Category Archives: Chapter Activities

The Vigilant: March 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

Special Announcement

The National Federation of the Blind has implemented a Code of Conduct that all members of the National Board of Directors and affiliate presidents have signed. The Virginia affiliate will discuss and officially adopt the Code of Conduct at its state board meeting on Saturday, May 19, 2018. Everyone must read and understand the code of conduct. Acknowledgement of the pledge is required of all affiliate and chapter leaders.

Our affiliate must confirm adoption of this Code of Conduct prior to the national convention. Changes to this document are not permitted without the permission of the NFB National Board. If you have suggestions for future edits to this document, please send them to President Riccobono with a carbon copy to NFB of Virginia President Tracy Soforenko.

Two conference calls have been set up to answer questions of the Code of Conduct. These will be presided over by NFB First Vice President Pam Allen.

Call #1:

Monday, March 19 at 7:00 PM ET

Call #2:

Thursday, March 22 at 8:00 PM ET

Dial: 218-895-6872

Passcode: 2018#

The text of the Code of Conduct follows:


I. Introduction

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is part of a nationwide community of members and friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation’s blind. The Federation knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. To help carry out the Federation’s vital mission, this Code of Conduct sets forth policies and standards that all members, especially Federation leaders, are expected to adopt and follow.

II. Diversity Policy

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia embraces diversity and full participation as core values in its mission to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind. We are committed to building and maintaining a statewide organization with local chapters and divisions that is unified in its priorities and programs and is directed by the membership. We respect differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other characteristics that demonstrate that blind people are a diverse cross section of society. Furthermore, the organization is dedicated to continuing to establish new methods of membership and leadership development that reflect the diversity of the entire blind community. In promoting a diverse and growing organization, we expect integrity and honesty in our relationships with each other and openness to learning about and experiencing cultural diversity. We believe that these qualities are crucial to fostering social and intellectual maturity. Intellectual maturity also requires individual struggle with unfamiliar ideas. We recognize that our views and convictions will be challenged, and we expect this challenge to take place in a climate of tolerance and mutual respect in order to maintain a united organization. While we encourage the exchange of differing ideas and experiences, we do not condone the use of demeaning, derogatory, or discriminatory language, action, or any other form of expression intended to marginalize an individual or group. The National Federation of the Blind does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics.

III. Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics. Harassment on the basis of any of these characteristics similarly will not be tolerated. Although this Code of Conduct establishes a minimum standard prohibiting discrimination and harassment, nothing in this Code should be interpreted to limit in any way a person’s right to report abuse or harassment to law enforcement when appropriate.
Sexual harassment is prohibited by state and federal law and also will not be tolerated by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Complaints of harassment may be lodged by a female against a male, by a female against a female, by a male against a male, or by a male against a female. Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.” The following conduct is either considered conduct that by itself is sexual harassment, or that has the potential risk of causing sexual harassment to occur, and this conduct is therefore prohibited:
· unwelcome inappropriate physical contact or touching;
· repeating of sexually suggestive jokes/references/innuendoes and comments about an individual’s body/sexual prowess/physical attributes/dress;
· the use of sexually derogatory language/pictures/videos toward/about another person;
· the use of inappropriate sexual gestures;
· sexually suggestive propositions; and
· explicit or implicit threats that failure to submit will have negative consequences.

Under this policy, harassment can be verbal, written, or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law; or that of his or her relatives, friends, or associates, and that a) has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment; b) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or involvement in the organization; or c) otherwise adversely affects an individual’s opportunities for participation/advancement in the organization.
Harassing conduct includes epithets, slurs, or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts including bullying; denigrating jokes; and written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group that is placed on walls or elsewhere on the organization’s premises or circulated by email, phone (including voice messages), text messages, social networking sites, or other means.

IV. Social Media and Web Policy

All members of the Federation, but especially officers and board members of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia as well as those in leadership positions such as chapter and division presidents, should follow these recommended guidelines when making comments online, posting to a blog, using Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube/Pinterest/Instagram/similar tools, and/or using other platforms that fall under the definition of social media:
· Promote the mission and branding message of the organization in comments/posts.
· Recognize that you are morally and legally responsible for comments/pictures posted online.
· Be aware that the audience includes members and nonmembers of the NFB, both youth and adults, representing diverse cultures and backgrounds.
· Refrain from using profanity/derogatory language.
· Post/respond with integrity. Though you may disagree with a post, be respectful and factual. Do not fight or air personal grievances online.
· Do not post materials that are inappropriate for children/minors to view/share/read.

