The Vigilant – November 2017

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

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

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

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

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

Yours in Federation service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Inspiration

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

The letter from HHS Secretary follows:

Washington, D.C. 20201

August 30, 2017

John Halverson, Ph.D.
Senior Management and Program Analyst
Office for Civil Rights
Health Information Privacy Division
Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Dr. Halverson:

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I am pleased to congratulate you on your retirement and to thank you for your more than 38 years of dedicated service to HHS and to the public.

Since joining the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in January 1979, you have made significant contributions in all aspects of OCR’s work. Your 24 years of service in OCR’s Headquarters and 14 years in leadership positions in OCR’s Region VII office in Kansas City reflect your versatility and willingness to lend your talents where needed most in OCR’s expanding mission over four decades in both civil rights and health information privacy. Thank you for being a team player, for giving your all to the job, and for your unselfish devotion to ensuring that others at OCR succeed as well. Your professionalism and your work ethic are admirable and served as an inspiration throughout your distinguished tenure at HHS.

On a personal note, when I met you shortly after I arrived at HHS, I was delighted to find that we were in graduate school together while I was a medical student and you were pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Michigan in the 1970’s. Since then, you have truly made your mark and left a lasting legacy at OCR and HHS, and I wish you all the best during your retirement years.


Thomas E. Price, M.D.

Affiliate News

2017 Resolutions

The 2017 resolutions, three legislative and our traditional commendation, provide a direction for our affiliate’s efforts at Richmond seminar in January, 2018. We chose this year to focus on three new legislative initiatives in addition to our efforts already in progress: orientation and mobility training
for blind children, the ability for a blind person to obtain an E-Z Pass, and addressing concerns of blind merchants selling concessions at rest areas.

The committee consisted of Jeremy Grandstaff, Sarah Patnaude, and myself. I would like to thank both Sarah and Jeremy for their invaluable insights and assistance with bringing these resolutions to the affiliate.


Jennifer Shields, Resolutions Committee Chair

Resolution 2017-01: Regarding Orientation and Mobility training for blind children

WHEREAS, skills in orientation and mobility (O&M) are essential for the successful transition of blind children, including children with low vision, to full and productive lives as adults; and

WHEREAS, local and state laws recognize the use of the long white cane as a tool for both safety and independence for blind people, yet too many school systems statewide do not promote the use of the white cane by blind students; and

WHEREAS, regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 300.34[c][7], Related Services, clearly define O&M as “services provided to blind or visually impaired children by qualified personnel to enable those students to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home, and community”; and

WHEREAS, although IDEA clearly lists O&M as an essential service for blind and visually impaired children, children continue to be denied O&M instruction because the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team assumes that these children do not need this instruction; and

WHEREAS, another reason for denial of O&M instruction is insufficient evaluations, e.g., only examining a child’s movement in familiar areas, failing to consider environments in different lighting, not requesting input from parents, or not considering such factors as the child’s medically indicated expectation of further visual deterioration; and

WHEREAS, the IEP team should treat O&M instruction as a presumption for youth who have an IEP based on visual impairment, as it does with Braille, unless a proper assessment determines that O&M instruction is not necessary; and

WHEREAS, two states, Maryland and Texas, have incorporated the mobility presumption and stronger evaluation requirements into state law, ensuring that more students who need O&M instruction in those states will receive it:

Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia in Convention assembled this fifth day of November, 2017 in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, that this organization strongly urge the state of Virginia immediately to enact legislation that contains a presumption similar to the Braille presumption, explicitly stating that all blind and visually impaired children need orientation and mobility instruction unless a proper evaluation demonstrates that such instruction is not appropriate for the child.

