Category Archives: State Convention

State Convention

NFBV 2018 State Convention Exibitors

NFBV 60th Convention

Exhibitor Table Assignments

Please visit the Exhibit Hall in the Monroe Room between 12:00pm – 5:00pm on Friday November 9, and show your appreciation to all of our exhibitors for participating. As you travel through the Exhibit Hall and fill up your passport. Visit each exhibitor, find out what they have to offer, and earn a sticker for your Passport card. Once your Passport card is full, drop it at the Exhibit Information table on your way out, and you will be entered into the drawing for one of many door prizes. If you do not have a Passport card, before going into the Exhibit Hall stop by the Exhibits Information table and request one. One Passport card submission per person.

The below list will be available for viewing at the Exhibit Hall Information table located to your right when you enter the Exhibit Hall.
Exhibits Information table is located on your right when you enter the Exhibit Hall.
Tables 1-17 are arranged around the perimeter of the room counter-clockwise by number.
Tables 18-25 are arranged in the center of the room counter-clockwise by number.

  • Table 1 – VANDA Pharmaceutical
  • Tables 2 & 3 – Advanced Vision
  • Table 4 – Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind
  • Table 5 – Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired
  • Table 6 – Cyber Timez
  • Table 7 – Integration Technologies Group, Inc.
  • Table 8 – The Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  • Table 9A – LegalShield
  • Table 9B – Access Virginia
  • Table 10 – TCS Associates
  • Table 11 – ABLEnow
  • Table 12 – Volunteers for the Blind
  • Table 13 – S&G Endeavors, Ltd.
  • Table 14 – Ability2Access
  • Table 15 – Christian Ministry Teachers
  • Table 16 – Fredericksburg Fire Department
  • Table 17 – Aira
  • Table 19 – Virginia Association of Blind Merchants
  • Table 20 – Blue Ridge Chapter
  • Table 21 – Peninsula Chapter
  • Table 22 – Senior’s Division
  • Tables 23–25 – Auction Items

The Vigilant: October 2018

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

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

We hope you took some time to enjoy the start of a gorgeous Fall and appreciate our many blessings. In our household, the key topics in our home are college applications and the National Federation of the blind of Virginia Convention.

2018 National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Convention

The theme for this year’s convention is diamonds in the Federation: Building Our future. We are implementing programming that highlights our past, our present, and our future. Preparations for the 60th Anniversary Convention of the National Federation of the blind of Virginia are at a frenzy. The agenda will be published later in October and we are really proud of the program we are building together.
To make it truly special, you need to join us and invite some friends to come with you. We need you to help encourage others to participate in this year’s convention.

As a reminder, the southbound bus originally scheduled to depart after convention had to be cancelled due to lack of interest. The twelve prospective passengers who had previously expressed interest will need to find alternative transportation.

Finally, on the point of state convention, remember I am still looking for personal stories, accomplishments and successes, that can be incorporated into the presidential report. The presidential report is a highlight of all our victories across this affiliate family. Please help me showcase the best of our work over the past year. If you have something to share, please do so by Sunday, October 28.

Project RISE Growing State Wide

I am truly thrilled by the success we are experiencing with Project RISE. We had 15 students at our Northern Virginia kickoff event in September. The students learned to barbecue and I was grateful to enjoy the last burger at this vibrant event. We have nearly thirty students signed up for the program and the program is still growing. Our students are having a remarkable experience and they are sharing the program with their friends. Expect to see many of these students at our state convention. If you know students between the ages of 14-21, have them check out our web site: or contact the coordinators at

Please note that in order to fully participate at the Project RISE specific programming at the state convention, we need students to apply to the program in early October. Details on applying online can be found at the web site listed above.

Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute

I am thrilled to share that we have 10 participants in the Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute with the program kickoff event scheduled for Thursday, November 8 at the state convention.

The following individuals are signed up to participate.

  • Naim Abu El Hawa
  • Marc Canamaso
  • Annette Carr
  • Susie D’Mello
  • Mike Davis
  • Brittany Crone Ingram
  • Jimmy Morris
  • Sarah Patnaude
  • Christopher Walker
  • Kathryn Webster

Virginia Affiliate Nominating Committee

All elected officers are up for re-election at the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia State Convention. I am pleased to announce the members of the 2018 Virginia Affiliate Nominating Committee. The committee members are:

  • Fred Schroeder
  • Corlis Jones
  • Domonique Lawless

Virginia Affiliate Audit committee

the following individuals have agreed to serve as the 2018 Virginia Affiliate
Audit Committee

  • Andre Tines, Chair
  • Jacki Brown
  • Sean McMahon

Visiting Chapters

I am excited to participate in the October 13 River and Bay Chapters Walk with the Blind. Hopefully, you can come join with other Federationists at this event or at one of the many Meet The blind events within your local community.

There’s a whole lot going on. Please, make it out to state convention. We would really love to see you, and please bring friends into the family reunion.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“During the past year, the blind of this nation have enjoyed continued success, expanding our participation in all aspects of society. Blindness does not define us or our future, but we are often limited by the low expectations and artificial barriers others put in our way. Despite these barriers, we seek equality of opportunity, and we strive to have full access to the rights and responsibilities afforded to all other Americans. Since 1940 we have found that the most effective means for us to reach full participation in society is for us to work together. When individual blind people come together in local communities, through state organizations, and as a whole in our national movement, we represent an authentic and powerful force for innovation, influence, and inspiration that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Together, we are the National Federation of the Blind.”–Mark Riccobono, President, National Federation of the Blind, from this year’s national presidential report

Platinum Sponsor:
Free Aira Site Access at National Federation of the Blind State Conventions

The National Federation of the Blind has partnered with Aira to provide free Aira Site Access to NFB members during our 2018 state convention. Aira subscribers who are National Federation of the Blind members can use the service at our convention for free without having minutes deducted from their plans. In addition, those interested in Aira have the unique opportunity to try out the service for free while at our convention. This convention-wide, free site access is available only at NFB state conventions, giving NFB members an exclusive opportunity to test-drive Aira in a convention setting.

Aira allows blind individuals to connect via live video to a trained agent through a mobile app or wearable glasses to get real-time visual information or assistance. Learn more about Aira and special pricing available for NFB members at

How it Works

Before you head to convention or as soon as you get there, download the free Aira app from the App Store, and create a guest account if you are not already an Aira subscriber. Also, make sure your phone’s GPS feature is enabled. When you enter the convention Site Access location, your phone will receive a notification letting you know that the space you are in is part of the Aira Network. When you connect with an agent, he or she will also confirm that you are now covered by the network, and no minutes will be deducted from your account.

When you leave or enter convention areas that are covered by the Site Access network, you will be informed by the Aira agent.

