Future Reflections Spring 1996, Vol. 15 No. 2

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WALKING ALONE AND MARCHING TOGETHER: CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME!
1996 National Federation of the Blind Convention
June 29 - July 5
Anaheim Hilton Hotel
Anaheim, California

[PICTURE] Dr. Frederic Schroeder, Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration
[PICTURE] Sally Ruemmier
[PICTURE] The Exhibit Hall has an impressive array of aids, appliances, computer technology, resource materials, toys, t-shirts, food, and more.
[PICTURE] These deaf-blind youth (from left to right): Alan Bodily, Keri-Ann Ruemmier, and Colleen Perkins are thoughtfully absorbed in President Maurer's speech at the 1995 Convention Banquet.
[PICTURE] Counselors and their charges head for the Kids Trip bus at the 1995 convention.

Picture yourself in this scene: You have just arrived at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel with your family for a much needed vacation. You called months in advance but it was still tough getting a room. The reservation clerk mentioned something about a convention going on this week. You thought she said it was an organization of blind people, but no, you must have misunderstood. Why in the world would that many blind people want to get together for a convention? What would they say? What would they do? Besides, you can't imagine how they could get there in the first place. And how would they get around in the hotel? Surely the hotel couldn't afford to provide guides for that many blind people! But as you walk into the hotel lobby your jaw drops-there are at least fifty blind people with white canes in the lobby and more are coming in from a bus outside!

You pick your jaw up off the floor, gulp, and head for the hotel registration line. Just then your small daughter, in that piercing tone that small children reserve for the express purpose of asking embarrassing questions in public, calls out, "What are those white sticks all those people are carrying, Daddy?" Horrified, you start to hush her when you hear a deep chuckle behind you. "That's all right", the voice says, "We don't mind talking about our canes. We're not embarrassed or ashamed of them, or our blindness. Besides, how can a kid learn if she doesn't ask questions?" You turn around and watch as a pleasant looking man in a business suit bends down to show your daughter his cane. As he talks about how the cane allows him to go places independently you notice how the blind people around you are moving about. Some are walking by themselves, many are laughing and talking in groups, and you see some families with small children. You notice that many of those who are guiding or directing others are carrying canes, too. There is even a little boy with a cane walking around and exploring the lobby by himself while his parents check in. The scene isn't what you had imagined at all. These people are clearly capable of getting about without a lot of fuss or special help. But you still wonder-capable or not-why all these blind people want to get together. What will they talk about

Your attention swings back to your daughter's conversation just in time to hear your daughter ask that very question. Curious, you listen as the man explains. The explanation is short. (You wonder if the man has children. Maybe your daughter will ask.) But your mind is whirling with new ideas when he finishes. You now know that this is the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention, and these people have come here to "change what it means to be blind." Well, they have already changed some notions in your mind about blindness! And there was something else he said, too, that caught your imagination. Something about "Walking Alone and Marching Together." He said it was the title of a book about the history of the organized blind movement-the NFB. It's all about how blind people organized over 50 years ago to change attitudes, beliefs, and even laws so blind people can achieve true independence and equal integration into society. What an ambition! Yet, from the scene in the lobby it looks like the NFB is well on the way to achieving this goal.

Thinking of the lobby you decide it's time to stop musing and get into the registration line before it gets any longer. As you move into the line you notice a girl about your daughter's age just ahead of you. She's carrying a cane, too. You wonder if your daughter will ask the girl about her cane. But, no, that's already old hat to your daughter. She is more interested in comparing their respective Barbie dolls. A blind couple with a baby move into the line behind you. Your wife turns around and begins to coo over the baby. Soon both mothers are involved in an animated conversation about teething, finger foods, and other baby matters. This, you reflect with an unexpected surge of anticipation, will not be an ordinary vacation!

That's the scene at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel on Friday, June 28, 1996, as you might experience it as an onlooker. Now imagine the same scene but from the perspective of a convention participant, not an outsider. Think of the possibilities for learning, networking, and personal growth!