V. Conflict of Interest Policy

Each NFB of Virginia officer, board member, or chapter or division president (hereafter Federation leader) is expected to take appropriate responsibility to protect the Federation from misappropriation or mismanagement of Federation funds (including funds of the affiliate, chapter, or division in which the Federation leader assumes a leadership role).
Each Federation leader is expected to disclose the existence of any potentially conflicting personal financial interest or relationship to the full National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Board of Directors and seek its review and approval, as specified below. For example:
· A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of his or her receipt of salary or compensation of any kind from the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division).
· A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of receipt by his or her spouse, parent, child, sibling, or other close relative of salary or compensation of any kind from the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division).
· A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of any ownership interest exceeding 5 percent in or of any salary, compensation, commission, or significant tangible gift from any commercial venture doing business or seeking to do business with the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division). This process will also apply to the review of such interests involving spouses, parents, children, siblings, or other close relatives.
· In reviewing matters brought pursuant to this section, the officer or board member seeking state board review and approval will refrain from voting.
· Each Federation leader shall take appropriate steps to avoid unauthorized or inaccurate appearances or official endorsement by the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division) of any product, service, or activity that has not been so endorsed. For example, because the Federation never endorses political parties or candidates for elected office, any Federation leader participating in the political process must take care to avoid creating an appearance of official Federation endorsement.

VI. Policy While Interacting with Minors

For purposes of this Code of Conduct and consistent with most legal standards, a minor is any individual under the age of eighteen. While interacting with any minor, a state officer, board member, or chapter or division president (hereafter Federation leader) shall recognize that a minor cannot legally give consent for any purpose even if said minor is verbally or otherwise expressing consent. For example, a minor may say that he/ or she consents to physical interaction. However, such consent is not valid or legal and should not be accepted. A parent or guardian must be informed and consulted about any action requiring consent from the minor. A Federation leader shall report any inappropriate interactions between adults and minors to the minor’s parents and law enforcement when appropriate.

VII. Alcohol and Drug Policy

Although alcoholic beverages are served at some Federation social functions, members and Federation leaders may not participate in any such functions in a condition that prevents them from participating safely and from conducting Federation business effectively or that might cause embarrassment to or damage the reputation of the Federation. The Federation prohibits the possession, sale, purchase, delivery, dispensing, use, or transfer of illegal substances on Federation property or at Federation functions.

VIII. Other General Principles

In addition to the other policies and standards set-forth herein, state officers, state board members, and chapter and division presidents (hereafter Federation leaders) shall adhere to the following standards:

· Federation leaders shall practice accountability and transparency in all activities and transactions.
· Federation leaders shall foster a welcoming environment at NFB meetings, events, and conferences that is a cooperative and productive atmosphere for all members and nonmembers.
· Federation leaders shall interact with NFB staff in a professional manner and follow proper channels of authority and communication.
· Federation leaders shall positively promote the NFB through verbal and written communication.
· Whenever possible, Federation leaders and members are strongly encouraged to handle conflicts or complaints involving other members privately, directly, and respectfully. Nothing in this standard is intended to limit a Federation leader’s or member’s right to pursue organizational change through appropriate methods or to limit anyone’s right to file a complaint for violation of this Code when necessary.

IX. Violations and Complaint Procedure

Violations of this Code of Conduct, after first being established through the process set-forth below, are subject to disciplinary action by the Federation. Such disciplinary actions may include but are not limited to counselling, verbal and/or written reprimand, probation, suspension or termination of officer/leadership duties, and/or suspension or expulsion from the Federation.
· Any complaint for a violation of this Code of Conduct shall be filed with the state president. The state president shall appoint a committee of no more than four persons to investigate the complaint and provide a recommendation for action or lack thereof. The committee shall be comprised of persons not directly involved in the matters being raised and who can be completely unbiased about the individuals and issues addressed in the complaint. Every effort shall be made to appoint a committee reflecting the broad diversity of individuals in the Federation. The state president shall inform the national President in a timely fashion of any complaints filed and report on the resolution of such complaints.
· Complaints shall be treated as confidential in order to protect the identity and reputation of the person about whom the complaint is filed and the person filing the complaint.
· All complaints shall be filed as promptly as possible. Except under extreme circumstances, no complaint shall be accepted or investigated after a year from the time of the alleged violation of this Code.
· Complaints that turn out to be false and used for the purpose of harassing, intimidating, or retaliating against someone will be subject to the same kind of disciplinary action enumerated above.
· Any person dissatisfied with the resolution of a complaint may file an appeal with the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Board of Directors, which may, in its discretion, take such action as it deems necessary. If a person is still dissatisfied, such person may raise the matter to the national board of directors, which may, in its discretion, take whatever action it deems necessary. No national or state board member shall participate in the consideration of an appeal under this Code if such board member is the subject of the complaint or if such board member cannot be completely unbiased, impartial, and fair while considering the matter.