To learn more about Aira and the special plan available exclusively to NFB members, visit

Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired: ANNOUNCEMENT OF PUBLIC MEETING

During the fall of 2018, the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) will conduct three public meetings providing stakeholders an opportunity to make comments regarding DBVI programs and services. DBVI seeks input regarding agency strategic planning, development of agency policies and procedures, and implementing services and supports to potentially eligible and eligible individuals who are blind, vision impaired, and deafblind. DBVI is particularly interested in comments regarding the following programs, services, and divisions:

  • Independent Living/Rehabilitation Teaching
  • Low Vision Services
  • Deafblind Services
  • Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired Programs
  • Rehabilitation Technology Services
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce Services
  • Library and Resource Center Services
  • Virginia Industries for the Blind
  • Virginia Enterprises for the Blind

The next public meeting will be:

Fredericksburg Area

In Conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind

State Convention

Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel and Conference Center
2801 Plank Road
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401

November 9th, 2018

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Written and e-mail comments may be submitted prior to December 31, 2018 to:

Susan K. Davis, Policy and Training Coordinator, DBVI
397 Azalea Avenue
Richmond, VA, 23227
804-371-3140/1-800-622-2155 (Voice/TTY).

Individuals requiring interpreters or other special accommodations should contact Susan K. Davis (800-622-2155) at least two weeks prior to the meeting to request the preferred accommodation.

Introducing You to the Hospitality House
By Joe Orozco

Daring to describe the layout of a hotel to a bunch of blind people is, quite frankly, a little daunting. I don’t have the knack Mrs. Jernigan has, and so I’m sure one or two of you will arrive at the hotel property and immediately pick up on three or four things that were poorly described. If my descriptions confuse you, and you get lost, get your phone out and use that Aira service I keep hearing about.

Special thanks to my daughter, Vicky, who ventured out with me to Fredericksburg back in August, in part, to help prepare this description for you.

The hotel is roughly shaped like a U, except the top of the U has a portion that juts out. This protrusion is where Ledos Pizza, the front desk and main lobby, the Palm Room, and Shannon’s Grill are located. In the center of the U shape is the courtyard, swimming pool, and gazebo are located.

Now, let’s break this down a little.

You’ll be greeted by an automatic door at the front entrance. Immediately to your left will be a small seating area. Walk a few steps forward , past this seating area, and on your left will be a pillar and daily events stand. Walk around the pillar, and you’ll be at the front desk. If you were to follow the corridor left of the front desk, you would come to a set of restrooms on your right. Ledos Pizza is at the end of this corridor.

To the right of the front desk is a staircase that will take you to the second floor. When you get to the top of this staircase, make a U-turn, and you’ll end up at the Fredericksburg Ballroom. This is the ballroom students will use for the vast majority of their activities. The only other meeting space we will use on the second floor is the Commonwealth Room, and this will be for the parents’ luncheon and business meeting on Saturday afternoon.

Okay, come back down with me to the lobby. To the right of the staircase is another small seating area. To the right of this little seating area is a short corridor primarily used by staff. The Palm Room, however, is located at the end of this short corridor. The Palm Room will be used on Thursday evening for CLI participants and a couple other breakout sessions, but the important thing to note about the Palm Room is that there are doors in this room that lead out into the courtyard, and cutting through the courtyard is a quicker way to get to the conference center. I’ll describe the courtyard for you momentarily.

Back to the lobby, and to the right of the short corridor is Shannon’s Grill with another small seating area and piano located just outside its doors.

If you’re not confused by now, you’re my new hero. So, let me recap what we have so far. Come in through the sliding glass doors. Walk forward until you find the pillar on your left. I’m going to use this pillar as a reference point. This means that the front entrance is now at your 6:00. The small seating area is at your 7:00 and 8:00. The corridor taking you to Ledos Pizza and the restrooms are at your 9:00. The front desk is at your 11:00. The staircase to the second floor is at your 12:00. The seating area adjacent to this staircase is at your 1:00. The short corridor taking you to the Palm Room is at your 2:00. Shannon’s Grill and the piano are at your 3:00. Described this way, it sounds like a huge lobby. It’s actually not. It’s pretty cozy, but it does feel a little busy considering all the options.

Now, just to tick you off a little, this is the first of three lobbies. This is officially called Lobby 1.

Remember, all of this is located in that protrusion part of the U shape.

Alright, now, if you were to come into the hotel and make an immediate right, you would enter into a long hallway. This hallway is located to the right of Shannon’s Grill with windows running along your right side. The fitness room is located at the end of this corridor on your right, just past an emergency exit door. You’ll know you passed the fitness room if you hit a set of four steps. If you can’t do steps, there is a ramp on your left. Going up these steps will take you into the sleeping quarters and into what is considered A Wing. This is the left side of the U shape.

Stay with me, because after you go up that short set of steps, you are now on the second floor of the hotel. Hey, what can I tell you. This thing was built on a hill.

The first set of elevators will be on this sleeping corridor on your left. That’s right. There are no elevators in proximity to the front desk. Yes, I was perturbed too.

When you hit the soda machine and ice machine on your left, you will make a left into B Wing. You’ll hit a short hall, make a hard right and another hard left, and start down a new corridor. This is the bottom of the U shape, and this too primarily consists of sleeping quarters.

When you get to the end of B Wing, you’re going to hit a dead end. Making a left will take you to additional sleeping rooms. Making a right will empty you out into a large open area that is Lobby 2. There’s another soda machine and snack machine immediately on your right. There’s a large seating area arranged out in front of you.

If you make an immediate left U turn, you’re going to find a staircase leading you back down to the first floor and into what is C Wing, the conference center. This makes up the right side of the U shape.

OK, so at the bottom of the stairs we’re going to use another clock face. This is Lobby 3. At the center of Lobby 3 is a seating area. This is where we will hold our pre-banquet reception on Saturday evening.

The Patrick Henry room is to your right, or 3:00.

There’s a set of restrooms at your 2:00.

The Governor’s Room is at your 12:00. The Governor’s Room will serve as our affiliate office, and I don’t really want you in there unless you are a board member, working registration, working the auction, working exhibits, or got permission from someone working these areas to visit in there. The office will be locked overnight if anything valuable needs to be stored.

To the left of Governor’s Room, at your 11:00, is an elevator. This is the most convenient means to reach the Presidential Suite on the third floor. The only other space we will use on the third floor is the Executive Lounge, which is where childcare will be held.

Now, if you were to come down those stairs and make a left, you’ll be in a long corridor, or C Wing, the right side of the U shape. On your left will be floor to ceiling windows and exit doors that take you out into the courtyard. On your right will be doors leading into the Presidential Ballroom.

When the ballroom is opened without partitions, it is called the Presidential Ballroom. When the partitions go up, the rooms, starting immediately on your right and extending toward the end of the corridor, the rooms are: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. Washington and Monroe, at both ends of the large ballroom, are the larger of the four rooms. Jefferson and Madison are the smaller partitions.

