Category Archives: Students

The Vigilant: May/June 2019

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

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

Our national convention is fast approaching and the convention agenda is really impressive. We hope you are planning to join us at our national family reunion.

Virginia Caucus

If you have had the opportunity to glance at the agenda, you know that we have a packed week planned. However, I want to bring your attention to an annual event.

Please plan to join us at the Virginia Caucus on Monday, July 8 at 10:00 PM in Tradewinds D.

Come meet our McDonald Fellowship and Jernigan Scholarship finalists as well as our National Scholarship finalists. Participate in our banquet exchange. Learn about the happenings across our various affiliate programs and enjoy fellowship with other Virginians and guests from across the country

Visit the Presidential Suite at National Convention

On behalf of President Riccobono, I want everyone to know that they are welcome and encouraged to visit the Presidential Suite during our national convention. While the room number is not yet listed, please make certain to visit the suite where you will find snacks, leaders from across the country and sometimes president Riccobono. If you would like to schedule a time to meet with President Riccobono, please contact the suite and request an appointment. Due to the hotel security, you will need someone to help you get to the floor where the Presidential Suite is located. There will be people assigned to work the elevator to help people get to the suite. For example, I am working the suite on Sunday, July 7 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. I would be glad to escort you to the suite and help you get a snack. However, there will be defined team members who will be assisting our members to the suite throughout convention. Make us work and visit the Presidential Suite.

Membership Coins

I have just received the Virginia affiliates order of special NFB Member Coins. We will be holding a special event in Virginia to honor our members and distribute the coins at our state convention. This decision, made at our May board meeting, might mean that you might not have a coin if challenged at national convention. We will have a few coins at the Virginia Caucus to pass around but we want to make receiving the coins meaningful.

Fundraising at the Virginia Table

Earl Everett is organizing our Virginia Table in the exhibit hall. The table is D2. We need your help working at the table and helping to sell our exciting products.

  • NFB Coin Holders – As I am certain you have heard, all NFB members will be receiving a new NFB Member Coin in 2019. This year, we will be selling special coin holders so you can attach your coin to a necklace or key chain and wear your coin proudly. The coin holders, made of stainless steel, are custom made and specifically sized for the NFB Member Coin.
  • Virginia Peanuts
  • Maxell Ear Buds using a 3.5-millimeter connector

However, to sell these products, we need people actively selling our products in the hallways and at the Virginia table. To sign up for a shift, please contact Earl Everett,,, (804) 252-8998.

Earl has asked people to provide your preferred times by June 24.

New Website

We are working hard to revamp with a new design a new content. The new site uses a new technology platform which will allow us to expand our web presence and leverage new tools. We hope to use the web site for new web forms and more exciting web content. Our goal is to have a fully built out web site as we start to market our state convention in August. We will be eager for your feedback and are grateful for the collaboration between Communication Committee Chair Sarah Patnaude, Joe Orozco and Cathy Schroeder. Please thank them for this good work and feel free to share your suggestions.

August 17 NFB Board of Directors Meeting in Arlington

As agreed at our May 2019 board meeting, our Summer Board of Directors meeting will be held during the afternoon of Saturday, August 17 in Arlington. While the meeting will include a focus on planning our state convention, we will be joined by a national leader. It is important for our members to connect with our national leadership so we want you to plan to attend. Concurrent to our board of directors meeting, there will be sessions next door for the students attending the Southeast Regional Student Seminar. If people wish to stay overnight, we will have a negotiated room rate with the hotel. More details to follow shortly.

We are quickly approaching the peak season of our work in the Federation. Please do not feel left out. Reach out and talk to your chapter leadership, or talk to me. You should always feel welcomed and needed. There is plenty of work for all.

I very much look forward to seeing some of you in Las Vegas. I look forward to seeing others in Northern Virginia in August. Please know I am very grateful for what you do. Thank you for working alongside us in building the Federation.

