Category Archives: News and Announcements

The Vigilant: May 2018

The Vigilant: May 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

In the past month, I was reminded about how much I love our Federation family. As many of you know, my wife’s father, Dr. Leonard Appel passed away on April 21. The outpouring of love and support to Sharon and we have been tremendous and I am grateful for the kindness and friendship in our Federation family. While we work together to accomplish great things, we are also there for each other.

Project RISE:

On Saturday, May 12, we held another great event where students learned new skills and expanded their capabilities through a transit and travel adventure. In addition to our project RISE team, we had talented volunteers assist including Conchita Hernandez, Maurice Peret, and Ollie cantos. Now, we are ramping up for a weekend long event at the NFB Jernigan Institute in June.

Code of Conduct:

Over the past month, I have had the pleasure to visit with members of the Peninsula, Tidewater and Greater Alexandria chapters. These meetings have been fun and enlightening. I am grateful to the hospitality and warmth from our chapter members and truly enjoy visiting with you. One topic of conversation was the code of Conduct. People ask how to sign.

To sign the Code of Conduct, simply send Tracy an email message with Section XI of the code of conduct in the body of the message. Where is says federation Leader, replace that text with your first and last name. The Code of Conduct can be found in the March Vigilant.

If people don’t have access to email or have other challenges, we will have some paper copies at the May 19 Board of Directors meeting

My target is to get signed copies from all affiliate elected officers, all chapter officers, and all division officers before the convention in July.

Visiting Chapters:

On April 19, I attended the Greater Alexandria Chapter’s first birthday party. This chapter holds a very engaging and interactive meeting and it was a blast. On May 12, I enjoyed attending a joint meeting of the Tidewater and Peninsula Chapters in Norfolk. I hope to visit more chapters in the coming months so feel free to let me know what you are doing and how I can help.

National Scholarship Finalists

Please join me in congratulating our two scholarship finalists Naim Abu-El Hawa and Sarah Patnaude.

Sarah, as you might recall, was elected to our affiliate board at last year’s convention. She recently finished her first year of graduate school at George Mason University. After graduating with her Master’s in Social Work, Sarah plans on becoming a victim advocate, where she hopes to help survivors of trauma regain their voice and take control of the steering wheel in their life. Beyond school and her work with the NFB, Sarah enjoys travelling and has a love for musicals. As a tenBroek Fellow this year, she looks forward to continuing to learn from Federationists across the country and using the knowledge and experiences she gains to strengthen the movement.

Naim is also very active in our affiliate. He is the vice-president of the Virginia Association of Blind Students and holds a board position in our Potomac Chapter.

These students will be with us at our national convention and I am thrilled to be cheering for them at the banquet.

National Convention

Our National Convention is fast approaching. In the April newsletter, we provided details about our responsibilities this year as one of the host affiliates. Shortly, we will provide details on how to sign up for a shift at the Virginia Table, the Welcome Table, the Hospitality Suite, or working at the Friday night Welcome Party. Additionally, we will need people to mentor first time convention attendees through the McDonald fellowship program and the Jernigan Convention Scholarship program. As you know, the convention only works when many volunteers step up to help. Please make time to assist us by taking a shift for these responsibilities. I look forward to working together with you at convention.

Yours in Service,

Tracy Soforenko
President, National Federation of the Blind of Virginia


This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine but not health; knowledge but not wisdom; glitter, but not beauty; fun, but not joy; acquaintances, but not friends; servants, but not faithfulness; leisure, but not peace. You can have the husk of everything for money, but not the kernel.” — Arne Garborg


Ten Tips for a Resume that Gets You the Interview
By John Bailey

Project RISE is possible thanks in large part to the efforts of the volunteers who make each session come alive. John Bailey, president of the Fairfax Chapter, recently met with our students to discuss, among other employment tasks, drafting compelling resumes. Here are the tips he shared with the students, which you yourself might benefit from when you are ready to start searching for your first job or land that next position.

Let’s face it, the whole goal from searching online for a job, creating that perfect resume, talking to your career buddies about unadvertised job opportunities is to get you an interview. Getting face-to-face with your potential employer means that you are almost there in terms of getting the job you want. Once in the interview, you can let your skills, knowledge, and personality take over to dazzle so that you will get the offer. Once in the interview, you have all the power.

But, how do you get invited to that all-important interview? A lot of groundwork must happen first and one of the most important components of that work is having a resume that conveys just enough information about your abilities and professionalism to get hiring managers to want to see you in person.

I have been reviewing resumes from job seekers for over 20 years and they have varied greatly in their quality. From my experience, below are 10 of the easiest ways to supercharge your resume so that it is put into the ‘interview’ pile instead of the recycle bin.

1. Avoid typos and grammatical errors at all costs!

Would you go to a job interview with a blaring stain on your clothing? Of course not. So, why wouldn’t you take the same amount of care that you put into your clothing than you do in crafting an effective resume?

The unpleasant truth is, in the initial review of your resume, people are looking for reasons not to read it. And, grammatical errors can get your resume tossed quicker than any other reason. Take the time to review your resume for spelling and grammar mistakes. Then, have a friend you trust review it again.

2. Highlight Achievements rather than duties

It is all too easy to just copy your list of current duties and put them down in your resume. Employers really don’t care about what you did in your last job. They want to know what value you can bring to their organization if they hire you. In order to convey this effectively, rewrite your activities in terms of how you made things better (added value) at your last job. A great way to do this is to state how you made things better by quantifying the results. Ideally, use specific numbers. For example, ‘Oversaw training program for over a dozen employees increasing retention by 20 percent.”

Turning duties into accomplishments is just a matter of looking at things a little differently.

3. Write for the job you are applying for

As mentioned earlier, during the initial review of your resume, staff is looking for reasons to toss it in order to get through as many resumes as possible. To make your resume stand out as one that should be read completely, you should customize your resume so that they will want to read it. You accomplish this by ‘echoing’ back the keywords, skill sets, and terms used in the original job posting. Give them what they are looking for and make it easy to find!

4. Give them just enough information in your resume to get them to want to know more

Again, the goal of a well-crafted resume should be to get you the interview. You should just include enough information to whet the curiosity of the hiring manager to want to talk to you further. Save your life’s story for the novel.

6. Write a summary that allows you to shine

Unfortunately, resume summaries are one of the last parts of the resume to be written and the most neglected. Employers do read your career summary looking for the values and attitudes that would make you a good fit for their organization. Don’t skimp on this opportunity to shine. Put down your goals and how they will benefit the organization that hires you. A resume is a beauty contest and you should look your best at every opportunity.

7. Convey accomplishments by using action verbs

Telling a potential employer, you were ‘responsible’ for a duty bores them to tears. Expand on terms like responsible with action verbs like, organized, implemented, oversaw, enhanced, etc. Again, it is all about what value you can bring to the hiring organization.

8. Even volunteers have value

Here is a great tip for new job seekers who feel their resume is a bit short on accomplishments. Every resume should include some references to unpaid employment. A skill is a skill whether or not you receive monetary compensation for it.

9. Keep your resume easy to read

People who read resumes for a living have a hard-enough job. Make it easy for them to find the information they are looking for by using lots of white space, using bold or highlighted text to emphasize important terms or skills that the employer might be looking for, use a minimum of fonts, and most importantly, use a font size that is easy on the eyes.

