part of every chapter meeting agenda. At what point in the meeting it should be played and how it should be discussed is up to the chapter president as the individual running the meeting. Some chapters use it as the first major item of content at the meeting. Others work it in immediately before a report from the affiliate president. Still others take it in chunks so that discussion can happen after a particularly important item has been raised on the release. I caution against the release being the final item on the agenda if it has the effect of encouraging some members to beat the crowd and leave before the meeting is over. I also urge that it not be used as background noise for a break in the meeting. Both of those approaches diminish the intent and importance of the release to the Federation.

The Presidential Release should be introduced with some context for new members. chapter presidents have an opportunity to remind existing members and educate new members before every release is played about its value in bringing the chapter together with every other chapter in the nation. The preamble to the release need not be long, but it is important to remind each other why we do what we do.
Although many members think I do not know, I am well aware that the release is sometimes played at a faster speed at some chapter meetings. I do not strongly object to this practice, but I do urge that chapter presidents be sure that the faster speed works for everyone in the room. Some people have hearing difficulties, and many newly-blind people may not be comfortable with listening to things at a higher rate of speed. Thus, my preference is that the Presidential Release be presented at the speed it was intended to make sure that it is as accessible to as many people in the room as possible. The playing of the release should be thoughtfully placed in the meeting, offered in its entirety, and its presentation should be managed by the chapter president.

How does the Presidential Release fit into today’s fast-paced communication culture?

In 1973 when the first release was made by Dr. Jernigan, or even in July 1986 when Dr. Maurer recorded his first Presidential Release (#117), we did not have the diverse and speedy communication tools we have today. It can be argued that email, Twitter, Facebook, podcasting, and other methods of sharing information mean that the information on the release is outdated as soon as it arrives. I believe this is not the case. In fact, if you go back and listen to the release over the years you can hear some of the commonality and some of the evolution. The release is presented in my voice, and much of our other organizational communication is heard through other voices. We provide less detail about specifics of Federation activities than we once did because we can now refer people to the website. Thus, rather than giving all of the details about the program for the law symposium or our next youth STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math] program, I can discuss the overall program and refer people to other sources for the details. Additionally, the release shares information that we do not share through other organizational channels such as celebrations of new Federationists (babies and grandbabies) and new Federation marriages as well as local Federationists who have passed away. This section of the release, which I refer to as the Federation Family notes, reminds us that we are a diverse, grassroots organization where most of our contributors are not high-profile names known to all across the nation. However, many of the names are widely known because of meetings at national conventions, service on a Federation committee, or information sharing through the Federation network. More than any other tool of communication we have, the release brings the personal element of shared understanding between our leaders and our members.

When I first heard the Presidential Release in 1996, I came to know that our President was a blind man who faced the same barriers and misconceptions that I did as a struggling student at the University of Wisconsin. The national President was better at dealing with the barriers than I was, and the release helped contribute to my development of methods and skills to cope with obstacles I encountered. When I finally met Marc Maurer in person, I felt like I already knew him from the release, and it eased my nervousness about approaching the President. Similarly, it is my hope that the Presidential Release brings members of the Federation to a place where they know me and can work with me. I could write something to the members every week or send out a Tweet of the day, but it will not be as personal or as comprehensive as the Presidential Release is today. I also believe that the release is an important part of cataloguing our progress as a movement. It gives us a running understanding of the Federation’s concerns and priorities over time, and it allows us to understand those concerns through the perspective of the principal leader of the movement. The release itself has given us a mechanism for continuing to evaluate what we do and how we might do it better—hence the evolution of the ways of distributing the release and the change from a communication that went primarily to leaders to one that is easily accessed by anybody (member or not). I hasten to add that I’ve seen this availability to everyone used as a reason not to take chapter time for the release, but, as I’ve already made clear, the release is meant to stimulate discussion in the meeting and not just as another source of information.
It is also worth noting that research demonstrates that people have to be exposed to things multiple times—seven is the number used in marketing circles—before it sticks with them. Even if the Presidential Release emphasizes content that is promoted in other places, the fact that it is on the release is helping it gain importance and building understanding within the membership. A good example is that someone once said to me that they were not invited to visit the Presidential Suite at the national convention. Besides the fact that it is in the convention agenda every year and we mention it throughout the convention, I have specifically invited people to come to the suite and thanked them for coming on Presidential Releases. Why did this individual think they were not invited? I suspect because the Presidential Release may not have been played at their chapter meeting.

