The Vigilant: March-April 2019

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

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

We’re in the middle of enjoying the blessings of Spring. As the weather changes, I appreciate the longer days, the warm temperatures, and the excitement in the air. In the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, you can feel that excitement in the great work we accomplish together.

Membership Initiative and Membership Coins:

As you may be aware, 2019 is an exciting year for members of the National Federation of the Blind. We are working with our national office to implement an exciting change to our membership processes including: (A) Strengthen the information we have on our members; (B) Celebrate our Members; and (C) Educate Our Members.

A. Strengthen Our Knowledge About Our Members

If we want to maximize our movement’s effectiveness as the most important force advocating for blind people, we need to know our members. If we don’t have a detailed understanding about who is a member, we are less effective at leveraging our most valuable resource, our members. Our chapters and divisions have not been super diligent about maintaining and sharing membership information with the affiliate.
This year, at a national level, we are compiling an updated and integrated database of all members called Connections. Each chapter has been tasked to help compile the membership list using a specific import format. Sandy Halverson and Mark Roane have been working to take the membership lists each chapter provides and massage the data into the Connections database import format. We should be grateful that Mark and Sandy are willing to take on this challenging task. However, we need each chapter and division to provide an updated membership list along with addressing a set of questions from our membership Chairperson, Sandy Halverson. While a number of chapters and divisions have provided updated lists of their members, many have not. This is essential to our success and I am hopeful that the remaining chapters and divisions will work immediately to address this challenge.

The membership list should be for dues paying members. A membership list is not just a contact list, it is the list of individuals who have paid dues and are active by attending a meeting.

B. Celebrate Our Members

Each member of the National Federation of the Blind will receive a membership coin that serves as a symbol of our work together to improve the lives of blind people. The coin even has the word “together” in Braille.

We will be implementing a special ceremony to celebrate our members and share these membership coins. I am asking the participants in the Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute to develop some ideas for how to implement recognition events in our chapters and divisions. If you have specific suggestions, please reach out to me.

C. Educate Our Members

As I mentioned at our 2018 state convention, it is important to ensure that membership is meaningful. We need to implement processes to ensure we share our philosophy, our history and the expectations we have for members in our movement. There will not be a one size fits all answer for how we ensure that every member knows who we are and what we believe. If you have suggestions, I would like to hear your ideas.

I suspect that there will be a number of sessions at our national convention focused on helping chapters and affiliates to implement these changes. Please include these important sessions in your personal agenda for the national convention.

Visiting Chapters and Other Events:

On March 22, I was honored to address a meeting of blind entrepreneurs at a conference in Richmond. On March 23, I was excited to attend the Richmond Chapter’s Chili Cook Off. I hope to visit more chapters in the coming months. Feel free to let me know what you are doing and how I can help. I would be glad to assist in my capacity as president, but honestly, I really just enjoy being around you guys.

National Convention

Our National Convention is fast approaching. In the February newsletter, we provided details about our state and national programs for first time convention participants (deadline 4/15) and expectations for requesting financial assistance. The 2019 National Convention is going to be outstanding but we really need you there to make the convention the best ever. We will need help from our members in a number of ways including working the Virginia table in the exhibit hall, assisting with the Independence Market, and mentoring first time convention attendees
Thank you for all you do to help grow our movement.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia


This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“The blind have a right to live in the world. That right is as deep as human nature; as pervasive as the need for social existence; as ubiquitous as the human race; as invincible as the human spirit. As their souls are their own, so their destiny must be their own. Their salvation or failure lies within their own choice and responsibility. That choice cannot be precluded or prejudged; those lives cannot be predetermined or controlled.”–Dr. Jacobus tenBroek from a national convention banquet speech, Are We Equal To The Challenge?


A Note From the Editor

We’re about to make changes to the newsletter to make it easier to both produce and distribute. Hopefully for you, it means it will also be easier to read.

In August 2017 we relaunched The Vigilant. It’s been a great communication vehicle from the affiliate, a great way to stay on top of recent activities in between board meetings, but it’s also evolved into something of a miniature Braille Monitor. The harder we push for great content, the higher we push the standard for quality, which means the tougher it becomes to get an issue out the door on time. Put it a different way, what is supposed to be a newsletter has actually turned into a little magazine. We simply do not have the people power to keep up the momentum.

