Braille Monitor                                              April 2014

(back) (contents) (next)

Taking the Next Step
2014 National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) Conference for Families and Teachers

by Carlton Walker

From the Editor: One activity that makes our convention unique is the annual program sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). No other conference in the world does as much to provide programming for blind children and their parents. Here is the list of activities they will enjoy this summer in Orlando:

No matter where you are in your journey as the parent (or guardian, relative, or family friend) of a blind/visually impaired child, you are on a journey. You have a past behind you that cannot be changed and a future ahead that can be.

The past can be incredibly valuable as a source of information and experience, but it can also be a source of regret. I often hear from parents of blind children who feel guilt over missed opportunities and wasted time. I completely understand these feelings, and I have felt them on many occasions (regarding my blind daughter as well as my sighted son and daughter).

My youngest child, Anna Catherine, lost a great deal of her vision in early infancy. However, my husband Stephen and I did not discover this for many months. An ophthalmologist told us that she was “legally blind,” but we didn’t begin to comprehend that her visual loss was having an impact on her life until we noticed that she was not keeping up with her peers in terms of independent and confident movement around our community.

In May 2005 when Anna Catherine was four years old, the three of us attended an amazing conference (sponsored by NOPBC and the National Federation of the Blind) at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. There, we learned about the importance of blindness skills and met many successful blind adults and educators. We even took home a long white cane for travel—which we soon put in the closet.

You see, as a mom new to the world of blindness, I was petrified that I would do something wrong. I knew that I did not have the skills to teach my daughter what she needed to know. Even after attending the Baltimore conference, I didn’t trust myself to implement the lessons we learned there. I was so afraid of teaching her incorrectly that I made the biggest mistake I could—I failed to teach her at all.

Luckily, with the supportive persistence of NOPBC President Emerita Barbara Cheadle, our family attended the 2006 NFB National Convention in Dallas, Texas. Even though we had become stuck in our old ways for over a year, we knew we needed to take this next step toward getting Anna Catherine on the right track.

You might remember that back in 2006, air travel was quite different from what we experience today. Each individual holding a ticket was entitled to take two full-sized pieces of luggage plus a carry-on and a “personal” item. I have never been one to pack lightly, and I certainly did not do so when I had such a generous luggage allowance and when flying out to Dallas for a whole week. We arrived at the airport long-term parking lot with a small five-year-old Anna Catherine, six full-sized pieces of wheeled luggage, three large carry-on items, three “personal” items, and a long white cane. As Stephen and I struggled to empty this immense amount of baggage from our minivan, I pulled out that long white cane. Looking at it with frustration, I told Anna Catherine, “Here, you take this!”

To be honest, I paid no attention to the cane until we arrived at the Security Gate. As Stephen and I focused on getting our carry-on and “personal” items through security, a TSA agent asked Anna Catherine to place the long white cane on the conveyor belt. Suddenly, my genial five-year-old planted her feet on the floor and announced, “You CANNOT have my cane!” Stephen and I stared at each other quizzically. I stammered, “Well, I guess it’s a good thing we decided to pack the cane.”

I’d love to tell you that, at that moment, I “got it.” But I cannot. Instead of fully backing up our little girl’s attempt to stand up for her rights, we cajoled her into letting the cane go through the conveyor belt and walking through the metal detector without her cane. After all, she hadn’t had the cane for so long, how could it have become so important to her in the short trip from the airport parking lot to the security gate?

I didn’t get all of it then, but I did get some of it. My little girl demanded that she be allowed to keep her cane even though she had not had very much instruction in using it. Her technique was not perfect, but she understood that her cane provided her the independence that she had been missing. Once she had that taste of independence, she was not about to give it up without a fight. And, yes, I felt horrible about putting her cane in a closet for fourteen months—fourteen months of independence I could never give back to her, but I also began to see the independent future she could have ahead of her.

It can be tempting to relive the past. However, our greatest opportunity for growth occurs when we learn from the past and use this information to shape our journey into the future. On July 1, 2014, take the next step of your journey with us, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), as we partner with Professionals in Blindness Education (PIBE) to present information, ideas, and inspiration through speakers, workshops, and fellowship with parents, professionals, and successful blind adults eager to walk with us on this important journey. I invite you to take your cane out of the closet and join us!


Schedule of Activities (Tentative)

NOTE: NOPBC children’s activities will take place in NFB Child Care throughout the week. Be sure to register your child with child care! (NFB Child Care has separate registration and fees—see the next article in this issue.)