Resolution 2017-02: Regarding the ability of blind Virginians to attain an E-Z Pass

WHEREAS, High Occupancy Toll Lanes (HOT Lanes) on I95 between Springfield and Stafford as well as HOT Lanes on a Virginia portion of the Washington DC beltway and other toll roads in the Commonwealth of Virginia are designed to maximize traffic flow by reducing congestion; and

WHEREAS, through the use of variable tolls, hot lane traffic should flow at or near the speed limit, with the toll increasing to cause drivers unwilling to pay to move to the regular lanes to reduce HOT Lane congestion; and

WHEREAS, automobiles with a driver and two passengers may take advantage of the HOT lanes at no cost; and

WHEREAS, E-Z Pass transponders communicate information about HOT Lane use between vehicles and the operators of the HOT Lanes including setting toll prices and billing for HOT Lane use; and

WHEREAS, E-Z Pass transponders are tied to individual driver’s licenses and vehicle license plates; and

WHEREAS, persons who are blind or may have another disability which makes it impossible for them to obtain a driver’s license, need to travel on portions of I95 and the Beltway where HOT lanes exist by hiring a driver, for example, to travel from Northern Virginia to Richmond to attend a meeting or conduct other business; and

WHEREAS, if hired drivers do not own a E-Z Pass, these passengers are unable to take advantage of the travel option offered by the HOT Lanes, thus reducing their travel options solely based upon their disability:

Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia in convention assembled this fifth day of November, 2017, in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, that the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia request that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles change their E-Z Pass requirements to allow persons who are blind or have another disability which makes it impossible for them to obtain a driver’s license the ability to obtain and use an E-Z Pass.

Resolution 2017-03: Regarding the Commercialization of Interstate Rest Areas

WHEREAS, Congress, in 1936, enacted the Randolph-Sheppard Act to “provide blind persons with remunerative employment,” to “enlarge their economic opportunities, and encourage their self-support through the operation of vending facilities in federal buildings,” and subsequent amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act have further clarified Congress’s intent and have continued to expand economic opportunities for blind entrepreneurs; and

WHEREAS, in 1982 Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut recognized the opportunity that existed for blind entrepreneurs at interstate rest areas and subsequently introduced the “Kennelly Amendment” to the Surface Transportation Act, which authorized state licensing agencies designated to administer the Randolph-Sheppard Program the priority to operate vending machines at interstate rest areas; and

WHEREAS, because of the passage of the “Kennelly Amendment,” today, 20 percent of blind entrepreneurs who participate in the Randolph-Sheppard Program operate vending machines at interstate rest areas nationwide; and

WHEREAS, the livelihood of these approximately four hundred blind entrepreneurs is now being jeopardized by Congressional efforts which seek to commercialize these interstate rest areas, most recently with the introduction of H.R. 1990 in the 115th Congress by Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana, which seeks to amend Title 23, United States Code, to allow food concessions at state-owned interstate rest areas; and

WHEREAS, Congressman Thomas Garrett, representing Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 1990 on April 28, 2017; and

WHEREAS, the result of commercialization of interstate rest areas would be directly felt by blind entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth of Virginia, who would then be forced to compete with well-established and well-recognized franchises, essentially putting these blind entrepreneurs out of work almost overnight:

Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia assembled in convention this fifth day of November, 2017, in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, that this organization urge that Congressman Thomas Garrett withdraw his sponsorship of and support for H.R. 1990 and move to rescind H.R. 1990 from consideration in the 115th Congress until the concerns of the blind entrepreneurs who earn their living from vending machines in our nation’s interstate rest areas are adequately addressed.

Resolution 2017-04: Commending the Potomac Chapter leadership and membership for a job well done.

Whereas, our National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) conventions continue to grow and administration of the convention becomes more complex; and

Whereas, our Potomac Chapter took on the opportunities and challenges of hosting the 2017 (59th) state convention; and

Whereas, our 2017 state affiliate convention operated efficiently and smoothly:

Now, therefore, Be it resolved in convention assembled this Fifth day of November, 2017, in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, that we thank our Potomac Chapter for a job well done!

Richmond Seminar 2018

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is a powerful force advocating for blind Virginians. Please join us for the Richmond Seminar on January 15- 16, 2018 to ensure our voice is heard in the offices of the General Assembly.

If you have never attended a Richmond Seminar, we strongly encourage you to attend and participate in representative democracy in action. Everyone is assigned to a team with an experienced leader. The General Assembly members and their staff are very receptive and welcoming. They know we are organized, articulate, and well versed in the subject matter.

We will put everyone on the team to work, sharing our issues and answering the questions of legislators and their staff.

The issues we will bring to Richmond are still under consideration but will most likely include:

  • Access to travel independently without a driver’s license in autonomous vehicles being developed in Virginia;
  • Blind Parents Bill of Rights;
  • Defending Virginia’s Randolph Sheppard priority; and
  • Support for Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired (DVBI) as a separate agency.

