Unlocking Our Possibilities
63rd ANNUAL STATE CONVENTION
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF VIRGINIA
Tracy Soforenko, President
Sunday, October 24 – Sunday, October 31, 2021
Virtually over Zoom
For assistance with accessibility features
for Zoom--whether vision or hearing, please visit the Zoom accessibility page:
Our National Representative:
Avant, Board Member, National Federation of the Blind and First Vice President,
National Federation of the Blind of Illinois
Table of Contents 2
The Federation Pledge 4
Convention Registration 4
Zoom Meeting Access 5
Door Prizes 7
Action Auction 7
Pre-Authorized Contribution Plan 8
Requesting Help or Assistance 9
Closed Captioning 10
Sunday, October 24, 2021 11
Monday, October 25, 2021 12
Tuesday, October 26, 2021 13
Wednesday, October 27, 2021 14
Thursday, October 28, 2021 16
Friday, October 29, 2021 17
Senior Empowerment Seminar:.............................................................. 17
Unlocking the Best of the Rest................................................................. 17
Saturday, October 30, 2021 23
General Session 23
Saturday Afternoon Seminars 26
2021 Convention Keynote and 26
Halloween Celebration 26
Sunday, October 31, 2021 28
General Session 28
“I pledge to participate actively in the efforts 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.”
Convention registration is available online. We ask everyone, whether a Virginia resident or not, to register. If you register before October 18, you will be entered into a drawing for $100. Additionally, current members of a Virginia chapter or division will be eligible to vote for resolutions and in our elections.
Online registration is free and simple:
Inclusivity, Diversity, and Social Conduct
We are committed to providing a harassment-free environment for everyone. Thank you for cultivating an atmosphere in which participants from diverse backgrounds can learn, network, and share with each other in an environment of mutual respect. We are committed to diversity, equity, and the free expression of ideas.
These principles have been outlined in our code of conduct found at:
We recognize a shared responsibility to create and uphold that atmosphere for the benefit of all. Prohibited behaviors include harassment, unwelcome sexual attention, and inappropriate use of the NFB of Virginia virtual convention platform. Prohibited behavior or misuse of the platform will not be tolerated and may result in removal from the convention and/or other consequences. For assistance or to report an incident at the convention, please call 703-672-1339, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for immediate attention. All reports will be fully investigated according to the steps in our code of conduct. Thank you for doing your part to contribute to our community and the high expectations we strive to maintain.
During the convention, we will be using one of three separate Zoom meetings to run all programming.
We have embedded the Zoom links into the agenda to make it easy to just select the link and access your meeting.
There are three meeting rooms which are being used based on our requirements for certain features.
High-Capacity Sessions such as General Session and the keynote will use:
Meeting ID: 998 626 1733
One tap mobile: +13017158592,,9986261733#
For many sessions, we will be using our Standard Virginia Zoom Room:
Meeting ID: 829 725 6345
One Tap Mobile: +13017158592,,8297256345#
Finally, some additional meetings will use a third Zoom Room:
Meeting ID: 492 696 9418
One tap mobile: +16468769923,,4926969418#
For those using a land line telephone to access the meeting, we have made most of the information the same except for the meeting ID.
The telephone number to call for all meetings is: 301 715 8592
If prompted, the Password is always 2020 1940
Door prizes will be drawn periodically throughout convention sessions on Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday and at the banquet. To be eligible for door prizes, you must be registered for the convention and present on Zoom when your name is called. To claim your door prize, you will need to email our door prize team within 10 minutes of the announcement. When your name is called you will need to provide the following information in your email door prize team at email@example.com
· Your name
· Your phone
· Your email address
· The special code provided at the time the door prize was called.
Beginning October 18 and ending at 5:00 PM ET on Sunday, October 31, 2021 we will be holding an Action Auction to raise money for our new Silver Bells program for blind and low vision seniors. Most auction items will be available through the online auction only, but some will be auctioned off on Saturday, October 30 and Sunday, October 31 in a live auction. The auction will be great fun with many valuable items up for bid. You will have a chance to review and bid on all auction items through our online auction platform.
