Looking Forward to Milwaukee Convention (1/29/2016) 
   Blinded Veterans Association BVA Milwaukee Convention

Looking Forward to Milwaukee Convention


The Blinded Veterans Association welcomes its members, guests, exhibitors, and volunteers alike to join us for our 71st National Convention . It’s time to start planning your trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 21st-26th, 2016 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center!  This year bids to be our best convention to date, we are seeking more exhibitors, speakers, and professionals in both the veteran and visual impaired communities to share their knowledge.  We also welcome knowledge from you, so don’t be afraid to share ideas about education sessions, devices, and exhibitors that you want to see at your convention. As an organization of blinded veterans helping blinded veterans our goal for this convention is to empower you with the most up to date knowledge, tools, and skills to achieve your goals.

So join us in Milwaukee! Registration will be open in May; if you wish to have a registration packet emailed to you or a hard copy mailed to you or please contact BVA National headquarters.  This year we are seeking more input from our membership as we develop the conference, generating ideas for education sessions and asking those who are confident in their skills to be our instructors.  If there is a device that you have been using and have a good understanding of how it functions and feel confident in teaching others please let us know.  Are you a great iPhone user and know some tricks of the trade then share your secrets with your fellow blinded veterans during half hour workshop.

Sessions will not be limited to just devices, we want you to share what your regional group is doing to be effective in your community, how you are advocating for your fellow blinded veterans, and overcoming challenges.  Per the request of our membership we will be holding officer training during the convention as well as a one hour session on White Cane Awareness Day.  Regional group members are also invited to host workshops on public relations, how to manage financials, and the innovative ways you are connecting with your members.  Share your knowledge with your fellow BVA members so as a whole we can bring more awareness to both the veteran and blind community through advocacy and outreach and together we can empower all blinded veterans.

  Those individuals who are interested in instructing a workshop on a device or another topic should contact the convention manager by the end of February.  Share your knowledge with your fellow blinded veterans! Education sessions and workshops will be held on Monday Tuesday and Friday morning following the closing business meeting. Tuesday will also feature the opening of the exhibit hall, last year the convention hosted its largest number of exhibitors ever, and looks to continue to increase exhibitor numbers in Milwaukee.  BVA Business meetings will close out the week along with the traditional closing Awards Banquet.  The annual Melvin J. Maas, David L. Schnair, Irving Diener, and Certificate of Appreciation awards will be handed out and nominations for these awards are currently being accepted until April 15th, 2016.  Those wishing to submit nominations should contact BVA National headquarters.

This year the BVA National Convention will be kicked off by the first annual, “VIPER Ride,” on August 21st.  VIPER, which stands for Visually Impaired Patriots Experiencing the Road, was the brainstorm of a group of Wisconsin Regional group members who sought to bring back the feeling of the open road to those with visual impairments.

After the kick-off there will be time during the convention to enjoy the city. Popularly known as the backdrop for the show, “Happy Days,” Milwaukee has been selected by the Boston Globe as a must see travel destination for 2016.  Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin and the fifth largest city in the Midwestern United States, but don’t let its size intimidate you Milwaukee is a beautiful compilation of charm, hospitality, and that small town neighborhood feel. Its easy layout and extensive Para-transit system will make navigating the city a cinch.  Travel to Milwaukee is a breeze; General Mitchell International Airport is a fifteen minute taxi ride away, and for those who prefer to travel via train or bus the station is just two blocks from the hotel.

It has been 50 years since BVA last held a convention in Wisconsin, and we look forward to bringing the 71st National Convention back to the city of Milwaukee and hope that you will join us there.

 BVA Welcomes Adams as New Leader at AFB (1/29/2016) 
   Blinded Veterans Association BVA AFB

BVA Welcomes Adams as New Leader at AFB

 

The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) is pleased to recognize the appointment of current President and Chief Executive Officer of The Lighthouse for the Blind Kirk Adams as the new executive with the same title at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).

The announcement of Adams’ appointment was released by AFB on January 28, following a nationwide search for a new executive. He will assume his duties as President and CEO in May 2016, ensuring a smooth transition of leadership as he succeeds Carl R. Augusto, who is retiring after 25 years at the AFB helm.

“We congratulate Kirk in this new endeavor and look forward to his leadership in continuing the effective partnership that our organization has enjoyed with AFB since its formative years immediately after World War II,” said BVA Executive Director Al Avina. “Our working relationship with Kirk at the Lighthouse for the Blind the past eight years has demonstrated his understanding of the blindness field and his commitment to improving the lives of those who are blind and visually impaired, including a high priority to support America’s veterans and their unique circumstances.”  

