The Braille Monitor                                                                                       June 2003

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So What Did You Do Last Summer?

by Barbara Pierce

I was a kid in the fifties and sixties, and in my neighborhood youngsters didn't go away to camp when they were small or spend time during high school summers volunteering a week or two on Indian reservations or building churches. We hung around home, being bored and dreading the beginning of school in September.

By the time I had children of my own, mothers as well as fathers worked full time, and parents had to organize activities to keep our kids relatively engaged and supervised during the nonschool months. The kids were still bored much of the time, but they were at least busier. Our family worked its way through swimming and tennis lessons, recreation activities at the nearest school, and girls' softball. One summer all three kids enrolled in summer school to learn to type. Another summer Steven took a special course at the college in computer science, and the girls went to music camp. In addition piano lessons continued all summer, and every day each kid had chores to do.

All these activities (except the chores) cost money. Not a lot--we didn't have a lot of money to spend on such things--but my husband and I recognized that, if our children were to take advantage of the opportunities surrounding them, we had to make some sacrifices.

We weren't being virtuous; the cost of summer activities was simply a fact of life. We did not have a blind child to raise, but I don't think I would have felt any different about summer activities if we had. Yet I increasingly notice a disturbing tendency among blind people themselves and the families of blind children. I refer to the attitude that programs designed for the blind ought to be free or the next thing to it. I know all the arguments--and there is much truth in them--about the economic disadvantages of blindness, but such arguments have little bearing on sighted parents with blind children. These kids haven't yet been exposed to the discrimination preventing many blind adults from getting or keeping well-paid jobs, so for the most part their parents face the same financial pressures everyone else does. The technology is somewhat more expensive, but all parents today struggle to provide technology for their children.

Blind people face an insidious temptation by having so many free services, everything from free admission to entertainment to the free-matter privilege. By and large rehabilitation services are free, and much of the equipment admittedly essential to maintaining a competitive place in school and at work comes to many of us with no cost to ourselves. Again I am well aware of how extraordinarily expensive much of this technology is. I also recognize that sighted people do not require special training to learn to cook, travel, operate equipment of all kinds, and gain personal confidence. It would not be fair for blind people to pay for such special training when others don't need any training at all.

The fact remains that an unhealthy attitude can creep into one's thinking if one is not extremely careful. The progression can go like this: These special services or aids or opportunities are an extra cost that other people don't have to pay. Why should I have to pay for such things? Why didn't the people offering this program find funding to reduce the cost to participants? Is there some source of funding that could help me pay? Why should I bother to attend and pay for this if a charity or rehab agency isn't prepared to cover the cost? When blind kids grow up being handed much of what they get from funding sources outside the home, it's little wonder that as adults they grow to expect that all of their services and technology should be subsidized.

A good case can and should be made for assistance with some of the extreme costs that minorities face for the services and equipment we need. But the world is a hard place, and often it is actually good for us to pay our own way. We certainly are more likely to appreciate the things for which we have made sacrifices in order to obtain.

I have been entertaining these somewhat curmudgeonly thoughts because of my work with the Committee on the Status of Blind Women of the North America/Caribbean region of the World Blind Union. We have been planning a conference for young women fifteen to twenty-five, extending from Friday, August 15 to Monday morning, August 18. It will take place at Brock University, just north of Buffalo, New York, in Ontario, Canada. The cost for the entire weekend's registration, food, lodging, and program is $220 U.S. Transportation must be added to that figure, but any way you cut it, this is an extraordinary bargain, considering the quality of the program.

Would you be surprised to learn that most of the inquiries so far have been from parents wanting to know what subsidies are available? Efforts are being made to see that some young women from the developing countries of the Caribbean are among the attendees. These are women who have absolutely no money and could certainly not afford the expense of airline tickets and visas on top of the conference cost.

This opportunity will be unique for young women who need information and inspiration as they assume the responsibilities of life as blind adults. I am pleased that several members of the NFB's student division have expressed interest in attending this event in order to support the young women and assist us to drive home the lessons of the conference. I am deeply grateful to these women and understand that they hope for some financial assistance, but I am concerned to discover the lack of interest within the target group of young American women and their families.

NFB affiliates and VI teachers can help by being certain that students and families know about this very fine intensive program. They may also be helpful in identifying sources of funding. Here is the schedule of events as it now stands:

Schedule for Vision Quest 2003

Friday, August 15

     Registration and Dorm Assignments, 2:00-5:00 p.m.

