Future Reflections        Convention Report 2012

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Don't Deprive Those Sighted Kids!

by Julia Gebert

Julia Gebert climbs an air-filled ladder in the inflatable playground at NFB Child Care.From the Editor: By longstanding tradition, blind children give short speeches at the NOPBC board meeting during convention. This year Julia Gebert of Alaska talked about her life and shared her thoughts on being blind.

Good afternoon, everyone! I am Julia Gebert, and I am going into the sixth grade. Some of you may be thinking that I am small for a sixth grader, but I prefer to think of myself as fun-sized. [Laughter] I may be small and I may be blind, but I feel big and completely capable of doing what I need to do.

I honestly don't think much about myself being small or blind. I really do have most things in common with other kids my age, but I realize I am different in some ways. Isn't that true for everyone? Short, tall, blind, sighted? We're all unique.

The sighted kids in my class think Braille is cool and that my cane is cool. What is really neat is that the other kids saw me zooming through math with my abacus, and they wished they could get through their problems as quickly as I do. Now every student has an abacus, and I helped them learn how to use it. That's just one small example of why our schools need more blind kids. (Laughter)

It is unfortunate that some sighted kids don't get an education alongside us blind kids. Mainstream schools can do better for their whole entire school value by having a few more long white canes tapping in their hallways.

From the beginning, my family and teachers resisted the temptation to overprotect me. I am grateful for that. After all, who likes to be told that they can't do things? Because of the NFB philosophy, I went cross-country skiing only two months after I learned to walk! I remember being so angry with my mom one time when I could not get up an icy hill. I told her I was never going to ski again! However, I did make it up that hill. Later, when I was out of the wind and sitting in the warm car, I told her it wasn't actually all that bad. Then I found myself right back on the trail two nights later. Thanks, Mom!

Being in a mainstream classroom is all that I've ever known. I'm glad I don't need to attend a special school for the blind. I don't want to be considered special because of my blindness. After all, I am so much more than just a blind kid. When people first meet me, I'm sure my blindness is what they notice. But once they get to know me, I hope they realize that I have a lot more going on. I've never considered myself handicapped. I do so many things that some people think are outrageous for a blind person. I catch fish, I shoot arrows at the archery range, I go inner-tubing, I downhill and cross-country ski, I rock climb. I've been doing these things all my life. There is not much I won't try. If someone tells me I can't do something, guess who tries it! I do it to prove to myself and that person that it can be done. It's just a matter of attitude, and I've been told I have a big one! [Laughter]

Everyone in the world is different, and everyone has their own unique situation. Life can be a challenge for everyone. You and I are not particularly special in that regard. We all need to do our very best with what we have. We must focus on what we have, which is a lot, rather than bellyaching about what we do not have. Stay busy and challenge yourself. We're all a little scared or unsure at times, but it can be a great confidence booster when you conquer your fears. What once seemed scary to me, like rock climbing and downhill skiing, is now a great thrill and a chance to spend time with friends.

Can you see a future when all blind kids are given exciting opportunities in life? Where they are educated alongside sighted peers? After all, we don't want to deprive any more mainstream kids of an education with us blind!

I'm so lucky to be here at convention with each and every one of you, and I look forward to visiting with you along the way. Now get out there and live life to its fullest!

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