Category Archives: National Convention

The Vigilant: March-April 2019

The Vigilant is a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. For questions or submissions, please send us an email.

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

We’re in the middle of enjoying the blessings of Spring. As the weather changes, I appreciate the longer days, the warm temperatures, and the excitement in the air. In the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, you can feel that excitement in the great work we accomplish together.

Membership Initiative and Membership Coins:

As you may be aware, 2019 is an exciting year for members of the National Federation of the Blind. We are working with our national office to implement an exciting change to our membership processes including: (A) Strengthen the information we have on our members; (B) Celebrate our Members; and (C) Educate Our Members.

A. Strengthen Our Knowledge About Our Members

If we want to maximize our movement’s effectiveness as the most important force advocating for blind people, we need to know our members. If we don’t have a detailed understanding about who is a member, we are less effective at leveraging our most valuable resource, our members. Our chapters and divisions have not been super diligent about maintaining and sharing membership information with the affiliate.
This year, at a national level, we are compiling an updated and integrated database of all members called Connections. Each chapter has been tasked to help compile the membership list using a specific import format. Sandy Halverson and Mark Roane have been working to take the membership lists each chapter provides and massage the data into the Connections database import format. We should be grateful that Mark and Sandy are willing to take on this challenging task. However, we need each chapter and division to provide an updated membership list along with addressing a set of questions from our membership Chairperson, Sandy Halverson. While a number of chapters and divisions have provided updated lists of their members, many have not. This is essential to our success and I am hopeful that the remaining chapters and divisions will work immediately to address this challenge.

The membership list should be for dues paying members. A membership list is not just a contact list, it is the list of individuals who have paid dues and are active by attending a meeting.

B. Celebrate Our Members

Each member of the National Federation of the Blind will receive a membership coin that serves as a symbol of our work together to improve the lives of blind people. The coin even has the word “together” in Braille.

We will be implementing a special ceremony to celebrate our members and share these membership coins. I am asking the participants in the Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute to develop some ideas for how to implement recognition events in our chapters and divisions. If you have specific suggestions, please reach out to me.

C. Educate Our Members

As I mentioned at our 2018 state convention, it is important to ensure that membership is meaningful. We need to implement processes to ensure we share our philosophy, our history and the expectations we have for members in our movement. There will not be a one size fits all answer for how we ensure that every member knows who we are and what we believe. If you have suggestions, I would like to hear your ideas.

I suspect that there will be a number of sessions at our national convention focused on helping chapters and affiliates to implement these changes. Please include these important sessions in your personal agenda for the national convention.

Visiting Chapters and Other Events:

On March 22, I was honored to address a meeting of blind entrepreneurs at a conference in Richmond. On March 23, I was excited to attend the Richmond Chapter’s Chili Cook Off. I hope to visit more chapters in the coming months. Feel free to let me know what you are doing and how I can help. I would be glad to assist in my capacity as president, but honestly, I really just enjoy being around you guys.

National Convention

Our National Convention is fast approaching. In the February newsletter, we provided details about our state and national programs for first time convention participants (deadline 4/15) and expectations for requesting financial assistance. The 2019 National Convention is going to be outstanding but we really need you there to make the convention the best ever. We will need help from our members in a number of ways including working the Virginia table in the exhibit hall, assisting with the Independence Market, and mentoring first time convention attendees
Thank you for all you do to help grow our movement.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia


This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“The blind have a right to live in the world. That right is as deep as human nature; as pervasive as the need for social existence; as ubiquitous as the human race; as invincible as the human spirit. As their souls are their own, so their destiny must be their own. Their salvation or failure lies within their own choice and responsibility. That choice cannot be precluded or prejudged; those lives cannot be predetermined or controlled.”–Dr. Jacobus tenBroek from a national convention banquet speech, Are We Equal To The Challenge?


A Note From the Editor

We’re about to make changes to the newsletter to make it easier to both produce and distribute. Hopefully for you, it means it will also be easier to read.

In August 2017 we relaunched The Vigilant. It’s been a great communication vehicle from the affiliate, a great way to stay on top of recent activities in between board meetings, but it’s also evolved into something of a miniature Braille Monitor. The harder we push for great content, the higher we push the standard for quality, which means the tougher it becomes to get an issue out the door on time. Put it a different way, what is supposed to be a newsletter has actually turned into a little magazine. We simply do not have the people power to keep up the momentum.

As part of a total overhaul of the affiliate website, we’re going to keep pushing for exceptional content. Moving forward, however, we’re going to split the content between a newsletter and a blog. The newsletter will primarily consist of presidential updates from Tracy, including any high level announcements that bear reiterating. The blog will carry the more human interest items some of you have grown to expect of the newsletter. By moving to this model, we will be able to get the newsletter out on time for a change, totally my fault by the way, while not missing out on the great writing our affiliate membership has to offer.

For the moment, the newsletter will remain as is. Whether in one form or the other though, we are always interested in your thoughts, questions, and of course, your contributions. Neither the newsletter or the blog will amount to a whole lot if we cannot count on you to help keep the ball rolling. Thank you so much for all you do. We’ve gotten compliments on our newsletter from people outside the affiliate, and we have you to thank for garnering that sort of attention. Let’s work together to see the newsletter successfully into its next stage of development.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Orozco, Editor


Fundraising Committee Needs You

As those of you that attended our January board meeting know, and to those of you that were not there, I have been entrusted with taking on the position of chairing the affiliate fundraising committee. So I am looking for a few good Federationists to be part of this dynamic committee. We have the task of coming up with the ideas that will help fund the vision and the goals of our affiliate going forward. First and foremost we have to make decisions on what items we will have on our Virginia table at the National Convention in Las Vegas this Summer. Virginia peanuts are a given. It would not be the Virginia Table without peanuts. But we need to discuss other possible items and have ideas to present at the upcoming May board meeting. If you are on the current fundraising committee please contact me at the contact information listed below. If you would like to join our ranks please contact me. I am waiting to hear from you.

Earl Everett
NFBV Fundraising Chairperson
Phone: 804-252-8998
Email: ever23851 at gmail.com


My Experience of Being a Member of the National Federation of the Blind
By Chris Walker

Editor’s Note: The following article by one of our own appeared in the April edition of the Braille Monitor. The text follows.

From the Editor: Chris Walker is an active member in our Virginia affiliate. He comes to the Federation at a later date than some of our contributors, having gone blind in late 2009. A little research by talking with his fellow Virginians tells us he is the chapter president in Winchester, and in a very admiring voice one member said, “The thing I love about Chris is that he is such a nice guy.” I admire people who are so kind that they rate the title “nice,” and I can’t wait to meet him. Here is what he writes:

To help explain my motivation and commitment to the NFB, I would like to provide some of my personal background. During the last two months of 2009 I went from being a sighted person to being completely blind from Acute Retinal Necrosis (ARN). In December 2009, when I was discharged from the hospital after going blind at age forty-four, I was given a normal, supportive, walking cane and sent on my way into a sighted world with no information on what to do next. During the next six months I received blind services in Las Vegas, developed orientation and mobility skills, and began to learn the blindness skills needed to become an independent person.

My partner and I decided to move back to Northern Virginia to be closer to our families. Shortly after the move my partner passed away suddenly. I knew from that point that I needed to be independent and self-supporting. I also knew that once I got my life back together, I wanted to be able to be there for the next person who lost his/her vision.

I began the next phase of gaining my independence by moving from my family’s home in Warrenton to the city of Winchester, Virginia, where I rented a room from a recent acquaintance. Once settled, I began looking for an organization that would be able to guide me through this new life. I tried to find local organizations around Winchester that could help assist me on this journey. One day as I walked around town with my friends, we met a blind couple who suggested I visit the National Federation of the Blind website. I went home and joined the NFB that night. As I learned more about the NFB, I found the Virginia affiliate’s at-large group and attended several of that group’s monthly conference calls. I later discovered there was a local Winchester chapter of the NFB, and I have been an active member of the chapter since joining in 2015. While attending my second chapter meeting, I expressed a desire to set up an information booth at a local community’s Fourth of July celebration. I was immediately nominated and elected as the outreach chair for the Winchester Chapter of the NFB. After joining the local chapter I realized that being a member of the NFB was what you made it. The more I put into the organization the more I got back.

In the summer of 2015, I listened to the NFB national convention through the internet and social media simulcasts. That fall I attended my first state affiliate convention and was asked to join the Virginia affiliate’s Leadership Fellows Program, which gave me the opportunity to begin learning about the different operational areas of the national organization and the state affiliate. The next year I attended my first NFB national convention and was inspired by the thousands of attendees not letting blindness be their defining characteristic.

As an active member of the NFB, I have been provided with many opportunities to become involved at the local and state levels of the organization. The NFB has helped me to grow personally and professionally. I have been involved with all sorts of fun recreational events from climbing a thirty-foot rock climbing wall to judging a chili cook-off event. I have also attended fun learning events like “Connecting the Dots, the Federation Philosophy.” The NFB has also provided me with opportunities to become a more confident public speaker by inviting me to be a guest speaker at other Virginia chapter meetings and by encouraging me to speak to the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, and other local service organizations.

I have learned the importance of advocating for the rights of the blind by contacting the local voter registrar about issues that the members of the Winchester chapter were experiencing while trying to vote. Through my efforts the training for the local poll workers changed from “telling a visually impaired person to have someone help them vote” to the poll workers being trained on how to use the ADA-compliant voting devices and how to instruct people on the procedures for voting with the device. I was also invited to the poll worker training sessions to describe my experiences and to discuss proper etiquette when working with the blind/visually impaired.

I am not saying that being a member of the NFB has always been a walk in the park-it’s just like life: there are ups, and there are downs. But I have found, when I focus on my natural gifts-which have a special place in my heart-there are many more ups than downs. My natural gift is volunteering to provide outreach to the blind/visually impaired who have not found the support of the National Federation of the Blind.