If you are the parent, relative, or teacher of a blind child-or if you are a blind youth-the Anaheim Hilton Hotel is THE place to be between Saturday June 29, 1996, and Friday, July 5. Some 2,500 blind people and hundreds of parents of blind children will be converging at this one point in space and time. They will be there to learn, to share, to network, to celebrate victories, to applaud progress, but most of all they will be there to make history. For it is during this week that dreams will be shared about what we-blind people and parents of the blind-want the future to hold for the blind, and it is at this convention that plans and strategies will be laid to make those dreams come true. We invite you to come and be a part of this tremendous, history-making experience!

The week of activities will begin on Saturday, June 29 with a day-long seminar for parents and educators of blind children. The theme for this year's seminar is borrowed from Dr. Matson's book about the history of the NFB-Walking Alone and Marching Together. The seminar will begin with a general session in the morning and conclude with concurrent workshops in the afternoon following lunch.

The powerful imagery evoked by this year's theme carries over into every topic on this year's agenda. For example, topics on the morning agenda will include:
* Marching Together: The NFB Convention-What's in it for Me?;
* Walking Alone: How Blind Kids Develop Self-Reliance;
* Marching Together: A panel of parents of deaf-blind children
and parents of blind multiply handicapped children; and
* Walking Alone: Resisting the Helping Hand Syndrome.

In the afternoon participants may choose from a wide range of workshop topics. We are especially thrilled and honored to have Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education, as a guest presenter at our seminar. Dr. Schroeder will conduct an afternoon workshop on the topic Getting Ready for the World of Work-Blind Youth in Transition. Dr. Schroeder, who was appointed to his position as Commissioner by President Bill Clinton, is a long-time leader in the organized blind movement.

Dr. Schroeder began his career as a cane-travel (mobility) instructor with the Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired in 1978. He later moved to New Mexico where he became the administrator of the low-incident programs (services to the blind and to the deaf) in the Albuquerque schools. It was there that he became known nationwide for his innovative approach to providing canes and orientation and mobility instruction to blind and visually impaired children as soon as they entered the school system at age 5. Now, of course, it is becoming common practice to provide canes to children even younger. But in the 1980's this was an unusual practice. In 1986 Dr. Schroeder was selected to head up the newly formed New Mexico Commission for the Blind, the agency responsible for providing rehabilitation services to that state's blind and visually impaired population. During these years Dr. Schroeder also served on numerous national and international boards of organizations for and of the blind, including the National Federation of the Blind, the Braille Authority of North America, the International Council on English Braille, and the National Association of Blind Educators.

In addition to his professional expertise and commitment to the consumer viewpoint, Dr. Schroeder brings to the topic of transition a personal perspective. He was once a blind teen-ager himself. Parents, teachers, school counselors, rehabilitation transition counselors, and anyone else interested in the problems and progress of blind youth in transition will want to make this workshop a priority.

The three-hour Beginning Braille For Parents workshop will once again be conducted by Claudell Stocker, a nationally known Braille expert. Mrs. Stocker has voluntarily conducted these workshops for the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children for several years now. They are extremely popular. Since there is a limit on the number of persons who may participate in this workshop we urge readers who want to attend this workshop to fill out and send in the pre-registration form on page 8.

The Blind Kids, Friendships, and Fitting In workshop is an outgrowth of last year's workshop about social skills. We had many requests to repeat and/or expand that workshop this year. Parents can do many things for their children, but they cannot force social acceptance or create friends for them. Children must do this for themselves. However, there are ways parents can make the pathway to social acceptance and friendships smoother and less difficult. And this is important. One component of the "Marching Together" theme is learning how to work and play harmoniously with sighted peers in a broad range of social settings.

Last year, through the efforts of Sally Ruemmler, chairperson of the NOPBC's Parents in Partnership for Deaf-Blind Children committee, we had an explosion of interest in the workshop "Meeting the Needs of Deaf-Blind Children." The committee is once again hard at work to make this year's workshop another outstanding success. The committee is especially interested in focusing on early childhood needs and resources.

