Future Reflections Winter 1992, Vol. 11 No. 1
BLINDNESS EDUCATION WEEK
* Where can you meet up to 2,500 blind people in one week or
* Where can you hear stimulating, informative, and exciting
speakers who are national experts in the education and
rehabilitation of the blind?
* Where can you meet the most active, knowledgeable parents of
blind children (including parents of blind multiple-handicapped
children) in the country?
* In what one week of the year are you likely to learn more about
blindness and how best to raise your blind child, than any other
one week of the year?
* Where, in 1992, can you see--all in one place at one time--one of
the largest exhibits of the newest aids and technology for the
blind in the country?
Answer: Simple. The 1992 National Federation of the Blind National Convention at the Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, from Sunday, June 28 through Saturday, July 4.
Futhermore, you can do all the things above, and more, for a lot less money than you might think. Your biggest investment will be your time and energy. But the payback for that investment--in terms of new knowledge, new understanding, and the new friends you make from among the thousands of blind adults, children, other parents, and educators who attend the convention--is enormous.
Convention activities this year begin on Sunday, June 28, with an all-day seminar for parents of blind children. The theme for this year's seminar is "Integrating Blind Children and Youth in School and in the Community." The keynote address will be given by Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, and an acknowledged national expert on the integrated education of blind children. Also on the agenda will be a panel of blind children and youth talking about their experiences with making friends, having fun, and learning to "fit in;" a panel of parents; a panel of blind adults; and numerous other speakers on topics such as independent travel, computer technology, the deaf-blind child, and residential schools.
Great topics, however, do not make a great seminar. A worthwhile seminar must have interesting and informative speakers. We expect our 1992 speakers to be as good as, if not better than, those of the 1991 parent seminar. You can judge for yourself the quality of the 1991 seminar from the speeches reprinted in this article: "What It Means to be Blind in our Hearts and in Our Minds" (a panel of blind students) and "Change Through Role-Modeling and Networking" (a panel of parents).Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:00 a.m.; and the seminar will start at 9:00 a.m. The registration fee is $8.00 per family or $5.00 per person. The fee entitles the participant to a packet of literature and materials and may also be applied, if desired, toward membership in the Parents of Blind Children Division (which includes a subscription to Future Reflections). An hour and half will be allowed for lunch (there are many inexpensive restaurants and fast-food places nearby), and the seminar will adjourn at 5:00 p.m.
Q.: What about children? We may want to bring the kids. Is there anything for them?
A.: On the day of the parent seminar (Sunday, June 28) the Parents of Blind Children Division and the NFB Parental Concerns Committee will offer child-care for the infants and toddlers and organized fun and learning experiences for children ages 5 to 12. (We encourage older youth to attend the seminar with their parents or other NFB workshops on that day--such as the half-day Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) Seminar.)
Lori Anderson--a blind parent, a former kindergarten teacher, and currently a teacher of blind and visually impaired children--has once again volunteered to organize and supervise the activities for the age 5 to 12 group. In the five or so years Lori has done this job, she has taken the children on field trips to nearby children's museums, ice-cream parlors, parks, shopping malls, and zoos. She has brought in puppet shows, clowns, and traveling petting zoos. And she has organized opportunities for the children (sighted and blind) to learn more about how blind people use white canes and Braille. Lori believes that the activities she organizes should be fun and educational, but above all they should promote friendships and greater understanding among blind children, sighted children of blind parents, sighted siblings of blind kids, sighted spouses of blind adults, and blind adults. It is a big task she sets for herself--especially when you consider it is all done on a volunteer basis--but every year she succeeds admirably. 1992 should be no exception. The fee for each child is $10.00. This includes lunch expenses, fee for field trip or other amusement, cost of craft materials, etc. Look for more details, including a pre-registration form, in the next issue of Future Reflections.
Child-care for infants and toddlers and those who choose not to participate in the Sunday, June 28, organized children's activities, is sponsored by the NFB Parental Concerns Committee, chaired by Carol Coulter. Carol is a blind parent and licensed child care provider, operating a child care program out of her home in Missouri. Like Lori, she volunteers her time to this major effort. And it is a major undertaking! It takes a tremendous amount of volunteer time from many Federation parents who care deeply about making the NFB Convention an enjoyable and enriching experience for every member of the family who attends.
Child care is not only provided during the parent seminar on Sunday, June 28, 1992; but during the convention sessions, the banquet, and other special meeting times as resources will allow. Parents are asked to make these donations for child care: $50 for the week (including the banquet) for the first child and $25 for each additional child; or $10 per child per day, and $10 per child for the banquet night if you do not need the full week of day-care. (Parents who cannot contribute the suggested donation should contact Carol Coulter to discuss what donation they wish to make. Carol will be available in the child care room before and after sessions, or you may contact her in advance at: 2504 Glenn Drive, Columbia, Missouri 65202; (314)-474-3226). Since the suggested donation does not cover all expenses, other donations from individuals and groups are much appreciated.)
Q.: Is the Parent seminar on Sunday the only activity of interest to parents, or the only chance to meet other parents?
A.: Absolutely not! The NFB Parents of Blind Children Division meeting is held on Tuesday afternoon of the convention (June 30). At this meeting we get an opportunity to meet and hear from our parent groups from all over the country. We discuss local and national projects (such as our annual Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest), elect officers, hear a presentation from the 1992 Educator of Blind Children award winner, and hear committee reports. Every year the program is a little different. This year, after the business meeting and reports, we will break up into small groups for mini-workshops. One mini-workshop will be an orientation for parents new to our organization. Another will discuss ways to organize or strengthen a local, state, or regional parent division of the National Federation of the Blind. (There is no fee for the meeting or the mini-workshops, but membership dues are collected at this time.)