I have been very involved with social media, and I am a member of many blind/visually impaired discussion groups and chat rooms. Through my social media presence I have stayed on top of what’s going on at the national, state, and local levels across the United States. By being part of the heartbeat of the National Federation of the Blind, we can encourage and challenge each other to serve in many different capacities, to give back to others, and to serve in our local community. We can all help to console, empathize, support, and educate people about our experiences with being blind and how the NFB has helped us to embody the axiom, “You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. The National Federation of the Blind 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.”


Amy Barnes Scholarship Opportunity

Dear federation family,

The Winchester chapter is pleased to provide the Amy barn scholarship in the amount of $600 for any legally blind student that will be attending a college in the Shenandoah Valley area.

If anybody is interested, please contact me at 540-303-0080 or by email at chrisvinson1@gmail.com

Christopher Walker

President Winchester Chapter


Protected Class? Not So Fast: The Exploitation of Workers with Disabilities
By Sarah Patnaude

Editor’s Note: Sarah Patnaude is our affiliate’s corresponding secretary. Among other tasks, Sarah oversees our social media channels, our website, newsletter production, and promotion campaigns surrounding events like the state convention. She is a member of the Potomac Chapter and represents the chapter in the Chapter Leadership Institute. This May Sarah will graduate from George Mason with a Masters in Social Work, and before leaving the halls of Academia, she wrote an article for the university newspaper that appears below with permission.

Everyone has that one thing that fires them up. For me, it’s knowing that I am not protected under the law as I enter the workforce. The government continues to systematically discriminate against me and my peers with disabilities. While preparing to graduate with my Masters of Social Work, I have continuously engaged in conversations regarding the barriers within employment and the impact of income. However, the discussion around employment and income is typically limited to racial and ethnic identities, gender, and sometimes mental health. Disability is left out of the conversation.

Many have heard of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. This piece of legislation outlines the rights and protections of workers. The federal minimum wage, currently set at $7.25/hour , is one of the protections workers are entitled to under FLSA. Did you know that this protection is not guaranteed if you have a disability? That’s right: employers can legally pay their workers with disabilities below the minimum wage. Through a provision in the law, Sec 14(c), employers can obtain special wage certificates from the Department of Labor, allowing them to pay their workers a fraction of the wage their coworkers without disabilities are paid – sometimes just pennies per hour. Wages are based on timed-tests given to employees. However, these tests are set up for employees to fail. For example, Harold Leigland, blind, sorts and hang clothes by color at Goodwill Industries. His job doesn’t set him up for success. Making matters worse, Harold’s productivity was tested by his ability to sort toys by similarity – a task which was also inaccessible – resulting in his wage dropping to $2.75.

Rooted in the beliefs and culture of 1938, the practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages stems from misconceptions and stereotypes. Often society equates disability with low productivity and low competence. However, that cannot be further from the truth. Workers with disabilities can work alongside their nondisabled coworkers in competitive integrated work environments. Subminimum wages is not a comparable compensation for the work people with disabilities produce. Instead, it is an expression of the low expectations the government and employers have for people with disabilities and a modern day form of exploitation.

Putting on the social work hat, this policy is not only discriminatory, it is oppressive. How can someone live on a wage that is just pennies or dollars an hour or a wage that changes every few months? The simple answer: someone can’t. Food, housing, transportation, healthcare and all the other services and products we need to meet our needs cost money. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the current living wage in Virginia is approximately $14 for one adult. If $7.25 is not enough to live on, then why are we expecting those with disabilities to live off of even less? Through this practice, we are not only telling people with disabilities that they are inferior, we are keeping them in a cycle of dependency that is difficult to get out of. The fraction of a wage – if we can even call it that – people with disabilities earn due to this practice creates and fosters barriers in surviving and thriving.

Disability is an income issue. The current policies in place continues the cycle of oppression for people with disabilities, preventing us from living the lives we have the capacity to live and further perpetrating damaging stereotypes of disabilities. Let’s not forget about people with disabilities as we continue to discuss the issues surrounding income and employment and fight for equal and fair wages for all. All means all.


Social Media Protest for Authentic Representation

There is no doubt the influence the entertainment industry has on society and the beliefs and attitudes viewers have about various topics, including disability. On March 12th, 2019, the National Federation of the Blind published a press release regarding the history of exclusion in the entertainment industry. Blind characters have been written into numerous movies and TV shows throughout the years. Often, the portrayals of blindness on screen are inaccurate and further perpetrate stereotypes and misconceptions. Furthermore, “not even one of them has featured a blind actor in a recurring lead role.” The National Federation of the Blind will not let Hollywood spread inaccurate messages about blindness anymore. It’s time we have authentic representation in the entertainment industry.

Read the full statement here.

In response to the upcoming show “In The Dark,” the National Federation of the Blind held a social media protest on March 27. Members from all over the country participated on twitter, @NFB-voice, using the hashtag #LetUsPlayUs. An engaging conversation took place on the topic, including diving into the history, sharing personal stories, and explaining the importance of authentic representation.

On April 2 members of the NFB descended on New York City to give voice to their objections of the show. You can read the press release here.

Stay tuned. By the sounds of it, the national office will continue to bring attention to the issue in the months to come.


Authenticity Matters
By Sarah Patnaude

Editor’s Note: And here’s the perfect accompanying piece to the item just prior.

The sun was shining; the breeze was blowing. I could hear the crashing of waves in the distance. It was a normal week spent at my childhood vacation spot: Nags Head, North Carolina. Except it wasn’t. Unlike most thirteen year olds, I couldn’t be found bogey boarding or swimming. I wasn’t playing basketball or even relaxing inside. Instead, I made the porch my fortress for the week. You see, the back porch was my practice stage.

In just a few weeks, I would star in a local children’s production. I had a book of lines to memorize. Ok…you caught me. That’s an exaggeration. As the 2nd main character, I had a total of one line and that was at the very end. How much practice can one line need? Despite only one line, my character was at the center of the story. I was in most scenes in some fashion, moving around and causing havoc. My scenes were calculated but yet spontaneous. My character was blind. Not just blind, but Deafblind. I had landed the role of playing Helen Keller in the production of The Miracle Worker.

As a blind pre-teen, I thought I had this character nailed. I was blind and had a hearing impairment. My first language happened to be Sign Language. For me, these were assets I brought to the table. I could harness my lived experiences to further the authenticity of my acting. The director had other thoughts. My blindness was not an asset. Instead, my blindness was viewed as the very reason to not cast me. I remember her asking me how I, as a blind person, could possibly play a blind character accurately. In other words, would I, as a blind person, be able to further perpetuate the misconceptions and negative attitudes about blindness she was hoping to promote in her rendition of the account of a teacher and her student?
I remember telling her “If you can find someone else with thirteen years of experience playing a blind child by all means cast them. But I don’t think you will.” This was the first time I identified myself as blind. My whole life, I was told I wasn’t blind enough by professionals whenever I fought for services. But this was the opposite. I was too blind to play blind.

Unfortunately, this experience isn’t uncommon in the entertainment industry. I was lucky that my sassy thirteen year old attitude was enough to change the director’s mind, and I have the opportunity to say I had a paid acting gig – receiving a quarter as my cast gift still counts as being paid in my mind. However, blind actors are continuously not casted in roles where characters are blind. These roles still are largely played by sighted performers and are still largely based on the misconceptions and negative attitudes society has towards blindness. In any other role, authenticity is important. Research is conducted. The writers and performers consult others to keep the integrity of the experiences of the character and those who can identify with the character. It’s 2019 and we are still fighting to have a seat in the entertainment business, one of the largest industries in the U.S. It’s time we start having a say in how we are portrayed. It’s time for blind characters to be casted by blind performers. We bring our lived experiences to the table. We bring the truth about blindness to the table. Authenticity matters.


Word of Mouth
By Mary Fernandez

Editor’s Note: Some of you may have met Mary Fernandez from one of her visits to Virginia. Though she calls New Jersey home, she is a friend of the Virginia affiliate and was a part of the team who prepared the original proposal for what would become Project RISE. Though this article, borrowed from the Student Slate archives, was published a long while ago, the core message remains relevant today and will hopefully serve as a source of encouragement for anyone currently looking for a job.

From the Editor: Mary Fernandez recently graduated from Emory, and found a job in these tough economic times. Here is her story of how she got that job, and her suggestions for how we can all do the same.

I jumped out of the cab in front of Union Station, and made my way rather quickly to the ticket counter. I had already missed the train I had been planning to catch, and was hoping to make the next train. I bought my Amtrak ticket, and made my way to the gate. It looked like I would make it on time for my first ever job interview. Once onboard, I sat down with every intention of relaxing. But after five seconds exactly, my thigh started twitching. Taking a deep breath I told myself that while this was a big deal, it would be ok, right? Then my foot started tapping. Ok, I’ll call my mom! Well, that only took ten minutes. Fine, I’ll listen to some relaxing music. I will ignore the five year old that lives in my head, and that at times, like now, annoyingly asks questions like, are we there yet? I thought that if I was going to be thinking I might as well think about things that might help me during the interview. The only problem was that aside from the research I had done during the last two weeks, I wasn’t even quite sure that I was even qualified to be a paralegal. Which brought my mind back around to my resume… Did I include everything I had done? Did I ever fix that one spelling error? Ok, so this isn’t working, and I still had fifteen minutes to go on the train. So I gave up and just let my thigh twitch but restrained from picking at my nails, hopefully there was no one staring at me and my peculiar behavior. Or if someone was looking at me, hopefully they had nothing to do with the decision of hiring me.