How can you contribute to the release?

I have tried to make the Presidential Release authentic to my style as a leader of the Federation. I have also tried to encourage people to share ideas, topics, and customary endings that might help shape the content of the release in ways that are helpful to the Federation. While I wish to have feedback and ideas, you should know that I have avoided certain things. I frequently get requests to announce a chapter fundraiser on the release, and I have consciously decided not to open up those floodgates. I may share interesting fundraising ideas that chapters are implementing, but I do not think the Presidential Release is the correct forum for pitching candy bars and umbrellas. I invite customary endings, and I have tried to encourage people to send audio clips of young Federationists sharing those treasures. Sometimes I receive jokes which are not appropriate for the family atmosphere we want at our chapter meetings. Other times I receive cute recordings, but they are hard enough to understand that I decide not to include them. In other words, just because you send a contribution does not mean it will be included for a variety of reasons. On the whole, I never get enough feedback on things you would like to hear discussed on the release.
And now for the real customary endings:
This was the only ending on the very first Presidential Release offered by Kenneth Jernigan:
What do you call a sleeping bull? A bulldozer.
On Marc Maurer’s first release in July 1986 he offered a number of one liners but this one seems most appropriate for a customary ending:
What goes ha, ha, ha bam? A man laughing his head off.
My favorite ending from the first forty Presidential Releases I have recorded appears at the very end of #458 (February 3, 2017). This ending is delivered by me to Oriana Riccobono. I think the ending is a good one, but Oriana’s reaction is the real Presidential Release gem—you will have to pull up the episode online to hear what happens. Here is my ending:
What did the coffee say to the cream? I do not always know how to espresso my feelings, but I love-a you a latte!
As we come to the close of this Presidential Release letter, I wish to offer a few items that might be of interest. Dr. Jernigan wrote an article upon the occasion of the 100th release in 1984. That article notes that he tried to keep the release to about twenty minutes. I had not known that fact until putting this letter together. I also try to keep it to about twenty minutes, but frequently it runs longer because of the number of important topics that I want to cover. With today’s digital delivery of the release, chapter presidents can easily note the run time of the release and work that into the planning of the chapter agenda. You can read the other nuggets from the first one hundred releases in the February 1985 issue of the Braille Monitor in the article entitled “Presidential Releases” (available at

We only have eleven releases a year—how come? Because we do not have twelve of course. Actually the reason is that traditionally one is not made very close to the national convention because the organization is focused on the activities of the national convention. The President does not want to scoop any of the happenings of the convention on the release, and chapters should be discussing the national convention during that month. I did not examine the archive to determine if there was ever a year when we had a release very close to the convention because there was something urgent. However, I can remember years when we have had more than eleven releases. Typically this means we do not have a release in June, but can you think of a year when we had a June Presidential Release? It happened in 2017 because the convention was late enough in July that the July release would have come out immediately before the convention.
We have mentioned the first release by other Federation Presidents. What was my first release you might ask? It was July 2014, #429

I have tried to do some different things on the Presidential Release in the time I have been putting it together. Including my family in the release has been fun—my son Austin even tries to create his own customary endings now. I also once invited the Amazon Alexa to offer customary endings—probably the first time they were offered via the cloud. If the pattern for releases holds, the five hundredth Presidential Release will be December of 2020—seems like that presents an interesting opportunity to do something fun.

There are a lot of fun and interesting jobs related to serving as President of the National Federation of the Blind. The Presidential Release is one of the fun tasks to tackle. It is not always that the news to be delivered is joyful, but the release itself—what it represents and the bond that it allows me to strengthen with members of the Federation—is really important to me and valuable to our organization. I hope that you will join me in that bond by making the Presidential Release a priority at Federation chapter meetings. Equally as important, I urge you to continue contributing to that bond by giving me feedback and sending customary endings—I would love to put more young Federationists on the release. If you have great customary endings but no young Federationists to deliver them, send them anyway—I have three members that I go to when a recording is needed. It is my honor to be a part of every chapter meeting within the National Federation of the Blind. I hope to get to your chapter in person very soon. Even if I cannot be there in person, I appreciate that I have the opportunity to offer my perspectives at the meeting. In many large organizations the primary leader serves at a distance to the members. That is not the Federation way, and I am glad to continue the tradition of direct engagement with members at all levels. Remember that together with love, hope, and determination we transform dreams into reality. Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.