As part of a total overhaul of the affiliate website, we’re going to keep pushing for exceptional content. Moving forward, however, we’re going to split the content between a newsletter and a blog. The newsletter will primarily consist of presidential updates from Tracy, including any high level announcements that bear reiterating. The blog will carry the more human interest items some of you have grown to expect of the newsletter. By moving to this model, we will be able to get the newsletter out on time for a change, totally my fault by the way, while not missing out on the great writing our affiliate membership has to offer.

For the moment, the newsletter will remain as is. Whether in one form or the other though, we are always interested in your thoughts, questions, and of course, your contributions. Neither the newsletter or the blog will amount to a whole lot if we cannot count on you to help keep the ball rolling. Thank you so much for all you do. We’ve gotten compliments on our newsletter from people outside the affiliate, and we have you to thank for garnering that sort of attention. Let’s work together to see the newsletter successfully into its next stage of development.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Orozco, Editor


Fundraising Committee Needs You

As those of you that attended our January board meeting know, and to those of you that were not there, I have been entrusted with taking on the position of chairing the affiliate fundraising committee. So I am looking for a few good Federationists to be part of this dynamic committee. We have the task of coming up with the ideas that will help fund the vision and the goals of our affiliate going forward. First and foremost we have to make decisions on what items we will have on our Virginia table at the National Convention in Las Vegas this Summer. Virginia peanuts are a given. It would not be the Virginia Table without peanuts. But we need to discuss other possible items and have ideas to present at the upcoming May board meeting. If you are on the current fundraising committee please contact me at the contact information listed below. If you would like to join our ranks please contact me. I am waiting to hear from you.

Earl Everett
NFBV Fundraising Chairperson
Phone: 804-252-8998
Email: ever23851 at gmail.com


My Experience of Being a Member of the National Federation of the Blind
By Chris Walker

Editor’s Note: The following article by one of our own appeared in the April edition of the Braille Monitor. The text follows.

From the Editor: Chris Walker is an active member in our Virginia affiliate. He comes to the Federation at a later date than some of our contributors, having gone blind in late 2009. A little research by talking with his fellow Virginians tells us he is the chapter president in Winchester, and in a very admiring voice one member said, “The thing I love about Chris is that he is such a nice guy.” I admire people who are so kind that they rate the title “nice,” and I can’t wait to meet him. Here is what he writes:

To help explain my motivation and commitment to the NFB, I would like to provide some of my personal background. During the last two months of 2009 I went from being a sighted person to being completely blind from Acute Retinal Necrosis (ARN). In December 2009, when I was discharged from the hospital after going blind at age forty-four, I was given a normal, supportive, walking cane and sent on my way into a sighted world with no information on what to do next. During the next six months I received blind services in Las Vegas, developed orientation and mobility skills, and began to learn the blindness skills needed to become an independent person.

My partner and I decided to move back to Northern Virginia to be closer to our families. Shortly after the move my partner passed away suddenly. I knew from that point that I needed to be independent and self-supporting. I also knew that once I got my life back together, I wanted to be able to be there for the next person who lost his/her vision.

I began the next phase of gaining my independence by moving from my family’s home in Warrenton to the city of Winchester, Virginia, where I rented a room from a recent acquaintance. Once settled, I began looking for an organization that would be able to guide me through this new life. I tried to find local organizations around Winchester that could help assist me on this journey. One day as I walked around town with my friends, we met a blind couple who suggested I visit the National Federation of the Blind website. I went home and joined the NFB that night. As I learned more about the NFB, I found the Virginia affiliate’s at-large group and attended several of that group’s monthly conference calls. I later discovered there was a local Winchester chapter of the NFB, and I have been an active member of the chapter since joining in 2015. While attending my second chapter meeting, I expressed a desire to set up an information booth at a local community’s Fourth of July celebration. I was immediately nominated and elected as the outreach chair for the Winchester Chapter of the NFB. After joining the local chapter I realized that being a member of the NFB was what you made it. The more I put into the organization the more I got back.

In the summer of 2015, I listened to the NFB national convention through the internet and social media simulcasts. That fall I attended my first state affiliate convention and was asked to join the Virginia affiliate’s Leadership Fellows Program, which gave me the opportunity to begin learning about the different operational areas of the national organization and the state affiliate. The next year I attended my first NFB national convention and was inspired by the thousands of attendees not letting blindness be their defining characteristic.