At long last, after what seemed like three hours instead of half an hour, the train arrived At Baltimore Penn Station. I walked as quickly and in as dignified a manner as my four inch heels would allow me. I got in yet another cab and asked the driver to take me to the offices of Brown Goldstein and Levy. As I sat in the cab, I wondered yet again how exactly I had managed to land an interview, for a dream job, which I hadn’t even considered during my job search. The ride was mercifully short, and I still made it the requisite fifteen minutes early that just look good. Ok, I had made it! IN time! I sat in the gorgeous lobby, and utilized every tool I had ever learned to control stage fright. After a while my twitching subsided though my heart-rate would still speed up if I thought too hard about the importance of the next hour.

The interview started exactly on time, and as it turned out, it wasn’t an hour, but closer to two hours. I was quickly briefed by the firm administrator and told that I would be speaking to a total of five people. The good news was that after the second person, I just couldn’t keep up my high agitation level. And with everyone that I spoke to, I realized more and more what a wonderful opportunity it would be to land the job. By the end of the interview, I was exhausted, and my heart-rate had picked up again. This time however, it was just pure unadulterated excitement; sadly, that lasted until I realized that now I had to wait to find out the end result. That night I came back to DC and was set to wait for at least two days to know whether or not I got the job and to reflect some more on how it had all happened.

It all started in October of my senior year. After having a rather dramatic epiphany during which I realized that psychology was not what I wanted to do for the next seven years let alone the rest of my life, I found myself at a complete loss. Here I was, months away from graduation, and the plan that I had so carefully sculpted during the last four years had crumbled right in front of my eyes. After many antics on my behalf, and after I had tired myself out with my panic of no longer having a ten year plan, I finally calmed down and started listening to what people had to say. I also started listening to myself, and much of what was coming out of my mouth, things like “Oh my gosh, I’m a failure”, and “there’s nothing else I can possibly do with my life” stopped making as much sense as they once did. I figured out that what I really wanted to do was try working for a year or two, and then, I would go to law school, something I had wanted to do since the age of seven. Ok, so great, now I had decided to not go to school and try to find a job in one of the hardest economic times our country has faced. And so it all started. I officially began my job search in November of 2011 and did not get an interview until June of 2012. Like all my fellow graduating students, I became an expert on job searches. I started by crafting a good resume, which I would doubt on my way to my first job interview. Be that as it may, I tried to make my resume not only succinct but also demonstrative of all my hard work and achievements during my four years in college. Even though the end result was a resume that had a strong foundation and only needed a few tweaks depending on the specific position, a double major at a liberal arts college, learning a third language, interning every summer, doing significant academic research and having my name in a publication, and serving the community did not cut it for about fifty jobs. Once I had a resume that was approved by friends and the career center at Emory, it all began in earnest. My major focus when looking for a job was to try the federal sector first, since the benefits are great, and supposedly the government is always hiring. I have since learned that the government isn’t always hiring, especially since we are getting out of an economic recession. Despite that, I did learn about some incredible resources that every student with a disability who is graduating should explore. The first program I heard of is called WRP, or the Workforce Recruitment Program. This is a program targeting college students and recent graduates with a disability. There is an application process, and a recruiter will come to college campuses that have requested them to interview candidates; the end result is a database in which resumes and applications are posted along with the interviewer’s thoughts of the applicants. This database is accessed by government agencies and private contractors interested in hiring individuals with disabilities.

Aside from WRP, I also became a frequent attendee of career fairs. Every career fair on campus was fair game, it got to the point where if I knew I had a career fair to go to between classes, I had this whole routine for changing into my business clothes, going, doing my thing, and changing back into regular clothes before running across campus to go to class. But out of all the career fairs I attended the most adventurous was a career expo for people with disabilities in DC. The event was taking place on the last Friday of spring break. And so, I decided to stay on campus through most of the Spring break, as I had a recital to prepare for, and just fly out into DC on Thursday and go on Friday. I would use AirTran U, which allows college students under the age of 23 to fly for a significantly reduced rate. So Thursday came along, and after packing my extremely fashionable and professional business outfit, I ran to get my nails done. Since the lady did such a fine job, I was now running a lot later than I intended, so I took a $40 cab to the Atlanta Airport. I didn’t mind this so much since all this money was an investment for my future. I got to the Atlanta airport only to be informed that AirTran U had been suspended since Southwest took over. I was told that if I wanted to get to DC for the weekend I would have to pay about $800. Now, there are investments, and there are investments; I did not have the capacity to make an $800 investment for my future. I was crushed… And I was determined… I refused to believe that after all my preparation I would have to go back to Emory. As I was starving from running around all day, I went to Wendy’s and started to eat and work the phone. After a few phone calls I discovered that a really good friend of mine has a wonderful father that works for Delta. This amazing man called me, and set everything up so that I could fly into DC and back to Atlanta for the best price I’ve ever gotten on a round trip. Although this career expo was extremely informative and opened my eyes to many realities about looking for a job, the most valuable lesson I began to learn that weekend was on personal connections and building relationships. I had been friends with this girl through our career at Emory, and I’m sure at some point she mentioned her parents occupations, but, if I hadn’t built enough of a connection with her, her father would have never known about me and my plight.

Eventually, getting a job did not come about from spending entire weekends on usajobs.gov, or applying to every job announcement I could possibly, maybe be qualified for. It came down to personal connections. Soon after I graduated, I fell into this rather pitiful funk. I had a college degree and was back to living with my mother. I adore my mother and I would not be anywhere close to where I am without her, but I had pictured myself in a position where I might be able to help her out after I graduated. After seeing me mope around for long enough, she finally asked me what my job search consisted of. I explained all of the Internet resources I was exploiting etc. She said that she was sure that would eventually get me results, but if I wanted a job in the next two months I should probably consider picking up the phone and connecting with people. After a minute of thinking this over, I decided that she, as always, was right. And that is what I did. I called everyone who I knew who has a job. Not only that, I focused on people who knew me, who knew my capabilities, who had worked with me in the past, and who are well-connected. I made it easier for them by forwarding them my resume. But most importantly, I have always expressed my gratitude to anyone who cared enough to take time out of their busy days to send out my resume to people they knew.

Something truly amazing happened once I took this approach. People who were looking for employees started calling me about potential employment opportunities. A week and a half later I got an e-mail from Brown Goldstein & Levy, where my resume had miraculously landed. I swear the only time I have screamed so loud was when I got an invitation from the White House asking me to spend an evening with my idol Michelle Obama and President Obama. They actually wanted to interview me! Now, when you have been rejected over and over by people who don’t have a clue about you, you start hoping to just have one minute face to face with them so you can show them that you are awesome. That is why when I got a request for an interview I not only jumped for joy but I also screamed it out.

I often speculate with my close friends that technology has not only changed the way we do things, but the way we interact with people. I pride myself in the fact that while I love texting, and will log on to Facebook at least once a week, I still talk on the phone for the majority of my communications. I like e-mailing too, because when you sit down and take more than five seconds to write something that is more than 160 characters long, you are more likely to make a close connection with the person on the other side. But, even I had forgotten about the importance of net working in the true sense. I think a lot of us think of networking as meeting people for a minute or so, exchanging e-mail addresses and maybe emailing them or texting them when you need something and remember them long enough to think they might be able to help. But networking is more than being Facebook friends, or being connected on Linked-in. It is about building relationships with people, letting those relationships grow, and then, when you are searching for employment you can call them up. They will not only know who you are, but be proud that you have graduated, that you are in the search for a job and want to become a responsible citizen. I was very fortunate that my mother gave me that little kick I needed to get going, but, although the economy is slowly but surely getting better, I think now more than ever it is important to connect with people. As young blind professionals, or students, we struggle with not only getting an interview, but with all the misconceptions that will inevitably arise when you walk into an employer’s office. I was extremely fortunate that Brown Goldstein & Levy is a law firm that not only knows people with disabilities, but has time and time again stood with us to fight for our rights.

I found my ideal job. It took many, many months of work, and an incredible amount of perseverance. It took support from my friends, and one particular friend who, when I would start getting a bit hysterical after my 20th, and 40th, and 60th rejection letter, would assure me that I was really a rock star and that there was a job waiting for me. That same friend was proved right when the email with the job offer got to me through his WIFI network, only one day after my interview. It took a reality check from my mother who reminded me that while it might seem like technology runs the world, there are people behind those technologies who are looking for employees. It took a measure of luck. But in the end all it really took was a phone call.


3 Steps to Launch a Website
By Joe Orozco

For those of you interested in entrepreneurship, we try to run articles from time to time to help you in that venture. Without a doubt, setting up a website is essential to your operation. Here are a few ideas on how to get started.

Launchhing your own website does not have to be as complicated as people make it out to be. In fact, you can knock it out in a few simple steps:

Pick a Domain Name

Your domain is the address people will visit to reach your site, YourName.com or MyPlace.net, etc. The domain should give a sense of what you do and be short enough to remember, and yes, this is most definitely a case of do as I say and not as I do. At nineteen characters, I sometimes wonder if AlphaComm Strategies was the brightest name for my own freelance business.

Notes:

  • You can used parked domains to point to your main site. Parked domains are alternative URLs that can point to a specific address. If you want JoeSchmo.com, JoeSchmo.net, and JoeSchmo.org to all point to JoeSchmo.me, well, that is your prerogative.
  • Domain registrations can range from $6 to $15 a year.
  • Privacy registration at an average cost of $10 a year hides your mailing address from Whois records.
  • Whois records give contact information about the website owner and date the domain registration expires.
  • The .com extension is still the most popular despite the avalanche of new choices.

Pick a Web Host

It is possible to host your website on your own server. Here’s a great article detailing the process, but for the rest of us, paying someone else to maintain the stability of your online business is well worth the cost.

Notes:

  • Your web host should count on more than one data center for redundant backup of your data.
  • A good web host will give you at least one free domain registration.
  • Features such as one-click installers are great, but the up-time guarantee is more important.
  • One-click installers are things like shopping carts and content managers.
  • My personal preference for the backend management of a website is CPanel.
  • The worse backend management system I’ve had the distaste of using is that from GoDaddy.

