Category Archives: News and Announcements

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.

Essential Details

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.

Sponsorships and Exhibits

Companies, nonprofits, and individuals interested in making an investment in the upcoming convention are cordially invited to sign up now! Add your voice to the largest gathering of blind Virginians in the commonwealth. Your services and products will find their way into the hands of blind students, parents of blind children, educators, rehabilitation experts, and many others. Your investment will help the NFB of Virginia carry out important programs benefiting everyone from blind youth to blind working professionals.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our General Assembly visits will be Tuesday, January 19.

The affiliate will reimburse transportation expenses and hotel expenses.

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

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

Click here for online reservations

The deadline to make reservations is January 6, 2016.

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

Guest will receive $10 off overnight parking.

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

Do not delay, book your room today.

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

NFBV IEP Seminar

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

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

Link Here to get a copy of the registration form.

We hope to see many of you there.

2015 NFBV Scholarship Winners!

We thank the 2015 NFBV Scholarship Committee,

  • Sarah Patnaude , Co-Chair
  • Brian Miller, co-Chair
  • Deepa Goraya
  • C.J. Fish
  • Tasha Hubbard

For their countless hours to serve.

The committee is pleased to announce that there are two scholarship
finalists:

  • Robert Parsons (Richmond Chapter)
  • and

  • Chelsea Cook (At Large Chapter).

Please join me in offering congratulations to them both! We look forward to being with them at convention.

Thank you,

Michael Kasey

President

National Federation of the Blind of Virginia