As an active member of the NFB, I have been provided with many opportunities to become involved at the local and state levels of the organization. The NFB has helped me to grow personally and professionally. I have been involved with all sorts of fun recreational events from climbing a thirty-foot rock climbing wall to judging a chili cook-off event. I have also attended fun learning events like “Connecting the Dots, the Federation Philosophy.” The NFB has also provided me with opportunities to become a more confident public speaker by inviting me to be a guest speaker at other Virginia chapter meetings and by encouraging me to speak to the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, and other local service organizations.

I have learned the importance of advocating for the rights of the blind by contacting the local voter registrar about issues that the members of the Winchester chapter were experiencing while trying to vote. Through my efforts the training for the local poll workers changed from “telling a visually impaired person to have someone help them vote” to the poll workers being trained on how to use the ADA-compliant voting devices and how to instruct people on the procedures for voting with the device. I was also invited to the poll worker training sessions to describe my experiences and to discuss proper etiquette when working with the blind/visually impaired.

I am not saying that being a member of the NFB has always been a walk in the park-it’s just like life: there are ups, and there are downs. But I have found, when I focus on my natural gifts-which have a special place in my heart-there are many more ups than downs. My natural gift is volunteering to provide outreach to the blind/visually impaired who have not found the support of the National Federation of the Blind.

I have been very involved with social media, and I am a member of many blind/visually impaired discussion groups and chat rooms. Through my social media presence I have stayed on top of what’s going on at the national, state, and local levels across the United States. By being part of the heartbeat of the National Federation of the Blind, we can encourage and challenge each other to serve in many different capacities, to give back to others, and to serve in our local community. We can all help to console, empathize, support, and educate people about our experiences with being blind and how the NFB has helped us to embody the axiom, “You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.”


Amy Barnes Scholarship Opportunity

Dear federation family,

The Winchester chapter is pleased to provide the Amy barn scholarship in the amount of $600 for any legally blind student that will be attending a college in the Shenandoah Valley area.

If anybody is interested, please contact me at 540-303-0080 or by email at chrisvinson1@gmail.com

Christopher Walker

President Winchester Chapter


Protected Class? Not So Fast: The Exploitation of Workers with Disabilities
By Sarah Patnaude

Editor’s Note: Sarah Patnaude is our affiliate’s corresponding secretary. Among other tasks, Sarah oversees our social media channels, our website, newsletter production, and promotion campaigns surrounding events like the state convention. She is a member of the Potomac Chapter and represents the chapter in the Chapter Leadership Institute. This May Sarah will graduate from George Mason with a Masters in Social Work, and before leaving the halls of Academia, she wrote an article for the university newspaper that appears below with permission.

Everyone has that one thing that fires them up. For me, it’s knowing that I am not protected under the law as I enter the workforce. The government continues to systematically discriminate against me and my peers with disabilities. While preparing to graduate with my Masters of Social Work, I have continuously engaged in conversations regarding the barriers within employment and the impact of income. However, the discussion around employment and income is typically limited to racial and ethnic identities, gender, and sometimes mental health. Disability is left out of the conversation.

Many have heard of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. This piece of legislation outlines the rights and protections of workers. The federal minimum wage, currently set at $7.25/hour , is one of the protections workers are entitled to under FLSA. Did you know that this protection is not guaranteed if you have a disability? That’s right: employers can legally pay their workers with disabilities below the minimum wage. Through a provision in the law, Sec 14(c), employers can obtain special wage certificates from the Department of Labor, allowing them to pay their workers a fraction of the wage their coworkers without disabilities are paid – sometimes just pennies per hour. Wages are based on timed-tests given to employees. However, these tests are set up for employees to fail. For example, Harold Leigland, blind, sorts and hang clothes by color at Goodwill Industries. His job doesn’t set him up for success. Making matters worse, Harold’s productivity was tested by his ability to sort toys by similarity – a task which was also inaccessible – resulting in his wage dropping to $2.75.

Rooted in the beliefs and culture of 1938, the practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages stems from misconceptions and stereotypes. Often society equates disability with low productivity and low competence. However, that cannot be further from the truth. Workers with disabilities can work alongside their nondisabled coworkers in competitive integrated work environments. Subminimum wages is not a comparable compensation for the work people with disabilities produce. Instead, it is an expression of the low expectations the government and employers have for people with disabilities and a modern day form of exploitation.

