Category Archives: Legislation

The Vigilant: February 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

We’re almost two months into the new year. Already our affiliate has seen a whirlwind of activity. Our legislative advocacy efforts are an ongoing effort. Project Rise is hosting the first of its activities as this newsletter goes out for publication. Our various chapters are busy planning and carrying out a number of social enrichment activities. Convention planning at the state and national levels is underway… Anyone who says Federationists are lethargic have clearly not spent enough time around our movement.

I hope this message finds you well. Yes, things are busy on different fronts, but I should hope we are never too busy to remember that basic need to connect with people around us. Please take a moment to reach out to your fellow members, not to ask for an organizational status, but rather, to make sure they are doing okay. Remember, this movement is about people first.

As always, if I can be of service to you, please do not hesitate to reach out. Anything I should be made aware of, whether it be blindness-related, or some new development in your life, I would be all too glad to hear from you.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“You need to either be shown how to do something or figure it out yourself, then practice. The experience you gain will not only improve your skills but your confidence in tackling other tasks. Nobody is good at cane travel right away. It takes a lot of practice, some getting lost, some figuring out what to do next, and some sighs of relief when you make it to your destination. Learning Braille takes practice. Learning how to navigate a computer with screen reading software takes practice, confronts you with some stressful moments when your computer freezes up, and requires the assistance of friends who can help you figure things out when you are at your wits end.”–Chris Kuell, from the February Braille Monitor

From the Editor

I want to take a brief moment to remind you that this newsletter is for your benefit. If there is anything you would like to see included, please do not hesitate to bring it to my attention. Starting this month, I have made a concerted effort to connect with chapter and division presidents about announcements they might be interested in sharing with the affiliate at large. Yes, some items you will see published twice, both here and in the NFBV Announcement list. I apologize for the occasional duplication, but sometimes, I really do scramble to gather material. Hence, your assistance will always be appreciated in helping me provide more content. Thank you for reading, and if any of this material was of some benefit to you, please help us pass it along to other Virginians who may also find it helpful.

Kind regards,

Joe Orozco, Editor

Richmond Seminar Update

Changing the law in Virginia requires patience and persistence. 2018 has required significant commitment and the results from this year’s General Assembly session are mixed.

We had three Legislative priorities.

Cross Disability Parents Rights (HB 491/SB70)

Our legislation, modeled after laws in 7 other states would require that the judges not discriminate in custody, adoption, foster care or other family law legal matters, that judges document when a parent’s disability is the primary reason for denying the parent custody and why supportive services like training could not ameliorate the challenge.
We worked across the spectrum of disability organizations to build a community of disability advocates to support the legislation.

For over a year, we have been seeking to find common ground with The Family Law component of the Virginia Bar association with no success. The “compromise” offered by the Family Law component of the Virginia Bar was to add a simple one sentence statement not to discriminate against parents with disabilities. While this is very nice, with no protections or procedures to ensure compliance, the sentence is a hollow promise with no true protection. After a calculated discussion and with advice from our National office, we agreed that this compromise probably would not truly help anyone.

While we convinced the House Courts of Justice sub-committee that there was a problem faced by blind parents and others with disabilities, they wanted us to come to common understanding with the Family Lawyers. The committee chair was clear, find a common understanding or the bill will fail. The family lawyers were not willing to negotiate and would only agree to the 1 sentence solution.

Instead of letting the legislators vote down the bill, we pulled the bill and will figure out how to move forward for 2019.

Opposition to Virginians with Disabilities Act Education and Reform Act SB199

Together with the set of disability advocates we met through the Cross-Disability Parents Rights legislation, we advocated against a Virginia Senate Bill to weaken the protections in the Virginians with Disabilities Act. This bill is based on some flawed understanding of Virginia law and the set of disability advocates succeeded in stopping the bill.