Pick a Content Management System

Once upon a time web developers used a basic text editor like NotePad to manually design their web pages. I suppose you still could, but it’s more efficient to use a CMS to organize and publish your information. A good CMS provides a web interface that guides you in plain English through the process of creating static pages, blogs and accomplish more advanced tasks like setting up an online store.

The two systems I’ve used and can personally recommend are Drupal and WordPress. Both are free, and both are a little bit of a pain to set up the first time. I prefer Drupal for no other reason than it was the system I tried first, but there are hundreds of great websites using one or the other. Here’s a good comparison article to help you decide which CMS is right for you.

If you have any questions, send me an email. Your website is too important not to be a part of your business operation, and with so many opportunities out there to set one up, there’s no reason why you should not have your own space on the web.


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.

The Vigilant: January-February 2019

The Vigilant is a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. For questions or submissions, please send us an email.

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

We knew 2019 would be a busy year. I don’t know that we could have anticipated just how hectic it would be, but thanks to your help, we continue pushing forward in a way that never fails to make me proud of our membership.

Legislative Activity

Advocacy has been our focus at the start of a busy 2019. This is the core of the National Federation of the Blind, and we have stepped up as an affiliate.

We recognize that these collective efforts take time, money and the talents of a diverse team from throughout Virginia and across the nation. Certainly, names in recognition will be missed, and please know that we are grateful for what we achieve together.

We want to offer special thanks to Mark Roane, Derek Manners, John Halverson, Charlie Brown, Angie Matney, and Earl Everett for their efforts in Richmond and on many calls to address our priorities in Richmond. Please thank them along with all of the team leaders who organized the over 50 members attending Richmond Seminar. Our legislative work is a fluid process, and more specific progress updates can be found via our announcement list.

On a different front, I am truly proud of the Virginia Affiliate’s engagement in the 2019 Washington Seminar. We had great participation including appointments with the entire Virginia Congressional Delegation. Deepa Goraya scheduled appointments, configured our teams across January 29 and 30, and ensured we were prepared for our visits. We had a very strong set of nearly 30 Virginians attending visits. The participation from the Virginia Association of Blind students was especially strong and Virginia students were also very involved in Monday night’s National Association of Blind Students Fiesta. Many of us improved our Salsa dancing with the help of dance pro instructor John Bailey. I am also exuberant that Sandy and John Halverson continued their record of ensuring that our nerve center for Washington Seminar, Suite 275, was a success.

Accessible Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art

On January 21, members of the Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute and staff members from the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) attended the opening of a new accessible art exhibit. The exhibit included an interactive art display from 3D Photo Works featuring tactile and auditory components you can explore on your own. We are grateful to John Olson from 3D Photo Works and to the VMFA for the opportunity to participate in the grand opening and for the efforts to make art more accessible. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open 365 days a year and is free. Please go check out this exhibit in the all new Education Wing. We are also grateful to Kathryn Webster for making the connections for this to be possible.

Virginia Chapter leadership Institute

On Sunday, January 20 and Monday, January 21 we held an extremely interactive leadership development session with participants in the Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute across nine of our chapters. Our Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute co-chairs, Domonique Lawless and joe Orozco, led the programming and ensured we all benefited from this creative and engaging program. As part of their next objective, participants have been asked to identify, engage, and recruit a community partner to help local chapters strenghthen their influence in their local area.

2019 Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind (AER) Conference

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia was an exhibitor at the AER conference in Charlottesville. We used the opportunity to share details on Project RISE, this year’s residential Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy, our national scholarship, and other NFB programs and services. We always appreciate the opportunity to be a part of conferences where we can get the word out about our valuable programs and services to Virginia blind residents.

Braille Readers Are Leaders

We are very pleased to announce the winners from Virginia for the 2018-2019 Nationwide Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. Altogether 74 students from 26 states took part in the contest with the largest number of students coming from Virginia. From Virginia, 26 students participated in the program which is absolutely remarkable. The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind was specifically recognized and we thank Kittie Cooper for her efforts to promote the program.

Here is a list of the 2018-2019 Nationwide Braille Leaders Are Leaders winners from Virginia:

Grades 4-5

First Place: Noa Hottin, Alexandria, VA, 2503 pages

Grades 9-12

First Place: Samuel Thurston, Chesapeake, VA, 1657 pages

The Kelly Doty Awards are presented in memory of Kelly Doty, a longtime member of the NFB of Illinois who was a dedicated promoter of Braille literacy. These awards are given to students who have coped with extra challenges in order to become proficient Braille readers. Such challenges include, but are not limited to, having disabilities in addition to blindness or being an English language learner.

Here is the list of the students who received this year’s Kelly Doty Awards from Virginia.

Noa Hottin, grade 4, Alexandria, VA
Samuel Thurston, grade 9, Chesapeake, VA

Congratulations to all of these winners, and to the families and teachers who encourage and support them in their reading. Braille readers are leaders!

2019 National convention

The 2019 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; and
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 2019 NFB National Convention to be held in Las Vegas, NV, from July 7- July 12. Please note: The banquet ends late in the evening of Friday, July 12 and fellowship winners are expected to attend the banquet so return travel must occur on Saturday, July 13 or later. This event will take place at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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.

Federationists 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 2019 NFB of Virginia state convention.

Deadline for applications for the McDonald Fellowship is Monday, April 15, 2019. Winners will be announced May 15, 2019.

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 Monday, April 15, 2019.

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

Mary Durbin, Chairman
McDonald Fellowship Committee
Email: mrdurbin@cox.net
Phone: 757-472-2495

Our committee wants to help you make 2019 the year you attend our national convention. The convention will be even better because you were there.

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship

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 2019 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 Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, 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, 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?

  • You write a letter giving your contact information and your local NFB information, the specific amount you are requesting, and then explain why this is a good investment for the NFB. The points to cover are listed below.
  • 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.
  • 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, 2019.

Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:

  • Your full name and all your telephone numbers-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 numbers;
  • Your specific request, and 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:

  • Make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel the reservation. (Yes, you may arrange for roommates to reduce the cost.)
  • Register online for the entire convention, including the banquet, by May 31.
  • Find someone in your chapter or affiliate who has been to many conventions and can answer your questions as a friend and advisor.
  • 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 send 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 kjscholarships@nfb.org 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 Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world. We hope to see you in Las Vegas.

Financial Assistance to attend the 2019 National Convention

Our National convention is a highlight for the year and the 2019 convention will be especially remarkable. The convention will begin Monday, July 7 and end late after the banquet on Sunday evening, July 12. Most people will be departing on Saturday, July 13.

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 Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. 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 our 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 Tuesday evening, July 8 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 Independence Market and other responsibilities as we all work together to make the convention a success. 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, 2019. 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 Las Vegas and we hope this guidance clarifies the process. However, if you have questions, I am glad to address them.

As you can see, there is lots already in the works and much to look forward. There is a place for you in all our activity, and if you have not already gotten involved, please talk to us. We need you to help us go out and build the Federation!

Yours sincerely,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia


This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“There is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. …” Thus spoke St. Paul two millennia ago. And so it must be with us today in this broad land. There is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor African, nor blind man, nor former convict-but only the free man and citizen in the society of equals to which we aspire.”–Jacobus tenBroek, Three Out-Castes of American Society from the February 2019 Braille Monitor


Ringing in the New Year with RISE
By Kathryn Webster, Project RISE Program Coordinator

Each month, our program continues to expand; and each week, our students feel the overwhelming love and positive impact of the National Federation of the Blind. Over the weekend of January 26-27, our Project RISE students and mentors participated in a leadership and self-advocacy seminar coordinated by our national career mentoring program.

Several of our Virginia students from across the state joined with students from Mississippi’s mentoring program for interactive sessions and activities focused on public speaking and leadership development. Students practiced their elevator pitches, team-building, and problem-solving scenarios, considering how they would advocate for themselves in challenging situations. Further, our students shared a banquet dinner with over 35 leaders from the National Association of Blind Students, who were having their leadership seminar in the same hotel.

One student said, “I had a blast this weekend and I am so inspired by everyone.”

It is these moments that prove that the work of our coordinators and mentors pay off, as we influence the lives of Virginia blind youth.

Our state-wide participants are eager to join us in May at our national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland; and our Northern Virginia students are anticipating our fitness and wellness session on March 2!

For the first time, we were excited to welcome several of our Project RISE students at our Richmond seminar and in our teams on Capitol Hill during Washington Seminar. We are extremely impressed by our Project RISE students and how these growing leaders are showing interest in Virginia student and affiliate activities! It is admirable to see our high school students contributing back to our student division in both leadership and experiential opportunities.

For the next couple of months, we are diligently working to coordinate summer jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities or blindness training programs for many of our students. If your workplace might have an opening for a student intern, or a job-shadow opportunity, please contact the Project RISE coordinators at Nfbprojectrise@gmail.com . More importantly, if you yourself is willing to participate in an informational interview facilitated by one of our students, please let us know as our members are the most valuable to our youth.

We’d like to take a precious moment to thank our continuing mentors: John Bailey, Jeremy Grandstaff, Sarah Patnaude, and Evelyn Valdez. A huge, warm welcome to Joe Orozco of Northern Virginia as he is joining our mentor team for the remainder of this year’s program. As our program expands, so do our mentors, so we’d like to also give a shout out to Michelle Abdi and Jimmy Morris, who are inaugurating our statewide mentor team. Our impact would be minimal without the support and wealth of knowledge from these dynamic leaders in their communities and our Federation family. We look forward to an exciting spring and summer with our Project RISE students!