Breaking Down Barriers to Employment with Project RISE
By Kathryn Webster, Program Coordinator

As our Project RISE participants reconvened for the April session, we witnessed miraculous growth as students gained knowledge in areas of professionalism, informational interviews, career mentoring, mock interviews, and other topics relevant to the internship and job search. We were fortunate enough to have Jeremy Grandstaff, one of our Greater Alexandria chapter leaders and CEO of S&G Endeavors, facilitate the session with his wealth of wisdom and experience. Perhaps what made this session most memorable was that our students had the opportunity to interact with community members, leaders in our affiliate, and human Resource professionals. It brings a special sense of purpose in our program when students develop self-confidence before our eyes as they feel excitement in partaking in a mock interview, something that initially brought anxiety to some of our participants. One student emphasized, “This activity really helped me identify weaknesses that I now know how to overcome and transform into strengths.”

The morning session included a panel on informational interviews and professional mentoring, followed by small group discussions and then a large moderated discussion with questions asked regarding networking events, interviewing, and disclosing blindness. During lunch, we heard the story of Alysha Hiller, a member of our new Prince William’s chapter, as she shared her experience at the FBI from campus recruitment to eight years of professional experience behind her. Students were mesmerized by the sole fact that they could one day work for such a prestigious agency. These testimonies are exactly what our students need to hear as they begin shaping the future of their lives.

After lunch, our students engaged in five different rotations: mock interviews, review of Career Inventory assessments, polishing resumes, cleaning up cover letters, and preparation for informational interviews. Simultaneously, students collaborated with our coordinators and volunteers by participating in technology demonstrations with blind and low vision tools. It’s always exciting to learn new and handy tips and tricks to be efficient with our accessible devices.

Each month, our Project RISE program proves to be a success as our mentors and coordinators hear overwhelming support and devotion to continuing the program and bringing newfound experiences to our transition-aged students. Our Coordinators truly believe in the influence of blindness programs; and are confident that the lessons learned and general takeaways are individually exemplifying the true federation philosophy through and through.

A huge thank you to President Soforenko, Jeremy Grandstaff, Andrew and Alysha Hiller, Hindley Williams, Amir Rahimi, Crystal Grandstaff, and Gail Weiss; as well as to our mentors Susie D’Mello, Evelyn Valdez, Marc Canamaso, Sarah Patnaude, and Derek Manners for ensuring that the April session was a powerful experience for all! Be sure to contact Kathryn Webster at if interested in volunteering during our May 12 or June 9-11 sessions.

Nonprofit Development: Planning a Special Event
By Joe Orozco

Each month, the NFB of Virginia Fellows host a monthly call to discuss various topics to help in their leadership development. In March, we discussed planning special events. Following are the notes from that call. We hope you’ll find the advice of use in your chapters and state divisions, and if any of it does not make sense, please get in touch.

Remember, these are notes. This is not an article, so questions truly are welcomed.

No aspect of fundraising should exist in a vacuum. Organizations should use grant writing, event planning, direct mail, and other aspects of nonprofit development to help build up budgets through a diversified fundraising strategy.

Why Fundraise?

The NFB hosts a number of important programs and services of benefit to blind people at all stages of independence. We know our cause is a worthy one, but remember there are more than 1.9 million registered nonprofits competing for the same financial contributions. In the District of Columbia alone there are 32,000 nonprofits competing for donor attention.

Building a Fundraising Team

  • Convene diverse talents to shape a more robust skill set.
  • Diversity will give you access to different industries and in some cases pro bono services, including: legal service, marketing, printing, accounting, etc.
  • Do not just pick people who agree with you.
  • Do not just pick people from inside the organization.
  • Pick people personally willing to invest in your special event. After all, they are primarily responsible for helping you reach your fundraising goal.

What are you raising money for?

Give people a specific, tangible cause they can wrap their minds around. It is not enough to say we are raising money for Project RISE, or the BELL Program. Paint a picture. Put a face on the objective so that potential donors know they are giving money to blind children and youth. Help them understand they are contributing to expand literacy or whatever it is your special event is attempting to raise funds, but do not assume people will naturally understand programs and initiatives in the same way fellow members will.

What is the purpose of the event?