10. Continue updating your resume even if you aren’t looking for a new job

Leaving all the great things you have accomplished to memory is a receipt for disaster. You will forget. So, continually update your resume with newly acquired skills and talents so that when it does come time for a job move, you won’t be scratching your head trying to remember what you did last year.

In conclusion, resumes are the key for unlocking doors to interviews. Your resume should scream value, competence, and professionalism. Just a bit of extra work on your resume can make a world of difference in getting that dream interview.


Join the NFB of Virginia team for Braille Literacy

The following is from President Soforenko. Please take note of the deadline noted below. Our sincere apologies for running this issue so late in the month, but hopefully some of you will still find the means to participate in this worthwhile activity.

Join Federationists and friends from across the Mid Atlantic for a fun 6K Run / Walk at the NFB Six Dot Dash in Baltimore.

While some of us will be running, many including myself will probably walk.

On Sunday, June 3, the National Federation of the Blind Six Dot Dash will begin at 8:00 AM on the streets of Federal Hill in Baltimore.

We have established an NFB of Virginia team (called Virginia Federationists) and you could join us to help us field the largest team at this year’s event. There will be members from Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and hopefully other affiliates across the Mid Atlantic.

Some of us will be going up Saturday evening, June 2 and staying at the NFB National Center. If you are interested in joining the NFB of Virginia team, please email me by Sunday, May 20. This is especially important for those hoping to stay at the NFB National Center. President Riccobono has generously offered to let us stay at the national Center but there will be no food provided by the center and we will need to provide a set of individuals who will be staying shortly after May 20.

Please know that you are responsible for the $39 online pre-registration fee ($40 on race day) and costs for transportation and a Saturday evening meal at a restaurant in Baltimore. There will not be a cost for our stay at the NFB National Center’s conference center. We will bring up a simple breakfast of bagels and orange juice for Sunday morning.

Click here for more details on the Six Dot Dash, go to the below web link:

Click here to register.

I found the Event Bright web site to be frustrating with a screen reader but I eventually muddled through it. Our team is called Virginia Federationists.

I hope you can join us for this fun morning with Federationists and friends from across the Mid Atlantic.


Nonprofit Development: Grant Writing 101
By Joe Orozco

In the coming years our affiliate will implement a diverse fundraising strategy to make it possible for us to have more services like Project RISE. One of those funding strategies will likely be grant writing, and while grant writing will make the most sense at the affiliate level, where we can project the greatest impacts, that does not mean chapters and divisions cannot pursue their own grant writing strategies to help fund activities they would like to sponsor. Here’s a starting point to thinking about grant writing.

Do you want to know the top three reasons grant seekers fail to land an award? First, the applicant’s work does not match the funder’s priorities. Second, the applicant does not follow directions about when and how to submit a proposal, and third, the applicant fails to communicate with the funder before and after the application process.

The reasons for these mistakes are as diverse as the organizations that make them. Based on my professional experience, here are a few guesses why the mistakes persist:

  • Why pay a professional when we can just use community volunteers?
  • We just got a sizable grant from a well-known foundation that will surely give us credibility.
  • If we apply to 100 opportunities, someone is bound to give us money!
  • We can’t meet all the application guidelines but meet enough of them that we may as well try.
  • We’re doing such great work that funders would be stupid, heartless and insensitive not to pick us.
  • We’ve got the grant, so why should we keep communicating with the funder?

Grant writing is not exact science. Only scammers can promise you a near 100% success rate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t increase your likelihood of attracting lucrative grant awards.

Before you apply for a grant, consider these basic questions:

  • Does the funder sponsor work in your city and state?
  • Does your mission statement neatly fit into one of the funder’s program areas?
  • Will the grant fund an existing program, or will you need to create a new one?
  • Does the deadline give you enough time to gather all your materials and prepare the proposal?
  • If you were sitting on the other side of the table, would you be eager to select your own application?

Cultivating a healthy grant portfolio is difficult but not impossible. If you want to tackle it yourself, you’ll be far ahead of the curve if you avoid the common pitfalls that put so many grant seekers in the recycle bin.


The Parsons Report

Robert Parsons is involved in all kinds of tasks and projects in the affiliate. Here are a couple of his recent undertakings, and because we were late in putting out this issue, we were unable to properly announce the fact the student division provided lunch at the most recent affiliate board meeting. But thank you to Robert and his teams for all they do for Virginia.

VABS:

The Virginia Student Division is, as usual, hard at work at promoting the continued message of the Federation that our future leaders are cultivated through community, regional, and national efforts of advocacy and confidence building.

VABS will have a full presence at the National Convention, where we will continue our fundraising efforts. VABS will be raffling off Uber, Lift, and Amazon gift cards for the entirety of the week, with a winning ticket being drawn every two days.

Finally, from August 10-12, the Virginia Association of Blind Students will be participating in the NFB Southeastern Student Seminar. This weekend event will see the combined advocacy, confidence building, and leadership skills of national and state leaders disseminated to the students of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington D. C.. Any students interested in joining VABS or attending any of these events can contact Robert Parsons, President, at 804,801.7674.

Richmond Chapter:

The Richmond chapter is hard at work at continuing its tradition of being a local and statewide leader in innovative social planning. The annual Richmond chapter spring picnic will take place on Saturday, June 9, 2018 at the Richmond ARC Park, located at 3600 Saunders Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227. For more information, please contact Gerald Meredith, event planner, at 804.243.3980.


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: April 2018

The Vigilant: April 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

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

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

Project RISE

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

Code of conduct:

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

Presidential Release:

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

Visiting Chapters:

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

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

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

National Convention:

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

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

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

2018 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Applicants

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

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

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

Board Meeting – May 19

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

BELL Academies – Arlington and Harrisonburg

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

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

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

Help me keep the NFB of Virginia spirit alive!

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia


This Month’s Words of Inspiration

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


An Open Letter to Federation Chapters Regarding the Presidential Release

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

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

Dear Federationists:

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

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

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

What is the Presidential Release?

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

What is the purpose of the release?

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

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

When should the Presidential Release be played at chapter meetings?

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

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

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

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

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

How can you contribute to the release?

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

https://nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/bm/bm85/bm8502/bm850203.htm

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Nonprofit Development: Planning a Special Event
By Joe Orozco

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

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

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

Why Fundraise?

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

Building a Fundraising Team

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

What are you raising money for?

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

What is the purpose of the event?

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

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

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

Target Audience

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

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

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

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

How much do you want to raise?

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

Budgeting

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

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

Sponsorships

A good sponsorship program will:

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

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

Know Your Limitations

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

The Value of Awards

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

Strategic Positioning

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

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

Hiring a Special Events Coordinator

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

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

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

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

Are you interested in being a professional fundraiser?

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

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


This Month’s Helpful Resource: BlindBargains

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

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

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

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

Interview samples include:

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

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

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

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


NFB Pledge

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

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.

The Vigilant: December 2017

The Vigilant: December 2017

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

With the holiday season now drawing to a close, it is a great time to appreciate friends and family and appreciate plans with them in the coming year. Our Federation Family in Virginia is thriving and I am truly proud of the work we are completing together. I am even more excited of what we will accomplish in 2018.

