The Vigilant: October 2018

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 hope you took some time to enjoy the start of a gorgeous Fall and appreciate our many blessings. In our household, the key topics in our home are college applications and the National Federation of the blind of Virginia Convention.

2018 National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Convention

The theme for this year’s convention is diamonds in the Federation: Building Our future. We are implementing programming that highlights our past, our present, and our future. Preparations for the 60th Anniversary Convention of the National Federation of the blind of Virginia are at a frenzy. The agenda will be published later in October and we are really proud of the program we are building together.
To make it truly special, you need to join us and invite some friends to come with you. We need you to help encourage others to participate in this year’s convention.

As a reminder, the southbound bus originally scheduled to depart after convention had to be cancelled due to lack of interest. The twelve prospective passengers who had previously expressed interest will need to find alternative transportation.

Finally, on the point of state convention, remember I am still looking for personal stories, accomplishments and successes, that can be incorporated into the presidential report. The presidential report is a highlight of all our victories across this affiliate family. Please help me showcase the best of our work over the past year. If you have something to share, please do so by Sunday, October 28.

Project RISE Growing State Wide

I am truly thrilled by the success we are experiencing with Project RISE. We had 15 students at our Northern Virginia kickoff event in September. The students learned to barbecue and I was grateful to enjoy the last burger at this vibrant event. We have nearly thirty students signed up for the program and the program is still growing. Our students are having a remarkable experience and they are sharing the program with their friends. Expect to see many of these students at our state convention. If you know students between the ages of 14-21, have them check out our web site: or contact the coordinators at

Please note that in order to fully participate at the Project RISE specific programming at the state convention, we need students to apply to the program in early October. Details on applying online can be found at the web site listed above.

Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute

I am thrilled to share that we have 10 participants in the Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute with the program kickoff event scheduled for Thursday, November 8 at the state convention.

The following individuals are signed up to participate.

  • Naim Abu El Hawa
  • Marc Canamaso
  • Annette Carr
  • Susie D’Mello
  • Mike Davis
  • Brittany Crone Ingram
  • Jimmy Morris
  • Sarah Patnaude
  • Christopher Walker
  • Kathryn Webster

Virginia Affiliate Nominating Committee

All elected officers are up for re-election at the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia State Convention. I am pleased to announce the members of the 2018 Virginia Affiliate Nominating Committee. The committee members are:

  • Fred Schroeder
  • Corlis Jones
  • Domonique Lawless

Virginia Affiliate Audit committee

the following individuals have agreed to serve as the 2018 Virginia Affiliate
Audit Committee

  • Andre Tines, Chair
  • Jacki Brown
  • Sean McMahon

Visiting Chapters

I am excited to participate in the October 13 River and Bay Chapters Walk with the Blind. Hopefully, you can come join with other Federationists at this event or at one of the many Meet The blind events within your local community.

There’s a whole lot going on. Please, make it out to state convention. We would really love to see you, and please bring friends into the family reunion.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“During the past year, the blind of this nation have enjoyed continued success, expanding our participation in all aspects of society. Blindness does not define us or our future, but we are often limited by the low expectations and artificial barriers others put in our way. Despite these barriers, we seek equality of opportunity, and we strive to have full access to the rights and responsibilities afforded to all other Americans. Since 1940 we have found that the most effective means for us to reach full participation in society is for us to work together. When individual blind people come together in local communities, through state organizations, and as a whole in our national movement, we represent an authentic and powerful force for innovation, influence, and inspiration that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Together, we are the National Federation of the Blind.”–Mark Riccobono, President, National Federation of the Blind, from this year’s national presidential report

Platinum Sponsor:
Free Aira Site Access at National Federation of the Blind State Conventions

The National Federation of the Blind has partnered with Aira to provide free Aira Site Access to NFB members during our 2018 state convention. Aira subscribers who are National Federation of the Blind members can use the service at our convention for free without having minutes deducted from their plans. In addition, those interested in Aira have the unique opportunity to try out the service for free while at our convention. This convention-wide, free site access is available only at NFB state conventions, giving NFB members an exclusive opportunity to test-drive Aira in a convention setting.