The Washington Room, the partition closest to you, is where the Information Table and Audio team will be stationed. This is also where assistive listening devices can be checked out.

The Monroe Room, the partition farthest away from you down the corridor, is where we will hold the Exhibit Hall.

After Monroe, at the very end of this C Wing, there is a staircase taking you up to the upper floors.

The courtyard can be accessed through doors directly across from Washington and Monroe. The courtyard is a rectangular shape. There is grassy area, a pool, and a gazebo located here. The dog relief area will be directly across the gazebo, but at the time of this writing, I have not gotten a specific pinpoint, so please ask hotel staff to direct you or one of our marshals. They will be told where to find the designated spot.

Remember, the courtyard can also be accessed via the Palm Room. If you go out that way, you’ll come out onto a patio. The patio is on an upper level. You’ll need to walk down steps down into the courtyard level itself.

To use cardinal directions, the Palm Room is at the northwest corner of the courtyard. In the northeast there’s a parking lot and the dumpsters. The conference center, or C Wing, runs along the east of the courtyard. B Wing is at the southern boundary, and A Wing is on the west.

Again, if you get lost, use Aira, or ask one of our friendly marshals to point you in the right direction. Yes, this property is a little more confusing than the Westin last year, but once you get a rough feel for the layout, you’ll be the one helping others get oriented.

It is not about chapter size. It is about chapter effectiveness
By John Bailey, President – Fairfax Chapter

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of visiting many of our state NFB chapters.

One common wish I heard from chapter leaders was that they were frustrated because they didn’t have the membership numbers they wanted. After listening to them for a while, I realized they were comparing themselves to some idealized group with lots and lots of members, resources, and money in the bank.

I can understand their frustration and how easy it is to compare yourself to some ideal. But, the truth is that not every NFB chapter can be a mega chapter. And, that is a good thing.

The vast majority of chapters live in areas with less than ideal transportation options and low blind population densities. This is why there are so few mega chapters. People need to easily and affordably get to meetings and that isn’t always possible everywhere in the state.

So, if you can’t be a mega chapter, does that mean your humble little chapter is a failure? Absolutely not. Here is why.

A chapter is a chapter even if it has less than a handful of members. Limited transportation options and small chapter membership has no impact on how effective your chapter can be in your community. A small chapter can do as much as a mega chapter in terms of educating the public about the ‘truth about blindness’ while giving the local vision impaired a comfortable place to ask questions and have a good time with their peers. In fact, having lots and lots of small chapters throughout the state can be a very good thing. First, we are able to include those vision impaired in rural communities who could really use us. Second, having representation in as many regions as possible gives us clout when it comes to voicing our concerns to our legislators. They love constituents and having lots of chapters gives us that leverage.

The bottom line is, the vast majority of NFB chapters are not mega chapters. In spite of that, they are very effective in their educational outreach to the general public and to their local neighbor blind who need them the most.

Tech it Out! NEW Technology and Food Discussion

Did you see what Hadley’s been up to? Apparently they’re holding monthly conference calls to talk about different technology options. Here’s one of their latest announcements:

Our first Tech it Out discussion on grocery delivery services was terrific! So many of us shared experiences and questions that we didn’t get to the second segment: tapping into online restaurant delivery and cook-at-home meal kit delivery services. So that’s what we’ll do for our next discussion.
Call in and hear a few tips from Hadley and have a chance to share your own questions and experiences with these restaurant and food kit delivery services.

Tech It Out Discussion: Food, Part 2: Restaurant and Meal Kit Delivery

Date: Tuesday, October 30
Time: 8 PM Central
Phone number: (408) 638-0986; Code: 394939348#
iPhone one-tap: US: +14086380986,,394939348#

And for those who weren’t able to join the last call, here’s a link to the recording. Free of Charge. Open to All. Spread the Word.

Ricky Enger,
Technology Learning Expert
“>link to the recording. Free of Charge.

Open to All. Spread the Word.

Ricky Enger,
Technology Learning Expert

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: August-September 2018

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

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

I hope you took some time to enjoy some end of Summer fun with friends and family. We just brought my older daughter down to college for her sophomore year and my younger daughter is getting ready for her senior year of high school. Wow, does time fly.

2018 National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Convention

We are ramping up for the 60th Anniversary Convention of the National Federation of the blind of Virginia. Plans are coming together and you should expect this convention to be extraordinary. But, to make it truly special, you need to join us and invite some friends to come with you. Tremendous effort goes into making the convention experience valuable to all. We need you to help encourage others to participate in this year’s convention.

Details on the convention will be provided throughout the month. Some highlights we can share at this time include:

  • Diamond Anniversary Celebration – Uricka Harrison, Sarah Patnaude, and Joe Hobson are planning special events for our 60th Anniversary.
  • National representative – Our national Representative, James Gashel, will be truly inspiring. Jim has been a key player in many of the major decisions of the past 50 years and he has a powerful understanding of where we have been and where we are going.
  • Training Opportunities – Dan Wenzel, Director of Blindness Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND Inc.) our NFB training center in Minnesota, will be joining us for this year’s convention. We will have presentations on Project RISE, Summer Work Experiences, and the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired.

We are currently working on the agenda and will provide the full agenda in October.

Southeast Regional Student Seminar

The Southeast Regional Student Seminar, held August 10-12 at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, was a powerful experience for the 50+ students from across 10 states. It was a pleasure to work with student leaders on Friday morning for a great program to grow their leadership potential. Robert Parsons, President of the Virginia Association of Blind Students, played a key role in the planning of this outstanding event and there were over 10 Virginia students and many leaders from across the Commonwealth invested in the programming. John Bailey joined me in working with students on Friday evening and Saturday and everyone had a blast. The students were really impressive and they were eager to learned from leaders and share their experiences.

Project RISE goes State Wide

Our pre-employment transition service for students 14-21 is now running 2 concurrent tracks. Based on the success of our Northern Virginia pilot, we are continuing with the Northern Virginia program running 1 Saturday a month between September and May with summer work experiences. Additionally, we are launching a state-wide program where students will meet quarterly (at events like the state convention and a weekend at the Jernigan Institute) and will work with our mentors throughout the year to develop their skills. We want to share details on the program with all eligible students and encourage people to go to our Project RISE web site, or contact the coordinators via email,

Please note that in order to fully participate at the Project RISE specific programming at the state convention, we need students to apply to the program in September. Details on applying online can be found at the web site listed above.

Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute

As voted upon at our August 4 affiliate board meeting, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia will shortly be launching the Chapter Leadership Institute, a training program designed to cultivate tomorrow’s leaders at the chapter and affiliate levels. The Chapter Leadership Institute (CLI,) will replace the former Leadership Fellows Program as well as the Virtual Chapter Retreat. The Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute (CLI) is a bit different from past programs because we are not convinced we have all the answers in-house. We will balance use of Federation leaders and outside resources to grow chapter and affiliate leaders. Our focus is strong and vibrant chapters where we have many people sharing the load and working together.