Sincerely yours,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“Let the word go out from this place and this moment that the torch has been passed to a new generation of blind Americans, a generation born in this century and fully belonging to it, a generation committed to the belief that all men (seeing or blind) are capable of independence and self-direction, of attaining equality and pursuing happiness in their own way, of serving each other and helping themselves of walking alone and marching together.”–President Kenneth Jernigan, 1968 Banquet: Milestones and Millstones

Year 2: Reflections on RISE
By Kathryn Webster

Our second year of Project RISE was a resounding success! During the 2018-2019 academic year, 32 students from across the Commonwealth joined us in confidence building, personal and professional development, mentorship, and constant engagement. We continued the program in Northern Virginia initiated last year, with monthly Saturday sessions where students led and participated in activities, including cooking, arts and crafts, independent travel, and sports. We also executed quarterly weekend sessions, where our Northern Virginia students were joined by students from Richmond, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville, and Williamsburg. Even more exciting, our Virginia RISE participants got a special opportunity to learn and grow alongside transition-aged students in Mississippi and Nebraska by way of our National Mentor Program.

From day 1 to the culmination, we witness our Project RISE students developing newfound skills and confidence in their comfort with blindness and career readiness. Moreover, we are thrilled to welcome several of our students into our local NFB chapters and the Virginia Association of Blind Students (VABS), and thus our greater movement. In fact, five of our Project RISE students were elected to the VABS board this year. Our members welcome the Project RISE students into our Federation family with open arms, and our state leaders admire their initiative, ambition, and fresh perspective as we work to build our affiliate.

This year’s success would not have been possible without the patience, dedication to youth, and hard work of our mentors: Joe Orozco, John Bailey, Evelyn Valdez, Marc Canamaso, Jeremy Grandstaff, Jimmy Morris, and Sarah Patnaude! We deeply appreciate all of our volunteers across the state, who offered their time, resources, energy, and assistance during our programming. Overall, the success is evident and we are enthused to dive into year 3 as we challenge misconceptions, break down barriers, and invigorate our youth to make the impossible…possible.

As we gear up for another year of Project RISE, we continue leaning on our members and leaders for shared resources and knowledge. If you are interested in mentoring, volunteering, or providing ideas or suggestions to our programs, please contact us at Mentor applications are open from June 15 to July 15, 2019, with student applications already being accepted. Let’s transform dreams into reality; and let’s start with our Virginia youth!

Project RISE: From Low Expectations to High Impacts
By Lizzy Schoen

Resilience, Independence, Self-Advocacy, Employment: that is what the RISE in Project RISE stands for. Going into the program, I had low expectations; everything I had done so far had not prepared me for what I got. The power of Project RISE is not in the curriculum, though it is extremely beneficial, it is in the people who you meet and the lives the mentors are willing to share with you and teach you to attain.

From a young age, a blind person is taught two universal truths that, though probably not said out loud, are said by actions:

  • Your blindness is something to be ashamed of and
  • We don’t have faith in your ability to succeed.

These messages were things I latched onto and I still find myself fighting them. With these messages in my head, I still worked hard. I did my school work and participated in extracurricular activities and when I was told an accommodation was unreasonable, it didn’t happen whether my grades suffered or not. I smiled, waved, never showed that I was suffering from the pressure of being perfect and normal and not blind anything but blind.

That lack of acceptance was growing and becoming more of an issue now that I wanted to be independent. I wanted to take the bus, but I couldn’t see the bus numbers, and from the times of 8am to 7pm I couldn’t travel outside alone. Then, right when my frustration was beginning to boil to the surface and my friends got their driver’s license: I got my cane.

Well… I got my cane in middle school, but I didn’t use it until Project RISE because when I got there I saw adults who went to school and lived alone and had office jobs. I learned that Braille might be, something to pursue and I met some of the most influential people in my life today.

The mentors helped me realize that what I was thinking wasn’t productive or healthy. They helped me realize just because I could see minimally doesn’t mean I could see well, or I should act like I can. It has been almost a year since I started using my cane and 6 months since I was elected Vice President of the Virginia Association of Blind Students. I am still learning, I am still growing and still realizing that not everything is my fault.

None of this would have happened without the help of my mentors and friends. People like Kathryn Webster, who has encouraged me and pushed me since day 1. She teaches me that whatever stage you are at you can still pull yourself up by the bootstraps and make it through, both successfully and resiliently. Evelyn Valdez encourages me to be myself and not let anyone push me around. Jeremy Grandstaff and his infectious personality and love of pep-talks that don’t only inflate your ego but help teach problem solving techniques. None of this would have happened without the support of the NFBV, and with the support of thousands of blind people I know that my future may not be certain, but it is bright.