Aira allows blind individuals to connect via live video to a trained agent through a mobile app or wearable glasses to get real-time visual information or assistance. Learn more about Aira and special pricing available for NFB members at

How it Works

Before you head to convention or as soon as you get there, download the free Aira app from the App Store, and create a guest account if you are not already an Aira subscriber. Also, make sure your phone’s GPS feature is enabled. When you enter the convention Site Access location, your phone will receive a notification letting you know that the space you are in is part of the Aira Network. When you connect with an agent, he or she will also confirm that you are now covered by the network, and no minutes will be deducted from your account.

When you leave or enter convention areas that are covered by the Site Access network, you will be informed by the Aira agent.

To learn more about Aira and the special plan available exclusively to NFB members, visit

Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired: ANNOUNCEMENT OF PUBLIC MEETING

During the fall of 2018, the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) will conduct three public meetings providing stakeholders an opportunity to make comments regarding DBVI programs and services. DBVI seeks input regarding agency strategic planning, development of agency policies and procedures, and implementing services and supports to potentially eligible and eligible individuals who are blind, vision impaired, and deafblind. DBVI is particularly interested in comments regarding the following programs, services, and divisions:

  • Independent Living/Rehabilitation Teaching
  • Low Vision Services
  • Deafblind Services
  • Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired Programs
  • Rehabilitation Technology Services
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce Services
  • Library and Resource Center Services
  • Virginia Industries for the Blind
  • Virginia Enterprises for the Blind

The next public meeting will be:

Fredericksburg Area

In Conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind

State Convention

Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel and Conference Center
2801 Plank Road
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401

November 9th, 2018

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Written and e-mail comments may be submitted prior to December 31, 2018 to:

Susan K. Davis, Policy and Training Coordinator, DBVI
397 Azalea Avenue
Richmond, VA, 23227
804-371-3140/1-800-622-2155 (Voice/TTY).

Individuals requiring interpreters or other special accommodations should contact Susan K. Davis (800-622-2155) at least two weeks prior to the meeting to request the preferred accommodation.

Introducing You to the Hospitality House
By Joe Orozco

Daring to describe the layout of a hotel to a bunch of blind people is, quite frankly, a little daunting. I don’t have the knack Mrs. Jernigan has, and so I’m sure one or two of you will arrive at the hotel property and immediately pick up on three or four things that were poorly described. If my descriptions confuse you, and you get lost, get your phone out and use that Aira service I keep hearing about.

Special thanks to my daughter, Vicky, who ventured out with me to Fredericksburg back in August, in part, to help prepare this description for you.

The hotel is roughly shaped like a U, except the top of the U has a portion that juts out. This protrusion is where Ledos Pizza, the front desk and main lobby, the Palm Room, and Shannon’s Grill are located. In the center of the U shape is the courtyard, swimming pool, and gazebo are located.

Now, let’s break this down a little.

You’ll be greeted by an automatic door at the front entrance. Immediately to your left will be a small seating area. Walk a few steps forward , past this seating area, and on your left will be a pillar and daily events stand. Walk around the pillar, and you’ll be at the front desk. If you were to follow the corridor left of the front desk, you would come to a set of restrooms on your right. Ledos Pizza is at the end of this corridor.

To the right of the front desk is a staircase that will take you to the second floor. When you get to the top of this staircase, make a U-turn, and you’ll end up at the Fredericksburg Ballroom. This is the ballroom students will use for the vast majority of their activities. The only other meeting space we will use on the second floor is the Commonwealth Room, and this will be for the parents’ luncheon and business meeting on Saturday afternoon.