Improving Education for Blind and Low Vision Students HB336)

We have been working to improve the education of Virginia’s blind and low vision K-12 students. Over the past 6 months, we have partnered with the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind (AER) to agree on language that worked for all parties. HB336 passed the House Education Committee and was very well received. Unfortunately, the bill died on February 7 in a House Appropriations subcommittee. The Subcommittee explained that they were not there to discuss the merits of the bills, just the financial impact. The committee didn’t believe it was the committees role to place new burdens on local jurisdictions.
Mark Roane presented in favor of the bill using the talking points including the 2013 increased Standards of Quality funding, the fact that the requirements to assess and teach Braille were required under Federal and state law, and we were simply providing guidance on ensuring assessment followed Federal law. However, the School Superintendents and the School Boards presented in opposition. They stated that this bill would Cost local school districts money; they questioned the availability of Standards of Quality funding; they stated that schools were already required to teach blind children; and there really wasn’t a problem. There was no discussion and the bill were laid on the table.

Passing bills is intentionally difficult, Derek Manners was critical to leading out legislative priorities in Virginia and we are very fortunate. Derek is recognized by other disability advocates, AER, the staff of Virginia Legislative Services and Delegates and Senators as an articulate, extremely competent and prudent negotiator. Mark Roan and Earl Everett are our advocates in the halls of the General assembly who represent us well. Fred Schroeder has been extremely valuable in our discussions with AER. Finally, over 50 people were in Richmond on January 16 for our legislative advocacy day.

We can be proud of our efforts and we will be talking more about the path forward. We welcome your advice and appreciate your willingness to make a difference in Virginia.

Potomac Chapter Wine Tasting

We hope that you can join us for a wine tasting event and seminar to benefit the Potomac Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. The event will fund outreach programs for blind youth, seniors and working age adults. The deadline to RSVP is Tuesday, February 27, so we can provide a final count to the organizers. Drop ins that day will not be accepted due to limited space.

The details:

National Federation of the Blind Wine Tasting
Saturday, March 3, 2018
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Cost: $45 per person. Please make checks payable to PC-NFB. Cash and credit cards are also accepted.

This year, our wine tasting has an exciting Spanish theme. A variety of Spanish wines will be offered along with pairings of fine cheeses, chocolate, crackers, and breads. An expert on Spanish wines representing Bistro 360 wine bar, shop and restaurant in the Rosslyn/Courthouse area will be pouring and explaining the wines. Each wine will be presented in a relaxed lecture format with plenty of time to enjoy each wine, mingle, and socialize with friends.

If you have always wanted to learn more about wine or just wanted to expand your horizons, this event will be a great time.

About Bistro 360:

Born out of a desire to bring the best of the world’s cuisine, wines and beers to the neighborhood, Bistro 360 Wine Bar, Market & Restaurant, located in-between Rosslyn and Courthouse, offers: a comfortable neighborhood restaurant with an innovative menu drawn from cuisines around the world.
A contemporary wine bar where patrons can order from the full restaurant menu and choose from a curated selection of wines and beers from around the world as well as craft cocktails. A gourmet retail market with chef-prepared takeaway meals for office or home and a great mix of wines, beers, ciders, cheeses, charcuterie, fresh-baked breads and desserts, and much more.

Where: Bistro 360 is located at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Quin Street, half way between Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations. Bistro 360 1800 Wilson Boulevard Arlington, VA 22201
703-522-3600

#1.) Bistro 360 will give a 15% donation for ANYTHING purchased from our wine tasting in the store on the evening of March 3. This also includes the pairings of cheeses, chocolates and specialty foods. How convenient to just take it home with you!

#2.) Bistro 360 will donate a gift basket for raffle.

#3.) Bistro 360 additionally has offered to provide 15% of dinner proceeds back to the PCNFB to further expand our fundraising potential. Consider staying for dinner at Bistro 360.

#4.) Reservations & Payment: This special event, which will be hosted in Bistro 360’s restaurant facility, can accommodate 40-45 attendees, with some limited flexibility. Advance reservations are required. The wine tasting price is: $45.00 per person, cash or check made payable to the PCNFB.

Please bring your check to the event or mail it to our treasurer:

Sean McMahon
2677 Avenir Place
Apt 3205
Vienna, VA 22180

You may also bring your payment to the wine tasting event.