Here are a few highlights from this year:

  1. Legislative – As you are enjoying this season, please take a few moments to consider joining us in the important work of legislative advocacy through
    our Richmond and Washington Seminars. The deadlines are approaching in late December and early January to tell us if you are joining us in this important work and you will want to make your hotel reservations. Your voice is important and together we can make a difference. In Richmond, we will have two bills in the General assembly and we expect to field 10 teams to communicate our message to every member of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates. In Washington, there will certainly be some new legislative priorities and we will have an exciting experience on Capitol Hill.

  2. Project RISE – Our pre-employment transition program is moving ahead with open houses in December, participant intake interviews, and fast paced efforts to get all the logistics in place. If you have connections to individuals ages 14-21 living in Northern Virginia, please ask them to visit our project RISE web site, Rise.nfbv.org, or contact our Program coordinators at NFBprojectRISE@gmail.com
  3. Membership -In November, Sandy Halverson, John Halverson and I had the pleasure to visit with the new Prince William County Chapter to adopt the constitution and elect officers. The chapter is now up and running with an outstanding slate of officers:
    • Marc Canamaso, President
    • Oscar Montiel, Vice-President
    • Alysha Hiller, Secretary
    • Mark Ross, Treasurer
    • John Dubois, Board Member
    • Andrew Hiller, Board Member

    We look forward to a vibrant and growing chapter in Prince William County.

  4. Communication – If you have a message to communicate to our Virginia Announce List, please send it to our new Corresponding Secretary, Sarah Patnaude. Sarah will be responsible for most Virginia Announce distribution and she can be reached at: Patnaude.sarah@yahoo.com
  5. Funding the movement – Finally, the work we do together is vitally important to students, parents, seniors and working age adults. I am hopeful you have personally benefited from our great community and the work we do together. We wanted to thank all who have contributed to our efforts and prepared this appreciation video. Please consider checking It out and sharing it with others.

Please consider a tax deductible contribution to the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Checks can be sent to:

NFB of Virginia
3230 Grove Avenue,
Richmond, VA 23221

You can also give online to the National Federation of the Blind.

Please enjoy what’s left of this season and we look forward to our work together in 2018.

Tracy Soforenko
President, National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“Business ownership isn’t for everyone. It requires discipline, and in some ways your business can be the worst boss you ever had. It doesn’t care whether you’re sick or tired. It tells you what to do, and you either do it or you don’t. On the other hand, your business will never tell you that you shouldn’t try something because you’re blind. It doesn’t really care about your blindness. It will never pity you, speak in a condescending manner, or help you find stairs that you were perfectly able to find for yourself. In that sense, it’s the ideal boss.”–Mike Bullis, from the December 2017 Braille Monitor

1st Legislative Reminder: Richmond Seminar

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is a powerful force advocating for blind Virginians. Please join us for the Richmond Seminar on January 15- 16, 2018 to ensure our voice is heard in the offices of the General Assembly.

If you have never attended a Richmond Seminar, we strongly encourage you to attend and participate in representative democracy in action. Everyone is assigned to a team with an experienced leader. The General Assembly members and their staff are very receptive and welcoming. They know we are organized, articulate, and well versed in the subject matter.

We will put everyone on the team to work, sharing our issues and answering the questions of legislators and their staff.

The issues we will bring to Richmond are still under consideration but will most likely include:

  • Access to travel independently without a driver’s license in autonomous vehicles being developed in Virginia;
  • Blind Parents Bill of Rights;
  • Defending Virginia’s Randolph Sheppard priority; and
  • Support for Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired (DVBI) as a separate agency.

The final list of issues will be presented at the board meeting on Monday, January 15. We have bills being drafted that will need co-sponsors. Chapter Presidents should make contact with their General Assembly members in their local offices before the end of the year. If you need assistance in identifying them, contact our Richmond Seminar Legislative committee Chair Derek Manners at: Derek.Manners@allenovery.com, or on his cell at 903-271-6494.

A meeting with our elected legislators in their home districts will go a long way in establishing the recognition that is needed for our visit to Richmond. All Chapter members are encouraged to participate. If you intend on doing a meeting or need help setting one up, please contact Derek Manners.

Our board meeting is scheduled for Monday afternoon, January 15, which is Martin Luther King Day. The Board Meeting will likely be held on the DBVI campus on Azalea Avenue in Richmond, but details will be worked out shortly.

Our General Assembly visits will be Tuesday, January 16. The affiliate will reimburse transportation expenses and hotel expenses.

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

Hotel rooms are available at the Delta Hotel (formerly the Crowned Plaza.) The complete contact information is:

Delta Hotels by Marriott Richmond Downtown
555 East Canal Street
Richmond, VA 23219

The group rate is $129 plus applicable taxes. You may begin making reservations at any time by calling the reservations line at 844-781-7397 and referencing NFBVA. Please note reservations must be made no later than Thursday, January 4, 2018. Note guests will receive a $10 discount toward parking.

If you run into any problems with making reservations or need assistance at the hotel, please call our Operations Coordinator, Joe Orozco, at: 202-810-4023, or reach him via email at: jsorozco@gmail.com .

Do not delay, book your room today.

Chapter presidents must provide an initial list of the names of the individuals planning to attend from their chapter to Derek by Friday, January 5, 2018 and additional names as they are known so we can establish and update teams in advance.

Finally, if anyone in your chapter is interested in being a team leader, have them reach out to Derek Manners directly. If you have any questions, please contact Derek Manners at Derek.Manners@allenovery.com or on his cell at 903-271-6494.

2nd Legislative Reminder: Washington Seminar

Hello Virginia Federationists,

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Although it may seem like it’s still two months away, Washington Seminar is fast approaching. I wanted to send out some info to help you begin thinking about reserving your room and making arrangements in your schedule to attend.

The legislative Committee needs to begin creating teams of those who will be attending Washington Seminar and start scheduling appointments with members of Congress. So the earlier you can let us know whether you will be attending, the better. Please let us know by December 28 whether you plan to attend. When you let us know, please provide the name of your member of the House of Representatives. If you don’t know, please provide your address including street address and ZIP code so we can easily look it up. If you want to look it up yourself, you can access this information at

https://www.house.gov/

The Great-Gathering-In is scheduled for Monday, January 29, 2018. The deadline for making hotel reservations with the Holiday Inn Capitol is December 28, 2017, and although I know most of you are busy as we approach the holiday season, the hotel would certainly appreciate getting your reservations as early as possible to ensure that you secure your reservation. Sleeping room rates are $192 for single, double, triple, or quad rooms, and the tax rate is 14.5% per night. The address of the Holiday Inn Capitol is 550 C Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. You may also make reservations by calling 1 877-572-6951 and referencing booking code FB8.

A few members of the Northern Virginia chapters may have a guest room available for those who would consider this approach. You will need to be extremely self-sufficient to make this model work and requests should be submitted to me by December 21. Please contact me and I can see what can be done to accommodate your request.

Last year, we had a record number of Virginians attending! Please encourage all your chapter members, friends, and acquaintances to attend so we can show Congress that blind Virginians are committed to our important issues!

If you have any questions or concerns, you may contact me, your co-legislative director, at deepa.goraya@gmail.com or call me at 9099643699.

