Future Reflections Winter 1994, Vol. 13 No. 1

(back)(contents)(next)

MICHIGAN: HOST OF THE 1994 NATIONAL PARENTS SEMINAR AND NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND ANNUAL CONVENTION

Each year the National Parents of Blind Children Seminar gets bigger and better. This day-long seminar has become one of the traditional kickoff events of the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), (formerly the Parents of Blind Children Division), the seminar attracts parents, educators, and interested members of the Federation from all over the country, and a few foreign nations as well. And the 1994 seminar and convention in Detroit, Michigan, promises to be the best, the biggest, and the most informative we have ever had.

The focal point of the convention activities will be the Westin Hotel at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. From Friday, July 1, to Thursday, July 7, over 2,500 blind people and hundreds of parents of blind children will converge upon the hotel to listen, learn, share, discuss, debate, and otherwise participate in the week's activities. It is a unique opportunity for parents and educators to learn about blindness from the real experts on blindness-the blind themselves.

For parents, the first big event is the National Parents of Blind Children Seminar on Friday, July 1. The seminar agenda includes topics that are always appropriate-"Planning Your Child's Individualized Education Program (IEP)" and "How to Choose the Right Technology for Your Child"-as well as some topics never (or seldom) explored in previous national parent seminars, such as "Readers and Drivers: The Other Alternative Techniques" and "Learning Through Play: A Panel Discussion about Toys, Games, Hobbies, Recreation, and Sports." Other subjects on the agenda include: "Parents: The Blind Child's First Mobility Teachers" and "From Taking Notes to Taking Out the Trash."

Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:00 a.m.  The seminar will begin at 9:00 with the keynote address, "Cheap Mistakes: When Children Need to Fail." The registration fee for the seminar is $8.00 per family for those who wish to join, or renew their membership in, the NOPBC. The fee is $5.00 per person for those who do not wish to become members. The seminar will conclude at 5:00 p.m.

As usual, a special field trip has been planned for children ages five to twelve. Donna Posont of Michigan is organizing and supervising this year's trip to Greenfield Village. Donna Posont is a blind mother, an active member of her local chapter and state affiliate of the NFB, and an active member of the Parents of Blind Children Division of Michigan as well. She has conducted many local field trips and other activities for children for the Michigan parent division. Here is what she has to say about the field trip:

On Friday, July 1, 1994, children between the ages of five and twelve are invited to take a field trip to Greenfield Village, which is one of the most extraordinary places you can visit. It provides unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives of America's famous inventors. On this ninety-three-acre outdoor exhibit stand the Wright brothers' bicycle shop, Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratory, and the Logan County Courthouse in which Abraham Lincoln worked as a lawyer. These are not replicas-they are the actual buildings. You will also find a working blacksmith's shop, an 1880's farm, and a 1913 carousel. These are one-of-a-kind exhibits you don't just look at-you experience them! And, because of a contact we have with a member of the Greenfield Village staff, we will have a special guide for our group who will be dressed in colonial costume and who will explain the exhibits as we examine them.

We will gather in the hotel near the parents' seminar room on Friday morning between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. The price for the trip is $20.00 per child. This includes the cost of transportation and lunch. We will return by 5:00 p.m. or before. Parents will be told Friday morning where to pick up their children. Since the number of children who can be accommodated for this trip is limited, we urge you to pre-register your child(ren) for the Greenfield Village daytrip. Children will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact Donna Posont if you have any questions about the day-trip, if you want more information about pre-registration, or if you have a child with special needs. To pre-register your child(ren), send your check for $20.00 per child and the names, ages, and indication of special needs of each youngster (including whether the child is blind or sighted) to Donna Posont. Her contact information is 20812 Ann Arbor Trail, Dearborn Heights, Michigan 48127; phone (313) 271-3058.

Two other very special workshops for qualified parents, teachers, and other members of the Federation will take place Friday concurrently with the afternoon session of the 1994 National Parents of Blind Children Seminar. These workshops, "Braille Methods," and "The Nature and Nurture of Cane Travel and Independent Movement in the Early Years" will be conducted from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. These workshops are open to two groups of people: blind adults and parents of blind children who are  willing and able to work within their Federation affiliates to use and share their new knowledge for the benefit of others and teachers and others who work professionally with blind children.

The "Braille Methods" workshop will be conducted by Claudell Stocker, a nationally known Braille expert. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped's (NLS) Literary Braille Competency Test was developed under her direction as the former head of the NLS Braille Development Section. Mrs. Stocker also conducted the very popular "Beginning Braille for Parents" workshops at our last three national conventions. Participants must be able to read and write Grade II Braille. A maximum of twenty persons may register for this workshop.

 Joe Cutter, who is both an early childhood specialist and an orientation and mobility instructor, will be conducting the cane travel workshop with the help of Carol Castellano, President of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of New Jersey, and George Binder, a children's cane travel instructor in New Mexico. Mr. Cutter assisted Fred Schroeder with a cane travel workshop at National Convention a few years ago. He has been a proponent of giving canes to blind preschoolers, and even toddlers, for many years. The purpose of this workshop is to train participants in the concepts, philosophy, and strategies which undergird the successful nurture of independent movement, confident cane travel, and good orientation and mobility for young blind children. With this knowledge participants will be better able to advocate for quality cane travel and O&M programs for children; and the teachers, O&M specialists, and other professionals who attend the workshop will be better prepared to provide these quality programs. The maximum number of participants in this workshop is fifty. We urge NFB parent's divisions and state affiliates to consider sending a representative to this workshop.