To ensure your reservation is confirmed, please contact John Halverson at jwh100@outlook.com, or by phone at 703 379-1141.

#5.) DO NOT HESITATE! Plan now to be among the movers and shakers and join us at Bistro 360 on Saturday, March 3. Enjoy some outstanding wines, tasty pairings, and good fellowship! Then, afterwards, you can enjoy dinner at Bistro 360 or at any of the numerous excellent nearby restaurants along Wilson Boulevard.

Thank you.

John Halverson, Ph.D., President
Potomac Chapter, National Federation of the Blind

Chili Cookoff

Are you in the mood for tasting some of the most savory, delicious chili dishes that Virginia can offer? If the answer is yes, you are cordially invited to the 2nd Annual Richmond Chapter Chili Cookoff. At this exciting event full of laughter, love, friendship, and togetherness, you can compete against some of Virginia’s best chili cooks, meet some of our celebrity judges, devour decadent desserts, and converse with some of the state’s best chili taste testers.

Here’s the information you need:

When:
Saturday, March 24, 2018 from 11:00AM-3:00pm

Where:
St. Bridget’s Catholic Church
6006 Three Chopt Rd.
Richmond, VA 23226

Contestants: $10 entrance fee

Attendees: $7 advance cover charge| $10 cover charge at the door

All contestants must be paid and registered for the competition by Saturday, March 10, 2018. This is a firm deadline. All attendees wishing to take advantage of the advance cover charge price must pay and register prior to the date of the event.

There will be a 50/50 raffle at the event and a door prize of a brand-new crock pot. The Richmond chapter is also accepting any donations to be used for additional door prizes. Prizes for first, second, and third place chili contestants will be awarded.

To register to compete, attend, or donate, please contact Richmond Chapter Event Planner, Gerald Meredith, at 804.243.3980.

For additional questions, contact Robert Parsons (804.801.7674) or Brittany Fraher (804.274.8908).

We look forward to enjoying this event with you all.

Google Accessibility Support

Ever wished you could get more help with the accessibility of your google products? Now you can. After being in beta for several months, Google now offers a dedicated accessibility support team for all your accessibility questions.

They will be able to answer questions about using google products in conjunction with your existing accessibility solutions, as well as questions about accessibility solutions implemented by Google. Between 8 AM and 5 PM PST Monday through Friday, agents will be available to answer accessibility questions. The team can be contacted via email at:

disability-support-external@google.com

A representative will respond to your email within 72 hours. For now, questions and responses must be in English, though more languages and contact options may be added in future.

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.

2018 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FROM THE BLIND OF VIRGINIA

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

The Vigilant: January 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

While it is unusually cold outside, 2018 is really heating up in the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. I’m very excited to usher in a new year full of possibilities. I believe we will get a few steps closer to realizing some of those ambitious dreams I outlined for you back in November.

We hit the ground running right out of the gate. January is focused on legislative priorities and I hope you can be part of our team to advocate for the priorities important to our members. In addition to the specific Richmond and Washington Seminars, expect opportunities for legislative action where you will be asked to make phone calls to our elected leaders. Through collective action, we can make a significant difference in the lives of blind people throughout the Commonwealth and across the country.

Other upcoming activities are outlined elsewhere in this newsletter. Please join me in making 2018 an exceptional year for advocacy and results in our affiliate. If I should be made aware of something that may not have already been brought to my attention, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am here to do my part to make sure our collective needs are met as blind residents of this great commonwealth.

A happy new year to you. May it bring about boundless energy and blessings to you and your family. Thank you for being a part of ours.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

The following excerpt is attributed to our very own Joanne Wilson, who contributed to a compilation of thoughtful messages in honor of Mr. Jerry Whittle–aptly described in the January Braille Monitor as “Cherished Teacher, Mentor, Author, Advocate, and Leader.

