Future Reflections Convention Report 2007
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by Seth Lamkin
The following photos and descriptions provide an overview of just some of the many activities, speakers, and events of the 2007 NFB National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Obviously, the majority of the summary will center around the NOPBC agenda, but other highlights from the NFB activities as a whole cannot possibly be overlooked. It is an exciting week, packed with so much that we would be remiss if we did not point our readers to a full overview of the convention in the August/September 2007 issue of the Braille Monitor. The issue is available free of charge through the NFB Independence Market by calling (410) 659-9314, extension 2216, and it is also available on the NFB Web site at <www.nfb.org/nfb/Braille_Monitor.asp>.
The NFB convention lasts roughly one week each year—the 2007 edition beginning on Saturday, June 30: Seminar Day. A few pages can hardly contain what was accomplished this week, but with so much to see and do, what better place to begin than the beginning.
Saturday, June 30
Ready or not, registration for the 2007 NOPBC Seminar lasts from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. as parents and their children gather outside of a conference hall at the Marriott Atlanta Marquis. Once everyone is equipped for the week—agendas, literature, and children in-hand, the program begins with the usual warm welcome by the president of the NOPBC, Barbara Cheadle, followed by Kid Talk with NFB President Maurer. Kid Talk, in its now annual form, takes place seated on the floor of the conference room, where Dr. Maurer and the children in the room gather to talk about blindness and just about anything else flooding into the youngest minds at convention.
After the laughter dies down (kids really will say the “darndest” things), our keynote speaker takes the stage. This year, Lisamaria Martinez, president of the Sports and Recreation Division of the NFB talks about her experiences growing up as a huge sports fan who just happens to be blind. She speaks of her experiences with judo, a sport which has taken her most recently to the International Blind Sports Association World Championships and Parapan American Games in Brazil—where we are happy to report that Lisamaria has taken home a silver medal. She also encourages parents and children alike to not be afraid to get out and stay active—to not be limited by others’ low expectations.
Following a panel discussion, children and teens depart for their own age-appropriate sessions or, for the youngest attendees, NFB Camp. NFB Camp is an opportunity for children age six weeks through ten years of age to enjoy games and activities while under the NFB Camp staff’s supervision. Carla McQuillan, executive director of Main Street Montessori Association and a longtime NFB leader, supervises the camp.
The parent’s portion continues with a speech by the 2007 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children, Sister Margaret Fleming, principal of St. Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments in Philadelphia. Her words of encouragement and inspiration are reprinted elsewhere in this issue.
The afternoon continues with workshops for parents and children alike, with a variety of topics and activities available to suit everyone’s interests and needs. One such workshop lead by cane travel expert and author Joe Cutter explains best practices and common misconceptions in orientation and mobility instruction.
For a parent/child combination activity, families can look to the Tai Chi for Toddlers activity. Eridan Monteiro and her daughter, Maria Louisa, age 4, (Georgia), learn that positive movement and focused energy not only stimulates the body, but also the mind.
A workshop entitled “Demystifying Chemistry” attracts the attention of those at the middle and high school level. Led by Andrew Greenberg and Cary Supalo, this activity demonstrates that the challenges and rewards of learning chemistry can be accessible to blind kids as well as their sighted peers. Stephen Toth, age 10, (Louisiana) uses a sensor to determine the color of a solution as Cary Supalo looks on.
Even those of the furred and feathered variety find their way onto our seminar agenda. MarChe Daughtry, age 9, (Virginia), attends a workshop on pets and pet care where, among other hands-on activities, she gets to pet a parakeet, or “budgee” as native Australian Heather Fields calls her favorite pets. Many blind children are held back from common household chores because of low expectations and fear. It may seem simple, but learning that they can take care of the family pet is another way in which blind children can learn independence and confidence.
Sunday, July 1
On Sunday, many take the opportunity to visit the exhibit hall and view the latest products available to the blind and deaf-blind. Quite often we find that the tried and true practical products, such as a cane, are the most necessary and therefore draw the biggest crowds. Brianna McDowell, age 12, (Georgia), tests one of the display canes before deciding on a purchase.
Technology makes a grand appearance as HumanWare, Freedom Scientific, and many others put on an enormous showcase of their devices. Kayleigh Joiner, age 15, and Kim Cunningham, (Texas), look on as Jim Halliday from HumanWare displays myReader™ 600—a text magnification and reading device.
While shoppers make their trips to the exhibit hall, others find Sunday to be an excellent time for other activities. The Affiliate Action Department of the NFB sponsors a Division Expo, where members learn and network with other members who share similar characteristics or interests. The Sports and Recreation Division promotes recreation and fitness by putting on an arm-wrestling tournament where members can test their mettle in matches throughout the day.
Now an annual event, the NOPBC Cane Walk is a time for instructors to pair-up with children to introduce them to the benefits of the long white cane, as well as various mobility techniques. Here instructor Darick Williamson of Louisiana walks with a young boy under sleep shades to demonstrate that even without residual vision, the cane is the ultimate tool for travel in any environment.
Monday, July 2
More NOPBC Seminar activities continue on Monday, including a workshop led by Sandy Dunnam, an early childhood specialist from Louisiana. Here, Sandy speaks to parents of multiply disabled children about the power of Active Learning techniques and materials that stimulate young minds and bodies towards positive development.
On Monday evening, the Braille Book Flea Market attracts huge crowds to an impressive display of free Braille materials. It’s always a family affair, with many parents holding outstretched arms to take the stacks of books their young Braille readers pick through. J.W. Frampton, age 8, (Rhode Island), sorts through a stack while his father, John, tries to keep up.
