Category Archives: State Convention

State Convention

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.

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

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

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

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

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

From the Hospitality House website:

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

More Details Coming Soon!

The Vigilant – November 2017

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

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

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

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

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

Yours in Federation service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Inspiration

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

The letter from HHS Secretary follows:

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.

State Convention for Seniors

The 59th Annual State Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia incorporates ways that blind seniors are active, fulfilled and enjoy

Through presentations and discussions, newly blind individuals will learn that by using alternative techniques, they can confidently function as they did when they were sighted.

Seniors in Charge

On Friday morning, hear from seniors who have learned the alternative techniques to live independently and truly enjoy life.

Emergency Preparedness

On Friday afternoon, learn about how to create a plan for an emergency and overcome obstacles should an emergency occur. Learn from others and keep in control.

Winning Them Over with Professionalism and Poise – An Etiquette Dinner

You are cordially invited to attend the inaugural Etiquette Dinner presented by the NFB of Virginia on Friday evening. At this dinner, you will be educated
on the ins and outs of appropriate etiquette in both professional and social dining settings. Learn alternative techniques for dining to help you be more
comfortable in more formal settings.

Note: This event requires pre-registration.

Saturday Seniors Division Lunch

Seniors and their families are invited to join other seniors for fellowship and connecting with others who have learned alternative techniques to thrive.

Saturday Seniors Division Meeting

Participate in discussions and presentations on such topics as: hearing loss; transportation; Senior activities around
the country; and low impact exercise.

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Convention combines excellent networking with positive blind role models, fellowship with old and new friends across the Commonwealth, and some of the best presentations on topics important to the blind of Virginia.

Details on convention registration and hotel reservations can be found at:

State Convention for Students and Parents

The student programming at the 59th Annual State Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia will incorporate innovative ways for students and youth to get engaged and prepared for academic, community, and social success.

For Older Students:

Beginning Friday, November 3, attendees will have the opportunity to network with other high school and college-age members in a social setting, participate
in student business meetings and elections at the annual student luncheon, and take part in informative discussions and workshops with state and national
student leaders. On Sunday, November 5, the students and youth will take part in a collaborative self-defense course that can expand the minds and bodies
of the participants. This course also will give students a chance to work with younger children and influence leadership skills in them for the future.

Here are a few details we can share for students from the convention Agenda:

Winning Them Over with Professionalism and Poise – An Etiquette Dinner

You are cordially invited to attend the inaugural Etiquette Dinner presented by the NFB of Virginia on Friday evening. At this dinner, you will be educated
on the ins and outs of appropriate etiquette in both professional and social dining settings. From knowing which fork to use, to how much to tip, and even
appropriate dinner conversation. these are just a few of the things that will be discussed. There will also be an “Ask Ms. Manners”
portion at the end.

Friday Night Student Track Membership

Kick off with Ice Breakers and games to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to meet each other.

Youth Slam

Learn from a participant in the 2017 NFB Youth Slam, a 2-week STEM program on Towson State University.

Virginia Association of Blind Students

Learn about the exciting programming of our student division including the Successful Summer Student Blowout in June.

Project RISE

Learn about Project RISE, the NFB of Virginia’s exciting pre-employment mentoring program for students ages 14-21 from the organizers of
the program then attend the Open House for students and parents to learn more and get your questions answered.

Saturday Break Outs

On Saturday at 1:30 pm, we will have a series of 30-minute breakout sessions, including panel discussion and open forums. We will
have national and state guest speakers.

Self-Defense Program

Our Sunday morning, Youth Track program is offering an engaging, hands-on introduction to martial arts open to students of all ages. Mr. Wilson Olivera and students from the Full Circle Integrated Martial Arts School will be joining us for some lessons in practical self-defense.

For Younger Students

NFB BELL Academy

Learn from the participants in the 2017 Braille Enrichment for Literacy & Learning (BELL) Academies in Arlington and Harrisonburg.

Braille Carnival

Friday evening, there will be fun games and an opportunity to connect with younger students and parents throughout the Commonwealth.

For Parents

Virginia Department of Education

On Friday morning, hear from John Eisenberg, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services about
ways to help your student get a quality education.

Lunch with John Eisenberg

Grab a boxed lunch and Join Mr. Eisenberg in the Presidential Suite for a Friday afternoon question and answer session to tap
his advice and suggestions on navigating services for your child.

On Saturday, learn from parents who have overcome obstacles and have improved the services for their children to get their child a better education.

Saturday Virginia Parents of Blind Children Lunch

Meet with parents from throughout Virginia and identify ways to help each other and your children.

Do You Dream in Color?

On Saturday, join us for a screening of the critically acclaimed film Do You Dream in Color? about four inspiring blind students and their journeys. This will be followed by an opportunity to ask questions to parents and NFB leaders. We will also discuss how the NFB can help students
achieve their dreams in a discussion facilitated by Brian Miller and Fred Schroeder.

