American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections
       Convention 2019      NOPBC CONFERENCE

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Kid Talk

by Mark Riccobono

Mark Riccobono laughs with a group of children gathered around him at the NOPBC conference.]From the Editor: In keeping with long tradition, NFB President Mark Riccobono kicked off the NOPBC conference by meeting with the children. He sat on the floor at the front of the room, and the children gathered around him to have a conversation.

MARK RICCOBONO: I want to talk to you about a couple of things and see if you have questions. How many of you read Braille?

[CHORUS of “I's.” One "Barely."]

MR: Braille is really cool, isn't it? It opens up knowledge to you, and it gives you choices. Do some of you read print as well?

[CHORUS of “I's” and a few “nos.”]

MR: If you can't read print in certain situations, you can always Braille instead. It opens up lots of choices for you. None of you guys are twenty-one, right?

[Chorus of “no,” and laughter]

MR: Right. So you guys have got to walk fast through the casino! [more laughter] Just keep walking! You all are so lucky. You're starting to work on Braille—even barely Braille—before I did. I started when I was twenty-one. That's old, isn't it? [Laughter] You all are so fortunate that you have started earlier. You're going to have so many more choices when you turn twenty-one than I did, because you will already have known Braille and been able to use it effectively in your lives. That's going to create a whole bunch more opportunities for you. 

The earlier you get started with Braille, the longer you have to work with it. I work with Braille every day. I didn't get started till I was twenty-one. It's great that you get to start even earlier, because you have many more choices.

I'm going to tell you a secret. Don't tell anybody except your parents, all right? At this convention we're having a Braille Carnival. It's going to happen on Tuesday evening at seven o'clock. There is going to be all sorts of cool Braille there, sponsored by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. If you come, and if you are interested, you can get one of the first print/Braille tactile picture books. It's about an octopus. Imagine if an octopus could read Braille with eight arms! It could read many books at once! The Braille Challenge would not be a problem, would it? [Laughter]

You can be one of the first people to get a copy of Pedro and the Octopus. It's a print/Braille book that has tactile pictures in it. You should get this book, and then you should tell us what's wrong with it. How could we make it even better? There is much more for us to learn about how to make tactile pictures. Read the book, check out the pictures, and let us know what works and what doesn't work. If you're one of the first hundred or so families to come to the Braille Carnival, you can get a free copy of Pedro and the Octopus. Pretty cool, right? Then when you go to the aquarium here, you can tell the octopus all about it.

Let me ask you this. Are all of you members of the National Federation of the Blind? Okay, I hear a lot of yeses. Have each of you gotten your membership coin?

Kayla: It's in my mom's purse.

MR: I know there are other members of the Federation here, too. If you forgot your membership coin at home, or if for some reason you didn't get one yet, you can come by the Presidential Suite and I'll give you one. Have you all touched the membership coin? I'm going to pass it around.

This coin has Braille on it. It has three letters in Braille: t, g, and r. That's the contraction for together! I want you to come by and get one of these coins, because I want to remind you that together, as members of the National Federation of the Blind, we can do whatever we put our minds to. If there is something you're wondering about as a blind person, you can find somebody in the National Federation of the Blind who can help you. We know that we're stronger together. Together we can transform our dreams into reality. Maybe we'll even get an octopus to read Braille—who knows?

There are some other cool things happening at this convention that you should go and check out. We're going to have a Braille display that has 360 characters. It's a full-page Braille display. That's pretty cool. It's called the Canute. Why is it called the Canute? Well, you should go by the booth and ask them. Maybe you'll want to put it on your Christmas list. We also have the most low-cost Braille display that's ever been on the market. It's called the Orbit Reader. In the exhibit hall you're going to find hundreds of cool things related to Braille. All those things are there because of the National Federation of the Blind. So come by the Presidential Suite and get a coin so you can remember this convention. Then when you're twenty-one or twenty-five, or old like me—forty-three almost!—you'll be able to start passing choices to the next generation of blind kids.

Keep working on Braille, and continue to be members of the National Federation of the Blind. Have a great convention, everybody!

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