For more information, contact Renee Valdez, Fundraising Co-Chairperson at (703) 966-0836 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact our auctioneer, Laurie Wages at (540) 287-5446 or
The Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) Plan is a phenomenal and easy way to fund the vital efforts of the National Federation of the Blind. Protecting our rights, providing advocacy, and being able to offer programs such as our efforts around voting access, remote learning assistance for parents and children, and the innumerable programs and services of the Federation cannot happen without financial support.
Please consider joining the PAC Plan, or if you are already a member, please consider increasing your contribution. The recurring monthly contributions can be direct withdrawals from a checking account or charges to a credit card. New members will be contacted for their bank account or credit card information. Increased contributions from existing members will be debited from your existing account or charged to the card on file unless you wish to change this.
Details of the program and a form to sign up or increase your contribution are available at
Please select Virginia in the affiliate to be credited field.
If you have questions or would prefer to work with someone over the phone, call 877-NFB 2 PAC or 877 632-2722.
Once you have filled out the form or called and left a message, please send an email to our Virginia Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) Chair, Christine Grassman to tell her the following:
Email this information to Christine at:
If you need assistance from the NFB of Virginia (such as helping a blind child get a strong education, getting access to blindness skills training, learning to use NFB-NEWSLINE®, or resolving an employment discrimination problem), please email our help line, email@example.com. You may also call the NFBV Help Line at: 703-672-1339. You may use this line to ask technical questions if you are having trouble logging into any of our Zoom sessions. Any questions that require the attention of President Soforenko will be forwarded to his attention. In certain cases, please know your inquiry may not be addressed until after the convention.
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Opening the Doors on This Year’s Convention
All convention attendees are cordially invited to attend a welcoming Zoom meeting. President Soforenko will be on hand to preview convention activities and provide a historical perspective of the organization and how it grew into one of the leading affiliates it is today. If you are new to the NFB, come learn a little more about the extended family that could become your own.
7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Advocating for your Blind Child, Part 1 of a seminar conducted by the Virginia Organization of Parents of Blind Children.
We invite you to rejoice and celebrate
children of all ages and endeavor to learn more about encouraging independence
in our homes and communities. Please join for part 1 of our parents’
program as we converse together and hear from guest speaker, Jordana
Engebreston, the National Federation of the Blind 2021 Distinguished
Educator of Blind Students.
7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Virginia Organization of Parents of Blind Children Annual Meeting, Beth Sellers, President, Virginia Parents of Blind Children.
This is part 2 of the Parents Seminar. Whether you have a newborn infant, or your child is a working adult, you are warmly invited to our annual parents of blind children meeting, where we brainstorm, reflect, and learn together to set our children up for success. Throughout the evening, we will hear from successful blind adults in the workforce and participate in interactive conversations on the school systems and supporting our children toward confidence and independence. The parents’ support network is stronger with your voice involved.
7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Embracing Our Diversity: Understanding distinctions between Prejudice, Bias, and Micro Triggers: Uricka Harrison and Chris Walker– Co-chairs, National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
The National Federation of the Blind recognizes that our diversity is a core strength. This interactive session, organized by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee will cover prejudice, bias, and microaggression. How are they different and how are they intertwined?
Key discussion facilitators will include:
· Denise Avant, National Federation of the Blind Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee National Committee Member, Chicago, Illinois.
Partnering with the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired
7:00 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. Welcome Remarks: Tracy Soforenko, President.
7:05 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. Initiating, Engaging, Thriving: The Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired Partners with Stakeholders and Pursues Opportunities
- Melody Roane, Director, Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired, Moderator, Richmond Virginia.
- Bella Teta, Participant in the 2021 LIFE Program, Gainesville, Virginia
- Shayla Winn, Student in the Adult Training Program, Midlothian, Virginia
- Matt Harding, TVI and O and M Instructor for Roanoke Public Schools, Pearisburg, Virginia
7:20 p.m. to 7:35 p.m. Rehabilitation Services for the Blind in Virginia. Raymond Hopkins, Commissioner, Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired.
7:35 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Questions and Answers with Commissioner Hopkins.
7:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Public Meeting on DBVI Divisions, Programs and Services: Susan K. Davis, Policy and Training Coordinator, Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired.
We are grateful that DBVI will hold a public meeting where attendees can ask questions and speak with agency leadership. DBVI wants to hear from you so come and share your thoughts and ideas on how DBVI can better meet the needs of blind and low vision Virginians. Let your voice be heard.