Deepa

Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2018

“About this time each year, we provide you with details regarding annual adjustments in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicare programs. In 2018 approximately 65 million Americans will see a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase of 2 percent in their benefit amounts. Thus, come January, monthly checks will be a few dollars higher.” To read the entire article, please visit the December Braille Monitor.

BELL on YouTube

The Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academies in Virginia were a tremendous success. This year, we produced an outstanding video to introduce parents, students, sponsors and volunteers to the program and we wanted to share this great video with you. We look forward to introducing more students to BELL academies in 2018. Please help do your part to help spread word of this wonderfully enriching opportunity.

A Mother’s Advocacy

The following remarks were delivered to the NFB of Virginia state convention on November 4, 2017 by Gao Lai.

When my son was 6 months old, the doctor said my son would never be able to see the world like me. It was scary. My mind was flooded with questions. I can tell you my biggest
worries were how will my son be independent and take care of himself when I die? Will he graduate from college? Will he have a career? Will he ever move out of my basement? How will he get around? I was looking at a 6-month-old and I was petrified for his future.

My name is Giao. I am a mother of a legally blind child. My son drops the word legally and just identifies himself as blind.

When my son entered our local school system, I had no real knowledge or support other than what came from the school district. I put all of my trust in them. And in return, they did not provide Braille or cane training. Instead, they just passed him from one grade to the next while he fell further and further behind.

Although my gut instinct told me that wasn’t right, I told myself they were the professionals and Maybe my son could only do so much, and it made me even more worried for his future.

When my son was 2 years old, someone told me that I would be his biggest advocate when he started school. I would be his voice starting out. I can tell you I had no idea what she meant until last year when my son was in 3rd grade. I remember telling one of the school supervisors, “maybe I need to start looking at the school for the blind? Maybe, he needs to be around people that understand him and in a place that can properly educate him.” I remember her saying to me, “we cannot go that route, because we haven’t provided everything this county had to offer.”

What did she mean, “We haven’t provided everything this county had to offer “.

My son had been in school for 4 years, everything should have been provided! I was angry, but someone told me don’t get angry, get educated. That’s when I realized I needed to do more.

I needed to go with my gut feelings that had started 4 years earlier. I started reaching out to anyone that would help, and started educating myself about the services for blind children like my son that still has some remaining vision.

There is a misconception that children with some vision should use it to do everything whether reliable or not. Unfortunately, the truth is that the reading volume will continue to increase while the fonts get smaller throughout his education.

My son loves to write. But, he was unable to put everything he wanted on paper, because he could not see enough to write what he wanted or to read what he had written.

My son loves to read. But, the only books he could choose were those at a kindergarten level because of their large font size.

The school wanted to continue educating my son with audio and print materials utilizing his remaining vision. He began to suffer from eye fatigue and headaches after school. Having someone else read to my son was taking away his literacy. I believe my son needed to learn Braille and cane skills while he learned alongside his sighted peers.

Every day I had off from work, or in my spare time, I was running my son to an evaluation to prove my district was wrong. I went to different doctors for second opinions to back up what he needed. I reached out to the NFB through the NOPBC Facebook page, as well as other sources. NOPBC and others provided the advocacy and support I needed so desperately. I was not going to stop pushing for a better education for my son until he got what he was entitled to. I had strong advocates from NFB who supported me every step of the way. They would back up my demands and provide information that reinforced my gut feelings. They were with me at the meetings and were available between meetings. It took 7 long months, but last April we walked out with the strongest IEP my son has ever had.

Last summer, my son participated in the BELL Academy and loved being with blind adults and children. He was around confident blind adults he could look up to. He wants to learn Braille because he knows it will help him for the rest of his life.

I can tell you today that I no longer fear for my son’s future. I am excited about how far he can go with Braille literacy and a white cane on his journey to be an independent productive adult.

I am not saying that by doing all of this my son will succeed, but to succeed or fail should be solely his choice. not because the school system or I failed to equip him for his future. This is your child’s future, don’t settle for less.

National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Presidential Report

Delivered to the 59th State Convention of the NFB of Virginia on November 4, 2017 by President Tracy Soforenko.

In the National Federation of the Blind, we believe that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day, we raise expectations, 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.

While some have locked in on our tag line, Live the life you want, I want to talk about something related but different.

If I stated:

  • Every child gets a quality education
  • Every person can achieve full employment
  • Every person can have the rights and responsibilities of citizenship
  • People should believe in themselves

These ideas would not be viewed as radical. They would be viewed as self-evident.

Robert Kennedy said: Some men see things as they are and ask why, I dream of things that never were and ask why not

Here are my dreams:

  • Every blind child gets a quality education
  • Every blind person can achieve full employment
  • Blind people have all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship
  • We believe in the capabilities of blind people

There are those who say that we are militant and radical because we believe in basic ideas which should be self-evident. They state that the problems we experience every day are not real and we should just keep quiet. I can’t keep quiet while we are held back from living the lives we want.
Every day, we raise expectations because low expectations create barriers between blind people and our dreams.

Radical Idea #1: Every blind child deserves a Quality education

This morning, you heard about our two successful BELL programs, in Arlington and Harrisonburg, which introduced students and their parents to high expectations and a recognition that alternative techniques like Braille and the long white cane are effective tools to achieve equality
Our advocacy in Individual Education Program (IEP) meetings, have enabled students to get the services they need from their schools. Sandy Halverson has coordinated this effort and we are very grateful.
Our scholarship program, led by Brian Miller and a capable committee, has brought 10 students, all first-time applicants, to this state convention and we had a National scholarship winner at our National convention.
As you heard this morning, we enabled students like Michael Munn to participant in STEM programs to show that blindness is not a barrier in the careers of the future.
When hastily prepared legislation was introduced to weaken the requirements on literacy for blind students, Derek Manners, Mark Roane and Earl Everett scrambled to address this legislation and we arrange for the legislation to be withdrawn. We are now working with these same parties to agree on language that truly benefits blind and low vision students.
We had our largest contingent of Virginians at the 2017 Washington Seminar to advocate for Access to Instructional Materials in Higher Ed, access to books across the world and in Braille, and access to technology to achieve our educational and career goals. A shout out to Derek Manners, Deepa Goraya, Earl Everett, Jeannette Gholson, our team leaders and all who participated.
Nick, Stephen, and Leo are blind triplets in Arlington Virginia. As a parent of students in the Arlington schools, I hear about these young men from my daughter’s friends. Steven is the drum major, the student leader of the marching band, at Wakefield high school. As Commissioner Hopkins mentioned, it is vital for students to get internship and job experiences in high school to position themselves for future success. Both Leo and Nick have had multiple internships already
Leo Nick and Stephen have attended multiple ‘NFB of Virginia conventions and have been meant toward in federation philosophy by their father and longtime federation leader, Oli Cantos.
As an Eagle Scout myself, I’m aware of that commitment and responsibility required for Boy Scouts earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Boys must lead other boys and hold themselves to the highest of standards to achieve this rank. Leo Nick and Stephen met all of the requirements and help themselves to high standards to be awarded the Eagle Scout rank. They are the first line triplets to be awarded this rank in the 107 years of the Boy Scouts of America. Armed with training and opportunity, our blind kids can achieve at the highest standards. I am proud of these three young men and look forward to their future successes. They are here with us today.

