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.
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:
First Place: Noa Hottin, Alexandria, VA, 2503 pages
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
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 email@example.com 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!
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 Nfbprojectrise@gmail.com
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 JoeOrozco.com, 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:
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!
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.
* 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when the next class will be held.
We have rides on Thursday evenings from either the Bethesda or Eastern Market Metro stations. For more information contact Karla Gilbride at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 www.gomwaba.org
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.
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.