American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections Special Issue: Early Childhood NEWS
by Kim Cunningham
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, in Orlando, Florida. If you are a teacher, a professional, or the family member of a blind or low-vision child, you will not want to miss spending this week with other families from across the United States, along with 2,500 blind and low-vision adults. It is our goal to teach you and your family what it means (and what it 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 in their personal lives and in the classroom and how each person uses his or her 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, a wrench, a screwdriver, and a 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 your child's confidence. Blindness tools such as Braille, a long white cane, Nemeth code for math, Braille music, magnification, and technology (along with many others) are critical for independence. If your child qualifies for services as a legally blind student, then your child's weakest sense is his/her vision. Vision will be the weakest tool in your child's toolbox. Yet there are those who believe your child should use vision in order to complete most daily tasks, even if other alternatives might be more efficient. This notion is similar to someone believing that a screwdriver is the best tool for cutting 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 does, 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 traveling independently 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 we hope to encourage you all to learn about the tools for independence. Our Youth Track program will give 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. The BELL program will 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 others what she loved. We will be holding drawings for various pieces of blindness technology purchased with money raised through our NOPBC Megan Bening Memorial Fund. This drawing will be held during our Family Hospitality evening, July 3.
Also we are 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 from across the United States. We are also thankful for the monetary donations that enable us to purchase even more Twin Vision books. Braille rocks!
The NOPBC board and I look forward to meeting everyone in beautiful Orlando, Florida, this summer! Please visit our website to register: http://nopbc.org/2018nopbc
For more information about the 2018 National Convention visit: https://nfb.org/convention.