Future Reflections Sept./ Oct./ Nov.1984, Vol. 3 No. 4

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NFB CONVENTIONS: JUST INFORMATIVE -- OR SOMETHING MORE?

By Barbara Cheadle

For some reason I always find ordinary convention reports hard to make. There's always the problem of making the long list of speakers and topics be something more than a blur of names and titles. Then you have to find a way to condense the important -- often momentous -- information, actions and results that come out of the convention into mere sentences and paragraphs. But the really hard part is trying to convey something of what an NFB national convention means to blind people, to blind youngsters and to parents of blind children.

Yes, you can get good information about blindness and about current events that affect the blind from an NFB convention. In fact, I can't think of any gathering, anywhere where you can learn more about all facets of blindness. But there's more, much more, to an NFB convention.

At convention, a teen-ager would for the first time in her life, be around more blind people than sighted. Think of the implications and possibilities? She could see for herself competent, well-adjusted blind people; observe them traveling independently, hear them talk of their homes, families and jobs. She would also see others who are not so successful; who have been put down and kept out of the mainstream of life by public attitudes, prejudices and discrimination. She could learn to respect them for their valiant struggle to make life better and easier for her generation. She would quickly discover that the problems and frustrations brought about by her blindness are not unique, but experienced by thousands of other blind persons. She could learn how others use alternative techniques to cope with the physical loss of sight. She would also learn that most blind people no longer consider that the most important or the most difficult problem to solve. Public attitudes about blindness, she would learn, is the biggest problem all blind people face today. And that, she will learn, is what the NFB is all about. It's not a group of blind people coming together to commiserate with each other about their misfortune nor is it and escape from an ignorant though well-meaning "sighted world."

The goal of the National Federation of the Blind is to bring about the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. That's what the NFB is all about. That's what the annual convention is all about.

Well, perhaps that tells something of what an NFB convention can mean to a blind youngster. What about parents? This year, we had several first-time parents attend the convention. When I asked one parent what she thought of it, she responded, "I'm overwhelmed. My mind can't register it all." Another parent, about halfway through the convention said, "I don't understand or agree with all the issues, but if you (the NFB) don't speak up for yourselves and what you believe in, nobody else will." (It's too bad some agencies can't understand that principle.)

One parent, who was back for her second convention, commented that, "All those canes don't bother me this year like they did last year." She was obviously more at ease with blindness and blind people.

There was evidence of a growing sense of partnership, unity and common purpose among the blind and the parents of blind children. One couple stated that, "Last year, we felt like observers, but this year we really feel like part of the convention. We can't stay for the rest of the convention, but we're going to register anyway. Next year, we'll be part of our state NFB delegation."

In the next issue of Future Reflections, we will print portions of the 1984 NFB convention agenda. It will give you some idea of what you could expect at the 1985 convention coming up in July in Louisville, Kentucky. Convention activities will begin Saturday, July 1 and extend right through to the following weekend. Room reservations are now being taken at The Gait House Motel, 4th and River, Louisville, KY 40202. Toll-free number 1-800-626-1814. A $20.00 non-refundable deposit is required. A seminar for parents and educators of blind children will again be scheduled. The Parents of Blind Children Division will also be meeting at this time. More information about the 1985 convention and seminars will be in forthcoming issues of Future Reflections.

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