Future Reflections Winter 1992, Vol. 11 No. 1

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THE BEST DECISION WE EVER MADE
by Elizabeth Klunek
[PICTURE] Shortly after convention, Elizabeth and her son Christopher 
toured the National Center for the Blind, headwuarters of the NFB.
Here they examine one of the many aids available from the NFB Materials Center

When Barbara Cheadle asked me to write an article about my first 
National Federation of the Blind Convention, I felt what I really
needed to do was to go back to my first year and a half of
searching and searching and searching for answers to my questions
and fears about my son's education (my son, Christopher, was
about three years old then.)
My husband and I are from the state of New Jersey, which means we

have to work with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, the

recognized experts on blindness in our state. I kept asking them,

"But how will my blind partially sighted son read?" The commission
and low vision specialist told me that he would be fine using
optical devices, and just wait until I see the CCTV (closed circuit
television; a magnifying device using a t.v. screen) he'll be able to use. 
I listened, but continued my search. For what I didn't yet
know, but I knew in my heart that, despite all the organizations
I had joined, the books I sent away for and read, and all the
meetings I had attended, something was missing. 
Then, in the Spring of 1991, I received an invitation to attend the

annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of New

Jersey. Speakers like Fred Schroeder (the blind Director of the

New Mexico Commission for the Blind); Carol Castellano (a parent from

New Jersey); and Ever Lee Hailey (a blind adult) had fresh and

different ideas about blindness. I was excited! I still didn't

have all the answers to my questions, but I was definitely on the

right road!
The next decision to make was, "Should I go to the National
Federation of the Blind National Convention in July?" After
making some phone calls to Federationists and asking a ton of
questions--"My son is partially sighted. Will there be anything
there that relates to me? Any parents with partially sighted
kids? Any partially sighted adults? Should I bring my son, or leave him
home this year?"--my husband and I decided I should go to New Orleans 
and attend the National Convention.
IT WAS THE BEST DECISION WE EVER MADE! I spent five of the most

exciting, exhausting, educational, fun, friendly days of my life

at this convention. I was able to speak with educators, parents,

children, young college students, blind parents, and blind people

of every description. Everyone was friendly and eager to share

their knowledge with me and to tell me about someone else who

could help. (I remember thinking how was I ever going to find somebody

I had never met in this crowd, but I always did, and it was always

worth it.) Soon, there were people hunting me up because they had

heard about me and my son and they wanted to talk to me, too.
When I went home I was exhausted, but happy because of all that I

had learned in just a few short days. All of it--the contagious

convention spirit; the late-night conversations; the books and

articles; the speeches; the telephone numbers of people willing

to help--came together to help us understand that one of the most

important things out son Christopher needed was Braille.
We are now working on getting Braille into Christopher's I.E.P.

It won't be easy, and we know we still have much to learn about

blindness, but we no longer feel alone or without direction.
Dr. Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of

the Blind, made a statement at the Convention Parents Seminar that

has really stayed with me. He told parents that in regard to our

blind kids, "We have to take care of tomorrow, today." And that's just
what my husband and I are doing. Thanks, N.F.B.!

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