To pre-register for either of these workshops, send your name, address (including city, state, and zip code), telephone number, and a check in the amount of $10.00 (made payable to National Organization of Parents of Blind Children) to NOPBC Convention Workshops, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Also, please indicate if you are a parent, teacher, or other professional and whether you are blind or sighted. If you are registering for the Braille Workshop, please describe your level of Braille knowledge or experience.

Other activities during the convention will include an opportunity for blind youth to get together for a discussion. This will also take place the afternoon of Friday, July 1. Friday evening the NOPBC will sponsor a Parent Hospitality Room in the NFB Camp room from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. There will be food for everyone (specifics will be announced at the seminar) and plenty of toys and space for the kids to play. Susan Benbow of New Mexico and other teachers and blind adults will be on hand to talk to parents one-on-one about particular educational concerns. If you wish, they will also demonstrate the use of the slate and stylus or other simple activities to you and your child.

As usual, the annual meeting of the NOPBC will also take place during the convention. The meeting will be on Sunday afternoon, July 3, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. An IEP workshop will also be held for parents on the evening of Monday, July 4, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

General Child Care Information

As usual, child care will be available during the 1994 convention. Again this year the volunteer director of child care services (christened last year and now known as NFB Camp) is Mary Willows. Mrs. Willows is an experienced educator, the mother of two children, and a long-time leader in the National Federation of the Blind of California. This volunteer job is a major undertaking. It takes a tremendous amount of 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 provided not only during the parent seminar on Friday, July 1, 1994, but also during the convention sessions, the banquet, and other special meeting times (as resources 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, if you do not need the full week of NFB Camp, $10 per child per day and $10 per child for the banquet night. Parents who cannot contribute the suggested donation should contact Mary Willows to discuss what donation they are able to make. Mary will be available in the NFB Camp room before and aftersessions. Please contact Mary as soon as possible to indicate the number of youngsters in your family who will be participating in NFB Camp during the week. Be sure to tell her about each child's special needs, if any. We also need to know the age of each youngster and whether each is blind or sighted. Checks for child care (made payable to NOPBC) and registration information should be sent to Mary Willows, 3934 Kern Court, Pleasanton, California94558; (510) 462-8557. Since the suggested donation does not cover all expenses, other donations from individuals and groups will be much appreciated.

Hotel Reservations

As usual, our hotel rates are the envy of all who hear about them. For the 1994 convention they are: singles, $38; doubles and twins, $43; triples, $45; and quads, $48. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax, which at present is twelve percent. There will be no charge for children in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is required.

To make hotel reservations for the 1994 convention you should write directly to Westin Hotel, Renaissance Center, Detroit, Michigan 48243, Attention: Reservations; or call (313) 568-8000. Westin has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize NOT) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the Westin in Detroit. The hotel will want a deposit of $45 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $45 check. If a reservation is canceled prior to June 20, 1994, the entire amount of your deposit will be returned to you by the hotel. Requests for refunds after June 20, 1994, will not be honored.

Convention Dates and Schedule

Here is the general outline of convention activities:

Friday, July 1-seminars for parents of blind children, blind job seekers, vendors and merchants, several other workshops and meetings, and Parents' Hospitality (evening).
Saturday, July 2-convention registration, exhibit hall open for business, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee (open to observers), some other committees, and some divisions.
Sunday, July 3-exhibit hall open all day, meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all), division meetings (including the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children annual meeting), committee meetings, continuing registration.
Monday, July 4-opening general session, exhibit hall open before session and during lunch, evening picnic and gala, and evening IEP Workshop.
Tuesday, July 5-general sessions, exhibit hall open before session and all afternoon, tours.
Wednesday, July 6-general sessions, exhibit hall open before session and during lunch, banquet.
Thursday, July 7-general sessions, exhibit hall open before session, adjournment.

Miscellaneous Information

NFB information tables will be set up in the hotel (usually near the hotel registration area). Details about where the Friday, July 1, workshops will be held, location of the NFB Camp for kids, and so forth will be available at these tables. The complete convention agenda, in print or Braille, is available to all those who register for the convention. Registration opens on Saturday, July 2. The fee is $5 per person. There is no pre-registration for the convention. Each person must be present to register him- or herself.

Banquet tickets generally do not exceed $25 to $30 and should be purchased at the time you register. We have a system called the Banquet Ticket Exchange which gives you the option of selecting in advance the people with whom you wish to sit at the banquet. The procedure is explained at registration and again early in the convention session.

Hospitality and convention information will be available at the Presidential Suite and the NFB of Michigan Suite throughout the convention. The location and phone numbers of these suites will be listed in both the pre-convention and convention agendas.

The NFB of Michigan is putting together some wonderful tour packages for convention. Details will be in the Braille Monitor and at the NFB Convention Information table when you arrive. If you do not get the Monitor and would like some information in advance, write or call:

National Organization of
Parents of Blind Children
Convention Information
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314.