Special events can help you achieve one of a few objectives:

  • Raise money
  • Gain publicity
  • Break into a new network

Work with your team to determine your objective so that you can market and coordinate the event accordingly.

Target Audience

On a closely related point, you need to figure out what segment of the community you want at your event. This is not to say you will exclude people who do not fit this category, but it will help you organize the event to achieve maximum output.

For the NFB of Virginia, are you interested in attracting parents of blind children? Young blind professionals? Students? Professionals who work with blind consumers?

You’ll also want to consider factors like income levels. A golf tournament, for example, is more expensive to host, but it might be the sort of event that could attract participants with the means to play.

By determining your target audience, you’ll be able to more easily determine the event type: walkathon, wine tasting, fundraising dinner party, etc.

How much do you want to raise?

That would seem like an obvious point. Few people set realistic goals though. Remember, you need to consider the net amount, the amount that will go into your treasury after you’ve paid the various expenses.


These are some of the points your budget should consider. Of course, not every special event will feature these items, and every possible item is not reflected here, but it’s a starting point:

  • List all expenses
  • Consider the cost of the venue
  • Transportation
  • Paid staff
  • Invitations
  • Entertainment
  • Catering
  • Leave room for unforeseen expenses


A good sponsorship program will:

  • Lend credibility to your event
  • Lend name recognition that you yourself may not be able to produce
  • Provide free publicity through the sponsors’ own networks
  • Save you money and resources
  • Build a healthy partnership, because sponsors will also benefit from the publicity

Note: When promoting the event to your sponsors, it is a good idea to underestimate the number of anticipated guests. This will help them see the power their partnership has at increasing attendance rates.

Know Your Limitations

  • Do not overpromise
  • Plan early to avoid shortcomings
  • Balls will drop, learn to keep the right ones aloft

The Value of Awards

One strategy you may want to implement to draw more people to your event is giving awards. Identify services in your community that have shown great benefit to the blindness community. By giving away annual awards, you lend your event a certain credibility. You build partnerships, and the recipients of these awards will publicize the fact they won your recognition, thereby attracting more people to your cause.

Strategic Positioning

If you decide to host a fundraising event at a convention, state or national, it could be to your benefit to position yourself outside of the general meeting space. In doing so, you break out of the flow of your fellow members. By holding a music event at a restaurant, for example, you open the event to the general public, thereby increasing your potential to bring in funds.

If you employ this strategy, it might behoove you not to specify a giving amount. Let people tell you their perception of what they feel your fundraising event is worth. Some people may only give you five dollars, but there are often times cases where people will give you double and triple the amount because they do not want to appear to be slacking in light of such a worthy cause.

Hiring a Special Events Coordinator

Hiring someone to organize the event is not a bad idea. Yet, here are a few pointers.

Always talk to references. When you do so, make sure you talk to references with an event similar in scope to yours.

Do not expect the events coordinator to hand over their list of contacts. Yes, they may have personal contacts at Google, Microsoft and such, but those companies have relationships built with that individual, not you. If the coordinator wants to place calls for you, let them take the initiative to do so.

Not all event coordinators are good. Take the time to properly vet them. Pose every question you can imagine to ensure they understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish and what resources you possess to help achieve those objectives.

Are you interested in being a professional fundraiser?

You should know the work can be draining. Clients can be demanding, and when things go wrong, you can expect to assume the bulk of the blame. A thick skin is mandatory, especially as you approach the final stretch before the big day. Remember though, event planning is only one aspect to being a professional fundraiser.

If you remain interested, the median salary for a fundraiser as of March 2018 was $104,242 in the District of Columbia. The salary range for the region was $84,255 to $118,539.

This Month’s Helpful Resource: BlindBargains

In this column, we’re going to identify helpful resources for blind consumers. Some of it, perhaps a good portion of it, will be technology-related, but if we identify a good service or resource that could be of interest to you as a blind person, we’ll do our best to feature it here.

Of course if you have suggestions, please drop us a line and let us know about it.

If you have yet to catch up on all the great developments reported at this year’s CSUN conference, here’s a great resource you might want to look into.

BlindBargains provides a great audio archive of interviews conducted with some of the leading vendors who exhibited this year.