The following day, Wednesday evening, July 1, Claudell Stocker, Head, Braille Development Section, National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, will conduct a special three hour Braille Workshop for parents and others who want to learn Braille. If you have been considering learning Braille, or struggling to learn it on your own, you will not want to miss this workshop! It will be an intensive hands-on learning experience. The goal is for everyone to leave the workshop able to read and write some Braille. See page 17 in this issue for more details.
In regard to other activities, there are so many special interest committees and divisions that you are bound to find something up your alley. Here is a partial list: Parental Concerns Committee, Committee on Concerns of the Deaf-Blind, Music Division, National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, Diabetic Division, Writers Division, National Association of Blind Lawyers, National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, and the Student Division.
Then there is the meat of the convention--the general convention sessions. These always feature speakers of interest to parents--from blind adults talking about their interesting or unique careers (one year we had a blind horse trader, another year a blind pharmacist) to people of power and influence in the political and governmental arena as well as in the field of education and rehabilitation for the blind. (For a complete report of the 1991 convention, please see the September, 1991, Braille Monitor. This issue may be ordered free of charge by sending your request to: Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.)
Q.: You mentioned an exhibit hall. Where and when will that be available at the convention?
A.: The exhibit hall will be open all day on Monday, June 29, and at various other times throughout the convention. Location of the exhibits and a complete schedule of hours will be listed in your convention agenda, which you will get when you register for the convention.
Q.: Speaking of registration, when and how do I register for the National Federation of the Blind convention, how much will it cost, and what do I get for my registration fee?
A.: Registration for the NFB convention will begin the morning of Monday, June 29. The fee is $5.00 per person. You may also purchase banquet tickets at the same time. (The banquet is an exciting and lively affair at NFB conventions, and is considered by many to be the highlight of the convention.) The banquet is on Friday evening, July 3. The cost of a banquet ticket will be in the neighborhood of $25. The convention agenda (in print or Braille) is given out at the time of registration.
Those who register are eligible for hundreds of great door prizes which are given away throughout the convention general sessions and the banquet. All door prizes are worth at least $25 and many are straight cash. But, most importantly, registration entitles you to receive our unbelievably low convention room rates. Those who attend but do not register for the convention will be asked to pay the considerably higher regular room rates.
Q.: I understand the convention will be in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the Convention Center, but what hotel is the convention using, what are the room rates, and how do I make my reservation?
A.: The 1992 NFB convention will use four hotels; the Adam's Mark, the Holiday, the Marriott, and the Radisson. Business sessions, banquet, and exhibits will be held in the Convention Center. The Radisson is attached to the Convention Center by an overhead corridor, the Marriott is immediately across the street, and the Holiday Inn and Adam's Mark are within a few blocks of the Convention Center. Even though the distances are short, a bus will shuttle twenty-four hours a day in a loop from the Holiday to the Adam's Mark to the Convention Center.
The hotels rates are: singles, $30; doubles and twins, $35; triples, $38; and quads, $40. These rates are in addition to an occupancy tax, which is currently 12%. There will be no charge for children who stay in the room with their parents if no extra bed is required.
Requests for hotel reservations should be sent to: Convention '92, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Do not write to the hotels. Even if one of the hotels should by mistake accept a request for a reservation and confirm it, this constitutes notice that such a confirmation will not be valid. Requests for reservations should be accompanied by a $40 deposit for each room requested. Payment may be either by check made payable to National Federation of the Blind, or by credit card (MasterCard, Visa, or Discover). If a credit card is used, the deposit charge will be made immediately just as would be the case with a check. If a reservation is canceled prior to June 15, 1992, $20 of the $40 deposit will be returned. Otherwise, refunds will not be made. Although we cannot guarantee that requests for a specific hotel can be honored, we will do the best we can to place those who have physical problems that impair mobility as close to meeting rooms as possible. We will tend to give preference in room placement to those who make reservations early, but written confirmations of reservations and name of hotel may not be sent out until sometime in the spring. For more information, or to place a credit card reservation by phone, call: (410) 659-9314.
Q.: Our family would like to meet some compatible blind adults and students. How can we do that at the convention?
A.: About the only way you can avoid meeting blind people at the convention is if you come and hole up in your hotel room for the week. Step onto the elevator and say "hello." Chat with your neighbor in the covention or hotel registration line. Talk to the blind parents you see as you drop off or pick up your child from child care (child care, by the way, is a great place for your children to meet other children and adults--both sighted and blind.) Attend division and committee meetings, ask a question or introduce yourself to the group or to person next to you. There are so many different types of divisions and committees to choose between that you are bound to find at least one that interests you. Attend the general convention sessions and sit with your NFB state affiliate (each state has a seating section clearly marked with a large state sign). Blind people from your state will be particularly pleased to meet you, answer your questions, and introduce you to others. There are also many social functions at the convention where you can meet others. For example, last year we had a concert by Pete Fountain followed by a dance, a fashion show, a music contest sponsored by the music division, a reception for NFB scholarship winners, a casino night fund-raiser sponsored by the student division, and numerous tours on the half-day set aside for this activity. And there will be at least as many social activities at the 1992 convention as there were at the 1991 convention.
So, whether it be in the elevator, in a meeting room, in child care, in a line, over a meal, or over a beer; there is no lack of opportunity for meeting interesting, cordial, and compatible blind people at an NFB National Convention.
Q.: Why did you call this article, "Blindness Education Week"?
A.: Because the National Federation of the Blind National Convention is truly an educational experience in blindness. Nowhere else will you see so many blind people from so many different walks of life. Nowhere else will you hear the same kind of debates and discussions regarding crucial issues affecting the blind. And nowhere else will you find the same mix of knowledge about blindness, an upbeat spirit, a warm camaraderie, and a fierce dedication to achieving the goal of equality and equal opportunity for the blind.