Growing leaders in our movement is essential to our organizational success. It is vital to the continued success of our chapters and the Virginia affiliate. Most leaders in our movement remember that someone invested time and effort to develop them into the leader they are today. We know this is important to each chapter’s continued evolution and vitality. Chapter presidents have been tasked to recommend people for the program by September 15. If you yourself are interested in being considered for the program, I encourage you to please have a candid conversation with your chapter president.

The CLI will be coordinated by Joe Orozco of the Prince William Chapter and Domonique Lawless of the Richmond Chapter, both of whom have experience working for the Federation at various levels of the organization.

Visiting Chapters

It is an honor to participate in chapter programs and activities. It was a pleasure to participate in the 8/18 Potomac Chapter Auction and the Greater Alexandria 8/26 Strategic Planning Workshop.

Please let me know what your chapter is up to and maybe I can attend.

As always, I am encouraged and inspired by the work of our affiliate. You are a very important part of changing the lives of the blind. Please continue working alongside me. I believe together we really can bring about improvements anywhere our blind brothers and sisters meet challenges.

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

2018 NFB of Virginia Scholarship Program
By Brian Miller, NFB of Virginia Scholarship Chair

Deadline – Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 11:59pm

The NFB of Virginia is pleased to announce the launch of its James F.
Nelson merit scholarship program for the academic year 2018-2019. Up to three scholarships of $1500.00 will be awarded based on academic achievement, community engagement, and leadership potential.

The NFB of Virginia believes that all blind and visually impaired students who apply for one of our scholarships can benefit from the experience of attending the state convention. As such, the NFBV will cover reasonable costs associated with attending the convention for all eligible applicants, including a room at the hotel shared with a fellow scholarship applicant, most meals, and the cost of registration and a banquet ticket. Scholarship applicants should work with their local chapter to explore transportation options, and should notify the scholarship committee if they encounter difficulties. Applicants are expected to pre-register in order to signal their intention to attend the state convention and to assist the scholarship committee to make hotel reservations.

To be eligible, all applicants must:

  • Be legally blind or have a visual impairment that qualifies them to receive services under IDEA or from a state vocational rehabilitation program;
  • Be a resident or be attending an accredited institution of higher education full-time in Virginia;
  • Plan to pursue a full-time, postsecondary course of study in the
    2018-2019 academic year; and

  • Participate in the entire NFB of Virginia state convention and in all scheduled scholarship program activities to be held November 9 to 11, 2018, in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

To obtain an application, go to

For a Word version of the application, email our scholarship chair.

Convention Operations Report
By Joe Orozco, Chairman

My name is starting to pop up more frequently in your inboxes. Sarah is cranking up the social media channels. Tracy is fighting extra hard not to look his age. It must be state convention season!

Alright, here are the main highlights:

Convention Registration

There are 3 ways you can pre-register for the convention.

1. Register online via the Brown Paper Tickets site.

2. Call Toll Free: (800) 838-3006 to speak with a Brown Paper Tickets representative.

3. Download the Pre-Registration form from our convention landing page and mail it with payment included to:

NFB of Virginia
3230 Grove Avenue
Richmond, VA 23221

By pre-registering, you will save $10 on the registration fee and $5 on your banquet ticket. Pre-Registration ends on October 26.

Remember, if you pre-register, you are automatically entered into a drawing for $100.

Hotel Accommodations

The Convention will be held Friday, November 9 through Sunday, November 11 , 2018. Take note that programming will begin at 9 AM Friday morning, so take advantage of the discounted rates to arrive Thursday evening, if your schedule allows.

Hotel information is as follows:

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. When you call the hotel, make sure to tell them that you are attending the convention so that you will receive the special convention rate. 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.

Future Conventions

I know, we’re not even out with this year’s state convention agenda. Yet at our August board meeting we took the opportunity to announce the location of future conventions. We plan far in advance in order to identify and seize the best rates at some of the better properties.

In 2019 we will be hosting the state convention at the Renaissance in Portsmouth.

In 2020 and 2022 we will be rejoining our friends at the Westin in Tysons Corner. Hotel rates are steadily increasing, and so we took advantage of a multiyear agreement to keep the rates below $90.

We have temporarily tabled discussion on 2021. Part of our site selection will depend on local chapter development.

With the convention being held in Northern Virginia as often, we will need to revisit the way host chapters shoulder the financial burden of providing hospitality. At our August board meeting a proposal was raised that would have asked each chapter to contribute a set amount to ease the load on the local organizations. The proposal failed on a tie. If you have ideas on minimizing the cost for hospitality, please talk to Tracy or bring them for discussion in November.

Sponsorships and Exhibits

Following closely on the heels of that last point is the matter of sponsorships. If we create a robust enough program, we will be able to minimize the financial burden on our affiliate and chapter treasuries. Please, if you have any contacts at companies with an interest in investing in our programming, Annette Carr needs to be introduced to them. If you need talking points or ideas on how to approach businesses, please let us know.

Learn more about our Sponsorships and Exhibits program, and help us cultivate new partners in our shared mission to help the blind of Virginia.

Northern Virginia Bus for the 2018 State Convention
By John Halverson, President, Potomac Chapter

The National Federation of the Blind 2018 state convention is rapidly approaching. It will be held in Fredericksburg Virginia from November 9-11. It has been suggested that we arrange a bus to go from Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg and to return to northern Virginia at the conclusion of the convention.

During week days there are many opportunities to take either Amtrak or the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) from DC, Arlington or Alexandria to the convention. However on Sunday, November 11, after the convention concludes, Amtrak is limited to an early evening train and the VRE does not run.

Please let me know by October 1 if you are interested in sharing the cost of a bus.

There are three options:

  1. No bus.
  2. A bus going both ways.
  3. A bus returning to northern Virginia on Sunday, November 11.

If we do not get a strong response, we can only assume that people are not interested in a bus either way. We speculate that the Sunday North bound bus is viable but we need you to contact me to let me know you are interested.

John Halverson
703 379-1141

Project RISE is Now Available Statewide

We are excited to announce that Project RISE (Resilience, Independence, Self-Advocacy, and Employment), our program for transition age youth ages 14 to 21 will be starting it’s second year in September and is now offering programming state wide.

Please note that the deadline to participate in the Project RISE programming at convention in November is September 20. If you have any questions, please email or call (203) 273-8463. You can also visit the Project RISE website at

Resilience | Independence | Self-Advocacy | Employment

Blind students ages 14-21 throughout the entire state ofVirginia will have the chance to interact with and form lasting relationships with young successful blind professionals, who have overcome many of the obstacles placed before blind students and now are eager to teach their younger peers how to conquer life.