Interview samples include:

  • : A New NVDA Add-on Can Describe Website Images, Plus Accessible Approaching Buses
  • : A New ViewPoint in Wearables from Patriot Vision
  • : The Brailliant 14 from Humanware is Now Available
  • : A new Gesture-based Keyboard for your iPhone from Qwertyfree
  • : OCR Comes to the Small Screen on the Optelec Compact 6
  • : Vital Access to Graphics using a Tablet
  • : Grab that Controller: Big Strides Forward for Game Accessibility

These interviews and others can be found by visiting the BlindBargains Audio Archive.

In general, you’ll find BlindBargains provides classifieds, discount alerts, articles and other items of interest to the community.

Note: The aforementioned was offered for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia or its parent organization.

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

Bell Accademy 2018

Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning
(BELL) Program in Virginia

What is the NFB BELL Program?

The NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) program provides children, ages 4 through 14, with two weeks of concentrated Braille instruction through fun, hands-on learning. This program is for all blind children who could benefit from Braille enrichment over the summer. This includes children with low-vision, children who have recently lost their vision, children who have been blind since birth, and children who have additional disabilities in addition to blindness/ low-vision.

The National Federation of the Blind will hold two BELL Programs in Virginia in Summer 2018:

    • Harrisonburg, June 18-29
    • Contact—Beth Sellers,
    • Arlington, July 16-27
    • Contact—Nancy Yeager,

Both programs are designed to run Monday through Friday for approximately seven hours each day. In addition to Braille instruction, projects, games, and other engaging activities, children may also enjoy field trips to local attractions.

For a peek at the 2017 Northern Virginia BELL Program,
Link Here.

For more information,
Link Here.

To apply for either of the Virginia BELL Programs
Link Here.

The NFB BELL program has grown exponentially since its inception in 2008. Beginning as one site in the state of Maryland, the program is now offered in numerous states around the country! The NFB BELL program uses time-tested lessons and proven techniques to build self-confidence, positive attitudes, and skills in blind children; characteristics that are essential to ensuring blind children can live the lives that they want now and in the future.

What parents are saying:

“Besides Braille exposure, the most valuable thing my child gained at the NFB BELL program is increased confidence. I can’t believe the change in her attitude and initiative since attending the program.”

“This was the most positive program/experience we have ever been involved in. This program was an incredible resource for us both.”

“The NFB BELL program changed our lives this year. My daughter learned more in two weeks at NFB BELL than she did in a two- month program last summer!”


Priority #1: Protect Civil Rights of Disabled Parents

Action: Co-patron HB 491 & HB 515 / SB 70 (Patron Delegate LaRock, 33rd District / Patron Delegate Rob Bell, 58th District and Patron Senator Favola, 31st District) which adds protections to reduce discrimination persons with disabilities face in court decisions regarding custody, visitation, foster care, guardianship, and adoption.

Issue: Blind and disabled parents in Virginia and across the U.S. are having their right to raise a family denied. In particular, blind parents have sometimes been denied adoption, or have lost child custody on the basis of blindness. In such cases, a prospective parent’s disability often becomes the overriding factor used by the courts and social service agencies when making decisions about the care of children.

The National Federation of the Blind has documented thousands of cases of blind people who are successfully raising children, many right here in Virginia. This vast experience demonstrates that blindness is not a relevant factor in deciding whether a person is fit to be a parent. Similarly, the American Bar Association has come to the same conclusion with respect to other disabilities. Unfortunately, the capabilities of persons with disabilities to care for children are often brought into question even when they had been successfully caring for their children for many years.

Despite improved technology, training, and support systems, myths about the capacity of parents with disabilities persist. Even judges, social workers, and other state employees are not immune from these latent biases. Many of them have never met a blind person and cannot imagine raising a child while having limited or no sight. Because of this lack of understanding, some of these individuals miscalculate what is in the best interest of the child because they underestimate the skills of a parent with a disability to raise a child using alternative techniques.

Solution: HB 491, HB 515 / SB 70 will solve this problem by doing three things. First, it will establish that a parent’s disability will not serve as the sole basis for denial of rights without evidence of detriment to the well-being of the child. Second, when a parent’s disability is alleged to have a detrimental impact on the child, it will require the party alleging the detrimental impact to offer proof that training in alternative techniques would not ameliorate the problem. Finally, it will require ultimate decision makers to put their findings in writing to ensure that they consider training before deciding whether to break up existing families or prevent the establishment of a new one.