If you want to pass the Bar Exam after completing Law school and become an attorney, a structured bar exam preparation program is the way to go. Barbri is the overwhelming market leader in exam preparation. Barbri touts that if you complete 70% of their training, you have a 90% chance of passing the bar. If you complete less than 50% of their training, then forget it, you aren’t likely to pass.
Unfortunately, Barbri isn’t supporting blind students in passing the bar.
Barbri’s Accessible materials either don’t exist, arrive after they are needed to keep up with the schedule, and are formatted so poorly that they aren’t navigable with a screen reader.
The online videos on important legal concepts are 4-5 hours long. I would probably need a cup of coffee and an occasional break to get through such a class. But, using a screen reader, you can’t pause the video.
The Barbri web site and many supplemental materials are not accessible.
For example, Derek Manners tried like crazy but was only able to complete 27% of the training due to all the access challenges. While Derek passed the Bar, many blind people are failing because the exam prep is not accessible.
. Potomac Chapter Vice President and Attorney Deepa Goraya identified a set of blind plaintiffs and pursued the case. Even though many suggested that the Texas court system where it was tried would not be favorable. These blind attorney’s won the case and Barbri will be making its exam preparation accessible for blind people. Congratulations to us all for this strong precedent setting victory.

Every day, we raise expectations because low expectations create barriers between blind people and our dreams.

Radical Idea #2: Every blind person can achieve Full employment

We believe that blind and low vision students deserve the skills, attitude, and mentoring to achieve career goals. As you heard this morning, our pre-employment transition program, Project RISE, will help make that possible. Kathryn Webster, Luke Schwinck, Mary Fernandez, Joe Orozco, and many others have been working tirelessly to move the program forward.
Mark Ross is a member of our Fredericksburg Chapter. Mark has been unemployed for over 7 years. He has been job hunting throughout this time and has been really active in our Fredericksburg Chapter. Through his chapter, he met Leon and Maria Anderson, who run a dining facility on the Marine Corps University in Quantico. Mark has proven capable through our work in the Federation and is now working at this facility. Our Federation Family works and Mark is loved at the job.

Every day, we raise expectations because low expectations create barriers between blind people and our dreams.

Radical Idea #3: Blind people deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship

In 2017, we had our largest contingent at the Richmond Seminar. Our Parents Rights legislation passed the Virginia Senate and was vigorously debated twice in the House of delegates Courts of Justice committee. Our opposition to the bill stated that blind parents do not face any discrimination. Derek Manners worked long hours to outline legal arguments to change minds and Mark Roane and Earl Everett worked the halls of the General Assembly. While this new legislation didn’t pass this year, we will be back in Richmond in 2018 as we seek to take this over the finish line
They say we already have all the rights under the law and we are not facing any discrimination. Today, I am going to simply focus on blind parents and discrimination. I will share a story that could be really funny if it wasn’t sad.

CJ Fish is a blind Mom who wants to do Mommy and Me gymnastics with her pre-school daughter Moriah. While the studio space is designed for safety, the studio owner could not imagine how CJ could participate in this dangerous environment. She might fall in the ball pit, designed for people to fall. She might bump herself into the padded walls. Her cane might trip a participant and they might fall on the padded mats on the floor. While the space is designed for safety, a blind person cannot be safe. The owner stated, “I am a nurse and I know how things work. I know the law and I am not discriminating against these people.”

The owner suggested:
How about another parent to serve in the role as Mommy? Wait, the Dad is also blind, heck that won’t work.
We can have an instructor take your place doing the Mommy role.
Why couldn’t another student serve as the Mommy in the program.

Mike and CJ had kept calm even though they were enraged. The older boys love the studio and it is really convenient to have a class for all the kids at the same time real near to your home.

The studio even refused to refund their money.

Mike and CJ were not optimistic so they called me. I called the studio and suggested they call their attorney and ask them to read specific sections of the ADA. Magically, a class opportunity for Moriah is now available.

Not all stories end happy. As I have shared with some of you, there is a Chester man who is being threatened by the divorce attorney’s that he can’t take care of his blind child and shouldn’t have custody. The case is still in flux but we know that blind parents can be great parents. Low expectations are robbing us of our basic rights.

In Congress, HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform act would diminish the ADA, A powerful advocacy organization which supported this irresponsible legislation was doing a photo shoot last week in front of the US Capitol. Along with 40 others from the NFB and other disability rights organizations, John Halverson and I were part of a flash mob that prevented the advocacy group from getting the photo. Every time the group moved to cut us out of the photo, the disability advocates moved to ensure we were in their picture. Eventually, their legislative leadership met with us to discuss how this legislation was truly harmful.
We don’t have time today to cover all the cases of discrimination large and small. In accessible voting technology that prevents us from voting independently, drivers unwilling to allow us in their vehicles with our guide dogs, barriers placed because no one considered that a blind person would be out in the world trying to do what everyone else does. Together, we are working to break down the barriers that prevent full access and citizenship.

Every day, we raise expectations because low expectations create barriers between blind people and our dreams.
Radical Idea #4: We believe in Blind people

Our organizational Accomplishments happened because you made it happen. We achieve because we believe in each other.
For this reason, the Virginia Affiliate is Thriving
I am thrilled to observe that the Virginia affiliate is adapting to changing times. We are more diverse, more engaged, more willing to take on new ideas, and willing to experiment with new leaders and new possibilities.
Leaders are often those who recognize the talent in others and provide them the opportunity to grow into leaders themselves.

You might observe that our Virginia Leadership Fellows are an essential component of your local chapter and this convention. These leaders are inspirational. At a visit to our National Center in June, president Riccobono was impressed at the talent and commitment of our Fellows. He was also impressed by our Jernigan Institute Fellow, David Bagette, who was helping affiliates improve their web presence.

Yesterday, you heard from our McDonald Fellowship and Jernigan Scholarship winners who attended their first national convention. This is another program to grow leaders and show we believe in the capabilities of blind people.
We are growing membership throughout Virginia.
We have started the Greater Alexandria Chapter, we re-launched the Prince William County Chapter, and last night formalized the At Large chapter with a constitution.

Throughout the past 16 months, I have tried to visit as many chapters as possible.
I have visited the Chesapeake Bay, Tidewater, Richmond, Fredericksburg, Winchester, Fairfax, Potomac, and Greater Alexandria chapters. I have participated in the At Large Conference calls. I was in Williamsburg for the Rivers & Bays Walk with the Blind for the Peninsula, Greater Williamsburg, Tidewater, Chesapeake Bay, and Eastern Shore Chapters.
I learned Salsa dancing in Fairfax but unfortunately, missed the delicious chili served up by our Richmond Chapter.
Our divisions are thriving.

As you heard this morning, the Student division, led by Robert Parsons, has held monthly conference calls, the successful summer student blow out in Baltimore, and October’s VABS Bowl with the blind.

As you heard on Friday, our Seniors Division, led by Nancy Yeager, are running monthly conference calls and are planning great programming this afternoon.

A few weeks ago, at the Rivers and Bays Chapter Walk with the Blind, I had the pleasure to walk with Elsie Castleman. Elsie first started losing her vision as active duty in the Army in the mid-1970s. Her family was very helpful to her but over time, she outlived them and her vision continued to decrease. A few years ago, when her vision continued to decrease, Elsie connected with members of the Greater Williamsburg Chapter and her life began to come alive again. She attended our National Convention in 2016 and 2017, she is on Williamsburg’s Housing and public transit advisory committees. She is engaged in her community and having fun again. Blindness is not holding Elsie back.
At age 84, both the Mayor of Williamsburg and I struggled to keep up with her as she used her walker to outpace us on our walk. There is nothing holding Elsie back.