First Annual Amy Barns Scholarship Recipient

The Winchester chapter is pleased to announce that we have awarded the Amy Barns scholarship in the amount of $600 for a student who is attending Mary Baldwin university in the Shanadoah valley area.

The scholarship committee interviewed the student and she is majoring in public health policy. She is going into her senior year and we wished her well in her future endeavors and to live the life she wants!

Congratulations to the student. She will be joining us at our state convention in November.

Calling All Blind Parents!
By Jessica Reed, Coordinator, NFBV Blind Parents Group

The next blind parents conference call will be held on June 30 at 8:30 PM. Details follow:

Dial: (218) 339-0926.

Pass Code: 2019#

Recently I came across a meme on Facebook that said “Being a parent is hearing a noise at 3:00 am and hoping it’s an intruder and not your kid waking up.” This quote couldn’t be more true! Parenthood can be exhausting, and mentally and physically draining. It taps into one’s reserve they never knew they had. At times parenting is staring uncertainty and fear in the face and plowing it over. It is no secret that the pressure on blind parents is magnified exponentially by both societies assumption that the blind cannot safely raise children and blind parents believing they can, but just not knowing how.

Nationally, as well as on the state level, the NFB is making significant strides in bridging the gap by both educating blind parents with practical alternative techniques related to blind parenting.
Beginning in February, “The Nation’s Blind” podcast has devoted its episodes to blind parents. Those of us with small children know that we just have no time to sit and do a google search or research “How does a blind person feed their child?” A podcast allows for multi-tasking. The most recent episode addresses the alternative techniques on just this issue. They are short 30 minute podcasts where blind parents can receive a number different strategies to help with the very specific alternative techniques blind parents use daily.

On a state level, I highly encourage readers to spread the word in their chapters about the Virginia blind parenting group, which holds monthly conference calls to discuss blind parenting issues specific to our state. This is a brand-new initiative to address and support the blind parents of Virginia. We are working towards holding “How to” events, brainstorming ideas for the legislative committee on finally getting past protection of blind parents in child custody cases, and connecting blind parents with other blind parents in their area. We invite parents, as well as any perspective parents and childcare providers and anyone interested in learning more to join both our Facebook group NFBV BlindParents2, as well as subscribe to our email list. With this fast paced and rapidly changing world the NFB is evolving to meet the need of blind parents and getting out the information that can help in easing the unknown of blind parenting. It is a travesty that in 2019 blind parents have the very real fear of having their children taken from them by child protective workers who simply are not aware of how we as blind parents perform the mundane daily childcare tasks. The resources above also aim to begin a productive conversation between blind parents and social workers, who both want nothing more than safe and loving homes.

Remember, the call is next Sunday, June 30. Dial in using the information above. Hope to talk to you then!

Volunteers Needed for Research Study

Women with Disabilities Needed as Volunteers for
“The Rural Safety and Resilience Study” (The RSRS)

You qualify to participate if:

  • You are at least 21 years old
  • You experienced abuse or violence at least one or more years ago while living outside a major metropolitan area. Abuse includes physical, sexual, or emotional threats to your personal safety
  • You had the disability before the experience of violence
  • Your disability makes a difference in how you see, hear, learn, understand, or move around

This study involves an interview to gather information about women with disabilities who have experienced violence and abuse, while living outside a major metropolitan community. The goal of this research is to learn more about how women with disabilities who have experienced violence learn about, select, and access help when they live outside a major urban area. This research will also highlight strategies women with disabilities use to keep going, or build resilience. Information from interviews will help create awareness of this problem, and will lead to important recommendations for organizations that provide services to other survivors with disabilities.

You will receive a small payment for your time and participation in this study.

Please call or text Kimberly Aguillard (Principal Investigator) at (713) 487-7640 or email her at to learn more. Please write RSRS in the subject line.

* Note: Kimberly will be available at the phone number above during the national convention if eligible participants are willing to be interviewed then.

This research study has the approval of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Institutional Review Board.

Are You Following Someone Else’s Dream?
By Joe Orozco

Too many young people wind up in jobs they hate because they followed someone else’s advice about how to use their talents. You would think that after a certain age we would be capable of making major choices independent of the influence of family, friends, or career guides, but too often we allow someone else’s well-intentioned promptings to steer us in directions we would never have chosen for ourselves.