Priority #2: Virginia’s Blind Students Deserve Literacy Equal to their Sighted Peers

Action: Co-patron HB 336 (Patron Delegate Cole, 88th District) which requires an assessment of the literacy needs of Virginia’s blind and low vision students as a component of a student’s Individual Education Program (IEP).

Issue: Blind and visually impaired students in Virginia are not obtaining the literacy skills needed to achieve employment. While 70% of blind Americans are unemployed, 90% who are employed know Braille. The future success and employment of Virginia’s blind and low vision students depends on literacy. Since most visually impaired students have some residual vision, they are taught to read using large print, even when Braille or a combination of large print and Braille would best meet their current and future needs. While Braille is the presumed reading media, Virginia schools are only providing learning materials such as textbooks in Braille to approximately 100 of Virginia’s 1,200 blind and low vision students. Thus, Virginia’s blind and low vision students are falling behind their sighted peers because they are not given the tools to develop literacy skills.

Solution: HB 336 incorporates best practices and federal requirements to ensure that an assessment of reading media is conducted and that the results are incorporated into the IEP process. A similar 2016 bill received a Fiscal Impact Statement of $0. Since 2016, multiple stakeholders have collaborated to produce the 2018 bill. Through an extensive collaborative effort, relevant stakeholders now support the current version, HB 336, and the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia urges your support as well.

Priority #3: Don’t Weaken the Virginians with Disabilities Act

Action: Oppose SB 199 (Patron Senator DeSteph, 8th District) which requires individuals who face discrimination due to their disability to give offenders 60 days to correct the issue prior to bringing a lawsuit and requires the person with a disability to identify, in writing, among other things, the specific law being violated by the offender.

Any weakening of the protections for people with disabilities in places of public accommodation could lead to lower levels of employment and independent living for persons with disabilities. For example, inaccessible security entrances have the potential to limit certain employment and residential options for blind and low vision Virginians. This is particularly troubling when one considers that the Virginians with Disabilities Act (VDA) already has a safe harbor that prevents lawsuits against places that were compliant with the building code when built.[1]

Link here to get copies of the 2018 NFB VA Fact Sheets

State Convention for Students and Parents

The student programming at the 59th Annual State Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia will incorporate innovative ways for students and youth to get engaged and prepared for academic, community, and social success.

For Older Students:

Beginning Friday, November 3, attendees will have the opportunity to network with other high school and college-age members in a social setting, participate
in student business meetings and elections at the annual student luncheon, and take part in informative discussions and workshops with state and national
student leaders. On Sunday, November 5, the students and youth will take part in a collaborative self-defense course that can expand the minds and bodies
of the participants. This course also will give students a chance to work with younger children and influence leadership skills in them for the future.

Here are a few details we can share for students from the convention Agenda:

Winning Them Over with Professionalism and Poise – An Etiquette Dinner

You are cordially invited to attend the inaugural Etiquette Dinner presented by the NFB of Virginia on Friday evening. At this dinner, you will be educated
on the ins and outs of appropriate etiquette in both professional and social dining settings. From knowing which fork to use, to how much to tip, and even
appropriate dinner conversation. these are just a few of the things that will be discussed. There will also be an “Ask Ms. Manners”
portion at the end.

Friday Night Student Track Membership

Kick off with Ice Breakers and games to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to meet each other.

Youth Slam

Learn from a participant in the 2017 NFB Youth Slam, a 2-week STEM program on Towson State University.

Virginia Association of Blind Students

Learn about the exciting programming of our student division including the Successful Summer Student Blowout in June.

Project RISE

Learn about Project RISE, the NFB of Virginia’s exciting pre-employment mentoring program for students ages 14-21 from the organizers of
the program then attend the Open House for students and parents to learn more and get your questions answered.

Saturday Break Outs

On Saturday at 1:30 pm, we will have a series of 30-minute breakout sessions, including panel discussion and open forums. We will
have national and state guest speakers.

Self-Defense Program

Our Sunday morning, Youth Track program is offering an engaging, hands-on introduction to martial arts open to students of all ages. Mr. Wilson Olivera and students from the Full Circle Integrated Martial Arts School will be joining us for some lessons in practical self-defense.

For Younger Students

NFB BELL Academy

Learn from the participants in the 2017 Braille Enrichment for Literacy & Learning (BELL) Academies in Arlington and Harrisonburg.

Braille Carnival

Friday evening, there will be fun games and an opportunity to connect with younger students and parents throughout the Commonwealth.