Adams joins AFB as the sixth CEO in the organization’s nearly 100-year history. Chartered by the U.S. Congress, BVA is now in its 71st year of service to blinded veterans. The Association traces its roots to a group of approximately 100 founding members returning from World War II with eye injuries resulting in legal or total blindness. Its services are free and available to any blinded veteran.


 BVA OPS Runners Attend Marathon (12/11/2015) 
   Blinded Veterans Association OPS USABA CIM California International Marathon

BVA OPS Participants Run in California International Marathon

By BVA Member Tim Hornik

For the first time, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) through the Operation Peer Support (OPS) committee sponsored and represented the BVA during the California International Marathon (CIM) held in Sacramento on Sunday, December 6th, 2015. The CIM brings together hundreds of runners, over 2,000 volunteers, a 2 day exposition center, and qualification for the Boston Marathon. The CIM features a visually impaired runners category, through the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). Visually impaired runners from across the country flocks towards the USABA’s CIM participation thanks to the generosity of donors, like the BVA OPS committee, and grants, like the VA adaptive sports grants. In total, 48 marathon runners (11 of whom who were Veterans) and over 60 sighted guides demonstrated how blindness needs not slow one down.

For the 2015 CIM, the BVA possessed runners on two teams. The primary BVA team consisted of Richard Hunter; Timothy Hornik, guided by Dr. Robert Chen; Danny Wallace, guided by Delta Gamma’s Andrea Witherspoon; and Travis Fugate, guided by Brad Morris. This team finished the relay in 3 hours and 54 minutes, exceeding the average marathon time of 4 hours and 21 minutes. Dale Stamper, guided by Dan Tyree, ran the final leg of another blinded Veteran team. We each owe our sighted guides, Rob, Andrea, and Brad much credit for their willingness to volunteer to lead the way. Dr. Rob Chen is very familiar with the BVA, as he participated in a Australian Iron Man earlier this year, donating the proceeds to the Major Robert Soltes Memorial Golf Tournament which is Operation Peer Support’s primary supporter. He and his wife, Bonnie, have been friends with Dr. Sally Dang and Major Soltes, after meeting in Texas after medical school. Andrea Witherspoon is a Delta Gamma Alumni, and Captain in the US Army. She represented Delta Gamma after winning a national contest to run with a blinded Veteran during the CIM. Brad Morris is Travis’ friend and esteemed business partner and co-founder of their company Graphspan. We could not have run the CIM without their enduring service to us.

The visual impairment portion of the CIM would not be possible were not for the efforts of Richard Hunter. Richard is a blinded Veteran, having served in the 1990’s who lives the BVA motto of assisting his blinded peers through his selfless service advocating for visually impaired endurance sports. Around 2007, he approached the CIM’s organizers about included a visually impaired category, similar to the Boston and New York marathons. They immediately concurred with his request and allowed him to aid in the development of the visual impairment category. What started as 2 visually impaired runners in 2007 evolved into 48 visually impaired runners and roughly 60 sighted guides today.

The BVA OPS’ committee’s involvement in the CIM extend beyond the participation in the CIM, but acted as a catalyst to promote the Blinded Veterans Association amongst the visually impaired Veterans runners, USABA, and Delta Gamma. The USABA is the premier organization for blinded Veterans interested in becoming athletes and participating in the world games or para-Olympics. The USABA, through a VA adaptive sports grant, made attendance by all of the USABA members who are Veterans possible by covering their travel and lodging costs. Looking into the future, it’s feasible through a unified BVA and USABA advocacy campaign we might succeed in efforts to increase the number of visually impaired adaptive sporting events, at the VA's Golden Ages Games or President George Bush's Invictus game. Currently, blinded Veterans are marginalized in these disabled recreation programs to just one or two events.

The most beneficial aspect of the BVA OPS participation involves networking with Delta Gamma. Delta Gamma is a sorority, whose Greek letters represents their motto, “Do Good.” Both the mission of their sisters and foundation aims to serve individuals with visual impairments, stemming from their 1936 National Convention when a visually impaired member conveyed the need to support individuals with sight loss. Those with visual impairments benefited from Delta Gamma’s volunteers, as the sisters acted as sighted guides at meals, conducted guided walking tours throughout Sacramento, and even during the CIM run.>As part of the Joining Forces, Delta Gamma reconfirmed its commitment to aiding those with visual impairments, by seeking opportunities to serve visually impaired Veterans. Demonstrating Delta Gamma’s Joining Forces goal, a national contest promised either a Delta Gamma sister or alumni the chance to serve as the sighted guide of a blinded Veteran. It’s inspiring to reflect on how Delta Gamma instills the motivation in its sisters and alumni to serve those with visual impairments, considering the winner coveted the chance to guide a blinded Veteran.