8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Blind Parents' Annual Meetup: Virginia Blind Parents Seminar. Jessica Reed, facilitator.
Just as there is more than one way to carve a pumpkin, there is definitely more than one way to blind parent. Whether you are a blind homeschooler, blind father, and yes even a blind homesteader there is always something new we can glean from each other. At times, we have all felt there is nothing scarier than parenting, so come on out for some sharing and exchanging of ideas on how to skin the cat.
If you are a student of any age, this evening item is for you! Join students across the Commonwealth to share, learn, and grow until late hours of the evening. During this seminar, you will be introduced to successful and ambitious blind professionals and students, confident and independent throughout their lives. At the end, make your voice heard by participating in the student division's annual election!
9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Scholarship Mixer: Jimmy Morris, Chairperson.
Retirement does not spell the end of your productive years. It is the start of a fresh chapter, the freedom to live life on your own terms, and if you happen to be blind or low vision, there is a range of resources that is going to make independence taste sweeter than ever! Join us for an afternoon of interactive discussion and exploration. This is your time, your story, your opportunity to unlock the best of the rest!
While this seminar is targeting seniors, we believe that everyone could benefit from participating in the exciting programming we have defined.
1:00 p.m. The False Narrative - Tracy Soforenko, President, NFB of Virginia
1:10 p.m. Welcome to Our Family - Nancy Yeager, President, NFBV Seniors Division
1:15 p.m. Silver BELLS Are Ringing and What This Means for Your Independence - Sandy Halverson, Program Coordinator
1:30 p.m. Your Philosophical Spirit: What is it and how does it guide you?
2:00 p.m. Who Says You Can’t Live Life the Way You Want? Cracking Down on How We Travel, Cook, and Communicate with Flare - Shimere Roberts, Moderator. Panelists: Chris Walker, Evelyn Valdez, and Wanda Taylor
2:30 p.m. Intermission. Take a moment to stretch, refill your beverage of choice, and come back to join us for more exciting programming!
2:40 p.m. Convention Weekend Previews
2:45 p.m. Controlling Your Health Using Audible Devices with Tactile Over the Counter and Prescription Medications - Accessible Pharmacy
3:00 p.m. Literature Unleashed: From the Classics to Contemporary Page Turners, Your library in your back pocket. - Joe Orozco
3:10 p.m. Get Plugged into Your Community: In Your Home and on the Go! - Karin Jernberg, Moderator
NFB Newsline: 500 Newspapers and Magazines at the Speed of a Finger Flick or Push of a Button - John Halverson, Coordinator
Virginia Voice: Your News Delivered with a Human Touch - Teresa Wray, Director
Access Virginia: From the Stage to Your Ears, Theater Description at Its Best - Jacki Bruce, President
3:45 p.m. Breaking Down Our Concerns and Building Up Our Confidence: An Interactive Dialogue. Keep your seats and allow a rotation of presenters to answer your most pressing questions about everything.
Team 1: Home Management Essentials
Team 2: Dealing with Your Family
Team 3: Managing Your health, Finances and Other Responsibilities
4:45 p.m. Closing Remarks and Next Steps
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Resolutions Committee: Deepa Goraya, Chairperson.
We encourage the participation of all members in setting Federation policy, and the best way to influence policy is through resolutions. As a grass roots organization, we serve our movement through collective action, and such action begins with policy making and debate. Come help shape the policies of the NFB of Virginia. Please refer to the Principles of Engagement for details on how to voice your positions on the proposed resolutions.
6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Virginia Association of Blind Merchants Division Business Meeting: Jimmy Cunningham, President, Virginia Merchants Division, Prince George, Virginia.
The Merchants are as resilient today as we have ever been. Like everyone else, we continue to work toward improving upon our new norm. In doing so, we are reviewing new ideas and things that we can add to what we are presently doing to avoid pitfalls that we encountered from COVID-19. free to join up at our Merchant meeting to hear and learn more.
Come join the chapter for our annual reception and business meeting.
The virtual reception is open to all blind Virginians and family members regardless of where you live in the Commonwealth.