The final list of issues will be presented at the board meeting on Monday, January 15.
We have bills being drafted that will need co-sponsors. Chapter Presidents should make contact with their General Assembly members in their local offices before the end of the year. If you need assistance in identifying them, contact our Richmond Seminar Legislative committee Chair Derek Manners at:, or on his cell at 903-271-6494.

A meeting with our elected legislators in their home districts will go a long way in establishing the recognition that is needed for our visit to Richmond. All Chapter members are encouraged to participate. If you intend on doing a meeting or need help setting one up, please contact Derek Manners.

Our board meeting is scheduled for Monday afternoon, January 15, which is Martin Luther King Day. The Board Meeting will likely be held on the DBVI campus on Azalea Avenue in Richmond, but details will be worked out shortly.

Our General Assembly visits will be Tuesday, January 16.
The affiliate will reimburse transportation expenses and hotel expenses.

Chapter presidents should arrange cost effective transportation for their chapter members. Individuals are expected to share hotel rooms and must obtain hotel reservations themselves at the NFB of Virginia rate. If you need assistance identifying a room share, please contact Derek Manners.

Hotel rooms are available at the Delta Hotel (formerly the Crowned Plaza.) The complete contact information is:

Delta Hotels by Marriott Richmond Downtown
555 East Canal Street
Richmond, VA 23219

The group rate is $129 plus applicable taxes. You may begin making reservations at any time by calling the reservations line at 844-781-7397 and referencing NFBVA. Please note reservations must be made no later than Thursday, January 4, 2018. Note guests will receive a $10 discount toward parking.

If you run into any problems with making reservations or need assistance at the hotel, please call our Operations Coordinator, Joe Orozco, at: 202-810-4023, or reach him via email at:

Do not delay, book your room today.

Chapter presidents must provide an initial list of the names of the individuals planning to attend from their chapter to Derek by Friday, January 5, 2018 and additional names as they are known so we can establish and update teams in advance.

Finally, if anyone in your chapter is interested in being a team leader, have them reach out to Derek Manners directly. If you have any questions, please contact Derek Manners at or on his cell at 903-271-6494.

What Did You Think of Convention?

Did your feelings toward this year’s state convention lean more toward the super, wow, excellent, and fantastic? Or were you more inclined to feel disappointed? Now’s your time to make your voice heard.

Please help us make next year bigger and better by sharing your feelings. It’s quick and anonymous, and your input will directly give next year in Fredericksburg the kind of direction we need to make it memorable.

Complete the survey before Sunday, November 26 to make your opinion count!

Introducing a New Leader

On Sunday, November 5 the affiliate unanimously voted Sarah Patnaude as corresponding secretary. She will complete the term previously held by Chris Walker.

Sarah graduated from Ferrum College in 2016 with her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. She is currently a student at George Mason University, pursuing her Master’s in Social Work. Her passion for advocacy stems from her involvement in the Federation.

Sarah was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind in 2010 when she was a student in a summer program at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired. Since her first state convention, Sarah has served on the board of the Virginia Association of Blind Students and on a few affiliate committees. In 2014, she had the privilege of immersing herself in the Federation’s philosophy and programs by working as an intern at the Jernigan Institute in Baltimore.

One of Sarah’s hobbies is cosplaying, where she enjoys dressing up as different characters from TV shows, movies, and books. Not having any prior experience with sewing or patterning, she taught herself how to design and create costumes. Since her first comicon in 2014, Sarah has won two first place trophies, including her most recent costume as the Evil Queen.

We extend a warm welcome to Sarah to the board and look forward to her contributions in helping to shape message points for the affiliate.

Other Items of Interest

The following items are just a couple highlights from the most recent state convention.

“Attending the 2017 NFB Youth Slam”
by Michael Munn

At this year’s NFB of Virginia State Convention held in Northern Virginia, A young man named Michael Munn spoke before the convention about his experience
at the 2017 Youth Slam. Michael was able to study science and make lots of new friends. But, let Michael tell you all about it.

