American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections
       Convention 2020     NOPBC CONFERENCE

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Kid Talk

A Conversation with Mark Riccobono

NFB President Mark RiccobonoIntroduction by Carlton Anne Cook Walker: Each year at our NOPBC conference, the NFB President takes time out of his very busy schedule to talk directly to our children. We call the children to the front of the room, and the NFB President, in his suit and tie, sits on the floor to talk with, listen to, and answer questions from our kids. This year President Mark Riccobono will talk with our kids as always. Kids, please gather at your Zoom location and welcome Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, for Kid Talk!

Mark Riccobono: Good afternoon, everybody! We need to have all the kids out there unmuted so we can start the chaos! I'm going to take a moment to have everybody introduce yourselves. Okay, welcome to Braden, from Louisiana! Elizabeth, Oriana from Maryland; Anne from Utah; Hank; Zenia; Harley; Clara from Alabama; Katie from Texas; Nadia. Welcome to all of you!

Thank you for getting on this meeting and being part of the first virtual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. It's really exciting that you'll be able to say you were part of the largest gathering of blind people ever in the history of the world! This is really cool! We're going to have a number of days of activities. I want to thank the parents for getting their kids here. It's really important that your kids be engaged in this network we have.

I want to let parents know that in the Federation over the past four months we've been very focused on protecting blind people's rights and responsibilities in society. That means creating a solid foundation for our kids—your kids are our kids!

I want to know if the kiddos out there have any questions for me. If you have a question, say your name.

Harley: Can people make a playground for blind children that makes sounds?

MR: That's a great idea. Certainly it could be done. What kind of sounds would you want in a playground?

Harley: Maybe kids laughing.

MR: Okay. What else would you want?

Harley: Birds chirping, maybe.

MR: Would you want the sounds to help you find your way around in the playground? What do you want the sounds to do?

Harley: To help me go to the slides and stuff. And know where things are.

MR: What sound do you think a slide should make?

Harley: I don't know. A kid sliding down it.

MR: That's cool. I like that. How could we put audio into a playground? I don't know of anybody who has done that, but it could be really cool.

Now, when I go to a playground, I take my cane with me. You can get some information from your cane to help you detect where things are. But it would be cool to put sound into a playground for all kids, not just blind kids, don't you think?

Harley: They could close their eyes or put sleepshades on.

MR: When you grab a monkey bar, it could make a particular sound. That's a great idea! Any other questions?

Braden: Why do we have to use a cane if we could just use a stick?

MR: You could use a stick, but in the National Federation of the Blind we've developed these really cool canes that are made out of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is a very lightweight material that gives you good vibrational feedback. It's much lighter than a stick, and it's stronger than a thin stick. Sometimes you could use a stick, too. I know blind people who take their cane with them when they go hiking, but they also use a stick. A lot of people use hiking sticks when they're climbing up steep terrain. But we've found out that lightweight, long canes work best for letting us move quickly in most environments.

Hank: Do you have a guide dog or a cane? And if you have both, which one do you use the most?

MR: That's another great question! I have a cane, and I use my cane the most because I do not have a guide dog. My wife, Melissa, who is a board member for NOPBC here, has used a guide dog. Her guide dog is retired now. Even if you use a guide dog, you need the skills of using a cane. There are a lot of reasons for that. There are places you might not want to take your dog. Or your dog might get sick, and you'll still want to go where you need to go. In some situations, some people use their cane and their dog. Part of the decision for me is I have enough trouble just taking care of myself, and I don't necessarily want the responsibility of taking a dog out and doing all the things you have to do to use a guide dog properly. A lot of people make that choice, and that's their personal preference. At the end of the day you'll want to get good at using your cane, because you won't want to take your dog into some situations, or you might not want to worry about taking your dog out or feeding it in some situations. But the skills of traveling independently are basically the same, whether you decide to use a guide dog or a cane.

I appreciate talking with you here. I encourage you to drop by the Presidential Suite later. I'd love to meet with you there. I hope you all have a great convention!

My best to our parents' division on your tremendous work. Thank you for your leadership, Carlton, and thanks to the rest of our parents!

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