7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Unlocking our Possibilities: A Federation Philosophy Seminar
Unlocking Our Possibilities
Three words. One theme. In this session, we will be analyzing this statement, breaking it down and creating meaningful discussion. Our goal is to build collaborations that will connect to who we are and answer the question “who are we and what is next?” Come ready to speak your mind and be heard at this empowering session and work on unlocking your own possibilities.
8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Virginia October Fest Party
Join us for this virtual house party where you can meet old friends, make new connections, and enjoy drinks and snacks from your personal collection.
We are planning a set of breakout sessions across three separate Zoom meetings with multiple break outs in each meeting.
A) Campfire Stories – Sharing Our Stories: Gather around the virtual campfire for engaging real-life stories from our lived experiences. Your stories must be told without notes and must be from your own personal experience, as you remember it. Stories do not need to be related to blindness. We encourage but do not require participants to practice with John Bailey, our story telling coach, to refine your story and ensure you fit into our strict 5-minute window. We want to hear from you but presenters who work with the story telling coach will be presented first. We are limited participation to 7 presenters so please reach out to John and secure your slot. Let’s hear your story. Organized by the Virginia Association of Blind Students. To reach John Bailey, please call him at (703) 994-2040 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
B)The Game Room – Join us for fun interactive games where you can compete against each other in team and individual settings. Details of the games to be provided later in October.
C) Making Connections – Would you like to meet Denise Avant (our National Rep) connect with students in the Virginia Association of Blind students,
Each Zoom room will have multiple break out rooms with different themes and our organizers will move you into one of the rooms when you arrive. If you want to check out a different room, drop off and dial in again. Join us for a fun evening to make connections and grow your network.
9:00 a.m. Call to Order -Tracy Soforenko, President, NFB of Virginia.
9:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Opening Ceremonies:
· Gavel Down - Nora Nadeem, BELL Academy In Home Edition Participant, Staunton, Virginia.
· Invocation – Carshena Gary, Vice President, Peninsula Chapter, Capron, Virginia.
· Presentation of the Colors and Veterans Salute.
· Pledge of Allegiance, US Army Veteran, Joseph Hobson, Potomac Chapter, Arlington, Virginia .
· Federation Pledge, Michael Matthews, Project RISE Participant, Yorktown, Virginia.
· Star Spangled Banner, Julie McGinnity, Potomac Chapter, Arlington, Virginia.
9:15 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. National Report, Denise Avant, Board Member, National Federation of the Blind and First Vice President, National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois.
9:55 a.m. to 10:05 a.m. My Journey: From Where I was to where I am Now, A Confident Blind Senior- Karin Jernberg, Potomac Chapter, Alexandria, Virginia.
10:05 a.m.: to 10:20 a.m. Working to Move the Needle on Disability Employment and Close the Disability Wealth Gap Through Impact Investment: SmartJob - Regina Kline, Founder and CEO, SmartJob, LLC, Alexandria, Virginia.
· Brittany Ingram, Fredericksburg, Virginia.
· Cynthia Brandon, Mechanicsville, Virginia.
· Elana Crew, Baltimore, Maryland.
10:35 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Breaking Barriers: A Personal Story of a Blind Immigrant.
Sachin Pavithran Ph.D., Executive Director, US Access Board, McLean, Virginia.
10:45 a.m. to 10:55 a.m. A Friend in Congress. Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, Virginia 10th District.
10:55 a.m. to 11:05 a.m. AIRA: Your Special Sneak Peak From an Insider's Perspective, Tracy Yeager, Agent, AIRA Tech Corporation, Alexandria, Virginia.
11:05 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. What Students Are Doing to Unlock Their Potential– Logan Stenzel, Board Member, National Association of Blind Students, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
11:15 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. Introducing the 2021 NFB of Virginia James F. Nelson, Jr. Scholarship Finalists.
· Jimmy Morris, Scholarship Committee Chairperson, Glen Allen, Virginia.
· Kailey Christian, Old Dominion University, Chesapeake, Virginia.
· Chris Infante, College of William and Mary, Henrico, Virginia.
· Desmond Walker, Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach, Virginia.
· Wayne Edward Williams Jr., Lord Fairfax Community College, Winchester, Virginia.
11:20 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Reports and Announcements.