For Parents

Virginia Department of Education

On Friday morning, hear from John Eisenberg, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services about
ways to help your student get a quality education.

Lunch with John Eisenberg

Grab a boxed lunch and Join Mr. Eisenberg in the Presidential Suite for a Friday afternoon question and answer session to tap
his advice and suggestions on navigating services for your child.

On Saturday, learn from parents who have overcome obstacles and have improved the services for their children to get their child a better education.

Saturday Virginia Parents of Blind Children Lunch

Meet with parents from throughout Virginia and identify ways to help each other and your children.

Do You Dream in Color?

On Saturday, join us for a screening of the critically acclaimed film Do You Dream in Color? about four inspiring blind students and their journeys. This will be followed by an opportunity to ask questions to parents and NFB leaders. We will also discuss how the NFB can help students
achieve their dreams in a discussion facilitated by Brian Miller and Fred Schroeder.

Students under 18 participating in our programming must complete the attached Student Track registration form and bring it to convention signed by a parent or guardian.

2017 Youth Track Registration Form

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Convention combines excellent networking with positive blind role models, fellowship with old and new friends across the Commonwealth, and some of the best presentations on topics important to the blind of Virginia.

Details on convention registration and hotel reservations can be found at:

Braille Enrichment for Literacy & Learning (BELL) Academy held in Virginia – What Parents and Students Say

  • NFB BELL Academy provides children ages 4-12 with Braille instruction through fun, hands-on learning activities.
  • NFB BELL Academy targets blind and low-vision children who do not receive enough Braille and nonvisual skill instruction in school or who could benefit from Braille enrichment over the summer.
  • NFB BELL Academy typically runs for two week sessions, 6 hours a day, from Monday through Friday.
  • In addition to crafts, games, and other engaging projects, children learn vital independent living skills, benefit from peer learning and mentoring from blind and low vision adults, and enjoy field trips that reinforce skills learned in the BELL classroom.
  • Virginia’s BELL Academy will run from Monday July 31 to Friday August 11.
    This is a terrific opportunity for your child to meet other blind and low vision kids, in an environment that promotes confidence, competence, and the love of reading!
  • Use This link to visit the BELL Academy site

2017 BELL in Arlington

This year, the NFB BELL Academy will be held in Arlington Virginia, and we hope that your child can once again join us for two weeks of excitement and learning.

The NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy prepares blind and low vision children, ages four through fourteen, to grow into confident and independent adults who will live the lives they want. The program provides Braille and non-visual skills instruction through fun, hands-on learning.

Children will learn crafts, games, and other engaging projects along with the skills they need to be on their way to independence!

From July 31 to August 11, 2017

The application can be found here

Location: St. George’s Episcopal Church, 915 North Oakland Street Arlington, VA 22203

One block away from the Virginia Square Metro!

Read- Explore- Build confidence!

HB 166 Literacy Assessment for Blind Bill Introduced by Delegate Cole

The General assembly begins its 2016 Session on Wednesday, January 13.

I am pleased to share that Delegate Cole has introduced the Literacy Assessment bill as HB 166. This bill will be our major focus for Richmond Seminar.

I have included the bill text below.

  • 2016 SESSION
  • INTRODUCED: 12/23/15 14:19 16101537D
  • HOUSE BILL NO. 166
  • Offered January 13, 2016
  • Prefiled December 23, 2015
  • A BILL to amend and reenact § 22.1-217 of the Code of Virginia, relating to visually impaired students; Braille.
  • Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
  • . That § 22.1-217 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as

  • § 22.1-217. Visually impaired students.

    A. As used in this section, unless the context requires a different meaning:

    “Braille” means the system of reading and writing through touch and is commonly known as the Braille tactile communication system.

    “Visually impaired” shall be defined by the Board of Education and the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired.

    B. Special education for visually impaired children students provided by a school division shall be
    established, maintained, and operated jointly by the school board and the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired subject to the regulations of the Board of Education.