As a child my father thought I would make a good concert pianist. I love the piano and will one day master it, because it is equal parts challenging and relaxing, but playing the piano is fun for me so long as it remains a hobby.

That’s the first lesson: Learn to separate your passion from your leisure. Your passion usually wants to satisfy others, whereas your leisure only has to satisfy you. I love to write, and one day I hope to publish books to inform and entertain you. Other people may enjoy writing but are content to preserve their thoughts in a journal. I also love music, but I would never want to join a band and tour the world.

Later in my young adult years my friends and teachers thought I would go into the legal profession. I went to a magnet high school for law enforcement and legal professions where I began doing well in mock trial tournaments. At my senior prom I was voted Most Likely to Become an Attorney, and in college I kept up the momentum by competing in speech and debate. I love the art of persuasion, but I confess to having felt intimidated by the sheer volume of lawyers competing for the few positions that could justify the enormous student debt, especially at the height of the recession in 2008.

The first advice I would offer from my own experience is that you should not let the economy rule your passion. Sometimes we can blame circumstances for taking the first offer that presents itself. A single parent, for example, would be less likely to quibble about job satisfaction when the survival of their family depends on their paycheck, but we should never stop setting goals. While today’s excuse for a mediocre job is putting a meal on the table, tomorrow’s excuse may simply be a fear of change. In my case, the legal competition may be fierce, but in a real competition you cannot deprive other people of the freedom to reject you.

The second piece of advice I would offer is that you need to take a holistic view of the career you think you want to enter. My love of debate does not mean I would love a career in law. There are human beings behind every argument, and I was never capable of reconciling my feelings on guilt or innocence after reading Seymour Wishman’s Confessions of a Criminal Lawyer. Anything short of criminal litigation seemed dull to me, but it took many years for me to realize that the reason I still wanted to be a lawyer was to please everyone else’s expectations of what I should be.

How many college graduates are you aware of who studied one field and are now working in another”? I know a lady who studied biology as an undergrad and is now a vocational rehabilitation counselor. I know a guy who studied music and is now working in the health industry. I myself studied public policy and spent several years working in nonprofit development. These inconsistencies speak to a larger question about how we invest our time and money, but for the purposes of the current discussion, did we stray away from our original college interests because those interests were uninformed or because they were never really our interests to start?

Sometimes you can shove your passion into a career path and make it work. For several years grant writing satisfied my drive for persuasion. After all, grant writing is nothing more than a fierce competition for winning money for a cause, but I have long since given up plans to be someone else’s vice-president of development. The point is, managing a store is not the same as owning it. Playing a video game will not get you closer to designing one. Anything less than the job you dream is just a wish.

Dr. Daniel Levitin, a neurologist, once wrote that it takes a combined 10,000 hours to master a task. If what he says is true, then it would take you 250 work weeks to master a task. Do you really want to spend almost five years practicing to become great at something you’re not emotionally invested in?

Learn to take command of your own future. Just because you enjoyed shooting hoops in high school does not mean you need to carry the game into professional sports. Just because a teacher complemented your drawing does not mean you have to be the next Picasso. You were born with a certain set of talents to help the world, but when you come home, you need something else to help recharge your spirit.

Are you pursuing your own passion? If you caught yourself just in time, where were you previously using your energy, and what made you make the switch? Whatever else you may take away from this post, remember life is too short and expensive to harvest someone else’s dream. It’s never too late to make a change.

NFB Pledge

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

The Vigilant: January-February 2019

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

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

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

Legislative Activity

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

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

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

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

Accessible Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art

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

Virginia Chapter leadership Institute

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

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

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

Braille Readers Are Leaders

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

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

Grades 4-5

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

Grades 9-12

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

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

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

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

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

2019 National convention

The 2019 NFB National Convention is an experience you do not want to miss.
Many of those who have attended our national NFB conventions are amazed at how meeting and interacting with over 3000 other blind and low vision convention attendees has positively changed their lives. They not only learn how the problems of vision loss can be overcome, but also experience the confidence that comes with solutions.

If you have never attended a convention, we offer two programs to assist you in attending the convention and getting the most from the experience.

A) McDonald Fellowship organized by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia; and
B) Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship run by the National Federation of the Blind

First time convention attendees are strongly encouraged to apply for both.
Below the description of these two separate programs, you will find details on the process for requesting assistance if this is not your first convention.