Putting on the social work hat, this policy is not only discriminatory, it is oppressive. How can someone live on a wage that is just pennies or dollars an hour or a wage that changes every few months? The simple answer: someone can’t. Food, housing, transportation, healthcare and all the other services and products we need to meet our needs cost money. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the current living wage in Virginia is approximately $14 for one adult. If $7.25 is not enough to live on, then why are we expecting those with disabilities to live off of even less? Through this practice, we are not only telling people with disabilities that they are inferior, we are keeping them in a cycle of dependency that is difficult to get out of. The fraction of a wage – if we can even call it that – people with disabilities earn due to this practice creates and fosters barriers in surviving and thriving.

Disability is an income issue. The current policies in place continues the cycle of oppression for people with disabilities, preventing us from living the lives we have the capacity to live and further perpetrating damaging stereotypes of disabilities. Let’s not forget about people with disabilities as we continue to discuss the issues surrounding income and employment and fight for equal and fair wages for all. All means all.


Social Media Protest for Authentic Representation

There is no doubt the influence the entertainment industry has on society and the beliefs and attitudes viewers have about various topics, including disability. On March 12th, 2019, the National Federation of the Blind published a press release regarding the history of exclusion in the entertainment industry. Blind characters have been written into numerous movies and TV shows throughout the years. Often, the portrayals of blindness on screen are inaccurate and further perpetrate stereotypes and misconceptions. Furthermore, “not even one of them has featured a blind actor in a recurring lead role.” The National Federation of the Blind will not let Hollywood spread inaccurate messages about blindness anymore. It’s time we have authentic representation in the entertainment industry.

Read the full statement here.

In response to the upcoming show “In The Dark,” the National Federation of the Blind held a social media protest on March 27. Members from all over the country participated on twitter, @NFB-voice, using the hashtag #LetUsPlayUs. An engaging conversation took place on the topic, including diving into the history, sharing personal stories, and explaining the importance of authentic representation.

On April 2 members of the NFB descended on New York City to give voice to their objections of the show. You can read the press release here.

Stay tuned. By the sounds of it, the national office will continue to bring attention to the issue in the months to come.


Authenticity Matters
By Sarah Patnaude

Editor’s Note: And here’s the perfect accompanying piece to the item just prior.

The sun was shining; the breeze was blowing. I could hear the crashing of waves in the distance. It was a normal week spent at my childhood vacation spot: Nags Head, North Carolina. Except it wasn’t. Unlike most thirteen year olds, I couldn’t be found bogey boarding or swimming. I wasn’t playing basketball or even relaxing inside. Instead, I made the porch my fortress for the week. You see, the back porch was my practice stage.

In just a few weeks, I would star in a local children’s production. I had a book of lines to memorize. Ok…you caught me. That’s an exaggeration. As the 2nd main character, I had a total of one line and that was at the very end. How much practice can one line need? Despite only one line, my character was at the center of the story. I was in most scenes in some fashion, moving around and causing havoc. My scenes were calculated but yet spontaneous. My character was blind. Not just blind, but Deafblind. I had landed the role of playing Helen Keller in the production of The Miracle Worker.

As a blind pre-teen, I thought I had this character nailed. I was blind and had a hearing impairment. My first language happened to be Sign Language. For me, these were assets I brought to the table. I could harness my lived experiences to further the authenticity of my acting. The director had other thoughts. My blindness was not an asset. Instead, my blindness was viewed as the very reason to not cast me. I remember her asking me how I, as a blind person, could possibly play a blind character accurately. In other words, would I, as a blind person, be able to further perpetuate the misconceptions and negative attitudes about blindness she was hoping to promote in her rendition of the account of a teacher and her student?
I remember telling her “If you can find someone else with thirteen years of experience playing a blind child by all means cast them. But I don’t think you will.” This was the first time I identified myself as blind. My whole life, I was told I wasn’t blind enough by professionals whenever I fought for services. But this was the opposite. I was too blind to play blind.

Unfortunately, this experience isn’t uncommon in the entertainment industry. I was lucky that my sassy thirteen year old attitude was enough to change the director’s mind, and I have the opportunity to say I had a paid acting gig – receiving a quarter as my cast gift still counts as being paid in my mind. However, blind actors are continuously not casted in roles where characters are blind. These roles still are largely played by sighted performers and are still largely based on the misconceptions and negative attitudes society has towards blindness. In any other role, authenticity is important. Research is conducted. The writers and performers consult others to keep the integrity of the experiences of the character and those who can identify with the character. It’s 2019 and we are still fighting to have a seat in the entertainment business, one of the largest industries in the U.S. It’s time we start having a say in how we are portrayed. It’s time for blind characters to be casted by blind performers. We bring our lived experiences to the table. We bring the truth about blindness to the table. Authenticity matters.


