by Kim Cunningham
From the Editor: Kim is the president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, one of the most active divisions we have in the organization and certainly a highly-visible presence at our national conventions. The 2018 National Convention will certainly uphold the standard that has been established, and here is Kim Cunningham and her capable board of directors to tell us about it:
The NOPBC board would like to invite you to attend our 2018 national conference this summer. Our conference is held in conjunction with the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, which takes place July 3 to July 8, 2018, in Orlando, Florida. If you are a family member of a blind or low vision child, teacher, or professional, you will not want to miss spending this week with other families across the US along with 2,500 blind and low vision adults. It is our goal to teach you and your family what it means (and does not mean) to be blind by providing numerous workshops, activities, and opportunities for mentoring.
Our theme this year is “Tools in My Toolbox.” Just as a carpenter has many tools, so does the blind and low vision person. We want to share how blind and low vision students are successful both in their personal lives and in the classroom and how each person uses their tools in different ways, at different times.
The National Federation of the Blind and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines your child’s future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. Blind children can live the lives they want; blindness is not what holds them back.
Most toolboxes include basic tools such as a hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdriver, and saw. Imagine trying to put something together without a screwdriver or cutting a piece of lumber without a saw. Without the right tools, your work will be slow and laborious. We want to help you build your child’s toolbox and build his/her confidence. Blindness skills such as: Braille, a long white cane, Nemeth code for math, Braille music, magnification, and technology (along with many others) are critical skills for independence. If your child qualifies for services as a legally blind student, then your child’s weakest sense is going to be his/her vision. Vision will be the weakest tool in your child’s toolbox. Yet there are those who believe your child should use his or her vision in order to complete most daily tasks, even if other alternatives might be more efficient. This is similar to someone believing that a screwdriver is the best tool to cut a piece of wood. In the NOPBC we believe learning all the tools will enable students to grow into successful adults with options for how to live the lives they want. My own daughter’s toolbox is full of tools for her to pick from. She may not use each tool in the same way as another blind or low vision person, but she has the ability to choose which is best for whatever task she is doing. She no longer relies on unreliable vision. My husband and I both use a hammer for different reasons and in different ways, but we still know how to use a hammer. Braille is like a hammer. Some students will use it for everything, and some dual media students will use it along with large or magnified print. If your child’s toolbox doesn’t include Braille (or a hammer), he or she might find it difficult to keep up with work in the classroom. The other students might be hammering away while the blind and low vision student is hammering with a screwdriver. If your child’s toolbox doesn’t include a long white cane, he or she won’t enjoy the freedom of independently traveling where and when he or she wants. By building your child’s toolbox, you will build a better future for your child.
We are excited to share our workshops with you and your family and hope to encourage you all to learn about the tools for independence. Our Youth Track program will give our students ages eleven to eighteen the opportunity to socialize and learn about independence from other students. Our NFB Kid Camp will also be hosting a National Federation of the Blind Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (NFB BELL) Academy for children ages three to ten to introduce them to the skills of blindness from blind and low vision adults.
Last year our young blind and low vision students sold “Megan Bening” angel pins in memory of NOPBC Board Member Jean (and husband Al) Bening’s daughter Megan. Over $5,000 was raised. Technology was a big part of Megan’s life, and we hope to keep Megan’s spirit alive by giving what she loved. We will be holding drawings for various pieces of blindness technology purchased from money raised through our NOPBC Megan Bening Memorial Fund. This drawing will be held during our Family Hospitality evening, July 3.
We are also gearing up to provide even more Braille and Twin Vision books for our annual NOPBC Braille Book Fair. During the book fair on the evening of July 5, families are given the opportunity to choose books free of charge and have them shipped home courtesy of our UPS and Wells Fargo volunteers. We are thankful for the numerous Braille books already donated by families and professionals across the US. We are also thankful for the monetary donations made which enable us to purchase even more Twin Vision books. Braille rocks!