It is my privilege to serve as NFB of Virginia affiliate president. I am so fortunate to follow in the path of such great leaders as Michael Kasey, Fred Schroeder, Charlie Brown, and Alan Schlank.

It is my pleasure to preside over this great convention. I appreciate the hard work of so many to make the convention a success and for the great work of our host Potomac Chapter. An affiliate runs because so many people commit their time and treasure to this movement.

Truth be told, running the Virginia affiliate was harder than I anticipated.
My wife Sharon has been an amazing partner and sounding board. She puts up with constant phone calls and my over commitment to my iPhone. She has often taken on jobs that she didn’t sign up for.
In October alone, Sharon put up with almost daily Conference calls, helped with many messages sent out at midnight, assisted with the formatting of the convention agenda, purchased supplies for the exhibit hall passports, prepared for events in the Presidential Suite, and dealt with having her husband gone for days.

My daughters Jessica and Rebecca each filmed and prepared the videos we enjoyed this morning.
I am certainly biased, but I believe I have the best family in the planet and I am so grateful for their support and love. They know the importance of the work we do together and are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.

We also have an outstanding set of elected officers. Sandy Halverson is my sounding board and may be the best First Vice President ever. Uricka Harrison and Jennifer Shields are outstanding leaders who are running components of our convention this weekend. Finally, our Treasurer Mark Roane is keeping me on track and ensuring I don’t end up in an orange jumpsuit.

Joe Orozco has done an outstanding job running Operations and logistics and has stepped in to coordinate our Communications activities producing an outstanding newsletter and keeping us on message.

Finally, Joe Hobson is one of my greatest friends and advisors. His advice is invaluable and I am so grateful for his friendship.

In closing, our high expectations enable us to dream
As individuals, they are just dreams.
Together, you, me, your chapter members and our Federation family around this great country, we are turning our dreams into reality. Enjoy the remainder of convention and I look forward to serving with you in the coming year.

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.

State Convention 2018

Please check back here as additional information is added to fully prepare you for the next NFB of Virginia State Convention. Alternatively, please consider signing up for the Virginia Announcement List to have updates delivered straight to your inbox.

The Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia will be held Thursday, November 8 through Sunday, November 11 , 2018 at the:

  • Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel & Conference Center
  • 2801 Plank Rd.
  • Fredericksburg, VA22401

To make hotel reservations, please call: 540-786-8321, or Book your room online!

Room rates are $79 per night plus applicable taxes for Single, Double, Triple, or Quad occupancy. Reservations must be made by 5 PM on Friday, October 26, 2018. For anyone seeking to spend extra time exploring Historical Fredericksburg, the rate is good three days before and three days after the event. Individual reservations will not be guaranteed without first night’s deposit or credit card.

Please Note: The group rate is the best rate. Government and military discounts do not apply. For the rate to be honored, please contact the property directly. Do not use a travel site for booking.

From the Hospitality House website:

Ideally located in the heart of everything, Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel and Convention Center welcomes you with 196 beautifully appointed guestrooms just off I-95, midway between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia. We’re also within minutes of Fredericksburg’s famous Civil War and colonial sites, shopping, dining, the University of Mary Washington, and more. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you’ll enjoy luxurious, affordable lodging, state-of-the-art meeting facilities, a junior Olympic size pool, two signature restaurants, convenient and walk-able shopping and dining in Central Park without ever leaving our parking lot, plus live music on weekends.

More Details Coming Soon!

The Vigilant – November 2017

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

Where does one begin to thank everyone responsible for making this year’s state convention a memorable occasion? It takes a lot of attention to detail, patience, and follow through, and when there are so many competing priorities, we are incredibly grateful to our fellow Federationists when they can rank the work of the organization high on that list. Thank you to everyone who played a role in making the 2017 convention the success we experienced.

If you were unable to join us, please know you were missed. Conventions, or any activity for that matter, is not the same without you, and although we hope to see plenty of you well before then, we do sincerely hope you will be able to join us next November 8-11 in Fredericksburg for a very special 60th anniversary.

If this year’s convention emphasized anything, it is that the work of the Federation is alive and well in our commonwealth. There is more yet to be accomplished, and we are counting on you to help us meet that mission. Our next affiliate gathering will be Monday, January 15 for our winter board meeting and Richmond Seminar. You can read more about this later in this issue, but please remember there is much to be accomplished at a local level. Please help us bring more people into the fold.

As we prepare for the holiday season, we want to remind you to please travel safely. Please make friends and family a priority. Please take a step back and remember those things in life that truly matter. Be kind to yourselves and each other.

Yours in Federation service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Inspiration

This month’s inspiration is not a quotation as much as a full letter recognizing the remarkable contributions of one of our own affiliate members. We draw this excerpt from a longer piece from the October Braille Monitor, which you can read in its entirety here.

The letter from HHS Secretary follows:

THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Washington, D.C. 20201

August 30, 2017

John Halverson, Ph.D.
Senior Management and Program Analyst
Office for Civil Rights
Health Information Privacy Division
Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Dr. Halverson:

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I am pleased to congratulate you on your retirement and to thank you for your more than 38 years of dedicated service to HHS and to the public.

Since joining the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in January 1979, you have made significant contributions in all aspects of OCR’s work. Your 24 years of service in OCR’s Headquarters and 14 years in leadership positions in OCR’s Region VII office in Kansas City reflect your versatility and willingness to lend your talents where needed most in OCR’s expanding mission over four decades in both civil rights and health information privacy. Thank you for being a team player, for giving your all to the job, and for your unselfish devotion to ensuring that others at OCR succeed as well. Your professionalism and your work ethic are admirable and served as an inspiration throughout your distinguished tenure at HHS.

On a personal note, when I met you shortly after I arrived at HHS, I was delighted to find that we were in graduate school together while I was a medical student and you were pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Michigan in the 1970’s. Since then, you have truly made your mark and left a lasting legacy at OCR and HHS, and I wish you all the best during your retirement years.

Sincerely,

Thomas E. Price, M.D.

Affiliate News

2017 Resolutions

The 2017 resolutions, three legislative and our traditional commendation, provide a direction for our affiliate’s efforts at Richmond seminar in January, 2018. We chose this year to focus on three new legislative initiatives in addition to our efforts already in progress: orientation and mobility training
for blind children, the ability for a blind person to obtain an E-Z Pass, and addressing concerns of blind merchants selling concessions at rest areas.

The committee consisted of Jeremy Grandstaff, Sarah Patnaude, and myself. I would like to thank both Sarah and Jeremy for their invaluable insights and assistance with bringing these resolutions to the affiliate.

