Future Reflections          Convention Report 2007

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Odds and Ends

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News from the NOPBC and the NFB

NOPBC Cane Walk for Kids
by Kristen Sims, MEd, Teacher of Blind Students

Kristen SimsEvery year I am eager to once again participate in the annual NOPBC Cane Walk at the NFB National Convention. I have participated for several years as an instructor. I have taught children, their siblings, and their parents to travel using the long white cane. One of my favorite aspects of the cane walk is the role modeling that takes place between the blind child and the blind instructor. As a sighted orientation and mobility instructor, I cannot give my students the benefit of learning from a blind mentor. But the children and families that come to the national convention have an abundance of successful blind adults to admire. The student can gain confidence and pride by knowing that the instructor has been in the very same place at an earlier time in his or her life.

The cane walk is more than mentoring for the children. It is designed to give parents and other caregivers the ability to make an informed choice when it comes to canes and cane travel. The introduction by Joe Cutter, Jeff Altman, and other travel instructors provides information about the discovery learning technique, and is followed by a question and answer session. Often we will pair the blind child with his or her parents to help the parent get around the hotel and show off a little as the child sails down the stairs and mom or dad takes it slow. Each year, many more parents and/or siblings choose to don the sleep shades (blindfolds) and head out into the hotel with the blind child, all using long white canes and learning to use alternative techniques.

After the cane walk I enjoy walking around the hotel for the next week watching the learning process continue. I see parents practicing with the shades while the blind child leads them up and down the escalators; I see parents socializing with came walk instructors and other NFB members while their teens explore the hotel, or roam through the attached mall. I watch these things and I think, “Wow, all of this came about in one week. I am part of something truly wonderful!” But, that is the power of the National Federation of the Blind. One week can make a difference.

Quiet Car Protest
We Want Cars That Sound Like Cars: It might seem like an odd way of putting it (this is odds and ends after all), but this demand is becoming more and more relevant. With hybrid cars becoming nearly silent when using only their electric battery to run at lower speeds, many are concerned that close-calls will turn into tragedies. In early October, the NFB sponsored a protest and submitted testimony to the Maryland Department of the Environment when it was determined that the blind were not being considered in the regulations of hybrid vehicles—as it was required by state legislation. Some are confusing an important safety issue with an attack on the environment. The NFB does not wish the hybrid cars to lose their environmentally conscious components, but merely wants the engines to emit sufficient sound so that the blind and the sighted can use the sounds of traffic to safely travel. And while recordings of simulated freight trains may sound pleasing to some, the NFB would rather advocate for cars to sound a bit like… cars.

Target Lawsuit
Go Big: As Dan Goldstein, an attorney representing the NFB in many of its legal proceedings and counseling, explained at convention this year, large obstacles or intimidating conglomerates are nothing against the “power in the blind united in a just cause.” Thus, when Dr. Maurer asked him to seek legal action against producers of inaccessible technology so that future technology will be designed with equal access in mind, he did not shy away from the largest of companies. And it certainly makes sense, as they are the ones that impact the most lives. Recently, the NFB secured a victory in its lawsuit against Target Corporation for its failure to make its Web site accessible to blind customers. On October 3, a federal judge granted class-action status to the lawsuit, allowing blind people throughout the country to become plaintiffs in the suit. While not only making little sense (why wouldn’t you want people to spend money at your store?), Target’s actions are also in direct violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Around the Block
Helpful Items from Here and There

Please note: The NOPBC is not responsible for the accuracy of the following information; we have edited only for space and clarity.

Victor Reader Stream from HumanWare
Small in size, big on features!: “The Victor Reader Stream is the only DAISY player that offers you so much in such a small package. Download your favorite books and MP3s on your Victor Reader Stream and leave home with your library in the palm of your hand. This versatile, powerful Victor Reader Stream DAISY-MP3 player lets you read and navigate through complex books, such as reference manuals, school books, novels and magazines. You can also use the Victor Reader Stream’s built in Vocalizer text-to-speech voice to read books in text format. The Victor Reader Stream has many more functions, including an integrated microphone to record voice notes.” The Victor Reader Stream is currently available from HumanWare for $329. To order, visit <www.humanware.com>, call toll-free (800) 722-3393, or write to HumanWare at 175 Mason Circle, Concord, California 94520.