Students under 18 participating in our programming must complete the attached Student Track registration form and bring it to convention signed by a parent or guardian.

2017 Youth Track Registration Form

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Convention combines excellent networking with positive blind role models, fellowship with old and new friends across the Commonwealth, and some of the best presentations on topics important to the blind of Virginia.

Details on convention registration and hotel reservations can be found at:

State Convention Highlights for Working Age Adults

The 2017 NFB of Virginia Convention agenda is coming together. This convention highlight message focuses on topics for working age adults.

Working age adults will benefit from a remarkable set of programs, including:

Friday Afternoon

Living the Collaborative Life You Want – How Blind People Strategize to Work in a Visually Oriented Workplace

This year’s NFBV 2017 Friday technology
seminar will focus on how blind people effectively collaborate in the workplace, be it remote, virtual or face-to-face with their peers. We will have an
interactive and panel discussion about the technology and alternative techniques used by blind professionals to enhance their productivity on the job.
In addition, participants will get the opportunity to apply the skills discussed in an interactive collaboration exercise.

Eyes on You: Dress, Connect, Impress –
Increasing the Social and the Professional You by Maximizing your Wardrobe Potential, Cultivating Relationships, and Leaving an Everlasting Impression

This Friday afternoon seminar will focus on how you present yourself, both professionally and personally, to achieve
your goals, promote your brand, and make a strong impression on others.

Friday Evening

Winning Them Over with Professionalism and Poise – An Etiquette Dinner

You are cordially invited to attend the inaugural Etiquette Dinner presented by the NFB of Virginia on Friday evening. At this dinner, you will be educated
on the ins and outs of appropriate etiquette in both professional and social dining settings. From knowing which fork to use, to how much to tip, and even
appropriate dinner conversation. These are just a few of the things that will be discussed. There will also be an “Ask Ms. Manners”
portion at the end. For this portion of the evening, you will have the opportunity to anonymously ask those burning questions that you may be too afraid or embarrassed to ask out loud. Simply write down your question in either braille or large print, bring it with you to dinner, and get the answers you
seek! Registration is limited, so pre-register to secure your seat. A limited menu will be defined from the Westin’s Blue Fire Grill and participants will
be responsible for paying for their menu selections. The dress is business casual. Out of respect for all participants and our presenters, you are expected
to arrive promptly. This is going to be a wonderful event, and well worth your time. The techniques you learn at this dinner are sure to add a finishing
touch of class to your business persona and make you that much more desirable within the job arena. Remember you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. So, let’s learn and grow together!

Saturday Afternoon

Upward Mobility Lunch

One of our engaging Saturday lunch sessions will focus on individuals who are early in their career and trying to grow to move up the employment ladder. Whether you are a young professional, seeking to change careers, or trying to figure out how to find and partake of new opportunities,
join us to connect and discover ideas for your future.

Getting the Job Done – Advancing Your Job/Career Prospects

Our Saturday afternoon career workshop will focus on helping you get and grow on the job. Whether you are a job seeker, a new employee, or someone trying to advance in the evolving workplace, this dynamic workshop will provide you the skills to navigate with greater confidence. We will combine great presentations, interactive sessions and the opportunity to learn from our peers to help you
succeed. This year’s seminar will focus on self-reliance, private sector solutions, and charting your own path. Key areas of focus will include resume
and cover letter critique, mock interviews, overcoming obstacles in the workplace, and networking best practices.

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Convention combines excellent networking with positive blind role models, fellowship with old and new friends across the Commonwealth, and some of the best presentations on topics important to the blind of Virginia.

Details on convention registration and hotel reservations can be found at:

Apply for the Expanded NFB of Virginia College Scholarship & Attend the 2017 NFBV Convention On Us

From Brian Miller, NFB of Virginia Scholarship Committee Chair



The NFB of Virginia is pleased to announce the launch of its James F. Nelson merit scholarship program for the academic year 2017-2018. 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, most meals, and the cost of registration and a banquet ticket. Scholarship applicants will be reimbursed for these expenses at the convention, so 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 2017-2018 academic year; and
  • Participate in the entire NFB of Virginia state convention and in all scheduled scholarship program activities to be held November 3 to 5, 2017, at the Westin Tysons Corner, Falls Church, 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,
  • E-mail:

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

Deadline: Applications must be received no later than October 1, 2017.

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.

Link here to download a copy of the 2017 scholarship application

Why Parents and Students Should Attend the 2016 NFB of Virginia Convention (11/11 – 11/13)

Highlights for students and their parents:

  • Braille Carnival

    An exciting hands on Friday evening carnival for students of all ages.

  • Friday Student Social

    An engaging and interactive student social for students from middle school through college.