The statewide program will meet four times throughout2018-2019. Students will have the opportunity to further develop skills such as travel, home management, and technology through interactive and hands on workshops and community activities.

Through mentorship and a positive environment, students of all ages will learn how to communicate effectively with teachers and employers to ensure they receive the tools they need to succeed in school, and the work place.

Students will share their educational and career goals andProject RISE will help them reach those goals through, resume and interview workshops, and placement in summer internships or jobs that interest them. Join us in this journey toward independence, confidence, and success! Blindness will never hold you back.

For any questions or to secure your spot Email:, Visit, or call: (203) 273-8463.

How to be More Popular
By John Bailey, President, Fairfax Chapter

I was honored to be a part of the South Eastern Division weekend held at our National Center in Baltimore in early August. It was great to catch up with old friends and make lots of new ones.

One of the activities during the weekend I particularly found interesting was the breakout session where the students talked about the challenges they were facing and the ensuing conversations about how to resolve them.

One particular conversation that really caught my attention was where a student shared how hard it was to make friends and how challenging it was to get more socially active. This desire was shared by lots of their peers.

The problem sounded very familiar because this was the same challenge I had growing up vision impaired. It was tough being a part of the sighted community because you were not like them And, I didn’t know anyone else who was blind. It felt pretty lonely at times.

That all changed when I entered college. I met up with fellow students who really seemed to have it all together. They were interesting, popular, and were always being invited to parties and other social events. Two of them were my roommates and they were the Student President and Vice President. By watching them and following their examples, I was soon able to greatly improved my social situation.

The people I emulated were masters at being popular and here are the five actions they took that made them be people you wanted to hang out with.

Act Confident.

I have heard the phrase, “Confidence is sexy” many times and it is true. Even if you don’t look like a movie star or wear the latest clothes, being confident overcomes all that and more. But, how do you act confident if you don’t feel it? The answer is simple and with practice, people will begin to perceive you as self assured.

I said “act” confident on purpose. The first step in becoming more confident is by pretending you are. Act as if you felt cool calm and collected even if you don’t feel it. This will become easier over time because of all the positive feedback you will be getting from your new friends.

Listen more than talk

Every one wants to feel that they have something to say and you listening to them makes them feel good. And, that is what making friends is all about. When talking to others, spend most of your time listening. People will like you a lot more because you care enough to hear their thoughts.

Give and give some more

Friends help each other. So, don’t be stingy with your assistance. Make an effort to do something nice for every person you meet. Again, if you show interest in them, they will show interest in you.

Be the party!

Don’t wait to be invited to parties, host your own event and invite others. You know how being invited to something makes you feel special. What if you were hosting a party and made others feel special by inviting them. Making others feel special makes you special too.

Remember to smile

Because this is last on the list doesn’t make it any less important. When you smile, others will smile too. There is scientific research that shows that when you smile at someone, a part of their brain fires and they get good feelings about you. Smiling also communicates that you like them. People want to be liked. Smile while you are spending time with people and they will want to spend more time with you.

Wanting to be more socially accepted isn’t just a “blind problem”. It is a part of human nature to be liked and to have lots of friends. The actions I talked about will work for anyone who wants to better connect with others.

The bottom line to making friends is to make them feel special. If you make it a practice to be a better listener, be there if they need help, or just inviting them to an event, you will soon find yourself with lots more friends and much more satisfying relationships.

Quick tips-Making Our Meetings and Workshops More Accessible, Productive, and Fun
By Jeremy Grandstaff, 2nd Vice-president, Greater Alexandria Chapter

At the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV,) we have a number of meetings. At chapter meetings for example, we invite people to come to learn about NFBV, engage more effectively in our work, and to learn more about our own abilities to transform our lives to achieve what we want.

This month’s quick tip is about helping us be more intentional and successful with our meetings. Whether a chapter meeting, or committee meeting, or even a conference workshop (just another type of meeting), Here our five quick tips to help us achieve success with our meetings, which will then keep people engaged and coming back from more.

1. Plan the meeting: Identify the overall purpose, the agenda, who we need to target, and information we can send in advance for people to be most prepared. Using a small team to help us answer these questions makes it even better.

2. Have a strong and interactive agenda: Identify the logistics of our meeting, each agenda item, and for each agenda item, determine the purpose of that discussion and any ways that we can get people interacting with each other to achieve that purpose.

3. Send reports in advance and share with attendees: Ask committee chairs to give you brief reports that can be included in the agenda and preparation materials. This allows the meeting to stay focused on questions and dialog, making things more interactive and exciting.

4. Have at least one item each meeting that asks people to dialog with each other: by creating a space for small group discussion, all participants at our meeting or workshop will better process information, engage in the ask, and pay more attention. Having a speaker at an upcoming meeting? Ask them to talk for 10 minutes, break people apart to discuss what they heard, and then hold the Q&A of the speaker (we will notice a difference in the dialog and Q&A).

5. Have a great closing: Leave people with excitement about what’s happening after the meeting and make sure we have asked people to lead action items. Also, ask for some people to check out of the meeting by sharing one thing we are taking away from the discussion. Make it Fun and exciting that we came to your meeting.

At NFBV, it is critical that we bring confidence, excitement, and a collaborative spirit to our work and ensuring we are engaging new members at effective meetings will help us do just this. Here is an additional resource that might help: cheat sheet for effective meetings. We’re always hear to help our leaders succeed, so be sure to let us know how we can help.

Hadley: The Hidden Gem for Blind Entrepreneurs
By Joe Orozco

Reprinted from my personal blog.

After the economic bust in 2008 many people went into business for themselves, and while it is always a good idea to be educated on the nuances of planning and launching a new business, you don’t necessarily need a full college degree.

These days online education is nothing unique. Anyone can take advantage of sites like Khan Academy and Udemy to take courses in specific topics. In fact, for anyone, blind or sighted, interested in various online learning options, check out this helpful article from The Simple Dollar. For blind computer users, however, it’s nice to count on a service like Hadley you know is always accessible.

If you’re blind, interested in starting a business, and have not given Hadley some thought, it’s time to reconsider it.

From their website:

Founded in 1920 by William Hadley and Dr. E.V.L. Brown, Hadley offers courses free of charge to its blind and visually impaired students and their families and affordable tuition to blindness professionals. Today, Hadley is the largest provider of distance education for people who are blind or visually impaired around the world, serving more than 10,000 students annually in all 50 states and 100 countries. Hadley is also the largest educator of braille worldwide. A 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, the school relies on contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations to fund its programs.

I want to turn your attention to Hadley’s Forsythe Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship. The curriculum is broken into modules with specific concentrations ranging from social security, tax and accounting to legal, marketing, management and communications. While I have not seen any prerequisite requirements, I myself began, and would strongly recommend, the Self-employment with a Minimal Investment course as a starting point, because it provides a great panoramic picture of planning a business strategy.