Here are Joanne’s remarks:

“In 1985 the Louisiana state legislature gave funding to the NFB of Louisiana to establish the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Inspired by my own life-changing rehabilitation experience, I wanted to replicate the ground-breaking training model that Dr. Jernigan used to teach me and countless other blind people in Iowa. My search for Center staff led me to Jerry and Merilynn Whittle, whom I heard about through the “blind grapevine.” I called them up, explaining that we were only awarded one year of funding and that we had no building, no equipment, and no students. Essentially our empowering NFB philosophy and our nonvisual training methods were the two forces pushing our dream forward.

“Jerry and Merilynn did not hesitate; they immediately agreed to become part of our pioneering team of instructors. Jerry came first, and when her job concluded, Merilynn arrived in Louisiana. They brought with them an unwavering belief in blind people, a deep loyalty to the Federation, a joyous energy, and a willingness to sacrifice and give to others. They were dependable and so hardworking; they worked day and night to launch the Center.

“Soon we had our inaugural group of students. Our first training center operated out of a four-room house. Mismatched donated furniture and lively chatter filled the space. The Braille classroom that Jerry and his students occupied had a large table that was made by attaching legs to an old door.

“Even in the early years of his teaching career, Jerry recognized that his job as Braille instructor was just the beginning. He fulfilled the roles of counselor and mentor. He spoke with students about their futures, what jobs they could do, and what they could become as blind people.

“With great enjoyment, Jerry also dispensed love advice to those seeking a partner. For instance, he warned, “You should never marry someone unless you have traveled with them on a trip. You learn a lot on these trips that might influence your decision.” More broadly, he told students “If you want to succeed in life, you must look at your fatal flaws and change them. We all have them.” Jerry had such a tremendous sense of humor. When crossing a street, you could hear Jerry shouting, “Oh, feet, don’t fail me now!” And, oh my, did Jerry get after students if they were slacking or not fulfilling their potential. These are just some of the phrases and techniques that I witnessed Jerry using as tools to create bridges to the lives of his students.

“The most significant thing that Jerry gave us was the “minor ingredients,” the invaluable elements that made our dream of creating a fun and productive training center come true. Jerry developed many traditions and pursued projects that engaged the varied interests of Center students. He started a garden, devised creative fundraising activities, and organized many trips to festivals, movies, concerts, flea markets, and sporting events. He formed a blind football team and wrote many plays. He started a Toastmasters group to provide students the opportunity to enhance their public speaking skills. He planted trees with the students to beautify the city and to memorialize students or staff who had passed away. Jerry also awarded “Whittle sticks” to recognize the Braille achievements of his students. He carefully selected tree branches that he lovingly made into beautiful walking sticks that his students eagerly worked to earn.

“Jerry started our freedom bell tradition. He began ringing the bell whenever a student conquered a challenge or met an important milestone-crossing a busy street, reading at a certain speed in Braille, getting married, or becoming employed. He would say, “When the bell sounds, all blind people have gained new ground.”

“Yes, Jerry, you have and will continue to help the blind gain new ground. Your life is a real tribute to our dream.”

Visit the January Braille Monitor to read all the contributions.

Hosting the 2018 National Federation of the Blind Convention

We hope you are making plans to join us at the 2018 National convention in Orlando Florida. The National Convention will be even better this year because the Virginia affiliate is partnering with the Iowa and Florida affiliates to host the convention. For a number of years, different affiliates have volunteered to take on the responsibility for welcoming members to the convention. After obtaining approval from the elected officers and chapter presidents, President Soforenko felt comfortable telling President Riccobono that the Virginia affiliate is going to take on convention hosting along with Iowa and Florida.

What are the responsibilities of a Host Committee Affiliate?

Host Committee Affiliates are responsible for the following:

