The Vigilant: February 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

We’re almost two months into the new year. Already our affiliate has seen a whirlwind of activity. Our legislative advocacy efforts are an ongoing effort. Project Rise is hosting the first of its activities as this newsletter goes out for publication. Our various chapters are busy planning and carrying out a number of social enrichment activities. Convention planning at the state and national levels is underway… Anyone who says Federationists are lethargic have clearly not spent enough time around our movement.

I hope this message finds you well. Yes, things are busy on different fronts, but I should hope we are never too busy to remember that basic need to connect with people around us. Please take a moment to reach out to your fellow members, not to ask for an organizational status, but rather, to make sure they are doing okay. Remember, this movement is about people first.

As always, if I can be of service to you, please do not hesitate to reach out. Anything I should be made aware of, whether it be blindness-related, or some new development in your life, I would be all too glad to hear from you.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“You need to either be shown how to do something or figure it out yourself, then practice. The experience you gain will not only improve your skills but your confidence in tackling other tasks. Nobody is good at cane travel right away. It takes a lot of practice, some getting lost, some figuring out what to do next, and some sighs of relief when you make it to your destination. Learning Braille takes practice. Learning how to navigate a computer with screen reading software takes practice, confronts you with some stressful moments when your computer freezes up, and requires the assistance of friends who can help you figure things out when you are at your wits end.”–Chris Kuell, from the February Braille Monitor

From the Editor

I want to take a brief moment to remind you that this newsletter is for your benefit. If there is anything you would like to see included, please do not hesitate to bring it to my attention. Starting this month, I have made a concerted effort to connect with chapter and division presidents about announcements they might be interested in sharing with the affiliate at large. Yes, some items you will see published twice, both here and in the NFBV Announcement list. I apologize for the occasional duplication, but sometimes, I really do scramble to gather material. Hence, your assistance will always be appreciated in helping me provide more content. Thank you for reading, and if any of this material was of some benefit to you, please help us pass it along to other Virginians who may also find it helpful.

Kind regards,

Joe Orozco, Editor

Richmond Seminar Update

Changing the law in Virginia requires patience and persistence. 2018 has required significant commitment and the results from this year’s General Assembly session are mixed.

We had three Legislative priorities.

Cross Disability Parents Rights (HB 491/SB70)

Our legislation, modeled after laws in 7 other states would require that the judges not discriminate in custody, adoption, foster care or other family law legal matters, that judges document when a parent’s disability is the primary reason for denying the parent custody and why supportive services like training could not ameliorate the challenge.
We worked across the spectrum of disability organizations to build a community of disability advocates to support the legislation.

For over a year, we have been seeking to find common ground with The Family Law component of the Virginia Bar association with no success. The “compromise” offered by the Family Law component of the Virginia Bar was to add a simple one sentence statement not to discriminate against parents with disabilities. While this is very nice, with no protections or procedures to ensure compliance, the sentence is a hollow promise with no true protection. After a calculated discussion and with advice from our National office, we agreed that this compromise probably would not truly help anyone.

While we convinced the House Courts of Justice sub-committee that there was a problem faced by blind parents and others with disabilities, they wanted us to come to common understanding with the Family Lawyers. The committee chair was clear, find a common understanding or the bill will fail. The family lawyers were not willing to negotiate and would only agree to the 1 sentence solution.

Instead of letting the legislators vote down the bill, we pulled the bill and will figure out how to move forward for 2019.

Opposition to Virginians with Disabilities Act Education and Reform Act SB199

Together with the set of disability advocates we met through the Cross-Disability Parents Rights legislation, we advocated against a Virginia Senate Bill to weaken the protections in the Virginians with Disabilities Act. This bill is based on some flawed understanding of Virginia law and the set of disability advocates succeeded in stopping the bill.

Improving Education for Blind and Low Vision Students HB336)

We have been working to improve the education of Virginia’s blind and low vision K-12 students. Over the past 6 months, we have partnered with the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind (AER) to agree on language that worked for all parties. HB336 passed the House Education Committee and was very well received. Unfortunately, the bill died on February 7 in a House Appropriations subcommittee. The Subcommittee explained that they were not there to discuss the merits of the bills, just the financial impact. The committee didn’t believe it was the committees role to place new burdens on local jurisdictions.
Mark Roane presented in favor of the bill using the talking points including the 2013 increased Standards of Quality funding, the fact that the requirements to assess and teach Braille were required under Federal and state law, and we were simply providing guidance on ensuring assessment followed Federal law. However, the School Superintendents and the School Boards presented in opposition. They stated that this bill would Cost local school districts money; they questioned the availability of Standards of Quality funding; they stated that schools were already required to teach blind children; and there really wasn’t a problem. There was no discussion and the bill were laid on the table.

Passing bills is intentionally difficult, Derek Manners was critical to leading out legislative priorities in Virginia and we are very fortunate. Derek is recognized by other disability advocates, AER, the staff of Virginia Legislative Services and Delegates and Senators as an articulate, extremely competent and prudent negotiator. Mark Roan and Earl Everett are our advocates in the halls of the General assembly who represent us well. Fred Schroeder has been extremely valuable in our discussions with AER. Finally, over 50 people were in Richmond on January 16 for our legislative advocacy day.