Okay, come back down with me to the lobby. To the right of the staircase is another small seating area. To the right of this little seating area is a short corridor primarily used by staff. The Palm Room, however, is located at the end of this short corridor. The Palm Room will be used on Thursday evening for CLI participants and a couple other breakout sessions, but the important thing to note about the Palm Room is that there are doors in this room that lead out into the courtyard, and cutting through the courtyard is a quicker way to get to the conference center. I’ll describe the courtyard for you momentarily.

Back to the lobby, and to the right of the short corridor is Shannon’s Grill with another small seating area and piano located just outside its doors.

If you’re not confused by now, you’re my new hero. So, let me recap what we have so far. Come in through the sliding glass doors. Walk forward until you find the pillar on your left. I’m going to use this pillar as a reference point. This means that the front entrance is now at your 6:00. The small seating area is at your 7:00 and 8:00. The corridor taking you to Ledos Pizza and the restrooms are at your 9:00. The front desk is at your 11:00. The staircase to the second floor is at your 12:00. The seating area adjacent to this staircase is at your 1:00. The short corridor taking you to the Palm Room is at your 2:00. Shannon’s Grill and the piano are at your 3:00. Described this way, it sounds like a huge lobby. It’s actually not. It’s pretty cozy, but it does feel a little busy considering all the options.

Now, just to tick you off a little, this is the first of three lobbies. This is officially called Lobby 1.

Remember, all of this is located in that protrusion part of the U shape.

Alright, now, if you were to come into the hotel and make an immediate right, you would enter into a long hallway. This hallway is located to the right of Shannon’s Grill with windows running along your right side. The fitness room is located at the end of this corridor on your right, just past an emergency exit door. You’ll know you passed the fitness room if you hit a set of four steps. If you can’t do steps, there is a ramp on your left. Going up these steps will take you into the sleeping quarters and into what is considered A Wing. This is the left side of the U shape.

Stay with me, because after you go up that short set of steps, you are now on the second floor of the hotel. Hey, what can I tell you. This thing was built on a hill.

The first set of elevators will be on this sleeping corridor on your left. That’s right. There are no elevators in proximity to the front desk. Yes, I was perturbed too.

When you hit the soda machine and ice machine on your left, you will make a left into B Wing. You’ll hit a short hall, make a hard right and another hard left, and start down a new corridor. This is the bottom of the U shape, and this too primarily consists of sleeping quarters.

When you get to the end of B Wing, you’re going to hit a dead end. Making a left will take you to additional sleeping rooms. Making a right will empty you out into a large open area that is Lobby 2. There’s another soda machine and snack machine immediately on your right. There’s a large seating area arranged out in front of you.

If you make an immediate left U turn, you’re going to find a staircase leading you back down to the first floor and into what is C Wing, the conference center. This makes up the right side of the U shape.

OK, so at the bottom of the stairs we’re going to use another clock face. This is Lobby 3. At the center of Lobby 3 is a seating area. This is where we will hold our pre-banquet reception on Saturday evening.

The Patrick Henry room is to your right, or 3:00.

There’s a set of restrooms at your 2:00.

The Governor’s Room is at your 12:00. The Governor’s Room will serve as our affiliate office, and I don’t really want you in there unless you are a board member, working registration, working the auction, working exhibits, or got permission from someone working these areas to visit in there. The office will be locked overnight if anything valuable needs to be stored.

To the left of Governor’s Room, at your 11:00, is an elevator. This is the most convenient means to reach the Presidential Suite on the third floor. The only other space we will use on the third floor is the Executive Lounge, which is where childcare will be held.

Now, if you were to come down those stairs and make a left, you’ll be in a long corridor, or C Wing, the right side of the U shape. On your left will be floor to ceiling windows and exit doors that take you out into the courtyard. On your right will be doors leading into the Presidential Ballroom.

When the ballroom is opened without partitions, it is called the Presidential Ballroom. When the partitions go up, the rooms, starting immediately on your right and extending toward the end of the corridor, the rooms are: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. Washington and Monroe, at both ends of the large ballroom, are the larger of the four rooms. Jefferson and Madison are the smaller partitions.