  • Run, Staff, and supply the Host Committee Hospitality Suite – For two days of the convention, each of the affiliates on the host committee runs a hospitality suite from 7:00 AM to either 5:00 PM or 7:00 PM in the convention hotel. For our defined days, the Virginia affiliate would be responsible for finding Virginians to staff each shift, run a fundraiser like a raffle basket, provide snacks and beverages and ensure that we are answering questions from members who show up. There would be a cost for snacks and beverages and we could seek donations for these items. We have connections we could work to obtain snacks affordably. Finally, we could offset expenses by fundraising with a gift basket raffle or something similar.
  • Host Committee Table in the Lobby – To help members with common questions, the host committee staffs a table in the Rosen Shingle Creek lobby on July 2, 3, and 4. One key role is passing out the agendas and answering questions about the agenda. Jernigan Institute staff often help at the table but we still need 2 members per shift at the table. I suspect we would be responsible for 1 of the days between July 2 and July 4. We would strive to ensure the Virginia day is not the same day we are responsible for the Hospitality Suite.
  • Opening Ceremonies – The host committee arranges for the opening ceremonies including delivering a brief presentation at the Opening Ceremony and arranging entertainment. The Opening Ceremony is a 30-minute-high energy presentation that is organized and funded by the host committee affiliates.
  • Banquet Door Prize – The host committee provides the door prize provided at the end of the banquet. Last year, the host committee affiliates asked other affiliates to also contribute to reduce the impact of this contribution.

In addition, we are considering some optional events that we hope to discuss at the January 15 Board meeting:

  1. Event for all – Last year, the host committee of multiple affiliates and a national division arranged for the Hawaiian themed dance which included coming up with a concept or theme, organizing the event, selling tickets and promoting the event to make it a success. There are costs for this event and we would want to break even or turn a profit. The host committees would have to decide if this is necessary. Some events break even, some make money and some are money losers. Per President Riccobono, RUNNING A PROGRAM IS FUN AND VALUABLE BUT it is not a requirement.
  2. Organize a Leadership Event – Last year, the host committee organized an event for current and past affiliate presidents as an opportunity to network and learn from seasoned leaders in the movement. President Riccobono thought this was A GREAT EVENT BUT not a requirement and may not be needed every year. In addition, this event inherently comes with additional costs to the host committee affiliates. President Riccobono also thought it might be useful to do something to connect affiliate presidents with national division presidents.

Hosting the convention will require participation from all members attending the convention and we hope to have more Virginians attend convention this year to join in the fun. We will be establishing affiliate members to take on each of the above components in partnership with members from Iowa and Florida. We welcome NFB of Virginia alumni volunteers who currently live in other affiliates but want to join in the fun.

January board of Directors meeting and Richmond Seminar Update

We have a few important updates for the upcoming Richmond Seminar on January 15 and 16.

Monday, January 15 board of Directors Meeting Location:

We are very pleased that the Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) has again welcomed us to hold our meeting at their facility. The Board of Directors meeting on Monday, January 15 will be from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the following address:

Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired
Library and Resource Center
395 Azalea Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23227

Pizza Lunch at the meeting:

With a meeting starting at 1:00 PM, you should plan to arrive early to the meeting and join your Federation family for a pizza lunch organized by the Virginia Association of Blind students. Plan to arrive starting at Noon for lunch and great fellowship. For $5, you can obtain your choice of 2 slices of either cheese or pepperoni pizza and a beverage. Additional snacks will be available for an affordable price. To make things easier, we will not be taking reservations so come early to secure your lunch with your Virginia Federation family. For more information, please contact either Robert Parsons or Gerald Meredith.

Priorities for Richmond Seminar:

The 2018 Virginia Legislative Session will be extremely exciting and fast paced. We will have three priorities to present this year:

  • Cross Disability Parents Rights
  • Ensuring Blind and Low Vision Students Receive a Quality Education
  • Opposition to Efforts to Weaken the ADA in Virginia

We are working on our fact sheet and it will be distributed in advance of the Seminar. We will also be explaining the priorities on Monday afternoon at the board meeting.

Reimbursement of expenses

For expenses to be reimbursed for Richmond seminar hotel and transportation costs, please use the reimbursement request form and follow instructions. The form can be found at the following address: http://www.nfbv.org/updated-reimbursement-form/

2018 NFBV Committee Assignments

We are pleased to announce the committee chairs for 2018:

  • Membership – Sandy Halverson
  • Legislative – Derek Manners and Deepa Goraya
  • NFB of Virginia James Nelson Scholarship- Brian Miller
  • Public Outreach/Meet the Blind Month – Corlis Jones and Uricka Harrison
  • Fundraising – Michael Kasey
  • McDonald Fellowship Program- Mary Durban
  • BELL Program – Nancy Yeager and Beth Sellers
  • Chapter President Virtual Retreat- Uricka Harrison
  • Convention Operations & Logistics – Joe Orozco
  • Communications – Sarah Patnaude

Tips from a boss on how to get your first job
By John Bailey

If you want the best advice for getting your first job as a teenager, the best source is from a business owner– the person who’s actually going to decide
Whether or not the higher you.