True North: Discovering the Strength of Your Inner Compass
By Kathryn Webster

Editor’s Note: During the last weekend in January, Kathryn organized a joint conference for Project RISE participants and leaders from the National Association of Blind Students. On Saturday evening, the two groups came together for a banquet and keynote speech that merged the goals of both tracks in one inspirational presentation. Following is the text of Kathryn’s remarks.

We learn from Jillian Michaels that people believe practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t. If you’re making a tremendous amount of mistakes, all you’re doing is deeply ingraining the same mistakes. In high school, I, like many of you, made a ton of mistakes and I am still reflecting each day to ensure I am not making the same errors. In losing my sight quickly and uncontrollably, I let external pressures overtake my autonomy and even my values. I leaned on those who didn’t believe in me as I shaped my future.

Now, I ask myself why? Why did I seek advice from my high school guidance counselor on a weekly basis, when her low expectations were blatant as she pigeon-holed me into colleges that I saw as subpar and incompatible? I had an above average GPA; I proved myself through my scores on standardized tests; I was a Girl Scout Gold Award recipient; I was a cheerleader, ran track, rowed; and the list goes on. On paper, I was worth it. Mostly worth it because, as a blind woman, I felt that I had no choice in the world but to excel more than my sighted counterparts to be given serious consideration in several elements of life. To my guidance counselor, I was not enough solely because of my blindness.

I could have been the valedictorian; still, my disability created this blurred line of what I could and could not do, almost literally crossing out my qualifications to prove that something just wasn’t all there. Still, I craved her approval and expertise throughout one of the most defining choices of my teen age years. Socially, I disguised my insecurities with extreme confidence and poise. I wanted to be known for anything in the world but my blindness. Truthfully, I wasn’t even blind. I was a visually impaired girl who wouldn’t use a cane because I was scared of what the cute boys would think. I say this now; and I am simply mortified.

Back then, it was true. I worked out excessively to make sure I had everything else going for me because this prominent defect could only be overcome by excellence and exception in all other aspects of my life. Again and again, I sought thumbs-up from people that were supposed to matter. I pitied myself but no one would have ever known. On the surface, I was a young independent woman with lots of sass and attitude. Internally, I struggled.

Those repetitive experiences brought me to the lowest point. J.K. Rolling teaches us that rock bottom becomes the solid foundation on which one rebuilds their life. Stripping your core to the bare minimum requires grit, dedication, resilience, and most importantly, loving yourself. While I am not proud of some of the actions and choices I made; I am grateful for the wake-up call that allowed bright red blood to leave a lasting mark on my character, pushing me toward maturity, authenticity, and true confidence. Had you known me six years ago, you probably could have never imagined me as a successful young adult with a bright and challenging career at a top management consulting firm; or the national student president of the most powerful blindness advocacy organization in the world. Had I not encountered those years of struggle and pain, I would never be where I am today.

And now, this idea of leadership and mentorship comes full circle as we reflect on the meaningful conversations had today. We cannot create leaders without guidance from others. Whether formally or informally, those we look up to have a tremendous impact on our actions and decisions as we progress through our lives.

So far this weekend our Virginia and Mississippi students have learned about branding themselves in a positive and powerful light, understanding that teams are made up of talent from all walks of life. Our national student leaders have learned that our actions are watched and admired. We discussed the idea of first impressions and how each motion we make can be scrutinized and observed by anyone at anytime.

This makes me think of a special day in 2015. I was not yet on the NABS Board and I was a sophomore at Wake Forest University. From a title perspective, I was nothing in the National Federation of the Blind. I was in the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Boston at the annual Massachusetts State Convention. As I was chugging down my much-needed coffee, an energetic and curious 18-year-old guy approached me. He was weirdly impressed that I was put together, smiling with my shoulders back and head held high; he was impressed that I was walking swiftly around the hotel; he was impressed that, in doing these small actions, I was confidently holding a straight white cane in my right hand. This young adult was impressed that I was carrying on with my day as anyone else would, but he was impressed because I was blind.

This young man and I got to talking and I learned that he was losing his vision faster than he could have even imagined or understood. He was frightened; his family was frightened, and he really thought that his chance of being successful was no longer feasible. These feelings of low self-worth hurt my heart so much. Even more, I felt the pain because I had known that same pain just years prior.

So, how do we fix this pain? How do we, as leaders, leave lasting impressions on our youth so they not only understand, but truly believe that they are remarkable individuals with a shot at greatness? Each of us bring a unique perspective to the table. Some demonstrate leadership by example, others by gentle and intentional guidance, and some through encouraging reflection at the individual level. None of these approaches represent the gold star to leadership. For me, I am a direct and intentional leader, emphasizing accountability and growth. I set higher expectations for people than they do for themselves. I do this because I believe. I believe in pushing oneself to the next level because I want each of us to grab onto our untapped potential and thrive. When we don’t have the internal strength to trust in our actions, we will never take risks and develop as ambitious young people. This young man in Massachusetts didn’t believe in himself. In hearing him share his story with me, I saw a spark in him that radiated throughout our whole conversation. He wanted to be a lawyer, a father, and a husband; most importantly, he wanted to give back to this world. In losing his vision, he couldn’t see how that was possible. I left an impression on him that gave him a glimpse of hope. Each of you have the ability to influence others, but that starts at your core.

Three years later, I share this story with so much pride and joy in the young man that is still developing each and every day. He left his home state and local college to gain blindness skills at one of our NFB training centers. He flew across the country to give himself a chance at greatness. Now, he is a student at a top notch school with a killer GPA. He is on his way to law school in the next year. Most significantly, he is giving back to our world in a way he never saw as possible. While the first encounter we had brought me sadness, it brought him a sense of hope. This guy, who is a year younger than me, encourages me every day to be more relaxed, less hard on myself, and to create spaces of greater openness. Each day, I teach him to be diplomatic, intentional in his words, and reflective in his actions. Each day, I am so grateful for that day in Massachusetts because it brought hope to someone I now call a brother.

Syed Rizvi serves as first Vice President of the largest student organization of blind people in the world. Our peer mentorship to each other brings a sense of challenge to both of us. It is stories like these that make me understand that our interactions leave lasting impacts on everyone; but it is on us to initiate those meaningful moments.

“The blindness journey isn’t easy for anyone, but the power of unity and togetherness emphasizes how important it is to advocate for ourselves and others; to pave the path for every single blind person who may walk in the room right after you. We learn from Brad Paisley that “The world tries to clip your wings.”, The National Federation of the Blind makes sure you know that you won’t let the world have that much control. Once, I was insecure and scared of tomorrow. Through my transition to accepting my blindness, I masked those insecurities with confidence. I pushed myself to come off as stronger than I felt inside. In doing so, I recognized my self worth in a way that allowed others to believe it. In our organization, our family, we lean on each other for the pure sense of comfort we so deserve. And, we also learn from our NFB brothers and sisters that there is a world ahead of us that we must grasp onto and run with. Our dreams can start in this room tonight, but it is your ambitious attitude, bright mind, and dedicated soul that will bring these dreams full circle.

I want to leave you with this piece of advice: be true to yourself, be curious about everything, and take risks. You define your future and we are here to witness your achievements. I promise that the doubt that exists within you is felt by so many others. I also promise you that as we tear down society’s misconceptions of blindness, those doubts will continue to diminish. Keep making me proud.


Calling All Blind Parents
By Jessica Reed

Editor’s Note: Jessica Reed hails from the great historical Fredericksburg chapter, our most recent state convention hosts. Given our work on ensuring the equal rights of blind parents, it makes sense that we should jumpstart a dedicated initiative to supplement our advocacy efforts, and who better to usher that mission than the feisty, hard-working mother of two children? Here is her invitation to a preliminary meeting to discuss all the possibilities.

I don’t think any of us can deny what a shining star Virginia is on a national level. We are often in the top five for PAC, we have a thriving senior and student division, we rock at cultivating our future leaders threw our chapter Leadership Enrichment Program! For some time now though, I have noticed that there is one group of blind Virginians we are not tapping into. I am talking, of course, about my self and other blind parents. Until now…

On February 25th at 8:00 PM I would love it if you would join me on the first ever blind parents conference call! A number of states have thriving blind parents divisions that serve the blind parents in a number of ways. Some have provided workshops on the “How-to” of infant care, traveling with small children, and on exploration of which baby supplies is most needed for parents who are blind. Some have broken through the isolation of being a parent on top of a blind parent by holding annual family oriented social seminars. All have woven together a fabric of blind parents who empathize with the frustrations geographically specific to one and other. All have been integral in the passage of the blind parenting bill we have attempted to get passed here for a number of years. I would love to see all on the above conference call on Monday the 25th prepared to shape our Virginia Blind Parents in which ever way would be most helpful to you!

The call information is:

Call in number: 218-895-6875

Access Code: 2018


Top Ten Benefits of Being a Blind Parent
By Jessica Reed

Editor’s Note: Parenting is hard, no matter which way you look at it. In this follow-up piece, however, Jessica points out in no particular order a few items for which we might embrace some advantages as blind parents.

10. When changing a poopy diaper you don’t have to see it.

9. When littles are sleeping, you can still sneak into their bedroom to grab things without turning on a light and unleashing the monster of a woken child.

8. While at a playground, instead of half paying attention to our kids while sitting on the side staring at Facebook on our phones and raging with jealousy over all the ridiculously perfect friends who’s lives seem so much more glamorous, we are the parent climbing the play structure. We are the one’s just making giggly memories to last a lifetime.

7. As stay at home parents, we need to get out and get our children out or we go nuts! When joining support groups (such as MOMS and MOPS) we may need rides to specific events. These are fantastic opportunities to cultivate one-on-one friendships with fellow moms who just get how hard being a stay at home parent can be.

