Future Reflections Winter 1992, Vol. 11 No. 1

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               CHANGING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BLIND
				  THE 1991 SEMINAR FOR PARENTS OF BLIND CHILDREN
From Barbara Pierce, Associate Editor of the Braille Monitor: The

telephone rang at about seven one evening last June. I was alone at

the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, preparing my dinner

and anxious to return to my computer. I answered the call--one is

never sure what such evening conversations will cover--and found

that I was talking with a young father from Louisiana. His infant

had just been diagnosed as blind, and he was looking for help.

Someone had mentioned that a big convention of blind people would

take place soon in New Orleans and that there might be some

information there that would help him and his family. He had made

a number of phone calls trying to learn the name of the 
organization and the time and place of the convention. None of the

professionals in the blindness field with whom he spoke seemed to

know anything about the event, a fact which puzzled and frustrated

him. Finally someone at the Chamber of Commerce told him that the

organization was the National Federation of the Blind and gave

him the phone number for the National Center.
I told this father about the upcoming convention and the seminar

for parents of blind children that was scheduled for Sunday, June

30, and assured him that if he and his wife attended it, they

would meet a number of people who could help him get started the right

way with his baby. I also talked with him about the importance of

changing his own notions and expectations about blindness and

what blind people can do. He did attend the seminar, and though I did

not meet him, I have learned that he talked with other parents of

blind children. I don't know what impact the event had on him,

but I do know that this was one of the most exciting and constructive

parent seminars we have ever conducted. 
From their various perspectives, a number of speakers addressed

the subject of "Changing What it Means to Be Blind." The morning began
when keynote speaker, Barbara Pierce, took a look at the parent's
responsibility to mold the blind child's attitudes and experience
in order to nurture the development of competent, resilient blind
adults. Then other national leaders in the movement--Dr. Kenneth
Jernigan, President Marc Maurer, and James Gashel--looked at
their own experience and the ways in which the National Federation of
the Blind has assisted them to succeed in their own lives and work.
Following these speakers, a panel of blind students talked about
the problems blind children face and the impact of the National
Federation of the Blind in solving them. (See the following
article, "What it Means to be Blind: In our Hearts and in Our
Minds.") A panel of parents wrapped up the morning session with
the topic "Change Through Role-Modeling and Networking" (see page 27
in this issue.)
The afternoon session of the seminar was devoted to a series of

45-minute small group workshops. Workshop topics included: Math

and Sciences, Braille, Physical Education and Sports, Cane Travel,

The Blind/Multiply Handicapped Child, Networking, and Open

Discussion. There is no way to convey the information and excitement

communicated in the afternoon small group sessions. One had to be

there to appreciate the scope and usefulness of the entire

seminar and the warmth and support of the members of the Parents

Division. 
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