The Washington Room, the partition closest to you, is where the Information Table and Audio team will be stationed. This is also where assistive listening devices can be checked out.

The Monroe Room, the partition farthest away from you down the corridor, is where we will hold the Exhibit Hall.

After Monroe, at the very end of this C Wing, there is a staircase taking you up to the upper floors.

The courtyard can be accessed through doors directly across from Washington and Monroe. The courtyard is a rectangular shape. There is grassy area, a pool, and a gazebo located here. The dog relief area will be directly across the gazebo, but at the time of this writing, I have not gotten a specific pinpoint, so please ask hotel staff to direct you or one of our marshals. They will be told where to find the designated spot.

Remember, the courtyard can also be accessed via the Palm Room. If you go out that way, you’ll come out onto a patio. The patio is on an upper level. You’ll need to walk down steps down into the courtyard level itself.

To use cardinal directions, the Palm Room is at the northwest corner of the courtyard. In the northeast there’s a parking lot and the dumpsters. The conference center, or C Wing, runs along the east of the courtyard. B Wing is at the southern boundary, and A Wing is on the west.

Again, if you get lost, use Aira, or ask one of our friendly marshals to point you in the right direction. Yes, this property is a little more confusing than the Westin last year, but once you get a rough feel for the layout, you’ll be the one helping others get oriented.

It is not about chapter size. It is about chapter effectiveness
By John Bailey, President – Fairfax Chapter

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of visiting many of our state NFB chapters.

One common wish I heard from chapter leaders was that they were frustrated because they didn’t have the membership numbers they wanted. After listening to them for a while, I realized they were comparing themselves to some idealized group with lots and lots of members, resources, and money in the bank.

I can understand their frustration and how easy it is to compare yourself to some ideal. But, the truth is that not every NFB chapter can be a mega chapter. And, that is a good thing.

The vast majority of chapters live in areas with less than ideal transportation options and low blind population densities. This is why there are so few mega chapters. People need to easily and affordably get to meetings and that isn’t always possible everywhere in the state.

So, if you can’t be a mega chapter, does that mean your humble little chapter is a failure? Absolutely not. Here is why.

A chapter is a chapter even if it has less than a handful of members. Limited transportation options and small chapter membership has no impact on how effective your chapter can be in your community. A small chapter can do as much as a mega chapter in terms of educating the public about the ‘truth about blindness’ while giving the local vision impaired a comfortable place to ask questions and have a good time with their peers. In fact, having lots and lots of small chapters throughout the state can be a very good thing. First, we are able to include those vision impaired in rural communities who could really use us. Second, having representation in as many regions as possible gives us clout when it comes to voicing our concerns to our legislators. They love constituents and having lots of chapters gives us that leverage.

The bottom line is, the vast majority of NFB chapters are not mega chapters. In spite of that, they are very effective in their educational outreach to the general public and to their local neighbor blind who need them the most.

Tech it Out! NEW Technology and Food Discussion

Did you see what Hadley’s been up to? Apparently they’re holding monthly conference calls to talk about different technology options. Here’s one of their latest announcements:

Our first Tech it Out discussion on grocery delivery services was terrific! So many of us shared experiences and questions that we didn’t get to the second segment: tapping into online restaurant delivery and cook-at-home meal kit delivery services. So that’s what we’ll do for our next discussion.
Call in and hear a few tips from Hadley and have a chance to share your own questions and experiences with these restaurant and food kit delivery services.

Tech It Out Discussion: Food, Part 2: Restaurant and Meal Kit Delivery

Date: Tuesday, October 30
Time: 8 PM Central
Phone number: (408) 638-0986; Code: 394939348#
iPhone one-tap: US: +14086380986,,394939348#

And for those who weren’t able to join the last call, here’s a link to the recording. Free of Charge. Open to All. Spread the Word.

Ricky Enger,
Technology Learning Expert
“>link to the recording. Free of Charge.

Open to All. Spread the Word.

Ricky Enger,
Technology Learning Expert

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.