Among other online courses, they offer:

  • Accounting for Small Business
  • Business Communications
  • Business Ethics
  • Business Fundamentals
  • Business Insurance
  • Business Law 1
  • Business Law 2
  • Business Writing
  • Market Research
  • Marketing: Conveying a Message

The online courses are all fully accessible with screen readers. It’s possible to stop and come back to your previous place in a module. The exams are laid out in a straightforward manner, and when you’re asked to submit assignments from your computer, the instructions are straightforward.

In fact, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my Hadley experience. For no good reason, a dim part of me figured the courses were either too basic to be of any value or the instructors would be average at best. On the contrary, the class material has always been of solid caliber. The exams are well-balanced, and the instructors have always shown a firm handle of their subject. Without exception, they have been very responsive to e-mails and phone calls.

If anything, I sometimes wonder if Hadley is selling itself short. I take courses around my busy work schedule. If I had to pay a tuition fee, even a nominal amount, I might take my pace a little more seriously. The quality of instruction is so solid that you wonder if there’s a catch.

From the novice entrepreneur to the veteran, I think there’s plenty to be taken away from Hadley’s business-oriented adult learning curriculum. It proved beneficial in helping me draft a marketing strategy and revamp my overall business plan for my freelance business. I wish they would advertise their services a little better. I might very well be living under a rock, but I think Hadley could be making the mistake that blind people everywhere know it exists and what it offers.

If you’ve been talking about starting a full or part-time business but never got around to planning it; Hadley’s courses are an excellent means of taking that first crucial step.

Chapter and Division Announcements

Peninsula Chapter Annual Cookout

From Tasha Hubbard:

Hey there! Hi There! Ho There!

I know where I’ll be on 9 15 guess where?

At the annual cookout hosted by the Peninsula chapter

Full of fun, games, music and much laughter

Come from far and wide to join the celebration

Don’t you want to come help build the federation

So, aren’t you glad you asked?

Now, I’ll leave you with one small task….

Hmm What’s it going to be?

Just to please RSVP

And if you can’t make this particular celebration

No worries, we’ll gladly accept donations

When: September 15, 2018

Time: 1:00-5:00(or until you get tired)

Where: Deer Park Shelter 1 11523 Jefferson Ave. Newport News, VA

Cost: $10

Please RSVP by September 8, 2018 via email to:

Please send donations to Care of Nathan Branch

NFBV Peninsula Chapter
316 NanTucket Place Newport News, VA 23603

Walkathon in Colonial Williamsburg

From Corlis Jones, President, Greater Williamsburg Chapter

Walk With the Blind!

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

When: Saturday, October 13, 2018

9:00 AM: Registration Opens

10:00 AM: Kick Off

Where: Starting at the Capital Building (end of Duke of Gloucester St.), Colonial Williamsburg

Registration: $15

Sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay, Greater Williamsburg, Peninsula, and Tidewater Chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

“Living the Lives We want”

For more information, contact: Corlis Jones at phone: 757-565-1185, email: . Please make checks payable to NFBV and send them to: Carroll Bailey, 4700 Newport Forrest, Williamsburg, VA 23188

VABS Bowl with the Blind

From Robert Parsons, President, Virginia Association of Blind Students

Greetings Students and Virginia Federationists

With the fall season swiftly approaching, the season of advocacy is upon us once again. Yes, the month in which the nation’s blind raise awareness of our effectiveness and presence in local and national communities is finally returning. October is national meet the blind month and like our fellow affiliates, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is hard at work in preparing their local events to marry awareness and camaraderie between chapters, friends, and family. Last year, the Virginia Association of Blind Students executed their first meet the blind month activity with “Bowl with the Blind, “to overwhelming success and support. As a sign of future great annual events to come, VABS will be returning with this annual culminating event. The details are below:

Title: VABS “Bowl with the Blind.”

Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018

Time: 1pm-4pm

Price: $10 (Covers Three Games and Shoe Rental)

Where: Pin Boys at the Beach
1577 Laskin Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23451

Stay tuned for ride share and car pool opportunities from Northern Virginia and Richmond. This year, VABS will be raffling a Google Home Mini during the event. Ticket prices for the prize will be $1 or five tickets for $3. If you would like to register for this event, please contact Robert Parsons at 804.801.7674 or . I look forward to connecting with all of you in October.

NFB Pledge

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

2018 NFBV Convention Registration now Available

The 2018 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia will be held Friday, November 9 through Sunday, November 11, 2018 at the Fredericksburg Hospitality House, located at 2801 Plank Road, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401. To make hotel reservations, call the hotel directly at (800) 682-1049 or (540) 786-8321. Special room rates have been negotiated for registered convention attendees. When you call the hotel, make sure to tell them that you are attending the convention so that you will receive the special convention rate. The deadline to make hotel reservations is Friday, October 26, 2018. After the deadline, there is no guarantee that you will get a room at the convention hotel.

Child care is available to the children of registered convention attendees (ages infant through 5th grade) during 6 sessions of convention. These sessions are:

  • Session 1 Friday morning 8:45 am to 12:15 pm
  • Session 2 Friday afternoon 12:15 pm to 5:15 pm
  • Session 3 Friday evening 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
  • Session 4 Saturday morning 8:45 am to 12:15 pm
  • Session 5 Saturday afternoon 12:15 pm to 5:15 pm
  • Session 6 Saturday evening 6:45 pm to ½ hour after banquet adjournment

Snacks will be provided during Sessions 1, 2, 4 and 5. Even though child care will be open and fully staffed during lunch on Friday and Saturday, lunch will not be provided. Parents should either pick their child up for lunch at the end of Sessions 1 and 4 or provide a lunch for their child to eat in the child care room. Also, dinner will not be provided on Friday or Saturday evening. Parents should feed their child dinner prior to bringing them to Sessions 3 or 6. The cost of child care is $10 per family per session. If you need more information, please contact

Please indicate the number of children per session on the Convention Pre Registration Form.

On Friday and Saturday, box lunches will be available for a cost of $17.00 if purchased in advance on the convention pre registration form. Box lunch tickets are specific for each day and are not interchangeable. Box lunches can only be guaranteed for those purchased on the convention pre registration form. A limited number may be available for purchase at the convention.
On Saturday, student lunches will be available for a cost of $7.00 if purchased in advance on the convention pre registration form. Student lunches can only be guaranteed for those purchased on the convention pre registration form. A limited number may be available for purchase at the convention.

To register for the convention, you may do one of the following:

For more information about the contvention, visit our State Convention page

2018 Scholarship Application Now Available



The NFB of Virginia is pleased to announce the launch of its James F. Nelson merit scholarship program for the academic year 2018-2019. Up to three scholarships of $1500.00 will be awarded based on academic achievement, community engagement, and leadership potential.