11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Unlocking Our Possibilities:
The Key to Results That Last, A Presidential Report, Tracy Soforenko, President, NFB of Virginia.
12:00 p.m. General Session Adjourns.
12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Big Money Made Easy. Brianna Murray, Facilitator.
The path to financial success doesn’t need to be difficult but it does require discipline. From the 10 lessons written on an index card to techniques used by blind role models, you can learn the techniques for financial success.
3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Leadership Bootcamp: Everything You Didn't Want to Hear About Leadership, Joe Orozco and Domonique Lawless, Co-facilitators.
Chapter meetings are boring. People complain but never want to volunteer. We always do the same things. Yep, we've all heard the typical gripes, but what if the problem is you? Buck up, buttercup. This is not your grandpa's feel good seminar. Come ready to listen, learn, and lend your voice to making the organization stronger. Platitudes are not welcomed. Straight talk is encouraged, and action items are a must.
In Federation fashion, come dressed in costume and ready for a fine celebration with a keynote address by National Representative Denise Avant.
6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Trick Or Treat: Speed Dining.
Meet Old Friends, Make New Ones at this Virtual Banquet Meal. You will be moved to a new Zoom breakout table every 10-15 minutes.
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Keynote Program – Sandy Halverson, Master of Ceremonies and First Vice President, NFB of Virginia:
· Invocation— Christine Grassman, President, Potomac Chapter, Falls Church, Virginia.
· Keynote Address – Denise Avant, Board Member, National Federation of the Blind.
· 2021 James F. Nelson Scholarship Awards Presentation—Jimmy Morris, Scholarship Committee Chairperson, Glen Allen, Virginia.
· Action Auction - Laurie Wages, Auctioneer
· Drawings and Announcements.
1:00 p.m. to 1:05 p.m. Invocation – Stewart Prost, President, Tidewater Chapter, Norfolk, Virginia.
· Qudsiya Naqui, Board Member, Potomac Chapter, Washington, District of Columbia.
· Amir Rahimi, Greater Alexandria Chapter, Arlington, Virginia.
· Althea Pittman, President, Eastern Shore Chapter, Melfa, Virginia.
1:25 p.m. to 1:40 p.m. Learning by Doing: Braille Enrichment for Literacy & Learning (BELL) Academy In Home Edition.
· Louise Walch, BELL Coordinator, Virginia Beach, Virginia.
· Renee Valdez, Virginia Supplemental BELL Coordinator, Alexandria, Virginia.
1:40 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Unlocking Our Possible: Elevating the Education of Blind and Low Vision Students in Maryland.
· Marcella Franczkowski: Assistant State Superintendent, Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.
· Conchita Hernandez: State Blind and Low Vision Specialist, Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.
2:00 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. Unlocking the Phoenix: Project RISE Reaches New Heights.
· Brianna Murray, Project RISE Program Coordinator, Highland Park, New Jersey.
· Ally Kelso, Project RISE student, Burke, Virginia
· Aleyanah Holden, Project RISE student, Triangle, Virginia
· Gheeti Nusrati, Project RISE graduate, Springfield, Virginia
2:20 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Collaborating to Increase Our Access to Sensory Trails:
· Chris Walker, President, Winchester Chapter, Winchester, Virginia
· Laure Wallace, Virginia master naturalist, sky meadow State Park, Delaplaine Virginia.
· Tom Crosby, Winchester Host Lions club, Jim Barnett Park, Winchester, Virginia.
2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Interactive Town Hall Discussion with Denise Avant, Bord member, National Federation of the Blind and Tracy Soforenko, President.
3:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Action Auction.
3:15 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. Business Session:
· Resolutions—Deepa Goraya, Chairperson.
· Audit Committee Report—Sean McMahon, Chairperson.
· Treasurer’s Report—Mark Roane, Treasurer.
· SUN Committee Report: Sandy Halverson, Chairperson.
· PAC Report: Christine Grassman, Virginia PAC Chairperson.
· 2022 Richmond and Washington Seminars.
· 2022 National Convention, July 5 - July 10, New Orleans, Louisiana.
· 2022 NFB of Virginia Convention, October 28– October 30, Westin Tyson’s Corner, Falls church, Virginia.
3:50 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Reports and Announcements.
4:00 p.m. General Session Adjourns.