  • Saturday Student Breakfast

    with President Kasey in the Presidential Suite

  • Student Division Luncheon /Travel Excursion

    Paired with role models and peers, this travel excursion outside of the hotel led by and for students to connect with peers and organize programming for themselves.

    Since this excursion is outside of the property, students should not order the lunch offered through convention registration. Please see details below on the student luncheon.

  • Saturday afternoon Students programming

    Learn about how your peers are participating in sports and fitness, clubs and other leadership opportunities, and getting the training they need to succeed in school and beyond.

  • Parents Division Luncheon and Parent Track

    Connect with parents from across Virginia committed to advocating for their children and ensuring high expectations for their kids. Meet positive role models and tap the network of parents who are making things happen for their children. Learn about how to best advocate in the IEP process, technology for your student, how your student can engage in student run programming across the country, engage in sports & fitness in the community, and options for training on the alternative skills of successful blind people. Box lunch is recommended for parents attending this program.

  • Sunday Scavenger Hunt and Philosophy Chat

Additionally, in the General Session, there are great programs for parents and students including:

  • A Panel of parents of Blind Children Sharing how parents are advocating for their children while teaching their children to advocate for themselves.
  • Learn from positive blind role models who are running their own businesses, pursuing their dreams, and leading the way for blind people across America.
  • Learn about the accomplishments we are making together to advance the rights of the blind in Virginia, across the country and internationally so we can all live the life we want.

If you are going to attend the convention and you are planning to take part in our student programming, please send an email to the Virginia Association of Blind Students (VABS) secretary, Jennifer Shields, who will be able to count you in the running for door prizes and add you to the list for the luncheon on Saturday, November 12. Her email address is:

We would like for all students to confirm if they are coming or not by Friday, October 21, 2016 in order to have an accurate count of how many students to expect. When you send the email, just include the following in the message body:

  1. Your name
  2. Your Chapter
  3. The days you are attending convention
  4. Your favorite pizza topping

Those participating in the youth track under the age of 18 must also complete, sign, and bring the below Youth Track Registration form to convention.

Click here to download the 2016 Youth Track RegistrationForm

Our hotel room block and reduced pre-registration pricing closes October 18 so act right away to reserve your space.

Link Here to the post for details on Convention Registration and Hotel Reservations

We hope you can join us.

Highlights of the NFB of Virginia November 11-13, 2016 Convention for Working Age Adults

Working age adults will benefit from a remarkable set of programs Including:

  • Take Charge: Strategies for Success

    It’s More than just about a paycheck! – Whether you are pursuing your first job or you have been in your career for thirty years, this Saturday afternoon seminar is for you. In a competitive job market, learn about the tools that will empower you to take the next step toward achieving the career you want! Through interactive engagement, you will hear from presenters and other participants about their secrets for Success. By taking an active role in securing your first job or advancing in your career, learn how to become the indispensable employee! Explore strategies to position yourself to become the employer if that is your dream!

  • Social media Introduction or Advanced Seminar

    Sign up for one of two Social Media Seminars for beginners or advanced users. Danielle Trevino, Coordinator of Social Media and Member Engagement at our national headquarters will lead these interactive sessions to help participants take advantage of Facebook and Twitter. Pre-registration for these sessions is required and seating is limited.

  • Microsoft, Apple, and Google – O My!

    Christopher O’Meally, Chair

    The battle of the Technology giants is real, but which one will you pick? Join a host of presenters at this Friday afternoon seminar as they help you dive into all of the major operating systems across computers and mobile devices.

  • Back to Basics: Dating, Relationships, and Culture:

    Uricka Harrison and Deepa Goraya, Co-Chairs

    This Friday afternoon seminar will explore a variety of topics surrounding blindness and its intersection between dating, relationships, and culture. Through panel discussions and breakout sessions, we will cover dating as a blind person, challenges and experiences with dating a blind person versus a sighted person, marriage and parenting as a blind person, issues surrounding blindness and culture and how that affects how you view blindness and how it is perceived by others, how culture and blindness affect your dating life and relationships, experiences using online dating sites, dating as a blind senior, experiences with traveling as a blind individual with your sighted or blind partner.

  • Blind Parents: Raising Kids as a Blind Parent

    Jessica Reed and C .J. Fish, Moderators

    This Saturday luncheon will be a discussion to address the techniques blind parents are using to raise their children throughout all facets of life. Come with your questions and our panelists will be ready to answer them.

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia convention combines excellent networking with positive blind role models, fellowship with old and new friends across the Commonwealth, and some of the best presentations on topics important to the blind of Virginia.

The cutoff date for hotel rooms and pre-registration is October 18 .

Please join us in Virginia Beach.

Link Here to the post for details on Convention Registration and Hotel Reservations