Nathan Clark, age 8, (California), a winner in the 2007 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, continues his passion for reading while browsing through the selections at the flea market (his mother Lorelei might need to make several trips to drop off all of his choices at the shipping station). Nathan read 1,789 Braille pages over a period of three months to place in the top ten in the first and second grade category.
Ahbee Orton, age 7, (Texas), another 2007 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest winner, is also a patron of the Braille Book Flea Market. Ahbee read 2,609 Braille pages during the contest to place at the top of her first and second grade category.
The all inclusive Braille Book Flea Market welcomes not only the younger readers, but Braille readers of all ages. Here, Linda Anderson (Colorado) reads through a few titles before taking her picks to the volunteers to be shipped home. From popular fiction titles to cookbooks, dictionaries, and even encyclopedia selections, the Braille Book Flea Market contains as much variety as the crowd that frequents it.
Tuesday, July 3
Talk of the first ever NFB March for Independence continued unabated for months both prior to and after the momentous event. At 7:00 a.m., hundreds of blind and sighted participants gather outside of the hotel to draw attention and raise money for the efforts of the NFB and its members.
Walking through the streets of Atlanta, marchers who spent the previous months raising money from individual sponsors now enthusiastically pronounce their independence in front of several media outlets and the city of Atlanta. With a lead banner for the March on display, members from each state carry their own signs to designate their state and its participation and support for the March.
The young and less young alike raise money and march in the five kilometer demonstration from the hotel to Centennial Olympic Park, then back to the hotel for the start of the 2007 NFB National Convention. Here Ron Gardner (Utah), Megan Palmer, age 10, (Utah), and Adam Palmer, age 8, (Utah), stop to take in the sounds of the 2007 March for Independence.
After the excitement of the March and opening session has become somewhat subdued, it’s back to seminar sessions and activities. A special session entitled “Hobbies, Crafts, and Games” allows parents a chance to actively participate with their children in various projects, including making a dream-catcher or playing board games. Here, session leader Corinne Vieville works with Camille Blair (Utah) and Stephen Toth, age 10, (Louisiana) to create beaded jewelry.
Wednesday, July 4
On our nation’s birthday, what’s more American than cars? A hands-on exhibit and demonstration of automobile engines, tools, and miscellaneous parts, “What You ‘Auto’ Know” is an excellent way for blind children to explore an area that while captivating to many young minds, is sometimes treated as exclusive to the sighted. Kayla Harris, (Maryland), uses the opportunity to feel the treads of a tire brought by the event’s co-sponsors, the NFB CARS Division.
Ben Smith, like many boys his age, gravitates towards the all mighty toolbox and the symbols of manhood therein. While a member of the NFB CARS Division explains the various tools and their uses, Ben is allowed to tactilely investigate any of the materials that would inspire his curiosity--independent of a restraining hand.
In an event cosponsored by the NFB Sports and Recreation Division and Guide Dogs for the Blind, several find an opportunity to release some energy built up from that morning’s general session. “Row, Row, Row Your Way to Fitness and Fun” provides that, as well as an opportunity for NFB Sports and Recreation Division President Lisamaria Martinez (California) to challenge Daniel Brackett (Florida) to an impromptu rowing competition. Niko Demartini of the Atlanta Rowing Club is technically the official judge, but should the unthinkable happen, is he really going to tell Lisamaria, an international judo medalist, that she lost?
Thursday, July 5
Each year, the convention banquet is an opportunity for members to put on their finest attire to gather together for the final night of convention and let everyone know that they do, in fact, “clean-up nicely.” Once again, attendance for this popular event is so great that a separate hall is provided for overflow, with speakers and large video screens allowing everyone to have the best seats in the house.
Blind violinist Allen Bailey, age 17, performs an excellent classical piece at the start of the banquet festivities and is rewarded with resounding applause from all in attendance. Following Allen’s performance and many others of equal note and skill, awards were presented to various important figures within the Federation and to non-members who have intensely supported its efforts.
The NFB Scholarship Committee always has a difficult job of deciding who will receive the thirty scholarships announced each year at convention. This year, Sachin Pavithran (Utah) receives the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship in the amount of twelve thousand dollars. The full listing of scholarship winners, along with information about next year’s scholarships, can be found elsewhere in this issue.
The presidential banquet address is always an eagerly anticipated experience and this year is no exception. Dr. Maurer’s banquet speech entitled “Expanding the Limits: The Uncertainty of Exploration” prompts many to consider the missteps of many so-called blindness professionals and take pride in the accomplishments and goals of the National Federation of the Blind.
Friday, July 6
With Friday being the closing day of the convention, the annual Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Plan awards were handed out to two affiliates and a division of the NFB. Dr. Michael Gosse, president of the Maryland affiliate, is given the PAC Rat for the state with the most PAC additions and donation increases during convention. Barbara Cheadle, president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, is given the PAC Mule as the division with the most PAC additions and donation increases. Ron Brown, president of the Indiana affiliate, receives the PAC-iderm for being the affiliate to achieve the highest percentage increase on its PAC plans during the convention period. These honors, literally animating the proceedings, signify the commitment of members to their organization as well as a healthy commitment to competition and youthful exuberance.
the end of a week full of inspiration, education, and occasionally perspiration,
convention attendees make their way back to their respective homes, no doubt
tired but intensely motivated. So, did this week sound like something you’d
like to be a part of? Check out the convention bulletin found elsewhere in this
issue for more information about registration, hotel rates, and more for the
2008 NFB National Convention in Dallas, Texas. And who knows, maybe two-year-old
Chase Creer (Utah) will save you a seat.
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