Jacque (pronounced Jackie) Whang,, a local business owner in Fairfax, Virginia, shared some of her tips that anyone can use to impress a potential employer
in order to land that first job. Jacque owns and manages Rita’s Italian Ice and Custard of Fairfax. She has had years of experience hiring young people
to work in her store.

A good first impression at a job interview can make all the difference. Jacque tells us about her experiences interviewing and what she looks for in a
potential new higher.

Even if this isn’t your first job, these tips can help you at any stage of your career find better employment.

See her video here!

Save the Date: State Convention 2018

Yep. The Operations team is already gearing up for state convention. If you have any commentary beyond what you may have supplied in your survey, please get in touch with Joe Orozco. And, please visit the Convention page for updated details.

A few event highlights

Dates: Thursday, November 8 through Sunday, November 11, 2018

Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia

Property: Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel & Conference Center – 2801 Plank Rd. Fredericksburg, VA 22401

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.

2017 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FROM THE BLIND OF VIRGINIA*

Priority #1: Protect Civil Rights of Blind Parents

Action: Co-patron HB 2273 / SB 1199 (Patron Delegate LaRock, 33rd District and Patron Senator Favola, 31st District) which creates stronger protection under the law to eliminate the bias and discrimination that blind persons face in court decisions regarding custody, visitation, foster care, guardianship, or adoption.

Issue: With increasing frequency, blind parents in Virginia and across the U.S. are enduring instances where their Constitutional right to raise a family is being infringed. Competent blind parents have sometimes been denied adoption, or have lost child custody on the basis of blindness.
Social service agencies are often asked to investigate to ensure that children receive proper care and protection. Unfortunately, a prospective parent’s lack of vision 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. We have represented many blind persons in child custody cases across the country, as well as in other situations involving the care of children.
Unfortunately, blatant discrimination still occurs in too many of these cases. Even when no other problems were uncovered, blind parents were forced to demonstrate their child-rearing capabilities beyond that reasonably expected of sighted persons. The capabilities of blind individuals 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 blind parents 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 ability of a blind parent to raise a child using alternative non-visual techniques.

Solution: HB 2273 / SB 1199 will solve this problem by doing three things. First, it will establish, as a substantive right, that a parent’s blindness will not serve as a basis for denial of rights when enforcing those rights is in the best interest of the child. Importantly, these new protections will add to the protections in the Americans with Disabilities Act, which only ensures an accessible court proceeding, by protecting the substantive rights of blind parents to raise a family. Second, when a parent’s blindness is alleged to have a detrimental impact on the child, it will require clear and convincing evidence that that is actually the case and that training in the alternative non-visual 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: Ensure That Blind Riders Are Not Excluded from Use of Highly Autonomous Vehicles.

Issue: Autonomous vehicles have the potential to tremendously increase or decrease access to transportation for blind and low vision Virginians, especially in rural parts of the Commonwealth. Autonomous vehicles are already being tested in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere throughout the United States. Google’s autonomous vehicle was recently tested in Austin, TX where a blind rider successfully rode alone in a vehicle without any manual driving capabilities. This technology could greatly increase a blind person’s ability to travel independently, especially in areas without public transportation. Yet, many states are requiring passengers to have a driver’s license to legally operate highly or fully autonomous vehicles.
This restriction will likely decrease access to transportation by preventing blind passengers from even riding in a taxi or other vehicle for hire such as an Uber or Lyft because these businesses are actively trying to reduce costs by eliminating human drivers. Therefore, requiring a driver’s license to operate an autonomous vehicle could actually greatly reduce or eliminate the only access blind passengers have to cars.