Full-Day Seminar for Parents & Teachers

7:30 AM - 8:45 AM—Registration
9:00 AM - 10:45 AM—General Session
Welcome—Carlton Walkerpresident, NOPBC 

Kid Talk with Dr. Marc MaurerKids get a chance to speak to the president of the National Federation of the Blind about anything on their minds

Taking the Next Step—Mark Riccobonoexecutive director, NFB Jernigan Institute 

The Next Step—Adult and student voices from the NFB

11:00 AM - 12:15 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity (ages 5-12, in NFB Child Care)
11:00 AM - 12:15 PM—NOPBC Youth Track Session (ages 12-18)
Children who would like to take part in the Kid Talk with Dr. Maurer and Youth Track participants will begin the day with us in the general session after which they will be escorted to child care or their activity.

11:00 AM - 12:15 PM—Concurrent Workshops—Parents & Teachers:
Independence in the Classroom
Tools, tips, and techniques for setting up the classroom and training the student for independent functioning. Instructor: Jackie Anderson, TBS

Independent Movement & Travel for Children with Additional Disabilities
Working toward maximum independence and self-determination for the child with additional disabilities. Instructor: Denise Mackenstadt, NOMC

Low Vision Toolbox
Useful items for low vision students and how to determine the most efficient method for the task. Instructor: TBA

First Steps
Exploration and independent movement and travel in early childhood. Instructor: Mary Jo Hartle, NOMC, TBS

Accessible Technology
Using accessible technology for meaningful participation in school, at home, and in the community. Instructor: Eric Guillory, director, Youth Services, LA Center for the Blind

12:15 PM - 2:00 PM—Lunch on your own
Pick up your child from NFB Child Care promptly after your workshop session ends at 12:15.

2:00 PM - 5:00 PM—NFB Youth Track Sessions (ages 12-18)

2:00 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity (ages 5-12, in NFB Child Care)
2:00 PM - 3:15 PM—Concurrent Workshops—Parents & Teachers:
Independence Skills at Home & in the Community
Teaching and supporting the development of independence skills for full participation in home and community life. Instructor: Mary Jo Hartle, NOMC, TBS

Hands Off!
Honoring the child’s right to personal space and control over his/her body. Instructor: TBA

Independent Movement & Travel for the School-Age Student
High expectations, real-life goals, and how to achieve them in the area of independent movement and travel. Instructor: TBA

Tactile Graphics—The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
The basics of creating a good tactile graphic that will really work for the blind child. Instructor: TBA

I Get Around
Getting around independently when you do not drive. Instructors: Pam Allen, director, LA Center for the Blind; Roland Allen, NOMC

3:30 PM - 4:45 PM—Concurrent Workshops—Parents & Teachers:
Low Vision Technology
From low tech to high tech, learn about the many options for the low vision student.
Instructor: Janet Bernhardt, owner, Low Vision, Etc.

Saying It My Way
Encouraging communication, learning, and play in children with communication needs. Instructor: TBA

Social Skills for the School-Age Child
Encouraging appropriate social interaction and play. Instructor: Sheena Manuel, outreach specialist, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness

How to Set Up a Saturday School
Empowering families to learn and teach the skills of independence. Instructor: Jackie Anderson, TBS

College Checklist: Is Your Blind Child Ready? Are YOU Ready?
Preparing for heading off to college—what parents and students need to know, with a special visit from “the roommates from hell.” Instructors: Kim Cunningham, second vice president, NOPBC; Kayleigh Joiner, student; Arielle Silverman, PhD candidate; Debbie Kent Stein, editor, Future Reflections

5:00 PM - 5:45 PM—Youth Get-Together (ages 11- 18)
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM—NOPBC Family Hospitality
Relax, chat, meet new families, and connect with old friends. Veteran parents will be on hand to welcome you and provide information. Co-sponsored by PIBE.

No NFB Child Care on this day

7:00 - 8:45 AM—NOPBC Board Meeting

8:45 - 10:30 AM—Cane Walk, Session I

11:00 AM - 12:45 PM—Cane Walk, Session II
Learn and experience the Discovery Method of travel at these special workshops. Parents, teachers, blind children, siblings welcome. Instructors: Jeff Altman, NOMC, and other cane travel instructors.