6. In my experience there are two types of parents. There are those types of parents who want to do nothing but talk about their children, and then there are those types of parents who want to do anything but talk about their children. The first group will detail their birthing stories all the way up to how little Susie picked her nose for the first time! The second category of parents love their children and would do anything and everything for them but admit they need a mental break! Yes I am Mama, and I love it, but I’m also Jessica! In parenting groups, whether we like it or not, blindness is something that tangibly separates us from fellow parents. In my experience, Mom’s tend to view this perceived vulnerability as a gateway to connect.

5. Like many things with blindness, there are a number of alternative techniques when it comes to parenting. Whether it’s finding rides, using public transportation, reading to our children in braille, or organizing in a specific way, we are inadvertently teaching our children to think outside the box. There is often more than one way to skin a cat.

4. I have read that children with blind parents become more verbal and descriptive sooner than those with sighted parents. I don’t know if this is true, but my four-year-old daughter has known her right and left since she was three. I never sat down and specifically taught her, but she has often heard others providing me directions while we are walking. At four-and-a-half she has begun describing things around us in new environments… whether I want her to or not.

3. Whether we choose to acknowledge it, our children grow up seeing our differences and struggles. They are born into an idea that life is not always easy. There is struggle. It is how you choose to handle struggle that counts.

2. Studies have shown that children with parents with disabilities tend to grow up to be more compassionate and empathetic people. They are already born into “different.” I take this to mean that our children will be less likely to be afraid of difference, and more likely to befriend those that society segregates and dismisses.

1. Parents who belong to the National Federation of the Blind can raise their children as part of a large and supportive network. You don’t have to belong to the NFB to be a successful blind parent, but the organization does a great job of reminding us we do not have to face this alone.


Facts about Blindness … According to Me
By Joe Orozco

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared on my personal blog at JoeOrozco.com, currently under reconstruction. Please get in touch with your own questions and answers, and who knows, maybe we could create some sort of resource playfully answering some of the more popular curiosities.

What have you always wanted to know about blind people but was always too afraid to ask? My thoughts are not the definitive view on the subject. Contrary to popular assumption, we’re not all related to each other, and our opinions are as diverse as the people that make up this small segment of society. Still, it’s a good start.

Will it offend you if I refer to you as blind?

Actually, “blind” is preferable to visually challenged, seeing impaired, sight handicapped or any of a growing combination of politically correct terms. These attempts at politeness are fumbling conversation starters and only confuse the bottom line that I can’t see as well as you can. There was a point when the fact that I am not totally blind would have prompted me to correct another person’s understanding of my visual acuity, but let’s start with blind and then work our way into color, lighting, and depth.

Has your hearing improved to compensate for the loss of your sight?

A person may concentrate more on his hearing when the eyes don’t work, but concentration is a far cry from the pinpoint sonar people attribute to blindness. Actually, my hearing feels below average compared to what I notice other people pick up. Whatever you do, please do not ever go to the other extreme and raise your voice at me. I’m an easygoing person, but my cane may find its way to your ankle at high velocity. What, I’m blind, and you were in my way!

For what it’s worth, my sense of smell also seems supremely underwhelming.

What is one of the most misunderstood aspects about blindness?

“Blind people are so cool because they don’t judge others by appearance…” Yeah right. First, appearance has more to do with overall presence, not just physical characteristics. Second, we’re every bit as observant as anyone else, and while my ears and nose may not be anything to write home about, I would have never dated a girl whose voice got on my nerves or whose body odor made my skin crawl. Also, don’t be surprised if we ask our sighted friends to give us their assessment of you. I would have personally not have taken a friend’s opinion at face value, but if enough people pointed to the same flaws I might start believing–where there’s smoke, there’s fire and all that. Rest assured your judgment of me will never measure up to the harsh criticisms of a fellow blind person…

What advice would you give to someone who’s just lost their sight?

Blindness is pretty dull as far as disabilities go. Maybe it’s a matter of perception, but I would think we’d be far worse off if we could not hear, walk on two legs, or carry a mental illness that prohibited traditional interaction. No doubt there are representatives of these conditions who would tell you their life is every bit as fruitful as ours and list ways they too are misunderstood. See what I mean about blind people and prejudice? My point is that assuming blindness is the only characteristic; your life will shift to new ways of doing things but is hardly a dramatic alteration.

Did you see that movie? Wait, sorry, did you hear it?

Let’s not get hung up on semantics. Yes, I saw the Harry Potter movies, at least the first three, and I don’t know that the British did the stories justice.

Think of it a different way: I’m pretty sure deaf people could be backhanded as much for what they say as what they sign.

Do you ever get depressed because of your blindness?

I went through my brief periods of depression. I went from good sight to nearly nothing and am therefore aware of what I lost. I don’t know that I ever felt overwhelmed. I had good teachers, high parental expectations and enough blind role models among peers to know things would ultimately be okay. That is not always the case, and if you are one who still struggles with your condition, drop me a note. We’ll talk through it.

Don’t get me wrong. You never stop wishing you could drive a car or see the faces of loved ones. With time you learn to cope and find other ways of enjoying similar sentiments. When the day comes that I am totally blind, I will come back and reread this passage, and I’ll do my best to remember that things did not go completely off the rails when I first started noticing the deterioration of my sight when I was a kid. I have had so many great experiences and have met so many great people that I would otherwise have never met if I weren’t blind.

If you could undergo a surgical procedure to restore your sight, would you?

Any surgical procedure has risks. I could gamble away what little sight I have left, and to take the leap of faith would suggest I am dissatisfied with my current condition. I would give it long thought but would probably pass.

How do you cross lighted intersections without help?

When I had Gator, my first Seeing Eye dog, people assumed it was the dog that did the intelligent crossing. I suppose there could be a way to get around the color blindness, but I am alive today mostly owed to my own common sense and good education. At its simplest, you cross with parallel traffic, which is to say the flow of traffic moving in the same direction as you. There are complicated intersections where the traffic flows aren’t as straightforward as east/west immediately following north/south, or streets crossing at a slant as is true of downtown DC, and in those cases I don’t mind standing at the corner studying the pattern until I feel comfortable enough to venture out. I may look foolish standing out there on the corner, but at least I’ll be around to enjoy people’s comments about my foolishness. Eventually I walk a route enough times to measure the distance between lights, and if I’m in a hurry, I may start paying attention to my parallel traffic halfway down the block to get a rough sense of how much time I have to cross when I arrive at the corner.

Regardless of the intersection, I’ve learned not to follow the flow of pedestrians. Too many people cross on red lights, and I am not one of those people who would jump off a bridge if all my friends got together and decided to do so.

For your reference, guide dogs do not know when to cross an intersection; however, they do know how to intelligently disobey their handler. A guide dog will not cross a street if it sees an oncoming vehicle. It will not deliberately walk a pedestrian off a train platform. Now, one could argue these skills can be attributed to superb training, and maybe that is true. Yet I’m thinking the dog is invested in its own survival. We just happen to be holding its harness.

What are some of the social aspects of being blind you wish people understood?

Speaking for myself, I don’t really look forward to buffet lines. Independence is partially about looking graceful, and in my opinion there is nothing graceful about feeling around for serving spoons and running the risk of dipping a finger in the casserole, embarrassing yourself and making the other guests feel dubious about where your fingers may’ve been. There are methods to handling such tasks of course. You could move your hand inward over the table surface, find the rim of the dish and move around its edge until you find the utensil. I paid attention in my independent living classes. Yet independence is also about seizing conveniences, so you could also just ask someone to help load your plate and go on about your business. I feel far more confident about carrying a tray and drink to my table than I do about navigating someone else’s logic about the way dishes should be laid out.

I walk fast when I walk alone. In fact I experience my own version of pedestrian’s sidewalk rage, but I feel slow and stumbling when walking with someone else because my attention is divided between carrying a conversation and stopping myself from colliding with a lamp post. In some cases I would rather walk with a hand on the person’s elbow to ensure the smooth continuity of both our conversation and our journey. This is especially true in crowded restaurants.

Something else that comes to mind is my attitude about how the rest of the world perceives me. As I grow older it matters less. If truth be told it probably never mattered enough, but there was a point when I wondered about the stain on my shirt or the syrup on my cheek or the rip in my jeans. If you saw either on a fellow sighted person, you would attribute it to laziness or wouldn’t think of it at all. If you saw this on a blind person, however, your first thought might be that it was because the person was blind. I’d like you to point it out to me in the spirit of open communication. No one likes to walk around attracting the wrong kind of attention, but don’t be surprised to discover that I can be every bit as careless or clumsy as you.

When you see me board a train or bus, it’d be nice if you offered me the seat near the door. I will turn you down, but it’s the thought that counts. My independence will not be threatened by the same type of courtesy I would extend if I were sighted and came upon a blind person. To that end, I may not always take advantage of the discounts and freebies offered to senior citizens and persons with disabilities. If I don’t, chalk it up to a desire to equally contribute to society and not because I am an ungrateful person. I worked hard to be a tax payer.

How do you handle household chores as a blind person?

When I cook I first ensure the location of all supplies and ingredients. I memorize the heat level for the dial positions on the stove and oven. I use a fork to test the state of cooking meat or vegetables. I also listen for changes in the way the food sizzles to gauge states of readiness. There are tactile dots on the microwave and other appliances with touch screens. I now rely on my iPhone to keep track of time and will probably use the iPhone in the future to find recipes. Otherwise, I follow basic safety steps like using oven mitts when pulling pans from the rack. If I don’t cook more often, it’s partially because I’m a perfectionist, and what should take an hour to prepare often takes me two. Blind or sighted, nothing works better in cooking than tasting the meal in progress.

The proper way for a blind person to sweep a floor is to do so in bare feet. The idea is that you can feel whether or not you are catching all the dirt and grime. I’m not above such strategies. I just find vacuums much faster. I periodically check with my hand if a wooden floor seems fine. Carpets are a little more difficult, but the way that usually works for me is to vacuum in continuous patterns to ensure every inch is covered at least three times. The same is true of scrubbing tubs, cleaning toilets, wiping counters and washing dishes.