Word of Mouth
By Mary Fernandez

Editor’s Note: Some of you may have met Mary Fernandez from one of her visits to Virginia. Though she calls New Jersey home, she is a friend of the Virginia affiliate and was a part of the team who prepared the original proposal for what would become Project RISE. Though this article, borrowed from the Student Slate archives, was published a long while ago, the core message remains relevant today and will hopefully serve as a source of encouragement for anyone currently looking for a job.

From the Editor: Mary Fernandez recently graduated from Emory, and found a job in these tough economic times. Here is her story of how she got that job, and her suggestions for how we can all do the same.

I jumped out of the cab in front of Union Station, and made my way rather quickly to the ticket counter. I had already missed the train I had been planning to catch, and was hoping to make the next train. I bought my Amtrak ticket, and made my way to the gate. It looked like I would make it on time for my first ever job interview. Once onboard, I sat down with every intention of relaxing. But after five seconds exactly, my thigh started twitching. Taking a deep breath I told myself that while this was a big deal, it would be ok, right? Then my foot started tapping. Ok, I’ll call my mom! Well, that only took ten minutes. Fine, I’ll listen to some relaxing music. I will ignore the five year old that lives in my head, and that at times, like now, annoyingly asks questions like, are we there yet? I thought that if I was going to be thinking I might as well think about things that might help me during the interview. The only problem was that aside from the research I had done during the last two weeks, I wasn’t even quite sure that I was even qualified to be a paralegal. Which brought my mind back around to my resume… Did I include everything I had done? Did I ever fix that one spelling error? Ok, so this isn’t working, and I still had fifteen minutes to go on the train. So I gave up and just let my thigh twitch but restrained from picking at my nails, hopefully there was no one staring at me and my peculiar behavior. Or if someone was looking at me, hopefully they had nothing to do with the decision of hiring me.

At long last, after what seemed like three hours instead of half an hour, the train arrived At Baltimore Penn Station. I walked as quickly and in as dignified a manner as my four inch heels would allow me. I got in yet another cab and asked the driver to take me to the offices of Brown Goldstein and Levy. As I sat in the cab, I wondered yet again how exactly I had managed to land an interview, for a dream job, which I hadn’t even considered during my job search. The ride was mercifully short, and I still made it the requisite fifteen minutes early that just look good. Ok, I had made it! IN time! I sat in the gorgeous lobby, and utilized every tool I had ever learned to control stage fright. After a while my twitching subsided though my heart-rate would still speed up if I thought too hard about the importance of the next hour.

The interview started exactly on time, and as it turned out, it wasn’t an hour, but closer to two hours. I was quickly briefed by the firm administrator and told that I would be speaking to a total of five people. The good news was that after the second person, I just couldn’t keep up my high agitation level. And with everyone that I spoke to, I realized more and more what a wonderful opportunity it would be to land the job. By the end of the interview, I was exhausted, and my heart-rate had picked up again. This time however, it was just pure unadulterated excitement; sadly, that lasted until I realized that now I had to wait to find out the end result. That night I came back to DC and was set to wait for at least two days to know whether or not I got the job and to reflect some more on how it had all happened.