We can be proud of our efforts and we will be talking more about the path forward. We welcome your advice and appreciate your willingness to make a difference in Virginia.

Potomac Chapter Wine Tasting

We hope that you can join us for a wine tasting event and seminar to benefit the Potomac Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. The event will fund outreach programs for blind youth, seniors and working age adults. The deadline to RSVP is Tuesday, February 27, so we can provide a final count to the organizers. Drop ins that day will not be accepted due to limited space.

The details:

National Federation of the Blind Wine Tasting
Saturday, March 3, 2018
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Cost: $45 per person. Please make checks payable to PC-NFB. Cash and credit cards are also accepted.

This year, our wine tasting has an exciting Spanish theme. A variety of Spanish wines will be offered along with pairings of fine cheeses, chocolate, crackers, and breads. An expert on Spanish wines representing Bistro 360 wine bar, shop and restaurant in the Rosslyn/Courthouse area will be pouring and explaining the wines. Each wine will be presented in a relaxed lecture format with plenty of time to enjoy each wine, mingle, and socialize with friends.

If you have always wanted to learn more about wine or just wanted to expand your horizons, this event will be a great time.

About Bistro 360:

Born out of a desire to bring the best of the world’s cuisine, wines and beers to the neighborhood, Bistro 360 Wine Bar, Market & Restaurant, located in-between Rosslyn and Courthouse, offers: a comfortable neighborhood restaurant with an innovative menu drawn from cuisines around the world.
A contemporary wine bar where patrons can order from the full restaurant menu and choose from a curated selection of wines and beers from around the world as well as craft cocktails. A gourmet retail market with chef-prepared takeaway meals for office or home and a great mix of wines, beers, ciders, cheeses, charcuterie, fresh-baked breads and desserts, and much more.

Where: Bistro 360 is located at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Quin Street, half way between Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations. Bistro 360 1800 Wilson Boulevard Arlington, VA 22201

#1.) Bistro 360 will give a 15% donation for ANYTHING purchased from our wine tasting in the store on the evening of March 3. This also includes the pairings of cheeses, chocolates and specialty foods. How convenient to just take it home with you!

#2.) Bistro 360 will donate a gift basket for raffle.

#3.) Bistro 360 additionally has offered to provide 15% of dinner proceeds back to the PCNFB to further expand our fundraising potential. Consider staying for dinner at Bistro 360.

#4.) Reservations & Payment: This special event, which will be hosted in Bistro 360’s restaurant facility, can accommodate 40-45 attendees, with some limited flexibility. Advance reservations are required. The wine tasting price is: $45.00 per person, cash or check made payable to the PCNFB.

Please bring your check to the event or mail it to our treasurer:

Sean McMahon
2677 Avenir Place
Apt 3205
Vienna, VA 22180

You may also bring your payment to the wine tasting event.

To ensure your reservation is confirmed, please contact John Halverson at, or by phone at 703 379-1141.

#5.) DO NOT HESITATE! Plan now to be among the movers and shakers and join us at Bistro 360 on Saturday, March 3. Enjoy some outstanding wines, tasty pairings, and good fellowship! Then, afterwards, you can enjoy dinner at Bistro 360 or at any of the numerous excellent nearby restaurants along Wilson Boulevard.

Thank you.

John Halverson, Ph.D., President
Potomac Chapter, National Federation of the Blind

Chili Cookoff

Are you in the mood for tasting some of the most savory, delicious chili dishes that Virginia can offer? If the answer is yes, you are cordially invited to the 2nd Annual Richmond Chapter Chili Cookoff. At this exciting event full of laughter, love, friendship, and togetherness, you can compete against some of Virginia’s best chili cooks, meet some of our celebrity judges, devour decadent desserts, and converse with some of the state’s best chili taste testers.

Here’s the information you need:

Saturday, March 24, 2018 from 11:00AM-3:00pm

St. Bridget’s Catholic Church
6006 Three Chopt Rd.
Richmond, VA 23226

Contestants: $10 entrance fee

Attendees: $7 advance cover charge| $10 cover charge at the door

All contestants must be paid and registered for the competition by Saturday, March 10, 2018. This is a firm deadline. All attendees wishing to take advantage of the advance cover charge price must pay and register prior to the date of the event.

There will be a 50/50 raffle at the event and a door prize of a brand-new crock pot. The Richmond chapter is also accepting any donations to be used for additional door prizes. Prizes for first, second, and third place chili contestants will be awarded.

To register to compete, attend, or donate, please contact Richmond Chapter Event Planner, Gerald Meredith, at 804.243.3980.

For additional questions, contact Robert Parsons (804.801.7674) or Brittany Fraher (804.274.8908).

We look forward to enjoying this event with you all.

Google Accessibility Support

Ever wished you could get more help with the accessibility of your google products? Now you can. After being in beta for several months, Google now offers a dedicated accessibility support team for all your accessibility questions.

They will be able to answer questions about using google products in conjunction with your existing accessibility solutions, as well as questions about accessibility solutions implemented by Google. Between 8 AM and 5 PM PST Monday through Friday, agents will be available to answer accessibility questions. The team can be contacted via email at:

A representative will respond to your email within 72 hours. For now, questions and responses must be in English, though more languages and contact options may be added in future.

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.