Based on these experiences, Dale, Danny, Travis, and Tim unanimously agreed returning to the CIM next year will benefit the BVA. However, running in the relay team will not suffice, as each set a goal to either complete the half or full marathon. This first year in the CIM allowed us to witness the value attending such events, and it’s the hope of these attendees to ensure more USABA and BVA members may participate in the future.

For more information about the visually impaired Veteran runners, visit the USABA blog here.

Click here to view pictures of the BVA CIM Runners

To view all of the USABA photos of the CIM, visit their Facebook pages.


 Add Your Voice! (11/23/2015) 
   Blinded Veterans Association Legislative Updates

Add Your Voice! Stay Informed About the Latest Legislative Developments

 

There are many occasions when members of Congress and other public officials need to hear from individual veterans who will be impacted by the decisions they are about to make. On such occasions, you, their constituents, have much greater persuasive powers than those of us who work in Washington D.C. have. If you would be interested in receiving legislative updates by email from the BVA national office, so that you can help us make phone calls or write letters on such occasions, we’d like to hear from you. Please send an email to mbrunson@bva.org and include "Legislative Contact List" in the subject line. We will add your email address to our Legislative Contacts List and send you news alerts about significant legislative and policy developments. We promise not to unnecessarily clutter your inbox, but we hope to inform you and to inspire you to take action as appropriate. Thank you in advance for your interest and assistance!

 


 Accessibility Highlights Newly Designed Blinded Veterans Site (11/3/2015) 
   Accessibility Highlights Newly Designed Blinded Veterans Site

Accessibility Highlights Newly Designed Blinded Veterans Site


The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) has this week unveiled a newly redesigned, fully accessible, mobile-responsive website. Users can begin navigating the site at its Homepage, www.bva.org.

“The new site will offer previously unavailable resources, tools, and other sources of information,” said BVA Executive Director Al Avina. “It will also allow our constituents to efficiently update records, register for events, and gain access to the assistance they may be seeking for themselves or other veterans who have experienced vision loss.”

BVA’s previous site was designed before the Internet was easily accessible via tablet and Smartphone, and was not optimized for mobile users. The new site is mobile-reactive, automatically displaying a user-friendly version of the site on mobile devices.

The site is also designed for compatibility with most screen-reader applications to ensure that it is as accessible as possible for blind and low-vision users. The new design features BVA’s recently updated logo, a sleeker layout, and a more convenient navigation process.

All of the content from the old website, which spans more than five years, has been carefully preserved by BVA staff to offer a complete historical perspective on BVA’s past and present service to blinded veterans. 

Building on that foundation, the new site will feature in the coming months several useful functions for both Association members and the public, including a login section for members only where they will be able to personally update their information. An additional section will feature adaptive technology with reviews and guides written by BVA members and staff. 

“The site will continue to be a work in progress,” said Avina. “In the meantime, BVA is proud of the improvements that will better allow the organization to communicate effectively on all platforms with our members and the public.”


Recent Posts

Looking Forward to Milwaukee Convention

Posted on 1/29/2016
Blinded Veterans Association BVA Milwaukee Convention

BVA Welcomes Adams as New Leader at AFB

Posted on 1/29/2016
Blinded Veterans Association BVA AFB

BVA OPS Runners Attend Marathon

Posted on 12/11/2015
Blinded Veterans Association OPS USABA CIM California International Marathon

Add Your Voice!

Posted on 11/23/2015
Blinded Veterans Association Legislative Updates

Accessibility Highlights Newly Designed Blinded Veterans Site

Posted on 11/3/2015
Accessibility Highlights Newly Designed Blinded Veterans Site

BVA Staffer Attends VA Council of American Federation of Government Employees

Posted on 9/22/2015
BVA Staffer Attends VA Council of American Federation of Government Employees

Blinded Veterans Association and Blind Veterans UK Attending Major Charles R. Soltes, Jr. O.D. Golf

Posted on 9/18/2015
Blinded Veterans Association and Blind Veterans UK Attending Major Charles R. Soltes, Jr. O.D. Golf Memorial Event on October 12, 2015