It all started in October of my senior year. After having a rather dramatic epiphany during which I realized that psychology was not what I wanted to do for the next seven years let alone the rest of my life, I found myself at a complete loss. Here I was, months away from graduation, and the plan that I had so carefully sculpted during the last four years had crumbled right in front of my eyes. After many antics on my behalf, and after I had tired myself out with my panic of no longer having a ten year plan, I finally calmed down and started listening to what people had to say. I also started listening to myself, and much of what was coming out of my mouth, things like “Oh my gosh, I’m a failure”, and “there’s nothing else I can possibly do with my life” stopped making as much sense as they once did. I figured out that what I really wanted to do was try working for a year or two, and then, I would go to law school, something I had wanted to do since the age of seven. Ok, so great, now I had decided to not go to school and try to find a job in one of the hardest economic times our country has faced. And so it all started. I officially began my job search in November of 2011 and did not get an interview until June of 2012. Like all my fellow graduating students, I became an expert on job searches. I started by crafting a good resume, which I would doubt on my way to my first job interview. Be that as it may, I tried to make my resume not only succinct but also demonstrative of all my hard work and achievements during my four years in college. Even though the end result was a resume that had a strong foundation and only needed a few tweaks depending on the specific position, a double major at a liberal arts college, learning a third language, interning every summer, doing significant academic research and having my name in a publication, and serving the community did not cut it for about fifty jobs. Once I had a resume that was approved by friends and the career center at Emory, it all began in earnest. My major focus when looking for a job was to try the federal sector first, since the benefits are great, and supposedly the government is always hiring. I have since learned that the government isn’t always hiring, especially since we are getting out of an economic recession. Despite that, I did learn about some incredible resources that every student with a disability who is graduating should explore. The first program I heard of is called WRP, or the Workforce Recruitment Program. This is a program targeting college students and recent graduates with a disability. There is an application process, and a recruiter will come to college campuses that have requested them to interview candidates; the end result is a database in which resumes and applications are posted along with the interviewer’s thoughts of the applicants. This database is accessed by government agencies and private contractors interested in hiring individuals with disabilities.

Aside from WRP, I also became a frequent attendee of career fairs. Every career fair on campus was fair game, it got to the point where if I knew I had a career fair to go to between classes, I had this whole routine for changing into my business clothes, going, doing my thing, and changing back into regular clothes before running across campus to go to class. But out of all the career fairs I attended the most adventurous was a career expo for people with disabilities in DC. The event was taking place on the last Friday of spring break. And so, I decided to stay on campus through most of the Spring break, as I had a recital to prepare for, and just fly out into DC on Thursday and go on Friday. I would use AirTran U, which allows college students under the age of 23 to fly for a significantly reduced rate. So Thursday came along, and after packing my extremely fashionable and professional business outfit, I ran to get my nails done. Since the lady did such a fine job, I was now running a lot later than I intended, so I took a $40 cab to the Atlanta Airport. I didn’t mind this so much since all this money was an investment for my future. I got to the Atlanta airport only to be informed that AirTran U had been suspended since Southwest took over. I was told that if I wanted to get to DC for the weekend I would have to pay about $800. Now, there are investments, and there are investments; I did not have the capacity to make an $800 investment for my future. I was crushed… And I was determined… I refused to believe that after all my preparation I would have to go back to Emory. As I was starving from running around all day, I went to Wendy’s and started to eat and work the phone. After a few phone calls I discovered that a really good friend of mine has a wonderful father that works for Delta. This amazing man called me, and set everything up so that I could fly into DC and back to Atlanta for the best price I’ve ever gotten on a round trip. Although this career expo was extremely informative and opened my eyes to many realities about looking for a job, the most valuable lesson I began to learn that weekend was on personal connections and building relationships. I had been friends with this girl through our career at Emory, and I’m sure at some point she mentioned her parents occupations, but, if I hadn’t built enough of a connection with her, her father would have never known about me and my plight.

Eventually, getting a job did not come about from spending entire weekends on usajobs.gov, or applying to every job announcement I could possibly, maybe be qualified for. It came down to personal connections. Soon after I graduated, I fell into this rather pitiful funk. I had a college degree and was back to living with my mother. I adore my mother and I would not be anywhere close to where I am without her, but I had pictured myself in a position where I might be able to help her out after I graduated. After seeing me mope around for long enough, she finally asked me what my job search consisted of. I explained all of the Internet resources I was exploiting etc. She said that she was sure that would eventually get me results, but if I wanted a job in the next two months I should probably consider picking up the phone and connecting with people. After a minute of thinking this over, I decided that she, as always, was right. And that is what I did. I called everyone who I knew who has a job. Not only that, I focused on people who knew me, who knew my capabilities, who had worked with me in the past, and who are well-connected. I made it easier for them by forwarding them my resume. But most importantly, I have always expressed my gratitude to anyone who cared enough to take time out of their busy days to send out my resume to people they knew.

Something truly amazing happened once I took this approach. People who were looking for employees started calling me about potential employment opportunities. A week and a half later I got an e-mail from Brown Goldstein & Levy, where my resume had miraculously landed. I swear the only time I have screamed so loud was when I got an invitation from the White House asking me to spend an evening with my idol Michelle Obama and President Obama. They actually wanted to interview me! Now, when you have been rejected over and over by people who don’t have a clue about you, you start hoping to just have one minute face to face with them so you can show them that you are awesome. That is why when I got a request for an interview I not only jumped for joy but I also screamed it out.