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM—NOPBC Youth Style Show
This is an opportunity for your aspiring model to take a walk down the runway in a favorite outfit from his or her closet. Contact Kim Cunningham at (713) 501-9659 or <[email protected]> to sign up and for further information.

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM—NFB Youth Track Session (ages 11-18)


12:45 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity (ages 5-12), Youth Track Activity (ages 12-18)
You may drop off your child early at child care on this afternoon so that you can attend the NOPBC Annual Meeting. 
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM—NOPBC Annual Meeting: Options & Opportunities
Keynote address by the 2014 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children award winner, special guest speakers on accessible science, cutting-edge products and services, summer programs for our kids, Parent Power, and much more! Business meeting, elections.

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM—Braille Book Fair 
A book lover's dream! Browse tables of new and used Braille and print/Braille books. Volunteers will box your books and the post office will deliver them to your home as Free Matter. Books are free; donations are encouraged to help support our Braille programs. Cosponsored by NOPBC & NAPUB. Coordinator: Krystal Guillory, TBS, NFBL BELL Coordinator

7:30 PM - 9:00 PM—Dads’ Night Out
All dads, sighted and blind, are welcome. Call Bill Cucco at (201) 602-6318 for location.


7:00 AM - 9:00 AM—NOPBC Board Meeting

7:00 PM - 9:45 PM—NOPBC Concurrent Workshops—Parents & Teachers

7:00 PM - 10:00 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity (ages 5-12)
Crafts & Games—For children whose parents are attending NOPBC evening workshops.

7:00 PM - 10:00 PM—Youth Track Activity (ages 12-18)

7:00 PM - 8:15 PM
Unified English Braille (UEB)
It's new. It's coming. What is it, how will the transition be made, and what will it mean to your child? Instructor: Casey Robertson, TBS

7:00 PM - 8:15 PM
IEP Basics for Parents of Blind/VI Students 
The sections of the IEP, essential assessments, how assessment information is used, how to be an active and effective participant. Instructor: Carlton Walker, attorney, TBS

8:30 PM - 9:45 PM
IEP Development and Legal Process Overview

Dos & Don’ts for the IEP meeting; preparing for possible mediation, due process, appeal, etc; overview of the legal process; how to prepare for a due process hearing so you don’t have to have one! Instructor: Carlton Walker, attorney, TBS


National convention is a complicated week of events. Here are a few tips to help you stay organized and take advantage of the many opportunities that will be available. 

Registration Information:

 Activities for Children & Youth; Child Care Information:

Seminar Day Information

Other Activities Going on All Week Long
In addition to the special NOPBC activities for parents, children, and youth listed in this article, other activities that you and your child may be interested in attending will be going on all week. Often many activities are going on at the same time and you and your child will have to make choices! Here is a sampling:


Make check payable to NOPBC and mail with form to:
Pat Renfranz, NOPBC Treasurer
397 Middle Oak Lane, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Save money by preregistering! Preregistration must be postmarked by June 15.
After June 15, please register on-site in Orlando.


By June 15

On-site in Orlando




Family with 2 or more adults



Child/Youth (up to 18 years)

Children are free, but please list names & ages below


Adult Name ____________________________________________________
 [ ] parent of blind child [ ] professional [ ] other____________________

Adult Name ____________________________________________________
 [ ] parent of blind child [ ] professional [ ] other____________________
Please list additional adults on a separate sheet.
Address ______________________________ City _____________________
State _______ Zip _____________ Phone ___________________
E-mail _______________________________ Alt. phone ________________

Child/Youth 1—Name (first and last), age, brief description of vision and any additional disabilities: _____________________________________________
Child/Youth 2: ___________________________________________________
Please list additional children/youth on a separate sheet.

How many?                             Prereg. by June 15      On-site reg.
1 Adult                _____          @ $30 = $______       or @ $40         = $______ 
2 or more Adults  _____       @ $50 = $______       or @ $70        = $______
Child/Youth _____                  FREE                             FREE               = $__00__

Total enclosed:   $_________

For parents/teachers of blind children:

___ I receive Future Reflections
___ This is my 1st national convention
If not, how many have you attended? _____

___ I am a member of my state NFB/POBC

PLEASE NOTE: Preregistrations postmarked after June 15 will be returned.

Also, remember that registrations for the NOPBC Conference and NFB Child Care are separate and must be mailed to different places. And to register for the 2014 NFB Annual Convention (again, a separate registration), go to <>.

Media Share

Facebook Share

(back) (contents) (next)