X. Minimum Standard

This Code of Conduct is intended to recite a minimum set of standards expected of Federation members. It sets forth the spirit that the Federation expects of all of its participants toward each other and toward those who work with the Federation at all of its levels. It is intended to be interpreted broadly to instill a respectful, cooperative, and welcoming spirit in members and in the activities of the Federation.

XI. Federation Pledge and Acknowledgement of Code of Conduct

I, (Federation leader), pledge to participate actively in the efforts 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. I further acknowledge that I have read this Code of Conduct and that I will follow its policies, standards, and principles.

Note: The Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind unanimously adopted this Code of Conduct on January 26, 2018. In adopting this Code, the Board expressed its clear intent that this Code shall be reviewed annually or at any other time as necessary.

From the President’s Desk

Greetings Fellow Virginians!

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is hopping in March. Chapters are running great programming, Virginia members are getting excited about our upcoming National Convention, our Project RISE has successfully launched, our 2 BELL academies are engaging parents and students for an exciting Summer, and our Federation spirit is strong.

Project RISE

Later in this newsletter, you will hear about the successful kick off of Project RISE and how you can help. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) to provide these pre-employment transition services under a vendor agreement signed in February. We are excited about this important partnership with DBVI and appreciate their commitment to serving blind and low vision students.

Braille Readers Are Leaders

We are very pleased to announce the winners from Virginia of the 2017-2018 Nationwide Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. While the program was sponsored by the NFB of Illinois in partnership with the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB). Altogether eighty-one students from twelve states took part in the contest. From Virginia, 21 students participated in the program which is absolutely remarkable.
Here is a list of the 2017-2018 Nationwide Braille Leaders Are Leaders winners from Virginia.
Grades 2-3
Honorable Mention: Ely Giraldo, Staunton, VA
Grades 9-12
Second Place: Marie Presume, Staunton, VA
Third Place: Kaelyn Kinlaw, Staunton, VA
We are grateful to the program organizers and we are glad so many students from Virginia chose to participate in the program.

National Convention Hosting

The 2018 NFB National Convention will be especially meaningful because Virginia, Iowa and Florida are serving as the hosts of this year’s convention. Plans are coming together and we will need your help.

In particular, while the conventions run from Tuesday, July 3 through late in the evening of Sunday, July 8, we are taking on responsibilities in the very early part of convention. Please plan to come to convention early so we can hold up our responsibilities and share some warm Virginia hospitality.

A) Welcome Table, Monday July 2 – There will be a Welcome Table passing out convention agendas, answering questions, and welcoming people to the Rosen Shingle Creek property. Since this is technically before the official start of convention, we will need some members to choose to come early to staff the table on Monday, July 2. Earl Everett has agreed to coordinate our staffing of the Welcome Table.
B) Hospitality Suite – Every day of the convention, there is a Host Committee Hospitality Suite open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 PM from July 3 – 5. The suite is open for breakfast and lunch on General Session (July 6-8) days. The Virginia affiliate will be staffing the Host Committee Hospitality Suite on Tuesday July 3 and Friday, July 6. Nancy Yeager has agreed to coordinate our staffing of the hospitality suite.
C) Opening Ceremonies – We are organizing an exciting Opening Ceremonies to kick off the convention. I am taking the lead on Opening Ceremonies for the Virginia Affiliate but I need your ideas and suggestions. Please reach out and share your ideas and suggestions as we work to develop an exciting program to kick off the convention. If you have any connections in Orlando, it would really help.
D) special Events – In some years, the Host committee organizes additional events. Kathryn Webster has agreed to participate in an exploratory committee to determine if there are viable options for special events.

If you have ideas and suggestions or other resources to help us succeed, please reach out to one of us. If you would like to volunteer, we would especially appreciate hearing from you.