I often speculate with my close friends that technology has not only changed the way we do things, but the way we interact with people. I pride myself in the fact that while I love texting, and will log on to Facebook at least once a week, I still talk on the phone for the majority of my communications. I like e-mailing too, because when you sit down and take more than five seconds to write something that is more than 160 characters long, you are more likely to make a close connection with the person on the other side. But, even I had forgotten about the importance of net working in the true sense. I think a lot of us think of networking as meeting people for a minute or so, exchanging e-mail addresses and maybe emailing them or texting them when you need something and remember them long enough to think they might be able to help. But networking is more than being Facebook friends, or being connected on Linked-in. It is about building relationships with people, letting those relationships grow, and then, when you are searching for employment you can call them up. They will not only know who you are, but be proud that you have graduated, that you are in the search for a job and want to become a responsible citizen. I was very fortunate that my mother gave me that little kick I needed to get going, but, although the economy is slowly but surely getting better, I think now more than ever it is important to connect with people. As young blind professionals, or students, we struggle with not only getting an interview, but with all the misconceptions that will inevitably arise when you walk into an employer’s office. I was extremely fortunate that Brown Goldstein & Levy is a law firm that not only knows people with disabilities, but has time and time again stood with us to fight for our rights.

I found my ideal job. It took many, many months of work, and an incredible amount of perseverance. It took support from my friends, and one particular friend who, when I would start getting a bit hysterical after my 20th, and 40th, and 60th rejection letter, would assure me that I was really a rock star and that there was a job waiting for me. That same friend was proved right when the email with the job offer got to me through his WIFI network, only one day after my interview. It took a reality check from my mother who reminded me that while it might seem like technology runs the world, there are people behind those technologies who are looking for employees. It took a measure of luck. But in the end all it really took was a phone call.


3 Steps to Launch a Website
By Joe Orozco

For those of you interested in entrepreneurship, we try to run articles from time to time to help you in that venture. Without a doubt, setting up a website is essential to your operation. Here are a few ideas on how to get started.

Launchhing your own website does not have to be as complicated as people make it out to be. In fact, you can knock it out in a few simple steps:

Pick a Domain Name

Your domain is the address people will visit to reach your site, YourName.com or MyPlace.net, etc. The domain should give a sense of what you do and be short enough to remember, and yes, this is most definitely a case of do as I say and not as I do. At nineteen characters, I sometimes wonder if AlphaComm Strategies was the brightest name for my own freelance business.

Notes:

  • You can used parked domains to point to your main site. Parked domains are alternative URLs that can point to a specific address. If you want JoeSchmo.com, JoeSchmo.net, and JoeSchmo.org to all point to JoeSchmo.me, well, that is your prerogative.
  • Domain registrations can range from $6 to $15 a year.
  • Privacy registration at an average cost of $10 a year hides your mailing address from Whois records.
  • Whois records give contact information about the website owner and date the domain registration expires.
  • The .com extension is still the most popular despite the avalanche of new choices.

Pick a Web Host

It is possible to host your website on your own server. Here’s a great article detailing the process, but for the rest of us, paying someone else to maintain the stability of your online business is well worth the cost.

Notes:

  • Your web host should count on more than one data center for redundant backup of your data.
  • A good web host will give you at least one free domain registration.
  • Features such as one-click installers are great, but the up-time guarantee is more important.
  • One-click installers are things like shopping carts and content managers.
  • My personal preference for the backend management of a website is CPanel.
  • The worse backend management system I’ve had the distaste of using is that from GoDaddy.

Pick a Content Management System

Once upon a time web developers used a basic text editor like NotePad to manually design their web pages. I suppose you still could, but it’s more efficient to use a CMS to organize and publish your information. A good CMS provides a web interface that guides you in plain English through the process of creating static pages, blogs and accomplish more advanced tasks like setting up an online store.

The two systems I’ve used and can personally recommend are Drupal and WordPress. Both are free, and both are a little bit of a pain to set up the first time. I prefer Drupal for no other reason than it was the system I tried first, but there are hundreds of great websites using one or the other. Here’s a good comparison article to help you decide which CMS is right for you.

If you have any questions, send me an email. Your website is too important not to be a part of your business operation, and with so many opportunities out there to set one up, there’s no reason why you should not have your own space on the web.


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