The workshops described above are less than half of the workshop topics offered this year. Other topics for the afternoon of Saturday, June 29 include Parent Power; Resources for Blind Multiply Handicapped Children; Self-Reliance and the White Cane; Self-Reliance and Braille in the Classroom; and several segments on Tips on Alternative Techniques.

Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:00 a.m. and the session will begin at 9:30 a.m. Fees are $10.00 per family or $8.00 per person. You may also pre-register for the seminar using the form on page 10. If you do not pre-register please plan to arrive early Saturday morning for registration. There is an additional fee for the Braille Workshop (see the pre-registration form). The afternoon workshops will conclude at 5:00 p.m.

Concurrent with the seminar will be two exciting field trips for children ages 4 to 18. NFB Camp will also be open on Saturday to provide child care for babies and children up to age 12. More details about the trips and the NFB Camp is given later in this article.

Saturday evening the California affiliate of the NOPBC is hosting a Family Hospitality from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in one of the NFB Camp rooms. Our California parent group has some wonderful plans in store for the evening. For example, there will be a fabulous door prize (must be present to win) offered that evening, and other surprises, too. But the highlight of the night will be a talent show. This is NOT a contest! The purpose is to have fun, and give the kids a chance to experience performing in front of a friendly, receptive audience. Blind children and families of blind children may enter the talent show. To sign up, or to get more details contact Donna Sexton, 8689 Galindo Court, Dublin, California 94568; (510) 833-1863. But don't sign up your teen-ager, yet-we have special plans for him or her!

Karen Mayry, president of the NFB of South Dakota and former high school teacher, is in charge of our NOPBC-sponsored Convention Orientation Session for Youth. This year's session will take place concurrently with our Family Hospitality event on Saturday night, June 29. The session will be a combination of party activities-ice-breakers, games, music, and door prizes-and practical convention orientation activities. For example, blind volunteers will take the kids out to show them the physical layout of the hotel. They will discuss how the convention is organized, what to expect from it, what meetings they might want to attend, and how to have fun at the convention in a safe and appropriate manner. The session will be a great chance for youth to get to know each other and to meet some neat blind adults.

As exciting and as informative as Saturday is going to be, it is only the beginning of a week of exceptional opportunities for parents to learn about blindness. A huge exhibit hall, a tour of a nearby local educational summer program for blind children, an IEP Advocacy Workshop, the Annual Meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a play performance by blind students, a talent show, a musical contest, a Sensory Safari exhibit, miscellaneous technology workshops, and much, much more is on the docket for the 1996 NFB convention. Here are the various details and, where appropriate, pre-registration forms so you can make your plans and reservations for the convention.

Hotel Reservations

As usual, our hotel rates are the envy of all who hear about them. For the 1996 convention they are: one in a room, $45; two in a room, $47; three in a room, $54; and four in a room, $57. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax. At the time the arrangements were made with the hotel, that tax was just under 15 percent. There will be no charge for children in a room with parents as long as no extra bed is required. If you want to come a few days early or stay a few days late, convention rates will apply.

You may make reservations in one of two ways. You may write directly to the Anaheim Hilton, 777 Convention Way, Anaheim, California 92802-3497, Attention: Reservations; or call (714) 750-4321. DO NOT CALL THE HILTON TOLL-FREE NUMBER TO MAKE YOUR RESERVATION! They make take your call and promise you a reservation, but the reservation will NOT be valid! Reservations must be made directly with the Anaheim Hilton in Anaheim.

Airports and Ground Transportation

There are two major airports one can use when flying into the Anaheim area. They are Los Angeles International Airport and John Wayne Orange County Airport. It may be easier to find a flight into Los Angeles International, but John Wayne is closer to the Anaheim Hilton. A shuttle is available from the Los Angeles International Airport to the Anaheim Hilton for $22.