Importantly, ensuring that there will be no legal barrier to blind riders operating highly or fully autonomous vehicles will also incentivize manufacturers and developers to incorporate accessibility during the initial design process. However, if blind riders are locked out of autonomous cars, then manufacturers will have little incentive to develop this new technology with our needs in mind, making it much more difficult for us to ever gain access to this technology. Virginia must ensure that any autonomous vehicle legislation ensures that there will be no legal barrier preventing blind and low vision passengers from an equal opportunity to operate autonomous vehicles.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

The National Federation of the Blind is America’s largest and most active organization of the blind. With more than 50,000 members, we are not an “agency” claiming to speak for the blind; we are blind people speaking for ourselves. In Virginia, we are organized into 11 local chapters throughout the Commonwealth, and into various special interest divisions; including a parents division. We are the only organization that believes in the full capacity of blind people and because of that, we strive to transform dreams into reality so that blind Virginians can live the lives we want.

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
    follows:

  • § 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
    impaired.

    “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.

Join Us at the 2016 Richmond Seminar – Jan 18 – 19

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is a powerful force advocating for blind Virginians. Please join us for the Richmond Seminar on January 18- 19, 2016 to ensure our voice is heard in the offices of the General Assembly.

If you have never attended a Richmond Seminar, we strongly encourage you to attend and participate in representative democracy in action. Everyone is assigned to a team with an experienced leader. The General Assembly members and their staff are very receptive and welcoming. They know we are organized, articulate, and well versed in the subject matter. We will put everyone on the team to work, sharing our issues and answering the questions of legislators and their staff.

The issues we will bring to Richmond will most likely include:

  • Requiring a research based reading media assessment as part of
    every blind and low vision student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) so Virginia’s students who need Braille will get Braille;
  • Defending Virginia’s Randolph Sheppard priority ; and
  • Support for Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired
    (DVBI) as a separate agency.

The final list of issues will be presented at the board meeting.

We have bills being drafted that will need co-sponsors. Chapter Presidents should make contact with their General Assembly members in their local offices before the end of the year. If you need assistance in identifying them, contact Michael or Tracy. A meeting with them will go a long way in establishing the recognition that is needed for our visit to Richmond. All Chapter members are encouraged to participate.

Our board meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 18 which is Martin Luther King Day. The Board Meeting will be held from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM at The DBVI Library and Resource Center, 395 Azalea Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227.

Our General Assembly visits will be Tuesday, January 19.

The affiliate will reimburse transportation expenses and hotel expenses.

Chapter presidents should arrange cost effective transportation for their chapter members. Individuals are expected to share hotel rooms and must obtain hotel reservations themselves at the NFB of Virginia rate. If you need assistance identifying a room share, please contact Michael or Tracy.

Hotel rooms are available at the Crowned Plaza Hotel Downtown, 555 East Canal Street, Richmond, VA 22319. Hotel rooms can be reserved by telephone at 804-788-0900 or 1-855-472-7802 and asking for the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) group block.

Click here for online reservations

The deadline to make reservations is January 6, 2016.

The group rate is $99 plus state and local sales tax (currently at 13.3%).

Guest will receive $10 off overnight parking.

check In is at 3 PM and Check Out is 12 PM.

Do not delay, book your room today.

Chapter presidents must provide the names of the individuals planning to attend from their chapter to Michael and Tracy by Wednesday, January 13,
2016 so we can establish teams in advance. If you have any questions, please contact Michael Kasey at (540)760-3885 or michaelgkasey@verizon.net or Tracy Soforenko at (703)635-2085 or tracy.soforenko@gmail.com

2015 Richmond Seminar & January NFBV Board Meeting Workshop

By: Michael Kasey and Tracy Soforenko

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is a powerful force advocating for blind Virginians. Please join us for the Richmond Seminar on January 19-20, 2015 to ensure our voice is heard in the offices of the General Assembly.

If you have never attended a Richmond Seminar, we strongly encourage you to attend and participate in representative democracy in action.

