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by: Denise Mackenstadt
[PICTURE] Crossing a street with an experienced blind cane
traveler in charge can teach a blind youngster a lot about
independent travel. The walk to and from a nearby park
gave the children an opportunity to see blind adults
traveling confidently and independently.
[PICTURE] New friendships were cemented at the picnic in the park as the children lolled in the cool grass under shady trees and munched on cookies they had baked that morning.
1989 was the fourth year that a day of special activities was planned for children who came with their parents to the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. While parents were learning about blindness by listening to speakers in the Parents Seminar, children (both sighted and blind) were learning about blindness in the way they learn best--by doing, by playing, and by observing and imitating the adults around them. Here is a report by Denise Mackenstadt about that special day for the children. On the morning of July 3, 1989, fifty-two eager children were transported from the Radisson Hotel Denver (convention headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind 1989 National Convention) to the Colorado Center for the Blind for a day of fun and learning about blindness. These children were blind and sighted and they ranged in age from five-years- to fifteenyearsold. The children came from many different kinds of backgrounds. But one common ingredient was that each one of them had a family member who was blind.
The adult teachers, ably led by Lori LeBlanc, were Federationists who would prove to be positive role models for all of the young people participating in the day's activities.
Upon arrival at the Colorado Center for the Blind the children were divided into groups by age. In the morning each group, led by a blind adult, rotated to a variety of activities. The activities included constructing a Braille memory book of their day, learning to use a long white cane for travel, baking cookies for a treat later in the day, and preparing their own sack lunches.
At lunch time each child took their lunch and everyone traveled independently to a nearby park (blind children who did not have canes with them were issued canes for the day). The children played and ate their lunches. After lunch, the group returned to the Colorado Center to finish projects and to wind down from a full day of activities.
In the afternoon a tired but happy group of children and adults returned to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind to be reunited with parents.
The most rewarding result of this day was the dialogue and budding friendships among the children and between the children and the blind counselors. These things can only happen if people spend time together. This day helped fifty-two children see for themselves--by interacting with blind Federationists-that it is O.K. to be blind.
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