The NFB of Virginia believes that all blind and visually impaired students who apply for a James F. Nelson scholarship can benefit from the experience of attending the state convention. As such, the NFBV will cover reasonable costs associated with attending the convention for all eligible applicants, including a room at the hotel shared with a fellow scholarship applicant, most meals, and the cost of registration and a banquet ticket. Scholarship applicants should work with their local chapter to explore transportation options, and should notify the scholarship committee if they encounter difficulties. Convention related expenses will be reimbursed or covered by the affiliate at the convention. Please notify the committee if you do not have access to a credit card or other means of covering pre-convention costs. Applicants are expected to pre-register in order to signal their intention to attend the state convention and to assist the scholarship committee to make hotel reservations.

The Scholarship Committee will review all applications and select the scholarship recipients. All decisions of the Scholarship Committee are final.

Please read all instructions carefully and pay close attention to the deadlines.

To be eligible to receive a James F. Nelson scholarship, all applicants must:

  • Be legally blind or have a visual impairment that qualifies them to receive services under IDEA or from a state vocational rehabilitation program;
  • Be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia, or be attending full time an accredited institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia;
  • Plan to pursue a full-time, postsecondary course of study in the 2018-2019 academic year; and
  • Participate in the entire NFB of Virginia state convention and in all scheduled scholarship program activities to be held November 9 to 11, 2018, at the Fredericksburg Hospitality House, in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Individuals who have already won two James F. Nelson scholarships should contact the scholarship committee chair before applying. The intention of the committee is to not award scholarships more than twice to the same individual except in extraordinary circumstances. Exceptions to this policy will only be made by decision of the committee chair and the NFBV affiliate president.

Completed scholarship applications and all supporting documentation should be sent to the NFB of Virginia scholarship committee Chair Dr. Brian R. Miller, at

with the words “scholarship application” in the subject line.

Deadline: Applications must be received no later than 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 25, 2018.

Applicants must submit at least one letter of recommendation from a teacher, professor, counselor, or academic advisor who is familiar with their scholarship. Applicants are encouraged to provide additional letters of recommendation or references, including from employers, individuals working in the applicant’s field of interest, or leaders from the blind movement or other groups engaged in social change advocacy. Letters of recommendation may be submitted in email form.

An electronic copy of the applicant’s transcripts must be provided in support of the application. Unofficial transcripts in PDF form from the accredited institution are acceptable.

Download 2018 Scholarship Application form.

The Vigilant: July 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

Fellow Federationists,

The 2018 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind was fantastic. Our affiliate truly came together to share warm Virginia hospitality with 2,500 Federationists across the country and the world. In this month’s newsletter, we share, in part, our appreciation for the tremendous efforts of all the affiliate members who invested time to make the convention a success for us all.

In December 2017, the affiliate officers and chapter presidents discussed the commitment required to host a National convention. We were a little nervous but decided to step forward anyway. The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia truly stepped up and helped make the convention experience better for everyone.

Welcome Concert

One of the highlights of this year’s convention was a special Welcome Concert featuring APL.De.Ap of the Black Eyed Peas and numerous Federation musicians. Making the concert a success required tremendous effort across a diverse team from the Virginia, Iowa and Florida affiliates. Kathryn Webster was instrumental in the planning and preparation for the concert. Sandy Halverson sold many tickets at the SUN table and Sean McMahon collected funds from everyone in our affiliate. There were many people selling tickets at the Welcome Table and the Host Affiliate Hospitality Suite.

Additionally, many people worked the event on July 6 including the following:

  • Marion Patnaude,
  • Dale Patnaude
  • Sarah Patnaude
  • Janet Shields
  • Alesia Meredith
  • Alex Castillo
  • Asia Hurtado
  • Montrell Rodgers
  • Uricka Harrison
  • Portia Baskerville
  • Fred Schroeder
  • Bernie Werwie
  • Susan Benbow
  • Amir Rahimi
  • Chimere Roberts.

Visiting chapters

On June 21, I had the pleasure to attend the meeting of our Fairfax chapter. The meeting was a blast and we all learned from each other. Please let me know what your chapter is up to and maybe I can attend.

August 4 NFB of Virginia Board meeting

Our next meeting of the Board of Directors will be held at the DBVI Library and Resource Center in Richmond. The meeting will be held on Saturday, August 4 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. We are trying a later time to help people address the Summer traffic challenges. The Virginia Association of Blind Students will be offering lunch starting at 12:00 PM, creating an opportunity to relax with friends over lunch before the meeting starts. Let’s see if this timing works well.

If you have topics for the agenda, please reach out to me.

As always, thank you for everything you do to make this affiliate, this organization, what it is. Truly we could not do it with out you.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“How liberating it is to learn that it is just as safe to talk about our struggles as it is our successes and that we are not lesser Federationists because sometimes we hurt about things we have lost. What a relief to know that on some days all of us have to work hard to see the beauty in what lies ahead rather than dwelling on what was in the past and will never be again. The love that characterizes our movement is so abundant and is here for the taking by those of us still struggling with the loss of sight. This affirmation has meant the world to those of us who want to acknowledge what we feel and what we fear. At the same time we have come to know that many members in the organization we love have felt the same way and yet have come to put blindness in a place that does not define them or their future. In our fellow Federationists’ listening ears we find hope, and in their examples we are strengthened in our determination. There is a place for us in the NFB, and knowing that place allows us to be ambassadors to others who have hurt as we have hurt and doubted as we have doubted.”–Debbie Wunder, Transition to Blindness: A Conversation That Should Happen in the Federation from the July 2018 Braille Monitor

Thank You, Convention Hospitality Workers
By Nancy Yeager

The Virginia affiliate, along with Iowa and Florida, Hosted this year’s NFB Convention in Orlando. As one of our activities, we hosted the NFB Hospitality Suite on July third and sixth. The suite welcomed convention attendees, by offering snacks, beverages and providing a place for visitors to relax, reconnect with old friends and make new ones, many of whom were first time attendees.

Our efforts would not have been successful without the participation and support of many of our members.

As Hospitality Suite coordinator, I want to personally thank all of you who gave your time to this important activity. I particularly want to thank:

  • Sarah Blumberg;
  • Sean McMahon;
  • John Halverson;
  • Earl Everet;
  • John Bailey;
  • Tracy Soforenko;
  • Mausam Mehta;
  • Joanne Wilson;
  • Harold Wilson;
  • Michael Kasey;
  • Sandy Halverson;
  • Joy Relton;
  • Joe Hobson;
  • Mary Durban;
  • Uricka Harrison;
  • Sara Patnaude;
  • Brittany Fraer;
  • Theresa Willis;
  • Elizabeth Willis;
  • Felicia Willis;
  • Amir Abdolrahimi;
  • Montrel Rodgers;
  • Oscar Montiel;
  • Phuong dang;

2018 National Convention-The Table Chronicles
By Earl Everett

Greetings Fellow Federationists.

