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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