The issues we will bring to Richmond will most likely include:

  • . Requiring a research based reading media assessment as part of
    every blind and low vision student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) so Virginia’s students who need Braille will get Braille;
  • . Ensuring that Ride Sharing Services (such as Uber and Lift) use
    accessible technology and allow passengers to take guide dogs; and
  • . Support for Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired
    (DVBI) as a separate agency.

The final list of issues will be presented at the board meeting.

We have bills being drafted that will need co-sponsors. Chapter Presidents should make contact with their General Assembly members in their local offices before the end of the year. If you need assistance in identifying them, contact Michael or Tracy. A meeting with them will go a long way in establishing the recognition that is needed for our visit to Richmond. All Chapter members are encouraged to participate.

Our extended board meeting and workshop is scheduled for Monday, January 19which is Martin Luther King Day. The Board Meeting will be held from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM in the Assembly Room of the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for
the Blind and Vision Impaired, 401 Azalea Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227. .

  • A) Agenda for Board Meeting – We will cover the following topics:
    • . Facilitated Workshop on affiliate Goals and plans for the coming
      year
    • . Affiliate Social Media Strategy
    • . State Convention Lessons Learned & Ideas for the 2015 State
      Convention
    • . Richmond Seminar briefing for participants
    • A detailed agenda for the board meeting will be provided in January.
  • B) Boxed Lunches – A member of the Richmond chapter, Leon Anderson,
    will be providing boxed lunches on Monday afternoon at a cost of $10 per lunch. You will have a choice of either a Turkey & cheese sub or a ham & cheese sub. All boxed lunches come with chips, fruit and a snack. Beverages will be available for $1. 20% of the proceeds will be donated to the Richmond chapter.
  • C) General Assembly Visits – Our General Assembly visits will be
    Tuesday, January 20. Everyone is assigned to a team with an experienced leader. The General Assembly members and their staff are very receptive and welcoming. They know we are organized, articulate, and well versed in the subject matter. We will put everyone on the team to work, sharing our issues and answering the questions of legislators and their staff.
  • D) Affiliate Funding – Transportation and hotel paid by affiliate!<

    The affiliate will reimburse transportation expenses and hotel expenses.

    Chapter presidents should arrange cost effective transportation for their chapter members. Individuals are expected to share hotel rooms and must obtain hotel reservations themselves at the NFB of Virginia rate. If you need assistance identifying a room share, please contact Michael or Tracy.

Hotel rooms are available at the Crowned Plaza Hotel Downtown, 555 East Canal Street, Richmond, VA 22319. Hotel rooms can be reserved by telephone at 804-788-0900 or 1-855-472-7802. The NFB rate is $94plus tax per night.
The deadline for booking hotel rooms is January 8, 2015. Do not delay, book your room today.

NFBV Richmond Seminar Hotel Reservations

It should not be required but just in case; the 3-digit booking code is NFB.

Some notes from Brian McCann who organized the agreement with Crowne Plaza:

  1. The link above is set for one guest but you can revise the search by
    using the revise search link. Don’t go back to the reservations page and start the search over, this will take off the discount rate.
  2. Your credit card is NOT charged a deposit for a room hold.
  3. Total EST price for the room after taxes is $106 per night.
  4. Cancellation Policy: Canceling your reservation before 6:00 PM (local
    hotel time) on Monday, 19 January, 2015 will result in no charge. Canceling your reservation after 6:00 PM (local hotel time) on 19 January, 2015, or failing to show, will result in a charge of 1 night per room to your credit card. Taxes may apply. Failing to call or show before check-out time after the first night of a reservation will result in cancellation of the remainder of your reservation.”

Overnight self parking is regularly $12 but we have arranged the discounted rate of $7 for hotel guests. See front desk for details.

Chapter presidents must provide the names of the individuals planning to attend from their chapter to Michael and Tracy by Wednesday, January 14,
2015 so we can establish teams in advance. If you have any questions, please contact Michael Kasey at (540)760-3885 or michaelgkasey@verizon.net or Tracy Soforenko at (703)635-2085 or tracy.soforenko@gmail.com