McDonald Fellowship from the NFB of Virginia

Robert and Marian McDonald selflessly contributed to our Virginia affiliate to further the progress and better the lives of those who are blind, visually impaired, and low vision in Virginia. In their honor, we recognize the personal benefits that come to people who attend a national convention for the first time. In their memory, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) continues their legacy of education and empowerment to Virginia’s blind citizens.

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

The McDonald Fellowship program was established in 1998 to assist those who have never attended a convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) or those who have not attended in many years and wish to come to a convention this year.

Federationists are welcome and encouraged to apply for both the Virginia specific McDonald Fellowship and a National Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship.

We will link each of our Fellowship winners with mentors who will assist them in getting the most out of their national convention experience.
McDonald Fellowship winners are expected to attend the entire NFB convention and share their experiences by addressing our 2019 NFB of Virginia state convention.

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

Your application should be in the form of a letter delivered via electronic mail. There is no specific form for the application. Applicants should write a brief letter outlining reasons why they should be considered for a Fellowship and the letter must include:

A) Name, Address, phone and email contact information
B) Chapter or other connection with the affiliate
C) How you will benefit from the experience
D) How you have participated with your chapter or the affiliate in the past year
E) Any other pertinent details

In addition, you are required to contact your Chapter President or an affiliate Board Member for a letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are due by Monday, April 15, 2019.

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

Mary Durbin, Chairman
McDonald Fellowship Committee
Phone: 757-472-2495

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

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship

Allen Harris is the chairman of the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee and was one of the people who came up with the idea of honoring our former president and longtime leader by establishing a program to promote attendance at the national convention, where so much inspiration and learning occur. Here is Allen’s announcement about the 2019 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Program:

Have you always wanted to attend an NFB annual convention but have not done so because of the lack of funds? The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund invites you to make an application for a scholarship grant. Perhaps this July you too can be in the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, enjoying the many pleasures and learning opportunities at the largest and most important yearly convention of blind people in the world.

The three biggest ticket items you need to cover when attending an NFB national convention are the roundtrip transportation, the hotel room for a week, and the food (which tends to be higher priced than at home). We attempt to award additional funds to families, but, whether a family or an individual is granted a scholarship, this fund can only help; it won’t pay all the costs. Last year most of the sixty grants were in the range of $400 to $500 per individual.

We recommend that you find an NFB member as your personal convention mentor, someone who has been to many national conventions and is able to share money-saving tips with you and tips on navigating the extensive agenda in the big hotel. Your mentor will help you get the most out of the amazing experience that is convention week.

Who is eligible?

Active NFB members, blind or sighted, who have not yet attended an NFB national convention because of lack of funding are eligible to apply.

How do I apply for funding assistance?

  • You write a letter giving your contact information and your local NFB information, the specific amount you are requesting, and then explain why this is a good investment for the NFB. The points to cover are listed below.
  • You contact your state president in person or by phone to request his or her help in obtaining funding. Be sure to tell the president when to expect your request letter by email, and mention the deadline.
  • You (or a friend) send your letter by email to your state president. He or she must add a president’s recommendation and then email both letters directly to the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Committee. Your president must forward the two letters no later than April 15, 2019.

Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:

  • Your full name and all your telephone numbers-label them-cell phone, home, office, other person (if any);
  • Your mailing address and, if you have one, your email address;
  • Your state affiliate and state president; your chapter and chapter president, if you attend a chapter;
  • Your personal convention mentor, and provide that person’s phone numbers;
  • Your specific request, and explain how much money you need from this fund to make this trip possible for you. We suggest you consult with other members to make a rough budget for yourself.

The body of your letter should answer these questions:

How do you currently participate in the Federation? Why do you want to attend a national convention? What would you receive; what can you share or give? You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances you hope they will take into consideration.

When will I be notified that I am a winner?

If you are chosen to receive this scholarship, you will receive a letter with convention details that should answer most of your questions. The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things before that to be prepared to attend if you are chosen:

  • Make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel the reservation. (Yes, you may arrange for roommates to reduce the cost.)
  • Register online for the entire convention, including the banquet, by May 31.
  • Find someone in your chapter or affiliate who has been to many conventions and can answer your questions as a friend and advisor.
  • If you do not hear from the committee by May 15, then you did not win a grant this year.

