Future Reflections Convention Report 1997, Vol. 16 No. 3
Editor's Note: At the seminar for parents and educators of blind children sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children at the 1997 NFB Convention in New Orleans, one of the most delightful and inspiring presentations was a panel of blind youngsters talking about their experiences in learning to be independent. Each presenter prepared and read remarks in Braille. It was clear that all of these students are growing up understanding and living by Federation philosophy. The first speaker was Cody Greiser (age 10), whose father Marty is Secretary on the NOPBC board. Kyle Neddo (age 7) is the son of Dawn Neddo, the President of the Michigan parents division. Amanda Jones (age 10) is the granddaughter of Pat Jones, President of the Tennessee Valley parents division. And Bret Boyer graduated from high school last January. This is what each student said:
CODY GREISER: Hello, everyone. My name is Cody Greiser. I am ten years old and live in Polson, Montana. Next year I will be in the fifth grade. My Dad says I was two-and-a-half when I got my first cane, but I really don't remember that. My O&M teacher comes once a month to our school, where he shows me how to follow sidewalks and go around the block and stuff like that. Mrs. Colburn and I practice those things when he is not there.
I don't use a cane in my house or my Dad's house or my Grandma's house or in the classroom, but I do just about everywhere else. If I don't have my cane with me, I have to be very careful. Sometimes I get so excited about recess I leave the room without it. Then I think, "Oh my cane," and go back and get it. If I lay my cane down on the playground, sometimes kids take it, but I always get it back.
When I get in the car, I put my cane crosswise on the floor or between the seat and door. Once, when I went to my Dad's, I forgot my cane and had to use a collapsible one he had. I didn't like it because when it collapses, it feels like you're going to step into a hole. I have been to lots of conventions, and I like Detroit the best because everything wasn't carpeted, and they had lots of escalators. Escalators are really neat, but I hate the moving sidewalks in airports because the end comes when you are not ready.
I like going up in the mountains where I can climb on steep hillsides and throw rocks off cliffs. I like the way they bounce all the way to the bottom. I have been skiing but really don't like it because you can't use your cane. Somebody should invent a ski cane.
When I walk down the railroad tracks with my Dad back to the slew and the river, I throw rocks on both sides to see what's over there. No matter where I go, I sometimes run into things. If I hit something really, really hard, the first thing I do is check to see if I'm bleeding. I've had bruises, bumps, and stitches, but that's the way it goes because I don't want to sit around. Thanks for listening.
KYLE NEDDO: My name is Kyle Neddo, and I got my first cane when I was three years old. I like to use my cane because I can take my time looking at things and go where I want to go. Sometimes people at school say I take too long. They want to drag me along, but they don't know that I can do it myself. Some of my friends at goalball don't use a cane, and they have their mom or someone guiding them around. I feel good being independent using my cane.
My cane helps me play games where we chase each other, keeping the ball away. I can play just like sighted kids when I use my cane. My friends think that I have a special power. Really, I just learned to use my ears and my cane together from my friend Allen Harris.
[Editor's note: Allen Harris is blind also and is the state president of the NFB affiliate in Michigan.]
AMANDA JONES: Hello. My name is Amanda Jones. I would like to tell you about a time when I was selling things for school. I was walking down the street with my cane, and a dog started barking at my sister April and me. We were scared of the dogs, so we started running back up the hill. Another thing happened to me when I was selling candy for the girls' choir. My neighbor Jimmy let me in, and my grandma started looking for us. When she finally found us, we didn't want to go home. Last year I was almost late for the bus. I had to fly up the hill. I almost fell on my nose. I beat my sister for once. April was running behind me, and her backpack was on one shoulder.
The last thing I wanted to talk about was when I tried out for track and cross country. I have tried out for both of them each year ever since fourth grade. What I want to tell you about is when I ran the 100-meter run. I did better last year than I did in fourth grade. I made twenty-two seconds last year and forty-two seconds the year before. I also tried out for the 200-meter run. My sister and I made the same score, which was sixty-seven seconds. Other things I tried out for were shot put, running jump, and the 400-meter run, all of which I am not good at. Right now I am learning to go around in my school because I will have to change classes every day. I am in the band, playing the clarinet.
Have a nice day. I will be going to the Baby-sitting Course, now.
BRET BOYER: Good morning, everybody. I'm here today to talk about my independent travel experiences. So let's start with my first independent journey. I was three years old and was determined to mail a letter. I decided that I would go to the mailbox that I thought was at the corner of the block. I set out to find it. Keep in mind that this was before I had ever heard of a cane—I was introduced to a cane when I was five. Anyway, I continued to walk down the block, looking for the mailbox, which I did not find. As all little kids do, I lost concentration and found myself stumbling around and crying in driveways and yards. Finally a lady found me and brought me home. To this day I've never found that mailbox.
A few years later I was introduced to the cane but would only use it when my mobility teacher came. My first real experience of independence was in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the National Convention in 1992. I had my NFB cane, and I went cruisin' around that hotel. I didn't go to general sessions much. I remember the feeling that I could go anywhere and do anything. I explored every room in that hotel. If I found stairs, I went with them. If I found a door, I went inside. But I don't think the room service employees liked it much when I found myself in the room service kitchen elevator.
Like I said, that was one of my turning points. From then on I would use my cane in school and going to classes. But at that point I lived in a small town in New Jersey. I was independent, but not fully. I would still use a sighted guide whenever I could. I never really ventured out on my own.
I went to the conventions after North Carolina, and in Detroit I met a student who was at the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB). He told me about a program that the CCB offers high school students in the summer time. I went through the program, which gave me my independence, I believe—learning how to clean, shop, cook, and travel almost anywhere in Denver, Colorado, on my own. I liked Colorado so much I decided to move there. I finished high school and graduated in January of this year. Then I became a full-time student at the Colorado Center, which I am still today. This has given me the complete independence that I have earned. Learning how to take care of an apartment, manage it, and just do everything on your own is a great experience.
Before I go, I want to share one more travel experience with you. During the summer program of 1996, I worked for the American Red Cross the last four weeks of the program. One day after work I was so tired that I caught my bus and fell asleep. I was supposed to catch another bus and join the other students to go home. But, as I said, I fell asleep. I woke up, and I was on the bus that everyone else from CCB had caught home. It turned out that the one bus I had taken from work was the bus I needed to take to go home. Pretty amazing! I would like to thank everybody, and I hope everyone has a great convention.