2018 McDonald Fellowship Program

The 2018 NFB National Convention is an experience you do not want to miss.
Many of those who have attended our national NFB conventions are amazed at how meeting and interacting with over 3000 other blind and low vision convention attendees has positively changed their lives. They not only learn how the problems of vision loss can be overcome, but also experience the confidence that comes with solutions.

If you have never attended a convention, we offer two programs to assist you in attending the convention and getting the most from the experience.

A) McDonald Fellowship organized by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia
B) Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship run by the National Federation of the Blind

First time convention attendees are strongly encouraged to apply for both.
Below the description of these two separate programs, you will find details on the process for requesting assistance if this is not your first convention.

McDonald Fellowship from the NFB of Virginia

Robert and Marian McDonald selflessly contributed to our Virginia affiliate to further the progress and better the lives of those who are blind, visually impaired, and low vision in Virginia. In their honor, we recognize the personal benefits that come to people who attend a national convention for the first time. In their memory, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) continues their legacy of education and empowerment to Virginia’s blind citizens.

We anticipate awarding fellowships to assist each recipient with costs of attending our 2018 NFB National Convention to be held in Orlando, FL, from July 3- July 8. Please note: The banquet ends late in the evening of Sunday, July 8 and fellowship winners are expected to attend the banquet so return travel must occur on Monday, July 9 or later. This event will take place at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando Florida.

The McDonald Fellowship program was established in 1998 to assist those who have never attended a convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) or those who have not attended in many years and wish to come to a convention this year.

Federations are welcome and encouraged to apply for both the Virginia specific McDonald Fellowship and a National Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship.

We will link each of our Fellowship winners with mentors who will assist them in getting the most out of their national convention experience. McDonald Fellowship winners are expected to attend the entire NFB convention and share their experiences by addressing our 2018 NFB of Virginia state convention.

Deadline for applications for the McDonald Fellowship is Sunday, April 15, 2018. Winners will be announced May 15, 2018.

Your application should be in the form of a letter delivered via electronic mail. There is no specific form for the application. Applicants should write a brief letter outlining reasons why they should be considered for a Fellowship and the letter must include:

A) Name, Address, phone and email contact information
B) Chapter or other connection with the affiliate
C) How you will benefit from the experience
D) How you have participated with your chapter or the affiliate in the past year
E) Any other pertinent details

In addition, you are required to contact your Chapter President or an affiliate Board Member for a letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are due by Sunday, April 15, 2018.

Applications or questions about the Fellowship program should be sent to:

Mary Durbin, Chairman
McDonald Fellowship Committee
Phone: 757-472-2495

Our committee wants to help you make 2018 the year you attend our national convention. The convention will be even better because you were there.

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund by Allen Harris

Allen Harris is the chairman of the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee and was one of the people who came up with the idea of honoring our former president and longtime leader by establishing a program to promote attendance at the national convention, where so much inspiration and learning occur. Here is Allen’s announcement about the 2018 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Program:
Have you always wanted to attend an NFB annual convention but have not done so because of the lack of funds? The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund invites you to make an application for a scholarship grant. Perhaps this July you too can be in the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando, Florida, enjoying the many pleasures and learning opportunities at the largest and most important yearly convention of blind people in the world.
The three biggest ticket items you need to cover when attending an NFB national convention are the roundtrip transportation, the hotel room for a week, and the food (which tends to be higher priced than at home). We attempt to award additional funds to families, but, whether a family or an individual is granted a scholarship, this fund can only help; it won’t pay all the costs. Last year most of the sixty grants were in the range of $400 to $500 per individual.
We recommend that you find an NFB member as your personal convention mentor, (Virginia will assign one to the Virginia winners) someone who has been to many national conventions and is able to share money-saving tips with you and tips on navigating the extensive agenda in the big hotel. Your mentor will help you get the most out of the amazing experience that is convention week.
Who is eligible?
Active NFB members, blind or sighted, who have not yet attended an NFB national convention because of lack of funding are eligible to apply.

How do I apply for funding assistance?