How will I receive my convention scholarship?

At convention you will be given a debit card or credit card loaded with the amount of your award. The times and locations to pick up your card will be listed in the letter we send you. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist you by obtaining an agreement to advance funds if you win a scholarship and to pay your treasury back after you receive your debit or credit card.

What if I have more questions? For additional information email the chairman, Allen Harris, at or call his Baltimore, Maryland, office at 410-659-9314, extension 2415.

Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention on the national level and join several thousand active Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world. We hope to see you in Las Vegas.

Financial Assistance to attend the 2019 National Convention

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

We want everyone to plan this into your calendar and your budget so you can be there to join us.

If you are a first-time attendee, we strongly encourage people to apply to both the McDonald Fellowship and Kenneth Jernigan convention Scholarship programs which target first time convention attendees.

Every year, the affiliate president will receive a few requests for convention assistance from affiliate members. I am putting some ground rules in place to help clarify expectations.
If you are planning to request assistance, please send your request to me in email. Your request should factor in the following:

A) What are my total expected costs: What should I expect to pay for convention factoring in expected costs for travel, lodging, meals, and a banquet ticket and convention registration? I have no idea how much it costs to get from your home to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. You need to do the research. In addition, the banquet is a highlight of the convention and you don’t want to miss it. Many people choose to share rooms and you will start seeing roommate requests posted to our announce list starting soon.

B) What can I afford myself? No one will be going to convention for free. The Jernigan Scholarships and McDonald Fellowships do not provide all the funding for convention for first timers. Individuals requesting financial assistance should expect to make a significant contribution to your convention expenses. You should be factoring in this expense into your budget.

C) What is my chapter contributing? Your chapter is a resource for financial assistance. Do not come to the Virginia Affiliate requesting financial assistance if you have not asked your local chapter. I will be following up with chapter presidents to understand how you are contributing at the chapter level to programming and fundraising.

D) How much are you requesting from the affiliate? After considering other sources, how much are you requesting from the Virginia affiliate. Please note that we do not provide funding in advance. Mark Roane will provide funding at convention but you need to work locally to get your travel and room expenses addressed. You should definitely expect to attend the Virginia Caucus, probably Tuesday evening, July 8 at 10:00 PM to receive the financial assistance. It is not Mark’s job to hunt you down at convention and it is not Mark’s job to provide you funds as you walk into the hotel. However, Mark will gladly sell you some Virginia Peanuts.

Speaking of selling, fundraising is the means through which we have the resources to provide financial assistance. When I talk to your chapter president, I am checking to determine if you are engaged in the chapter and affiliate fundraising. We will certainly be selling items at the Virginia table at convention and you will be expected to help with that activity if you receive financial assistance. You should also plan to participate in working the Independence Market and other responsibilities as we all work together to make the convention a success. You should be hustling throughout convention and afterward back in Virginia to sell our products to fund our movement.

We are asking that requests are submitted no later than June 1, 2019. You should be planning in advance, booking your hotel room and taking advantage of the early registration pricing.

We want everyone to join us in Las Vegas and we hope this guidance clarifies the process. However, if you have questions, I am glad to address them.

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

Yours sincerely,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calling All Blind Parents
By Jessica Reed

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

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

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

The call information is:

Call in number: 218-895-6875

Access Code: 2018

Top Ten Benefits of Being a Blind Parent
By Jessica Reed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facts about Blindness … According to Me
By Joe Orozco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is one of the most misunderstood aspects about blindness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you ever get depressed because of your blindness?

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

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

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

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

How do you cross lighted intersections without help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you handle household chores as a blind person?

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

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

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

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

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

NFB BELL Academy – Placing Hands on the Future

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

Harrisonburg, Virginia – July 28 – August 2, 2019

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

For more information contact:

Nancy Yeager


Beth Sellers

Announcements From Winchester

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

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

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

Explore. Connect. Attend NFB EQ!

Attention Blind and Low-vision Students:

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

Enriched experiences. New friendships. More independence.

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

The Specs

Who: 30 blind and low-vision teens

What: A weeklong summer engineering program

When: June 16-22, 2019

Where: Baltimore, Maryland.

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

How: Apply Now!

Applications are due March 17, 2019.

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

Additional Information

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

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

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

What Are People Saying About NFB EQ?