Respectfully,

Jennifer Shields, Resolutions Committee Chair

Resolution 2017-01: Regarding Orientation and Mobility training for blind children

WHEREAS, skills in orientation and mobility (O&M) are essential for the successful transition of blind children, including children with low vision, to full and productive lives as adults; and

WHEREAS, local and state laws recognize the use of the long white cane as a tool for both safety and independence for blind people, yet too many school systems statewide do not promote the use of the white cane by blind students; and

WHEREAS, regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 300.34[c][7], Related Services, clearly define O&M as “services provided to blind or visually impaired children by qualified personnel to enable those students to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home, and community”; and

WHEREAS, although IDEA clearly lists O&M as an essential service for blind and visually impaired children, children continue to be denied O&M instruction because the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team assumes that these children do not need this instruction; and

WHEREAS, another reason for denial of O&M instruction is insufficient evaluations, e.g., only examining a child’s movement in familiar areas, failing to consider environments in different lighting, not requesting input from parents, or not considering such factors as the child’s medically indicated expectation of further visual deterioration; and

WHEREAS, the IEP team should treat O&M instruction as a presumption for youth who have an IEP based on visual impairment, as it does with Braille, unless a proper assessment determines that O&M instruction is not necessary; and

WHEREAS, two states, Maryland and Texas, have incorporated the mobility presumption and stronger evaluation requirements into state law, ensuring that more students who need O&M instruction in those states will receive it:

Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia in Convention assembled this fifth day of November, 2017 in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, that this organization strongly urge the state of Virginia immediately to enact legislation that contains a presumption similar to the Braille presumption, explicitly stating that all blind and visually impaired children need orientation and mobility instruction unless a proper evaluation demonstrates that such instruction is not appropriate for the child.

Resolution 2017-02: Regarding the ability of blind Virginians to attain an E-Z Pass

WHEREAS, High Occupancy Toll Lanes (HOT Lanes) on I95 between Springfield and Stafford as well as HOT Lanes on a Virginia portion of the Washington DC beltway and other toll roads in the Commonwealth of Virginia are designed to maximize traffic flow by reducing congestion; and

WHEREAS, through the use of variable tolls, hot lane traffic should flow at or near the speed limit, with the toll increasing to cause drivers unwilling to pay to move to the regular lanes to reduce HOT Lane congestion; and

WHEREAS, automobiles with a driver and two passengers may take advantage of the HOT lanes at no cost; and

WHEREAS, E-Z Pass transponders communicate information about HOT Lane use between vehicles and the operators of the HOT Lanes including setting toll prices and billing for HOT Lane use; and

WHEREAS, E-Z Pass transponders are tied to individual driver’s licenses and vehicle license plates; and

WHEREAS, persons who are blind or may have another disability which makes it impossible for them to obtain a driver’s license, need to travel on portions of I95 and the Beltway where HOT lanes exist by hiring a driver, for example, to travel from Northern Virginia to Richmond to attend a meeting or conduct other business; and

WHEREAS, if hired drivers do not own a E-Z Pass, these passengers are unable to take advantage of the travel option offered by the HOT Lanes, thus reducing their travel options solely based upon their disability:

Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia in convention assembled this fifth day of November, 2017, in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, that the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia request that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles change their E-Z Pass requirements to allow persons who are blind or have another disability which makes it impossible for them to obtain a driver’s license the ability to obtain and use an E-Z Pass.

Resolution 2017-03: Regarding the Commercialization of Interstate Rest Areas

WHEREAS, Congress, in 1936, enacted the Randolph-Sheppard Act to “provide blind persons with remunerative employment,” to “enlarge their economic opportunities, and encourage their self-support through the operation of vending facilities in federal buildings,” and subsequent amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act have further clarified Congress’s intent and have continued to expand economic opportunities for blind entrepreneurs; and

WHEREAS, in 1982 Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut recognized the opportunity that existed for blind entrepreneurs at interstate rest areas and subsequently introduced the “Kennelly Amendment” to the Surface Transportation Act, which authorized state licensing agencies designated to administer the Randolph-Sheppard Program the priority to operate vending machines at interstate rest areas; and

WHEREAS, because of the passage of the “Kennelly Amendment,” today, 20 percent of blind entrepreneurs who participate in the Randolph-Sheppard Program operate vending machines at interstate rest areas nationwide; and

WHEREAS, the livelihood of these approximately four hundred blind entrepreneurs is now being jeopardized by Congressional efforts which seek to commercialize these interstate rest areas, most recently with the introduction of H.R. 1990 in the 115th Congress by Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana, which seeks to amend Title 23, United States Code, to allow food concessions at state-owned interstate rest areas; and

WHEREAS, Congressman Thomas Garrett, representing Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 1990 on April 28, 2017; and

WHEREAS, the result of commercialization of interstate rest areas would be directly felt by blind entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth of Virginia, who would then be forced to compete with well-established and well-recognized franchises, essentially putting these blind entrepreneurs out of work almost overnight:

Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia assembled in convention this fifth day of November, 2017, in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, that this organization urge that Congressman Thomas Garrett withdraw his sponsorship of and support for H.R. 1990 and move to rescind H.R. 1990 from consideration in the 115th Congress until the concerns of the blind entrepreneurs who earn their living from vending machines in our nation’s interstate rest areas are adequately addressed.

Resolution 2017-04: Commending the Potomac Chapter leadership and membership for a job well done.

Whereas, our National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) conventions continue to grow and administration of the convention becomes more complex; and

Whereas, our Potomac Chapter took on the opportunities and challenges of hosting the 2017 (59th) state convention; and

Whereas, our 2017 state affiliate convention operated efficiently and smoothly:

Now, therefore, Be it resolved in convention assembled this Fifth day of November, 2017, in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, that we thank our Potomac Chapter for a job well done!

Richmond Seminar 2018

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is a powerful force advocating for blind Virginians. Please join us for the Richmond Seminar on January 15- 16, 2018 to ensure our voice is heard in the offices of the General Assembly.

If you have never attended a Richmond Seminar, we strongly encourage you to attend and participate in representative democracy in action. Everyone is assigned to a team with an experienced leader. The General Assembly members and their staff are very receptive and welcoming. They know we are organized, articulate, and well versed in the subject matter.

We will put everyone on the team to work, sharing our issues and answering the questions of legislators and their staff.

The issues we will bring to Richmond are still under consideration but will most likely include:

  • Access to travel independently without a driver’s license in autonomous vehicles being developed in Virginia;
  • Blind Parents Bill of Rights;
  • Defending Virginia’s Randolph Sheppard priority; and
  • Support for Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired (DVBI) as a separate agency.

The final list of issues will be presented at the board meeting on Monday, January 15.
We have bills being drafted that will need co-sponsors. Chapter Presidents should make contact with their General Assembly members in their local offices before the end of the year. If you need assistance in identifying them, contact our Richmond Seminar Legislative committee Chair Derek Manners at: Derek.Manners@allenovery.com, or on his cell at 903-271-6494.

A meeting with our elected legislators in their home districts will go a long way in establishing the recognition that is needed for our visit to Richmond. All Chapter members are encouraged to participate. If you intend on doing a meeting or need help setting one up, please contact Derek Manners.

Our board meeting is scheduled for Monday afternoon, January 15, which is Martin Luther King Day. The Board Meeting will likely be held on the DBVI campus on Azalea Avenue in Richmond, but details will be worked out shortly.

Our General Assembly visits will be Tuesday, January 16.
The affiliate will reimburse transportation expenses and hotel expenses.