1. You write a letter giving your contact information, and your local NFB information, your specific amount requested, and then explain why this is a good investment for the NFB. The points to cover are listed below.
2. You contact your state president in person or by phone to request his or her help in obtaining funding. Be sure to tell the president when to expect your request letter by email, and mention the deadline.
3. You (or a friend) send your letter by email to your state president. He or she must add a president’s recommendation and then email both letters directly to the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Committee. Your president must forward the two letters no later than April 15.
Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:
Your full name, and all your telephone numbers and label them-cell phone, home, office, other person (if any).
Your mailing address and, if you have one, your email address.
Your state affiliate and state president; your chapter and chapter president, if you attend a chapter.
Your personal convention mentor, and provide that person’s phone number.
Your specific request:
Explain how much money you need from this fund to make this trip possible for you. We suggest you consult with other members to make a rough budget for yourself.
The body of your letter should answer these questions:
How do you currently participate in the Federation? Why do you want to attend a national convention? What would you receive; what can you share or give? You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances you hope they will take into consideration.

When will I be notified that I am a winner?

If you are chosen to receive this scholarship, you will receive a letter with convention details that should answer most of your questions. The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things before that to be prepared to attend if you are chosen.
1. Make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel the reservation. (Yes, you may arrange for roommates of your own to reduce the cost.) 2. Register online for the entire convention, including the banquet, by May 31.
2. Find someone in your chapter or affiliate who has been to many conventions and can answer your questions as a friend and advisor.
3. If you do not hear from the committee by May 15, then you did not win a grant this year.

How will I receive my convention scholarship?

At convention you will be given a debit card or credit card loaded with the amount of your award. The times and locations to pick up your card will be listed in the letter we sent you. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist you by obtaining an agreement to advance funds if you win a scholarship and to pay your treasury back after you receive your debit or credit card.

What if I have more questions?

For additional information email the chairman, Allen Harris, at, or call his Baltimore, Maryland, office at (410) 659-9314, extension 2415.

Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention on the national level and join several thousand active Federations in the most important meeting of the blind in the world. We hope to see you in Orlando.

Financial Assistance to attend the 2018 National Convention

Our National convention is a highlight for the year and the 2018 convention will be especially remarkable because Virginia is part of the convention host committee. The convention will begin Tuesday, July 3 and end late after the banquet on Sunday evening, July 8. Most people will be departing on Monday, July 9.

We want everyone to plan this into your calendar and your budget so you can be there to join us.

If you are a first-time attendee, we strongly encourage people to apply to both the McDonald Fellowship and Kenneth Jernigan convention Scholarship programs which target first time convention attendees.

Every year, the affiliate president will receive a few requests for convention assistance from affiliate members. I am putting some ground rules in place to help clarify expectations.
If you are planning to request assistance, please send your request to me in email. Your request should factor in the following:
A) What are my total expected costs:
What should I expect to pay for convention factoring in expected costs for travel, lodging, meals, and a banquet ticket and convention registration? I have no idea how much it costs to get from your home to the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando. You need to do the research. In addition, the banquet is a highlight of the convention and you don’t want to miss it. Many people choose to share rooms and you will start seeing roommate requests posted to us announce list starting soon.

B) What can I afford myself?

No one will be going to convention for free. The Jernigan Scholarships and McDonald Fellowships do not provide all the funding for convention for first timers. Individuals requesting financial assistance should expect to make a significant contribution to your convention expenses. You should be factoring in this expense into your budget.

C) What is my chapter contributing?

Your chapter is a resource for financial assistance. Do not come to the Virginia Affiliate requesting financial assistance if you have not asked your local chapter. I will be following up with chapter presidents to understand how you are contributing at the chapter level to programming and fundraising.
D) How much are you requesting from the affiliate

After considering other sources, how much are you requesting from the Virginia affiliate. Please note that we do not provide funding in advance. Mark Roane will provide funding at convention but you need to work locally to get your travel and room expenses addressed. You should definitely expect to attend the Virginia Caucus, probably Wednesday evening, July 4 at 10:00 PM to receive the financial assistance. It is not Mark’s job to hunt you down at convention and it is not Mark’s job to provide you funds as you walk into the hotel. However, Mark will gladly sell you some Virginia Peanuts.

Speaking of selling, fundraising is the means through which we have the resources to provide financial assistance. When I talk to your chapter president, I am checking to determine if you are engaged in the chapter and affiliate fundraising. We will certainly be selling items at the Virginia table at convention and you will be expected to help with that activity if you receive financial assistance. You should also plan to participate in working the Hospitality Suite and other responsibilities as we host the convention. You should be hustling throughout convention and afterward back in Virginia to sell our products to fund our movement.