Touch and Learn
“The Touch and Learn Series is a result of collaboration between Journey Stone Creation Books and Somatic Digital. Touch User Interface, or TUI, technology enables a revolution in printed books, supplements, workbooks and texts. By pressing the surface of the printed page, the reader is immediately connected to digital content stored on the computer, Web sites, DVDs, and CDs. The TUI is to paper what the graphical user interface (GUI) is to computers. As the user reads through the pages, the book comes to life with a touch to the page. Listen to a song, connect to a Web site, watch a video, and get educational content as we invite you to Touch and Learn!” The introductory kit which contains the platform, five Touch and Learn Books, accompanying CDs, book case, book catalog, and subscription card costs $399. Additional books cost $39.95 each. Prices are reduced for long-term subscriptions. For more information, contact Journey Stone Creations, LLC at 3533 Danbury Road, Fairfield, Ohio 45014. More information is available online at <www.jscbooks.com/touchandlearn.html> or <www.somaticdigital.com>, by phone at (800) 603-3212, or by fax at (513) 860-0176.

Start Young
Infant-Toddler Language and Early Literacy Activities: Developed by Dr. Angela Notari-Syverson and Judy Challoner, these free materials encourage early language and literacy development in infants and toddlers ages birth through three. Through twenty activities involving the parent and child, the materials are specifically designed to address the skills of language development, sounds and rhythms, and general book awareness. They can be used with sighted, blind, or multiply disabled children. The materials are available for download at <www.walearning.com> when you click on the purple button that says “Free Parent Education Handouts.” For questions contact Mary Maddox at Washington Learning Systems, 2212 Queen Anne Avenue, Suite 726, Seattle, Washington 98109, or call (206) 310-7401.

Toys ‘R’ Us Guide for differently-abled kids
“Toys ‘R’ Us has partnered with the National Lekotek Center for more than a decade to create the Toys ‘R’ Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, an easy-to-use toy selection resource for parents and friends of children with disabilities. The complimentary, one-of-a-kind toy guide offers qualified toy recommendations based on research from the National Lekotek Center, an independent, non-profit organization that handpicks and tests the toys featured in the Guide.” The Guide is available at Toys ‘R’ Us stores nationwide and online at <www.Toysrus.com/differentlyabled>. For more information call (800) TOYSRUS (869-7787).

Winning Kids Club
Winning Kids Club Partners with Lee County Sheriffs Office to Transcribe Kids Books: The Winning Kids Club, Braille Institute of Florida, and a Florida county sheriff’s office have formed a partnership to reach out to the community and provide books for blind children. The Winning Kids Club teaches Braille to the female inmates who then transcribe children’s books to donate to the community. While the benefit to blind children in the community is obvious, the program also provides excellent vocational training for the inmates. Some have even written their own original picture books and poems and transcribed them in Braille. The program, the brain child of Gail Ghigna-Hallas, RN, PhD, president of the Winning Kids Club, is conducted at the Lee County Corrections Facility in Florida. They plan to distribute their books next spring, after the first class graduates. The Winning Kids Club, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that offers blind children instruction in music, art, creative writing, Braille literacy, health, and fitness. For more information on the Club and its programs, call (239) 671-0946 or e-mail <Literacy4Kids@WinningKidsClub.org>.

Scholarships for Students with Disabilities at the Washington Center
“The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars is pleased to announce it will continue to help increase scholarship opportunities for students with disabilities. Thanks to the generous support of the AT&T Foundation and the HSC Foundation, the Washington Center is working to help students develop leadership skills and gain valuable work experience in government, business, and the non-profit sector. The Washington Center will complement students’ professional experience with solid academic training for credit from highly qualified instructors. In addition, students will be exposed to community, national, and international leaders through workshops, seminars, lectures, embassy visits, and networking events held throughout the course of each semester. Applications are available at <http://www.twc.edu/students/how_to_apply.shtml>.” Call (800) 486-8921 to obtain more information.

On the Beaten Path
Blind Man to Attempt Thru-Hike of Appalachian Trail: While Erik Weihenmayer may have grabbed the blind adventurer spotlight, the message of his climbs should not be lost in the fanfare and celebration of his admittedly remarkable accomplishments. The message still remains that blind people can and should accomplish their goals and fulfill their dreams, and not be constrained by society’s assumptions and limitations. In the same vein, Mike Hanson, a blind lawyer from Minnesota, is attempting to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail alone. He plans to begin in March of 2008 and will use his cane and a GPS device to navigate the nearly 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine. Only around 150 hikers actually complete the trek each year. Even if Mr. Hanson does not complete the hike, his message should not be lost. Mr. Hanson’s confidence in his own abilities and fearless desire to overcome any obstacle are traits shared by the NFB, its mission, and its members.

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