FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: 
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Michael Barber
President
National Federation of the Blind of Iowa
(515) 284-1569

Parents of Blind Children Plan To Expand Organization

Des Moines, Iowa (December 5, 2006):  On Saturday, December 9, parents of blind children from the Des Moines area and across the state will gather at the Iowa Department for the Blind to hear a presentation from Barbara Cheadle, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), to discuss formalizing the "Saturday School" parents group into a division of the NOPBC.

Location: Iowa Department for the Blind
              524 4th Street 
              Des Moines, Iowa
Time:      10:00 a.m.

Saturday School is a committed group of parents of blind children who have been meeting and working together for approximately five years to educate themselves about blindness in order to improve and enhance the lives of their blind children.  This group works closely with successful blind role models who, on a monthly basis, volunteer to provide the families with ideas, suggestions and practical alternative techniques of blindness to give blind children that extra edge that will help them to compete on a basis of equality with their sighted classmates.

"This is a great opportunity for parents of blind children to ask questions, network, and learn from one another about advocating for their blind children," said Joy Harris, one of the founding members of Saturday School.  "While we only meet once a month, for two hours, we plant the seeds that will help blind children to understand that their blindness need not stop them from achieving great success in life."

In addition to serving as president of the NOPBC (a position she has held since 1985), Cheadle also serves as the director of parent outreach at the Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.  She is also a parent of a blind child, and edits Future Reflections, an internationally acclaimed magazine for parents and teachers of blind children.  Backed by a bachelor's degree in education and post baccalaureate studies in rehabilitation and education of the visually impaired, Cheadle tackles issues of blindness in the home, schools, and the world beyond.

Cheadle's introduction to blindness began in 1974.  She was employed as a rehabilitation counselor for the Nebraska State Agency for the Blind and rapidly worked her way up to regional supervisor.  Shortly thereafter, she joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).  She and her husband adopted a young blind boy from Korea while their other two children were very young.  Their Korean-born blind son, Chaz, was adopted in 1980.  The Cheadles’ fight to get Braille instruction for Chaz (who is partially blind) was one of the factors that turned the tide in the campaign for a Braille literacy provision in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) amendments in 1997.

As leader of the 3,000 plus members in the NOPBC, Cheadle organizes national conferences and workshops, serves on numerous boards and advisory committees, organizes new parent divisions, represents parents' interests to legislative and regulatory bodies, and counsels and advises parents nationwide.  Cheadle's advocacy work on behalf of blind children and their parents spans the nation and the globe. Parents and teachers in every state of the Union and in more than 40 countries read Future Reflections, and that's just the print edition.  Thousands more read the magazine online at the National Federation of the Blind’s Web site, http://www.nfb.org/

Cheadle's commitment to the education of blind children extends to all children, including those with additional disabilities.   After attending a workshop by Dr. Lilli Nielsen in the early nineties, Cheadle used the resources of NOPBC and Future Reflections to aggressively promote Nielsen's Active Learning Program and other methods and materials for blind, disabled children.  A tireless Braille literacy advocate, Cheadle was instrumental in establishing the NFB's Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, the BRL Pals pre-literacy program, and the Braille Is Beautiful program; a diversity program for sighted children in grades 4 through 6.  Under her leadership in the early eighties, NOPBC created and led the revolution in the early use of white canes by blind children through the distribution of videos, literature, and the dissemination of hundreds of toddler-size-and-up white canes, produced and donated by the National Federation of the Blind.

Carrie Thompson, a parent of a blind child and one of the founding members of Saturday School, helped arrange Cheadle's presentation.   "We’ve received Future Reflections for years and we’ve read hundreds of articles, seen her picture, and heard her name.  But we never thought we would ever meet Barbara Cheadle.  Thanks to the NFB, she will spend the weekend with us," she said.

" When many of us were first told our child was blind, we were scared.  Through the NFB, we’ve met numerous blind people doing everyday things.  We’ve come to realize that being blind is simply an inconvenience, that our child can truly reach for the stars, and they do it every day," said Thompson.   "That’s not to say that there aren’t struggles in daily life and lessons to be learned.  But with the amazing support group we have, we feel our children can be successful," she added.

If parents or grandparents of blind children are interested in learning more about the Saturday School group, they can call Carrie Thompson at (515) 834-9003.