We are asking that requests are submitted no later than June 1, 2018. You should be planning in advance, booking your hotel room and taking advantage of the early registration pricing.

We want everyone to join us in Orlando and we hope this guidance clarifies the process. However, if you have questions, I am glad to address them.

Whew! That was quite a mouthful of a report! But, I want you to be informed, and most importantly, I want you to be involved. Please tell me if there is anything you need to make that happen.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

From the March Braille Monitor:

“At times, when I am asked questions that are born of doubt, I feel like it is definitely not the cat’s meow. However I also realize that these are opportunities to stop and educate someone. For them to go uneducated about what a blind person can do would definitely not be the cat’s meow. But when they discover how I live the life I want with my cats, then it is—yes—the cat’s meow!”–Lauren Merryfield

You may read the article in its entirety here:

Return of the BELL Program

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, go to:

For more information, go to:

To apply for either of the Virginia BELL Programs go to:

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!”

Taking on Transition Programming in Northern Virginia
By Arielle Silverman

On Saturday February 17, 2018, the NFBV kicked off Project RISE (Resilience, Independence, Self-advocacy, Employment) with a bang. We had nearly 20 students join us at the Lyon Village Community House in Arlington. After starting with some icebreaker conversations, the students prepared a three-course lunch for the group. Several students learned to cut vegetables, cook pasta and meat sauce, and bake cookies for the very first time. The students worked under the tutelage of our dedicated blind mentors: Marc Canamaso, Susie D’Mello, Derek Manners, Sarah Patnaude, and Evelyn Valdez. While the students were learning nonvisual cooking skills, their parents had a workshop of their own, where they discussed expectations, fears, and questions about blindness with successful blind adults and learned about nonvisual cooking and cane travel techniques.

After lunch, the students engaged in a philosophy discussion with NFBV past president, Dr. Fred Schroeder, as they learned about self-advocacy and positive attitudes surrounding blindness. Students shared their personal experiences and discussed difficult questions, such as how to cope with not getting accessible materials in school, and when a student with low vision should tell an employer about blindness. During the conversation, the older students readily shared their experiences and advice with the younger ones, while Dr. Schroeder emphasized the value of networking to “keep reminding you that what you want to do is possible.”

Over the next four months, our Project RISE students will be meeting one Saturday each month to explore career and college options, practice nonvisual skills, and continue building connections with their mentors and peers. Highlights include a tour of George Mason University in March; a visit to the Apple Store in April; a trip to Pentagon Center Mall in May; and we will culminate with an exciting weekend seminar at the NFB National Center in Baltimore in June. Over the summer, students will be individually connected with opportunities for work experience, job shadowing, or further training in blindness skills.

None of this would be possible without the support of our NFBV family. We are extraordinarily appreciative of our volunteers, mentors, membership, and affiliate leadership. In order to build our program, we need your input and experience. Please join us at an upcoming RISE session! To learn more, visit our web site!

The Wine Report
By John Halverson

The Potomac chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia held one of its two major fundraisers on Saturday March 3.

More than 20 members and friends gathered at Bistro 360 in Arlington Virginia for our annual wine tasting fundraiser.
This year the theme was wines from Spain. Each participant was served four different wines accompanied by Spanish cheeses, crackers, and sausage. A representative of a major distributer of Spanish wines gave a description of each wine and its accompaniments.

After the wine tasting most everyone remained for dinner and to purchase wine. The Bistro graciously offered a 15% contribution to our chapter from all dinner and wine sales.

Finally, they offered us a $100 gift basket to raffle. We charged $5 per ticket and raised $300 on this basket. Needless to say, I was pleased that Sandy Halverson won the prize.

I want to particularly thank Robert Parsons, President of our Richmond Chapter, and his sister Robin for braving the windstorm and slow trains to join us.

Everyone agreed the day was a financial success and a wonderful opportunity for good friends to enjoy fellowship.

Aira & job seeking, a winning combination!

Are you looking for a job, a promotion or career change? Are you finding that various components of these processes are not fully accessible? Would you find it helpful if you had sighted assistance at the moment you were faced with a barrier to landing that dream job? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then you will want to look into the new employment initiative from Aira.

Aira uses a combination of an iPhone and video streaming technology to provide sighted assistance at the touch of a button from 7:00am – 1:00am EST. There are countless visual tasks the trained Aira live agent can assist you with. Those who use the Aira services are called Aira Explorers and have used the service to Explore New Neighborhoods, complete tasks around the Home, Try New Restaurants, Read a Book or other documents,
Attend Social Events
Go Hiking or for a run and much more.