Convention Dates and Schedule
Here is the general outline of convention activities:
* Saturday, June 29-seminar/workshop for parents of blind children, Job Opportunities for the Blind workshop, miscellaneous workshops, Kids' Trips, Family Hospitality, Convention Hospitality, Youth Convention Orientation.
* Sunday, June 30-convention registration ($10 per person), exhibit hall open for business, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee (open to observers), Youth Convention Orientation and Meeting, miscellaneous committee and division meetings.
* Monday, July 1-exhibit hall open all day, meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all), tour of a local summer program for blind kids, Annual Meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and various division and committee meetings.
* Tuesday, July 2-opening general session, exhibit hall open before session and at noon, evening gala event, and evening IEP Advocacy Workshop.
* Wednesday, July 3-general morning session, afternoon open for tours, exhibit hall open before session and all afternoon.
* Thursday, July 4-general sessions, exhibit hall open before session and at noon, banquet, after-banquet party.
* Friday, July 5-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 the locations of Saturday, June 29 events (such as the parents seminar, Kids Trips, and NFB Camp) will be available at these tables.

The complete NFB convention agenda, in print or Braille, is available only to those who register for the NFB convention. Convention registration opens about 10:00 a.m. (maybe earlier) on Sunday, June 30. The registration fee is $10 per person. There is no pre-registration for the convention. Each person must be present to register for him- or herself. Anyone who fails to register for the convention is not eligible for the convention hotel room rates.

Banquet tickets generally do not exceed $25 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 California Suite throughout the convention. The locations and phone numbers of these suites will be listed in both the pre-convention agenda (available at the NFB information table) and the convention agenda.

The NFB of California is putting together some wonderful tour packages for convention. Details will be in the Braille Monitor and at the NFB 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.

KIDS TRIPS

Editor's Note: For the past three years Carla McQuillan, President of the NFB of Oregon, the blind mother of two children, and owner/director of a Montessori preschool, has organized and directed special field trips for children and youth during the day-long seminar held for parents. Mrs. McQuillan brings to this task outstanding administrative skills, high standards, and an intuitive understanding of children and their needs. Needless to say, the trips are always a huge success. Here is what Mrs. McQuillan has to say about what she has organized for this year:

The smell of the ocean and the thrill of the Giggle Wheel Ride are just around the corner! Wondering what we are talking about? Well, here at the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, we've been working long and hard at getting ready for the Kid's Trip that takes place during Parent's Seminar on June 29th during National Convention in Anaheim, California. After many phone calls and a few last minute schedule changes, here it is at last, the KIDS TRIP agenda!

ADVENTURE CITY

Ages 4 - 10
Cost: $16
Includes: bus fare, lunch, and unlimited use of rides and attractions. For our trip to Adventure City, a new theme park designed specifically for young children, the excitement begins on the city bus that leads straight to the thrills. Our day at Adventure City will begin with an interactive and educational puppet show that will be for us alone to enjoy before the park opens to the general public. During the shows we will learn about "What you should do if you get lost," "Being kind to others," and will feature a special visit from Dandy McRandy the Mystery Caper. Excitement and entertainment await with roller-coasters and other pulse-quickening rides. If you're the kind of kid that prefers to keep your feet a little closer to the ground, there's a petting zoo, shows, and a 20 horse carousel! There will also be game areas and concession stands for which you may want to bring some extra spending money.

TRAIN TRIP TO THE BEACH

Ages 10 - 18
Cost: $16
Includes: train and bus fare admission to Scripps What a day at the beach we have planned for you! All Aboard! We'll begin the day by traveling Southwest on Amtrak's San Diego commuter train. We'll experience the thrill of the railroad as we begin our trek to enjoy the wonder of the Pacific Coast. Next we'll spend some time letting the warm sand sift through our toes as we beachcomb, chase the waves, or build a sandcastle. Then we'll take the city bus to the internationally known Scripps Institute of Oceanography for a hands-on guided tour of the aquarium. Please bring money for lunch and any snacks or souvenirs you wish to buy.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn't if you make sure your reservations are made by May 15, 1996. Space is limited so make your reservations as soon as possible! Mail the following pre-registration form to Kids Convention Trips, 3988 Main Street, Springfield Oregon 97478. For more information phone (503) 726-6924.

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