    C. Braille instruction shall be included in the student’s Individualized Education Plan Program (IEP), whenever appropriate. When developing the an IEP
    or a plan pursuant to § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §
    794 (Section 504 Plan) for students with visual impairment, the presumption
    shall be that proficiency in literacy is essential for such student to achieve satisfactory educational progress. However, use of Braille shall not
    be required if other special education services are more appropriate to the student’s educational needs, and the provision of other appropriate services
    shall not preclude Braille instruction. Each school division shall provide instruction in Braille and the use of Braille for visually impaired students
    unless the team responsible for developing a visually impaired student’s IEP (IEP team) or the team responsible for developing a student’s Section 504
    Plan (504 team) determines, after an evaluation of the student, that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate to the student’s
    educational needs. The evaluation shall be conducted by a certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) and shall include

    • (i) a literacy assessment that is research-based, data-driven, and validated and that results in objective recommendations;
    • (ii) a functional vision assessment;
    • (iii) an assessment of the student’s academic and functional strengths and deficits;
    • (iv) an assessment of the student’s current and future needs;
    • (v) a statement of the appropriate reading and writing media for the student; and
    • (vi) in the case of a student with some residual vision, a comparison of the student’s current reading and writing skill levels to levels expected of peers who are not visually impaired, as determined by the IEP team or 504 team.

    The evaluation may include a comprehensive assistive technology assessment if the IEP team or 504 team determines that it is necessary. The literacy assessment shall be administered to the student at least annually after the evaluation by the certified TVI and when there is a significant change in the student’s vision.

    D. Nothing in this section shall require exclusive instruction in Braille and the use of Braille when the IEP team or 504 team determines
    that other specialized educational services and assistive technology devices are more appropriate for the visually impaired student’s educational needs.

    The provision of other specialized educational services and assistive technology devices shall not preclude instruction in Braille and the use of
    Braille. E. Each IEP team and 504 team may determine that a visually impaired student is eligible to receive instruction in the use of the appropriate
    Braille mathematics code in addition to Braille and the use of Braille.

    F. No visually impaired student shall be denied the opportunity for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille solely on the basis that the student has some residual vision.

    B. G. As used in this subsection, unless the context requires a different meaning, “program” means a modified program that provides special materials or services and may include the employment of itinerant
    teachers or resource room teachers for the visually impaired. The Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired shall prepare and deliver a
    program of special education services in addition to the special education provided in the public school system designed to meet the educational needs
    of visually impaired children students between the ages of birth and twenty-one 21 and may prepare and deliver such programs for such individuals
    of other ages. In the development of such a program, the
    Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired shall cooperate with the Board of Education and the school boards of the several school divisions. The Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired shall assist the Board of Education and the school boards of the several school divisions
    with in-service training in Braille for currently employed teachers of students who are blind and visually impaired.

    C. As used in this section:

    “Braille” means the system of reading and writing through touch and is commonly known as standard English Braille Grade 2.

    “Program” means a modified
    program which provides special materials or services and may include the employment of itinerant teachers or resource room teachers for the visually

    “Visually impaired” shall be defined by the Board of Education and the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired.

    Click here to go to our 2016 Richmond Seminar Page.

NFBV IEP Seminar

One of the most effective ways for us to work with parents of blind children
in Virginia is to help them get the best education they can get and the
services needed to accomplish that are set forth in the Individualized
Education Plan document. Join us Saturday, November 21, 2015 at The
Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired (VRCBVI)
located at 401 Azalea Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to learn how to advocate for families in their IEP meetings. You will learn
IEP jargon, how to spot good and bad goals, what a reading assessment is,
the purpose of a functional visual assessment, components of an IEP for a
student who is a dual learner (learning large print and Braille), what
services the school district must provide and accommodations for students
with multiple disabilities. A variety of materials will be provided in
print, Braille or electronically (indicate your preference on the
registration form). There will be time for question.

Our NFBV treasurer, Mark Roane, is collecting the registration forms and
seminar registration fee; for seminar specific questions, contact Sandy
Halverson at 703-400-6890. We will not be providing child care for this
seminar. The registration fee of $30 per person or $50 per couple includes
a box lunch.

Link Here to get a copy of the registration form.

We hope to see many of you there.

How Blind and Vvision Impaired Youth can Make Friends, be Independent, and Have the Future They Want: 2015 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

The 2015 convention of the National Federation of the blind of Virginia

(Oct. 29 through Nov. 1)

wants to help vision impaired youth to have the future
you want. The NFBV will be presenting programs just for you that will give you the information you need to make friends, be confident, and make your own money. Vision loss doesn’t mean dependency.

Click here to download an accessible PDF containing the information you have been waiting for.

Click here to get information on how to register for the convention.