The latest announcement from Aira is their Employment Assistance program. “Starting on Tuesday, February 20, Aira is offering free service for job-seekers as they navigate employment sites, fill out applications, build resumes, and travel to and from meetings with prospective employers. Through the Aira Employment Program, the first 100 Aira Explorers to secure job interviews will have their ride covered via our partnership with Lyft.”

For more information about the Aira Employment program visit:

For information on Aira’s services and to learn about becoming an Aira Explorer, full details can be found at:

The company can also be contacted by phone at 858.876.2472 (Pacific Standard Time

Applications for 2018 Roeder Scholarship Now Available

Kathy Gallagher, Learning and Development Manager, NIB
703-310-0343 or
Applications for the 2018 Joseph Roeder Scholarship are now available on the NIB website. The scholarship provides a one-time award of $2,500 for an undergraduate or graduate student who is legally blind to pursue a college degree in a business-related field.

The scholarship is named for Joe Roeder, senior accessible technology specialist at NIB from 1997 until his death in 2010. Roeder was instrumental in development of the Section 508 electronic and information technology accessibility standards of the Rehabilitation Act, which require all federal government agencies to provide accessible data and information for employees with disabilities.

Paste the following link into your browser for the Joseph Roeder Scholarship application:

Materials must be submitted online no later than Friday, May 11, 2018. The winner will be announced in June.

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.

Walk with the Blind

Join members of the Rivers and Bay chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia as we walk through Historic Colonial Williamsburg. Support us as we raise awareness of what blind people can achieve.

  • When: Saturday, October 14, 2017
  • 9:00 AM: Registration Opens
  • 10:00 AM: Kick Off
  • Where: Starting at the Capital Building (end of Duke of Gloucester St.), Colonial Williamsburg
  • Registration: $15

Sponsored by the following Chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia “Living the Lives We want”:

  • Chesapeake Bay,
  • Eastern Shore,
  • Greater Williamsburg,
  • Peninsula, and
  • Tidewater

For more information, contact:

  • Corlis Jones
  • Phone: (757) 565-1185
  • Email:

If joining us, please fill out the following Registration form.

Link here for registration and pledge form

Everyone walking is welcome to take the pledge form and obtain pledges from family and friends to support our work. The members of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia local chapters along the rivers and bays of Southeastern Virginia are looking forward to this first annual event for MEET THE BLIND month.

Fairfax Chapter Hosts Indoor Rock Climbing in March


On Saturday, March 12, 2016 at the Sport Rock indoor rock climbing center in Alexandria, 9 blind and vision impaired members of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia took on the challenge of scaling 60 foot vertical heights by using just their hands, legs, and the determination to succeed.

Those who climbed that day were from several chapters in our NFB family. The chapters represented were: the Winchester Chapter, Fairfax Chapter and DC Chapter. The climbers were: Carolena Garrison, Chris Vincent Walker, John Bailey, Paula Kelsey, James, Thomas Gryder, Johanna Johnson, Joy Relton, Toby Austin, and James Dietz.

The ages, skill levels, and familiarity with the NFB philosophy of empowerment through skills and a positive attitude varied greatly among the participants.

When everyone arrived, , our indoor rock climbing instructor Christie and her assistant welcomed us and showed us how to adjust the waist harnesses which would connect the climbers with the safety rope. The group went two climbers at a time up either the 40 or 60 foot simulated rock wall which had hand and foot holds randomly carved in them. The challenge was to locate the nearest hold, stabilize your balance, and then pull yourself up to the next hold.

Chris Walker made it to the top on his second try. He made it half way on his first attempt. However, on his second attempt, he continued pushing himself passed where he had stopped before and continued till his head hit the ceiling. He knew then he had succeeded.

Johanna is new to the Federation and is tackling all the challenges RP can bring to one’s personal and professional life. You wouldn’t think Johanna had any challenges if you saw how she climb to the top of the wall and down 4 times in less than 90 minutes.

Two hours after we started, the climbers and their supportive spectators said over and over again what a great time they had. In fact, ideas for future activities were being bounced around. Some of the ideas were: horseback riding, tubing on a river, group dance classes, and Joy made sure everyone knew that she was voting to go skiing. Everyone agreed to keep in touch and to get together soon.