We are just getting back from what was a very exciting, informative and inspirational National Convention in Orlando, Florida. With Virginia along with Iowa and Florida being the host affiliates, we were provided 1st hand experience with the hands-on day to day operations of a national convention. In addition to being part of the planning of the opening ceremonies, we were involved in putting together the Hospitality Suite, Welcome Concert and the two that I was personally involved with, the Welcome Table and the Virginia Table.

I would like to give my heartfelt thank you and my appreciation to those Virginia Federationists who made the Welcome/Information Table a rousing success. Those individuals were:

  • John and Sandy Halverson
  • Tracy Soforenko
  • Nancy Yeager
  • Bernie Werwie
  • Mausam Mehta
  • Dr. Fred Schroeder
  • Michael Kasey
  • Mark and Melody Roane

You guys did an extraordinary job and I couldn’t have done it without you.

We also had our own Virginia Affiliate Table which I had the opportunity to manage. We were able to sell out famous Virginia Peanuts, our earbuds and a new item: a genuine leather carry bag that did quite well. Again I would like to thank the individuals that helped out by serving a shift or two at our Table.

  • Tracy Soforenko
  • Mary Durbin
  • Elizabeth Willis
  • Montrell Rogers
  • Annie Archer
  • Theresa and Felicia Willis
  • Robert Parsons
  • Gerald Meredith
  • Mausam Mehte
  • Yasiah Hurtado
  • Dr. Fred Schroeder
  • Uricka Harrison
  • Michael Kasey
  • Portia Baskerville
  • Chimere Roberts
  • Sarah Blumberg
  • Sean McMahon
  • Nancy Yeager
  • Rodney Neely
  • Sandy Halverson, who was our on call person

Hopefully I did not leave out anyone, but if I did it was not intentional. You all did a great job and made the Virginia Affiliate proud.

All in all the Convention was fantastic and I encourage everyone that can attend to come to the State Board meeting on Saturday August 4 to hear the reports from the various departments. I enjoyed it so much that if I am asked to manage the Affiliate Table at our next National Convention, I would gladly say yes. It was a definite learning experience for me and hopefully I did a good job for our Affiliate. Thank you once again and I look forward to seeing you all at the Board Meeting.

The Culmination | Project RISE Pilot Concludes with Bells Ringing!
By Arielle Silverman

During the weekend of June 8-10, Project RISE students gathered with our mentors and volunteers at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore. There, we experienced a weekend of Federation philosophy, learning, and fun.

We kicked programming off Friday night with some team-building activities where small groups of students and mentors built balloon towers and went on a scavenger hunt through the building. On Saturday, the students did interactive workshops on budgeting, public speaking, self-advocacy, dressing for success, and how to “brand” themselves. They practiced elevator pitches, and had lively debates about blindness philosophy. However, our favorite part of the event was watching the students experience two Jernigan Institute traditions. On Saturday evening, Dr. Maurer showed us how to grill using sleep shades, and on Sunday morning, John Bailey taught us how to break boards using our bare hands-and the symbolism of breaking down barriers was not lost on our students.

We are very grateful for President Riccobono and all the staff at the Jernigan Institute for their hospitality to us. Huge thanks also to John Bailey, Bryan Duarte, Robert Parsons, President Soforenko, and our devoted mentors who worked hard to make the weekend a success: Susie D’Mello, Evelyn Valdez, Marc Canamaso, Sarah Patnaude, and Derek Manners.

Since this was our last official Project RISE event for this season, we asked the students their thoughts on the program as a whole.

One student said, “For me, it’s about the people that I meet. It’s about the people I’m able to connect with and the relationships I’ve formed, especially the mentors, they’ve been huge role models in my life and they’ve shown me what I can achieve.”

Our first season of Project RISE has been an overwhelming success! We certainly instilled the power of freedom bells in our students. We are gearing up for year 2 – a 12-month program for transition-age youth beginning in September. This coming year, the program will expand beyond the Northern Virginia area. More to come on that, but get ready for personal and professional development for students ages 14-21 throughout the Commonwealth!

If you are interested in getting more involved as a mentor or volunteer, contact the coordinators, Kathryn Webster and Arielle Silverman, at, or 203-273-8463.

State Convention 2018: Fredericksburg on the Horizon

With the National Convention now in our rear view, it is time to shift our focus to state convention.

First, everything you need to know about dates, hotel location, deadlines, and so forth can be found on our convention landing page. This page will be steadily updated with additional details in the coming weeks, so please bookmark the URL:

Second, if you have suggestions for the convention program, please bring them to the board meeting on August 4. If you cannot make the board meeting, please kindly email those to President Soforenko.

Finally, our sponsorships program has gone live! We are eagerly counting on you to help Annette Carr and her team find, pitch, and secure sponsorships for this year’s convention.

Pulling off a state convention requires many hands. We want to thank the Fredericksburg Chapter in advance for their willingness to host the affiliate. We also want to thank the many volunteers across the affiliate who will be recruited in advance to help oversee various aspects of the program in order to make this a fulfilling and worthwhile experience for you.

If you have any questions in advance about logistics, please email me.

Cordially yours,

Joe Orozco, Convention Operations Chair

News Items in Brief

The following is a list of items that may be of interest. They are not direct endorsements by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia.

VFO, Owner of JAWS® Screen Reader, First to Implement Aira Access for Products – Aira

Today, VFO and Aira announced a new collaboration that will now equip all VFO customers with free use of the Aira service should they need visual access to a screen while using one of their products, such as the JAWS® Screen Reader. This new integration was driven by community data, with the goal of providing access to any information on a computer screen the specialized software may not able to interpret, while simultaneously increasing the user’s efficiency and prioritizing the features driven by the data. The integration will also help Chloe, Aira’s AI agent, to learn the gaps in the software powered by its trained human agents. Read more.

Google renames TalkBack app to Android Accessibility Suite with latest update

One of Android’s primary accessibility features is a tool called “TalkBack” that provides spoken feedback for anything on a screen so that visual impaired users can navigate devices. Google today renamed the assistive service to the Android Accessibility Suite. Read more.

Envision brings the visual world to life for blind people

Checking the time, buying something in the supermarket or simply spotting a friend from afar. All these require sight. Using artificial intelligence, Karthik Mahadevan’s (27) company, Envision, makes visual information accessible to the visually impaired. Read more.

Freedom Scientific partners with Computers for the Blind to give the best computing experience to those who need it

Nothing pleases us more than to learn how our technology has assisted our customers to realize their potential on the job, at school or in the community. We also regularly give back to the community by partnering with organizations serving the blind community who make a difference. So, when we had the opportunity to partner with an organization that makes a difference by putting empowering technology in the hands of people who may otherwise not be able to obtain it, we thought it was the perfect fit. Read more.

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: 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.


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: 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:

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.

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:

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.


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.


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:, 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:

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 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.