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

Hotel rooms are available at the Delta Hotel (formerly the Crowned Plaza.) The complete contact information is:

Delta Hotels by Marriott Richmond Downtown
555 East Canal Street
Richmond, VA 23219

The group rate is $129 plus applicable taxes. You may begin making reservations at any time by calling the reservations line at 844-781-7397 and referencing NFBVA. Please note reservations must be made no later than Thursday, January 4, 2018. Note guests will receive a $10 discount toward parking.

If you run into any problems with making reservations or need assistance at the hotel, please call our Operations Coordinator, Joe Orozco, at: 202-810-4023, or reach him via email at: jsorozco@gmail.com.

Do not delay, book your room today.

Chapter presidents must provide an initial list of the names of the individuals planning to attend from their chapter to Derek by Friday, January 5, 2018 and additional names as they are known so we can establish and update teams in advance.

Finally, if anyone in your chapter is interested in being a team leader, have them reach out to Derek Manners directly. If you have any questions, please contact Derek Manners at Derek.Manners@allenovery.com or on his cell at 903-271-6494.

What Did You Think of Convention?

Did your feelings toward this year’s state convention lean more toward the super, wow, excellent, and fantastic? Or were you more inclined to feel disappointed? Now’s your time to make your voice heard.

Please help us make next year bigger and better by sharing your feelings. It’s quick and anonymous, and your input will directly give next year in Fredericksburg the kind of direction we need to make it memorable.

Complete the survey before Sunday, November 26 to make your opinion count!

Introducing a New Leader

On Sunday, November 5 the affiliate unanimously voted Sarah Patnaude as corresponding secretary. She will complete the term previously held by Chris Walker.

Sarah graduated from Ferrum College in 2016 with her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. She is currently a student at George Mason University, pursuing her Master’s in Social Work. Her passion for advocacy stems from her involvement in the Federation.

Sarah was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind in 2010 when she was a student in a summer program at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired. Since her first state convention, Sarah has served on the board of the Virginia Association of Blind Students and on a few affiliate committees. In 2014, she had the privilege of immersing herself in the Federation’s philosophy and programs by working as an intern at the Jernigan Institute in Baltimore.

One of Sarah’s hobbies is cosplaying, where she enjoys dressing up as different characters from TV shows, movies, and books. Not having any prior experience with sewing or patterning, she taught herself how to design and create costumes. Since her first comicon in 2014, Sarah has won two first place trophies, including her most recent costume as the Evil Queen.

We extend a warm welcome to Sarah to the board and look forward to her contributions in helping to shape message points for the affiliate.

Other Items of Interest

The following items are just a couple highlights from the most recent state convention.

“Attending the 2017 NFB Youth Slam”
by Michael Munn

At this year’s NFB of Virginia State Convention held in Northern Virginia, A young man named Michael Munn spoke before the convention about his experience
at the 2017 Youth Slam. Michael was able to study science and make lots of new friends. But, let Michael tell you all about it.

It was the summer of 2017 and, those six days I will never forget. During the week of July 23 through the 29th, 2017 I participated in an outrageous program
located at Towson University in Maryland. It was outrageous because the world thinks blind people aren’t supposed to be good at engineering, math, or even
science. But, the NFB showed everyone during this program we could do anything we want. It was called the 2017 NFB Youth Slam and that is what I am going
to talk about today.

The NFB Youth Slam was open to all blind High School Students from all over the United States to participate.

One aspect I really liked was that During this summer’s program, everything took place in an actual college Campus. This is great because those of you
who wish to attend college someday can get to experience an actual college up close for yourself.

One thing I really liked about the Youth Slam was the independence to choose what I wanted to learn. And, most importantly, what I wanted to do during
my free time for Social recreation.

I got a lot of value from glimpsing what college life is going to look like when I do choose to attend.

I made lots of friends during Youth Slam. There was one new friend that I particularly remember. Her name is Maura and she traveled from Nebraska to attend
the Slam. She (like me) likes music and plays a musical instrument. We had the best time talking about instruments from all over the world.

Part of the Youth Slam is STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and I had a chance to experience them all.

I have attended several STEM programs in the past. And, the 2017 program was by far the best.

A ‘Track’ is a term use to describe a group of students and their mentors who are following a particular course of study.

I chose Lego physics for my Track because I really had no idea how Legos could have anything to do with physics. And, I wanted to know the answer.

I was also curious about the computer science track. But Lego physics won out because it sounded more interesting. And, I love playing with Legos!

During my Lego physics track, I learned how to build a car that could slide down a Zipline. And I also learned that the heavier the Lego car is on the
bottom, the more balanced it will be on the zipline.

There is more to the Youth Slam then just tracks. There are also enrichment sessions. Enrichment sessions are The 3 to 4 hours each afternoon after each
track that is used studying various STEM and blindness topics.

I got to meet lots of mentors from different states and countries. I learned lots of stuff from them.

I talked to the mentors on topics relating to blindness like Screen Readers that they prefer. We also talked about their schools.

Another new friend I met was from Clemson University; Neel told me that while he was traveling in India, people thought his Cane was a flute. that was
the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

On the Friday of that week, Students from different Tracks showed what they had learned. I learned some advance Lego building skills, How to design a board
game, How to use a pie pan to transfer liquids, and some basics about Archeology.
What I liked the best during my time at the 2017 Youth Slam was meeting cool blind people, and making friends. This program is the best program for those
High school Students wanting to learn about science and how they can do anything they want.

My name is Michael Munn and come see me to learn more about the Youth Slam.

Tips for being prepared when disaster strikes

At this year’s NFB Virginia state convention, we had a panel discussion featuring 3 experts on the topic of how to be prepared when disaster strikes and how to survive.

One of those speakers was Courtney Arroyo, MPA who is Outreach and Disabilities Integration Liaison from the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management.

Mrs. Arroyo gave us some very simple tips on how to better survive natural disasters and she has passed that info along to us again in the text below.

Below are those tips.

Take steps to prepare yourself and your family members for disasters and emergencies.

1. Be informed about emergencies that could affect your area. Sign up for emergency alerts through your local government. Monitor the news and weather on a regular basis. Keep a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio in your home so you can continue to be informed in case the power goes out.

2. Make a plan about where to go and how you will communicate with your family in an emergency. Create a support network to help you overcome your day-day needs in times of emergencies. If you use assistive technologies, plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if lost or destroyed. Your plan should include special instructions for operating your equipment if needed. If you use a white cane be sure to let others know its location.

3. Build a kit Consider putting items into a go bag in case you need to leave quickly. In addition to having your basic survival supplies, an emergency kit should contain items to meet your individual needs, including important documentation. If you take any medication, be sure to include at least 7 days’ worth of medication in your go-bag. If you have a pet, make sure they have a collar with an ID tag and add pet food, extra water, medical records and other supplies that your animal may need.

4. Take action and help others prepare in your community. Talk about being prepared with your family and friends. Encourage them to prepare today!

For individuals who are vision impaired or have low vision:

* Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print. Keep a list of your emergency supplies, and where you bought it, on a portable flash drive, or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.

* Keep a Braille, or Deaf-Blind communications device as part of your emergency supply kit.
To learn more, visit READY.GOV/MYPLAN and connect with your local emergency management office.

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.

Fairfax Chapter Hosts Indoor Rock Climbing in March

NFB_blind_people_indoor_rock_climb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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