Laundry is straightforward. For the moment I can still distinguish colors, but when I can no longer do so, I have different baskets for lights and darks. I’ve marked the machines. My stepmother would be disappointed to learn I no longer iron as often as I did in high school, or even college, but that too is a process of orientation and using your hands to smooth, flatten and iron in patterns for equal coverage.

Remodeling is also doable. There are blind people far more handier with tools than I will ever be, so let’s just be clear than when I say “remodeling” in my case I mean moving furniture up and down stairs, into and out of trucks and from one end of the house to the other. My point here is that blind people are not inept, really can lift heavy objects, and are perfectly capable of helping you move.

Until then, is there anything I missed? Or, is there something I got wrong? That’s technically impossible since so much of what I wrote is subjective, but alternative views are always welcomed in the Comments.


NFB BELL Academy – Placing Hands on the Future

The NFB BELL Academy helps blind and low-vision children, ages four through twelve, develop the literacy skills that will empower them to achieve their academic goals and live the lives they want. This year, with the assistance of our Wells Fargo partners, we provide opportunities for students to imagine, create, and touch their future and dreams; by not only raising expectations through Braille instruction, but by nurturing their development of tactile arts and graphics. Through the generous support of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, each student participant in the 2019 NFB BELL Academies will be provided with an intact Sketchpad.

Harrisonburg, Virginia – July 28 – August 2, 2019

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia will host a residential NFB BELL Academy on the campus of Eastern Mennonite University. Day students are also welcome. Tuition is $500 including a $50 nonrefundable registration fee and includes: lodging, meals and field trips. Scholarships may be available. Transportation is not provided. Families should arrive on Sunday, July 28 between 2:00 and 5:00 pm. Parents are invited to a graduation on Friday, August 2 at noon with a 2:00 pm departure. Please note: Eastern Mennonite University is not a sponsor of the NFB BELL Academy.

For more information contact:

Nancy Yeager
brlteacher13@gmail.com

or

Beth Sellers
bsellers31@gmail.com


Announcements From Winchester

On Saturday, February 23, 2019 from 10 AM to 6 PM the Winchester chapter will be participating in the valley health community wellness festival.
There will be over 100 exhibitors including the Winchester chapter which will be providing information and resources to our community and out reaching to those in our area. Providing support, information and resources.
The festival will take place at the Apple Blossom Mall located in Winchester, Virginia. There will be Health screening test, blood pressure, testing, hearing testing and much more.
We invite everybody to come out. The chapter has been doing this for the last three years and we are proud to be part of our community.

Earlier this month Chapter President Chris Walker delivered a presentation to the Kiwanis Club of Old Town. The Kiwanis Club of Old Town Winchester meets at noon on the second and fourth Monday of each month for lunch and a speaker at the Godfrey Miller Home on Loundoun Street Mall. President Walker addressed the club as part of his overarching plan to better connect and engage with the local community.

And, finally check out this video clip of Chris Walker!


Explore. Connect. Attend NFB EQ!

Attention Blind and Low-vision Students:

Join the National Federation of the Blind at our NFB Engineering Quotient (EQ) program this summer. NFB EQ is a week-long program of hands-on lessons and various recreational activities that does not require a specific level of previous engineering experience. Not a student? Share with a blind or low-vision teen today!

Enriched experiences. New friendships. More independence.

Visit our NFB EQ web page to learn more and to apply!

The Specs

Who: 30 blind and low-vision teens

What: A weeklong summer engineering program

When: June 16-22, 2019

Where: Baltimore, Maryland.

Why: To meet new people, learn new things, and have an exciting adventure!

How: Apply Now!

Applications are due March 17, 2019.

Cost: No registration fee! Read the FAQs for more detail about cost.

Additional Information

* To be eligible to apply students must: be enrolled in grades 9-12 during the 2018-2019 school year in a school (public, private, charter, residential, or home school) in the United States, be blind or have low-vision, and be available to attend the entire program.

* Participant’s transportation to and from the program will be arranged by the National Federation of the Blind. Students will travel to Baltimore on Sunday and will travel home on the following Saturday.

* This is a residential program; students will stay in dormitories at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and all meals will be provided.

What Are People Saying About NFB EQ?

“NFB EQ gave me more confidence to keep doing what I want-no one can stop me! The program opened my eyes to even more options in the field [of engineering] and it gave me some confidence that I can do some mechanical stuff that I didn’t think I could do before.” – Michael, Texas

“I increased my drawing skills at NFB EQ. The tactile drawing board helped me, because I could feel what I drew. Visualizations also have gotten easier [going from drawing to model to prototype]. In engineering, you have to picture an idea in your mind and then draw it before you can build it. When you draw it, you can really see how it’s going to come together.” – Trey, Kentucky

“I am amazed at how the people involved in organizing this program made everything so easy for us. From organizing logistics to making sure the schedule was running smoothly for the students-the whole event was very successful. The staff’s warmth and attention to detail really eased my mind and made me feel good about leaving my son at the program for the week.” Mark (father), North Carolina

“I was looking for a rigorous, highly academic science program that promoted and modeled independence and the National Federation of the Blind was offering everything I was looking for. Still, I was hesitant. What if it wasn’t a good use of my students’ resources, or what if they weren’t safe? My fears were unwarranted, from start to finish. NFB made the health, safety, academic rigor, social experiences, and general well-being of our students paramount. Every detail was professionally planned and handled, ensuring that every moment, for every student, was as meaningful as it could possibly be.” Laura (teacher of the visually impaired), Kentucky

Questions?

Send them to:

Email: STEM@nfb.org>

Phone: 410-659-9314, extension 2418

Mail: National Federation of the Blind

c/o Mya Taylor
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230


NFB Newsline: Tapping Your Knowledge

NFB-NEWSLINE Subscribers,

Did you know you can access NFB-NEWSLINE on your iPhone, iPod and iPad through the iOS Mobile App? Whether you want to learn more about NFB-NEWSLINE mobile, or just need a refresher, join us on Tuesday, February 26th, 2019 at:

8:00 PM Eastern
7:00 PM Central
6:00 PM Mountain
5:00 PM Pacific

for an NFB-NEWSLINE mobile training session! You will learn how to gain immediate access to over 70 magazines, how to share breaking news stories on social media, use the global search function to find articles on specific topics, navigating your favorite publication, the differences between publications and subscriptions, and much more.

To participate in the training, please use one of the options listed below.

Join Zoom Meeting on your computer or mobile device.

Tap on your mobile device to be directly connected to the conference call:
+16468769923,,842577801#
Dial:
+1 646 876 9923
Meeting ID: 842577801

We look forward to talking to you on the 26th.


Tech it Out on Accessible Entertainment

We live in the age of smart TVs, streaming, and voice-guided narration. But with all the options for fun can come confusion. That’s why we’re tackling entertainment at our next Tech It Out. We’ll discuss things like:

  • Where to find audio-described content
  • How to get the most out of a Smart TV
  • > What the options are for streaming content

Come to get a few tips, share your experiences, and learn from each other.
Accessing Entertainment with Technology

Date: Tuesday, February 26th

Time: 8:00 PM Central

Phone: +1 929 205 6099

Meeting ID: 468 325 263

One tap mobile: +19292056099,,468325263#

Online: https://zoom.us/j/468325263


Judo “try it” Clinic

Presented by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Washington Metropolitan Association of Blind Athletes

Sunday, February 24, 2019
From 12 noon to 4pm

Presented in cooperation with: Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, College Park Community Center, College Park Judo Club, Hui-O-Judo Beltsville, USA Judo Inc. and the Washington Metropolitan Area Blind Athletes Association (WMABA)
Sanctioned by: USA Judo Sanction # 21072
Site: College Park Community Center, 5051 Pierce Avenue, College Park, MD 20740
(Located near the College Park/University of Maryland Metro stop on the Green line)

Event Director: Kevin Tamai, Godan, Hui-O-Judo Beltsville
Clinician: Lori Pierce – Para Olympic Silver medalist in Judo
Mail entry form, signed waiver to: Kevin Tamai, 2973 Fox Tail Court Woodbridge, VA 22192
Online registration Judo Try It Registration

Information: For more information contact Kevin Tamai at 703-622-6861
If you need transportation assistance from the metro to the community center, please contact us.

This “Try it” event is targeted at our local blind and low vision friends in the Washington Metropolitan DC area. It is part of the National Fitness challenge presented by the United States Association of Blind Athletes.

Come “Try judo” with us

We extend a personal invitation to you to come, experience, discover and enjoy the sport of judo. We encourage character development, achieving personal goals, improving fitness, developing proficiency, promoting sportsmanship and enhancing physical training. Judo is an Olympic sport founded by Dr. Jigoro Kano in 1882. Judo, which is translated to “gentle way”, prescribes the principle of flexibility in the application of the techniques. This is the flexible or efficient use of balance, leverage and momentum in the performance of the techniques. Skill and timing are the essential ingredients for success in judo, rather than brute strength.

GO MWABA

The Metro Washington Association of Blind Athletes (MWABA) is a 501(c)(3) organization of blind athletes and their sighted peers who believe that recreational and competitive sports opportunities should be open to everyone, regardless of their ability to see. We hold programs for blind and visually impaired youth and adults from Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia to discover new sports or practice familiar ones in an open and welcoming environment. Our mission also includes teaching blind athletes the physical techniques and body movements that they may not have had a chance to learn through physical education classes. We also share the best way to teach athletic and kinesthetic skills to the blind and visually impaired population with educators in our area. MWABA events are all about trying new things, meeting new friends, staying or becoming fit, and having fun! We support one another in achieving a fit and active lifestyle.