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

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

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

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


Send them to:


Phone: 410-659-9314, extension 2418

Mail: National Federation of the Blind

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

NFB Newsline: Tapping Your Knowledge

NFB-NEWSLINE Subscribers,

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

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

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

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

Join Zoom Meeting on your computer or mobile device.

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

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

Tech it Out on Accessible Entertainment

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

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

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

Date: Tuesday, February 26th

Time: 8:00 PM Central

Phone: +1 929 205 6099

Meeting ID: 468 325 263

One tap mobile: +19292056099,,468325263#


Judo “try it” Clinic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come “Try judo” with us

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


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

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

Other activities MWABA provides:

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

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

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

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

Visit our website at

More about Judo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFB Pledge

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

2018 – VABS Bowl With The Blind

I am writing to impress upon you the importance of registering for the VABS Bowl with the Blind event on October 6, 2018. With the event being two weeks away, I cannot tell you how important it is for all attendees to register with me if you plan to make it. If you are interested in attending the biggest student event for our division this year, please send an email to

with your name and phone number or a text with the same information to (804) 801-7674. Attendees that do not send me a registration will be unable to compete, as we have a cap and we are approaching the number soon. All registrations must be received by Friday, September 28, 2018.

If you are interested in using the ride share option in Richmond and Northern Virginia, please contact me by Monday, September 24, 2018. Anyone that has not registered and paid their fee for ride share by this date will not have a seat saved for them. I hope to connect with all of you at the bowling event and wish all of you the best in the coming weeks. Below is some information about the event:

  • Time: 1pm-4pm
  • Price: $10 (3 games and shoes)
  • Location: Pin Boys at the Beach
  • 1577 Laskin Rd.
  • Virginia Beach, VA 23451
  • Ride Share:
    • Richmond: $30 round trip
    • Northern Virginia $60 round trip

We are raffling tickets for a Google Home Mini smart speaker for the event. This will be done through a virtual ticket system for preorders and we will have physical tickets at the event. We will also do a live feed on our official Facebook page on the day of the event where we will take ticket orders for members who are not present. Tickets are $1 each or 5 for $3. VABS accepts CashApp and Venmo for these payments. Please contact Robert Parsons at (804) 801-7674 or Gerald Meredith at (804) 243-3980.

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 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.

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!

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.

2016 Youth Track Registration

We are again holding a special Youth Track designed to meet the needs of blind Students. In order to participate in this fun and exciting program, participants 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

Those participating in the youth track will also need to register for the convention :

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

National Federation of the Blind of Virginia 2016 Scholarship Application Now Available

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) will award up to three James F. Nelson, Jr. scholarships in the amount of $1,500 at the organization’s annual state convention to be held at the Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront, 5700 Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach, Virginia, 23451. The convention begins on Friday, November 11 and concludes at noon on Sunday, November 13, 2016. Scholarship recipients must attend the convention in Virginia Beach to receive their scholarship awards. The NFBV will cover reasonable costs associated with travel to the convention, half the cost of a room at the hotel, most meals, and the cost of registration and a banquet ticket. Winners will be reimbursed for these expenses at convention, so please notify the committee if you do not have access to a credit card or other means of covering pre-convention costs.

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is an organization dedicated to creating equality, opportunity, and security for all blind people. Winners of an NFBV James F. Nelson, Jr. scholarship need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind. The Committee will consider applicants for all eligible scholarships with one application. Individuals who have applied in previous years are encouraged to apply again.

The Scholarship Committee will review all applications and select the scholarship recipients. The Committee will notify finalists by telephone on or before October 15, 2016. All decisions of the Scholarship Committee are final.

To be eligible for these awards, each applicant must:

  • Be legally blind;
  • Be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia or be attending school in the commonwealth;
  • Be pursuing—or planning to pursue—a full-time, postsecondary course of study in the 2016 – 2017 academic year; and
  • Participate in the entire NFBV state convention and in all scheduled scholarship program activities to be held November 11-November 13, 2016, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Application Process: Complete the 2016 Scholarship Application Form electronically and email it with the supporting documents to the scholarship committee chair:

NFBV 2016 Scholarship Form

  • Dr. Brian R. Miller
  • Email:
  • Phone: (703) 785-9929

Deadline: All applications and supporting documentation must be received on or before September 15, 2016.