Future Reflections        Convention Report 2011

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Our Convention Journey

by Penny Duffy

Jonathan Ice gives Abby Duffy a cane travel lesson under sleepshadesLast July my seven-year-old daughter, Abby, and I attended our first NFB convention in Orlando, Florida. Our journey to Orlando began almost a year before, with an ordinary visit to an optician's office at the mall. A new school year was about to begin, and Abby was going to enter first grade. I hoped to get her a quick pair of glasses.

Abby couldn't see the eye chart. She couldn't see the chart at all. When the optician asked her to look at me, she looked to the side. The person doing the exam assumed that my daughter was displaying a behavior problem, but I knew that something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

As I look back over the weeks and months that followed, I remember everything through a haze. There were many visits to doctors. Professionals recommended that Abby start to learn Braille.

Accepting the idea that Abby couldn't see was a huge challenge for me. I recall that for a long time I couldn't say the B word at all. It actually made me gag.

Abby's central vision is affected. She can see a lot of things, but there are many things she can't see. It is impossible for her to read print, even large print. Fortunately, she received Braille instruction right away.

Jonathan Ice and Abby Duffy have an outdoor cane lessonIn the late winter I started to read some publications from the National Federation of the Blind. I came to realize that Abby was blind, and that it was really okay. Blind isn't a bad word. Abby is bright, curious, kind, a little sassy, and blind. Her blindness is just a part of what makes her Abby.

From that realization we found our way to Orlando.

Until the day we arrived at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel, I had only seen a few blind people in my entire life. Nothing could have prepared me for the clicking of hundreds of canes in the hotel lobby. I found it was beautiful music!

So many things happened for us at convention, and we had such a great time. I met wonderful people and learned so much that it took me weeks to process it all.

Here are some of Abby's favorite convention highlights.

The Braille Book Fair. Abby is a child who goes into bookstores looking for the Braille section. Having a room full of books that she could select to take home was magical. To see people get so excited about Braille warms the heart. Abby added over twenty books to her home library. When her books arrived in the mail a week after convention, she had such a smile on her face!

The Cane Walk. The Cane Walk was another exciting event. Abby welcomed the longer NFB cane and started to use it right away. She wore sleepshades and got an amazing lesson with a wonderful instructor. I'll never forget watching Abby find the escalator and ride up and down more comfortably than she ever did before. That moment alone made our convention trip worthwhile! For the rest of the week after her travel lesson, she would close her eyes whenever she took an escalator.

SeaWorld. I had never been to SeaWorld before, and it was such a treat! A wonderful touch tour had been arranged for the kids. Abby even had the chance to touch a live penguin.

Crafts and Games. During the Wednesday-night parents' workshops, crafts and games were available to keep the kids busy. Abby had so much fun! Usually she gets tired by eight o'clock, but she lasted till the meeting was over at ten. For days she talked about the things she did.

Tinkering with Tools. Tuesday was Abby's favorite day in Child Care. That day included an activity called Tinkering with Tools. The children were shown real tools, and they got to try them out. Abby loves to do things with her hands, and she really enjoyed this hands-on experience.

Being Just One More Kid. Abby loved making new friends and hanging out around the hotel pool. Wherever we went, she enjoyed not being the only blind person in the room. At convention she was just another kid.

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