Judo is one of many activities that MWABA is a part of. Before learning to throw an opponent, or being thrown himself; the student is first taught the history, customs, and courtesies of Judo. The next lessons deal with the art of body protection (Ukemi, the art of falling without pain or injury); and the principles of balance. In addition to 40 throwing techniques, Judo includes: hold-downs, choking techniques, and arm locks… all of which can be safely used in contests of sport judo as well as self-defense. Adapting the sport to those with visual impairments simply requires participants to maintain contact while sparring.

Other activities MWABA provides:

Goalball is the only team sport specifically designed for the blind. It is played by men and women around the world, including in the Paralympics. MWABA launched its Goalball program in June 2015, by hosting a Goalball clinic at Trinity Washington University.

Yoga – Our Yoga program now meets regularly at Bluebird Sky. The studio is at 3101 12th St. NE, near the Brookland/Catholic University metro station. The instructors would like folks to sign up in advance if possible so they know how many people to expect, and you can do that by going to this link and selecting Eyes Free Yoga from the list of workshops.
Get more flexible…develop muscular strength…take advantage of all the benefits that Yoga has to offer. Our volunteer instructors aim to provide excellent instruction for all of our visually impaired participants, and provide one-on-one help when necessary. These classes are open to everyone, but priority will be given to visually impaired participants. Please contact Karla Gilbride at karla.gilbride@gmail.com to find out when the next class will be held.
Tandem Cycling
We have rides on Thursday evenings from either the Bethesda or Eastern Market Metro stations. For more information contact Karla Gilbride at karla.gilbride@gmail.com.

Running Groups – In conjunction with the DC chapter of Achilles International, MWABA organizes weekly group runs/walks where blind athletes can partner with a guide and run, jog or walk outside for whatever distance is comfortable for them. To learn more about these group workouts, visit us online, or email irwin.e.ramirez@gmail.com.

We can be reached by phone, Monday through Friday, between 9:00am and 5:00pm.
Karla: (202) 631-2426 or Justin: (941) 585-9503

Visit our website at www.gomwaba.org

More about Judo

Dr. Kano felt that healthy social attitudes, as well as a sound mind and body, could be developed through the proper judo training. He stated this philosophy of Judo in the form of two maximums. The first maxim, “Maximum efficiency,” means that whatever one does, it should be with the optimal use of one’s mental and physical energy. In judo, you learn how to make the most effective use of both body and mind. The second maxim, “mutual welfare and benefit,” simply means that we should be considerate of and helpful to others. In Judo, the students quickly learn cooperate and help each other to advance in their training. This is basically the idea of give and take. This concept of cooperation can all be applied in our association with others in life. The final aim or goal of judo, as expressed by Dr. Kano, is self perfection or “the harmonious development and eventual perfection of human character.” Simply stated, the true goal of Judo is to make a person the best that they can be.”

Judo is many things to different people. It is a fun sport, an art, a discipline, a recreational or social activity, a fitness program, a means of self-defense or combat, and a way of life. It is all of these and more. Judo was introduced into the Olympic Games in 1964 and is practiced by millions of people throughout the world today. People practice Judo to excel in competition, to stay in shape, to develop self-confidence, and for many other reasons. But most of all, people do Judo just for the fun of it. As in all sports, Judo has a strict set of rules that governs competition and ensures safety. For those who want to test their skills, Judo offers the opportunity for competition at all skill levels, from club to national tournaments, to the Olympic Games. There are separate weight divisions for men and women, and boys and girls. Judo is best known for it’s spectacular throwing techniques but also involves considerable grappling on the ground utilizing specialized pins, control holds, arm locks, and Judo choking techniques. Judo emphasizes safety, and full physical activity for top conditioning. Judo is learned on special mats for comfort and safety.

Judo is unique in that all age groups, both sexes, and most disabled persons can participate together in learning and practicing the sport. Judo is an inexpensive, year-round activity, that appeals to people from all walks of life. Many people over sixty years of age enjoy the sport, as well as very young boys and girls.
Judo develops self-discipline and respect for oneself and others. Judo provides the means for learning self-confidence, concentration, and leadership skills, as well as physical coordination, power, and flexibility. As a sport that has evolved from a fighting art, it develops complete body control, fine balance, and fast reflexive action. Above all, it develops a sharp reacting mind well-coordinated with the same kind of body. Judo training gives a person an effective self-defense system if the need arises.

Benefits of Judo for the visually impaired. While taking part in sports or competitions is a highly recommended pastime for everyone, such activities assume particular importance in the case of persons afflicted by physical or sensory handicaps. Far and above the inherent objectives of all physical and sporting activities, it represents for them, a means of escape from a sometimes sedentary existence and from the isolation often imposed by a disability. For blind persons and those with low vision, Judo can be instrumental in (re)attaining independence of movement and in developing physical capacities which permit better adaptation to everyday life. Blindness can cause certain motor problems such as difficulty in attitude integration and body-awareness (since sight is an important factor here); balance problems; problems with motor co-ordination; posture problems; and orientation difficulties. Apart from the numerous motor and physical qualities which Judo helps to develop in people with normal health, it is perhaps, useful to mention the manner in which these are indispensable for blind people.

Falling: It is essential for a blind person to learn to fall in a suitable manner, since uncertainty of movement, due to blindness, often leads to painful falls. By learning secure positions, blind people can avoid accidents in everyday life.

Balance: This is a fundamental element of Judo and an indispensable factor for the blind. It helps to encourage the visually impaired person’s integration in space.

Exercise: Just like sighted people, a blind child must learn to develop his or her physical capacities. He/she will then be able to know and control the body better. Improved control over the motor forces, such as strength, speed and agility, will provide a weapon to combat the consequences of blindness which can otherwise include a sedentary existence.

Kinesthetic sensations: It can be said without exaggeration that blindness does not constitute a serious problem for a Judoka. In practice, seeing persons do not look at their opponents during combat; they try to distribute their strength and adapt their behavior. A blind person is, therefore, not impaired in the discovery of these physical sensations or in their refinement. It is the perception of the strength and behavior of the opponent which induces the choice of the appropriate reaction. Sight does not play a preponderant part in this process.


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.

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:


NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF Virginia
CODE OF CONDUCT

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
Email: mrdurbin@cox.net
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 kjscholarships@nfb.org, 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:

https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm18/bm1803/bm180316.htm


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 – bsellers31@gmail.com

Arlington, July 16-27
Contact-Nancy Yeager – brlteacher13@gmail.com

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:

https://nfb.org/bell-academy-faqs-affiliate/va

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

www.nfb.org/bell-student-application-form

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:

http://go.aira.io/employment

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

www.aira.io

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 kgallagher@nib.org
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:

http://www.nib.org/content/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.

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.

Join Us in Orlando: the 2017 McDonald Fellowship Program

The 2017 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.

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 2017 NFB National Convention to be held in Orlando, FL, from July 10- July 15. Please note: The banquet ends late in the evening of Saturday, July 15 and fellowship winners are expected to attend the banquet so return travel must occur on Sunday, July 16 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 are legally blind and have never attended a convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) or those who have not attended in years and wish to come to a convention this year.

Federationists are welcome and encouraged to apply for both the Virginia specific McDonald Fellowship and a national Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship. Details on the Jernigan Scholarship program will be emailed separately.

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 2017 NFB of Virginia state convention.

Deadline for applications for the McDonald Fellowship is Saturday, April 15, 2017. Winners will be announced May 15, 2017.

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 Saturday, April 15, 2017.

Applications or questions about the Fellowship program should be sent to Mary Durbin, Chairman, McDonald Fellowship Committee, mrdurbin@cox.net

or by phone at 757-431-1205 (home) or 757-472-2495 (Cell).

Our committee wants to help you make 2017 the year you attend our national convention. The convention will be even better because you were there.

  • Mary Durbin
  • McDonald Fellowship Chair
  • 700 Biltmore Drive
  • Virginia Beach, VA 23454
  • 757-431-1205 (home)
  • 757-472-2495 (cell)
  • 757-962-3913 (fax)

Learn about our McDonald Fellowship Award

Has your attendance at the NFB National Convention ever crossed your mind?

Whether it is for the networking and fundraising opportunities your business or chapter can gain or for the constant feeling of camaraderie that is displayed year after year, the National Federation of the Blind’s 2016 National Convention is guaranteed to be an event our community can benefit from. Sometimes when looking at the financial demands that come with attending this event, many people may get discouraged because it may prove to be too steep, but there is definitely a way to alleviate that feeling.

Join the Virginia Association of Blind Students and NFBV Board at our informational session to explain and encourage you all to apply for our affiliate’s McDonald Fellowship Award. The McDonald Fellowship award is a grant that assists an individual in attending their first national convention and also enrolls the winner in a mentoring session where they can get assistance at the convention with attending all seminars and events that will make sure that they get the most out of their first convention experience. If anyone has ever attended the NFBV State Conventions in the fall, they would know that conventions are an experience full of opportunities to learn about an endless amount of interesting facts, products, and services; and the national convention does not disappoint with this opportunity. Some of the topics covered in our informational conference call will include:

  • The application process for the award.
  • The existence of the Jernigan Award, a national scholarship
    equivalent to the McDonald Fellowship in purpose.
  • The mentoring aspect of the McDonald Fellowship winners.
  • Testimonials from past winners of the award and what their
    convention experience was like.

The conference call will begin promptly at 8pm and will be facilitated by Student Division president Kimberly Valko, board member Robert Parsons, and McDonald Fellowship chair Sandy Halverson. For more information on this call and what the McDonald Fellowship has to offer, please join us on the conference call:

  • Wednesday, February 17, 2016
  • 8:00 P.M.
  • Phone Number: (641) 715-3850
  • Pin Number: 184 934

We hope that the prospect of attending National Convention with us will entice you to join us and hopefully submit an application to attend this irreplaceable experience.