It was the summer of 2017 and, those six days I will never forget. During the week of July 23 through the 29th, 2017 I participated in an outrageous program
located at Towson University in Maryland. It was outrageous because the world thinks blind people aren’t supposed to be good at engineering, math, or even
science. But, the NFB showed everyone during this program we could do anything we want. It was called the 2017 NFB Youth Slam and that is what I am going
to talk about today.

The NFB Youth Slam was open to all blind High School Students from all over the United States to participate.

One aspect I really liked was that During this summer’s program, everything took place in an actual college Campus. This is great because those of you
who wish to attend college someday can get to experience an actual college up close for yourself.

One thing I really liked about the Youth Slam was the independence to choose what I wanted to learn. And, most importantly, what I wanted to do during
my free time for Social recreation.

I got a lot of value from glimpsing what college life is going to look like when I do choose to attend.

I made lots of friends during Youth Slam. There was one new friend that I particularly remember. Her name is Maura and she traveled from Nebraska to attend
the Slam. She (like me) likes music and plays a musical instrument. We had the best time talking about instruments from all over the world.

Part of the Youth Slam is STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and I had a chance to experience them all.

I have attended several STEM programs in the past. And, the 2017 program was by far the best.

A ‘Track’ is a term use to describe a group of students and their mentors who are following a particular course of study.

I chose Lego physics for my Track because I really had no idea how Legos could have anything to do with physics. And, I wanted to know the answer.

I was also curious about the computer science track. But Lego physics won out because it sounded more interesting. And, I love playing with Legos!

During my Lego physics track, I learned how to build a car that could slide down a Zipline. And I also learned that the heavier the Lego car is on the
bottom, the more balanced it will be on the zipline.

There is more to the Youth Slam then just tracks. There are also enrichment sessions. Enrichment sessions are The 3 to 4 hours each afternoon after each
track that is used studying various STEM and blindness topics.

I got to meet lots of mentors from different states and countries. I learned lots of stuff from them.

I talked to the mentors on topics relating to blindness like Screen Readers that they prefer. We also talked about their schools.

Another new friend I met was from Clemson University; Neel told me that while he was traveling in India, people thought his Cane was a flute. that was
the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

On the Friday of that week, Students from different Tracks showed what they had learned. I learned some advance Lego building skills, How to design a board
game, How to use a pie pan to transfer liquids, and some basics about Archeology.
What I liked the best during my time at the 2017 Youth Slam was meeting cool blind people, and making friends. This program is the best program for those
High school Students wanting to learn about science and how they can do anything they want.

My name is Michael Munn and come see me to learn more about the Youth Slam.

Tips for being prepared when disaster strikes

At this year’s NFB Virginia state convention, we had a panel discussion featuring 3 experts on the topic of how to be prepared when disaster strikes and how to survive.

One of those speakers was Courtney Arroyo, MPA who is Outreach and Disabilities Integration Liaison from the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management.

Mrs. Arroyo gave us some very simple tips on how to better survive natural disasters and she has passed that info along to us again in the text below.

Below are those tips.

Take steps to prepare yourself and your family members for disasters and emergencies.

1. Be informed about emergencies that could affect your area. Sign up for emergency alerts through your local government. Monitor the news and weather on a regular basis. Keep a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio in your home so you can continue to be informed in case the power goes out.

2. Make a plan about where to go and how you will communicate with your family in an emergency. Create a support network to help you overcome your day-day needs in times of emergencies. If you use assistive technologies, plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if lost or destroyed. Your plan should include special instructions for operating your equipment if needed. If you use a white cane be sure to let others know its location.

3. Build a kit Consider putting items into a go bag in case you need to leave quickly. In addition to having your basic survival supplies, an emergency kit should contain items to meet your individual needs, including important documentation. If you take any medication, be sure to include at least 7 days’ worth of medication in your go-bag. If you have a pet, make sure they have a collar with an ID tag and add pet food, extra water, medical records and other supplies that your animal may need.

4. Take action and help others prepare in your community. Talk about being prepared with your family and friends. Encourage them to prepare today!

For individuals who are vision impaired or have low vision:

* Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print. Keep a list of your emergency supplies, and where you bought it, on a portable flash drive, or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.

* Keep a Braille, or Deaf-Blind communications device as part of your emergency supply kit.
To learn more, visit READY.GOV/MYPLAN and connect with your local emergency management office.

NFB Pledge

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