     Barbecue and Welcome Reception, 5:00-6:45 p.m.

     Opening Remarks and Welcome, 7:00-7:30 p.m. Penny Harten, James Sanders

     Entertainment, Terry Kelly, 7:30-9:00 p.m.

Saturday, August 16

     Breakfast, 7:30-8:30 a.m.

     First General Session, 8:45-10:00 a.m.


     Presentation of Award--Susan Spungin

     Keynote Address--Joanne Wilson

Concurrent Workshops, 10:15-11:45 a.m.

      1. Personal Information, Our Bodies, Our Selves- Nurse TBA and Barbara Pierce

      2. How Do You Present to Others? Communication and Social Skills-June Waugh, Sharon Sacks,           Bernadette Johnson

      3. Where Are You Going? Taking Charge of Your World-Karen Wolfe

      4. Tips of the Trade--Practical Ideas for Successful Independent-Living, TBA

      Lunch, 12:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Concurrent Workshops, 1:30-3:00 p.m.

      1. Personal Information, Our Bodies Our Selves-Nurse TBA and Barbara Pierce

      2. How Do You Present to Others? Communication and Social Skills-June Waugh, Sharon Sacks,           Bernadette Johnson

      3. Where Are You Going? Taking Charge of Your World-Karen Wolfe

      4. Tips of the Trade--Practical Ideas for Successful Independent Living, TBA

Discussion Groups, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Divide participants into four groups for sharing of personal experiences. Each group assigned two facilitators from committee and speakers.

     Dinner, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

     Evening Entertainment, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

     Looking at Yourself through Humor--Kaye Leslie

     Open Mike and Networking, 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Sunday, August 17

     Breakfast, 7:30-8:30 a.m.

     Second General Session, 9:00-10:30 a.m.

     How Blind Women Are Influencing the World- Facilitator, Cathy Moore; Panel: Deborah Kent, Julie      Lewis, Jill Tobin, and Tricia Pokorney

Concurrent Sessions, 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

      1. Understanding Communication Styles of Women and Men-Roz Usheroff

      2. Moving Out in Style--Mobility-Barbara Pierce and Jill Tobin

      3. Becoming Financially Independent-Susan Spungin

      4. Self-Defense-Wendy David

      Lunch, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions, 1:30-3:00 p.m.

      1. Understanding Communication Styles of Women and Men-Roz Usheroff

      2. Moving Out in Style--Mobility-Barbara Pierce and Jill Tobin

      3. Becoming Financially Independent--Susan Spungin

      4. Self-Defense--Wendy David

     Expressing Yourself through Art and Movement, 3:00-5:00 p.m.

     Ropes Course--University Staff


     Art Activity--Angela Wolf

     Dinner, 6:00-7:00 p.m.

     Closing Ceremony, 7:30-9:00 p.m.--Allison Hilliker

     Reception and Sharing of Experiences

August 18

     Breakfast and Departure, 7:30-9:30 a.m.

Whether or not you recognize the nationally known names or Federationists on this list of presenters, you should be impressed by the breadth of the offerings and the care with which the schedule has been constructed. Now it is up to us to see that young women who can benefit from attending this conference hear about it and decide to attend. For the convenience of anyone interested in registering, the registration form follows.

World Blind Union Logo


Committee on the Status of Blind Women North American/Caribbean Region



Vision Quest 2003: A Self-Discovery Conference for Young Blind Women — August 15-18, 2003

Registration Form

Name_________________________________ Home Phone________________________


Will you be attending the conference with a parent _____ a teacher _____ on my own _____ other__________?

If attending with an adult, please provide that person’s name _____________________ (Note: A separate program will be provided for

parents, teachers, and others. They must register for the conference.)

Conference materials: Braille____ Large Print____ Electronic_____

Your conference registration includes all accommodation (double occupancy) and meals, activities, and receptions. Please let us know the following:

Do you have any dietary restrictions?____ yes ____ no. If so, please specify: __________________________________________________________________________.

Do you wish to room with a specific person? ____ yes ____ no. If so, please provide name: ________________________________________.

Please forward this registration form along with your registration fee (check to be made out to World Blind Union of Canada)  $220 US_______$300 CA_______

Mail your registration form with payment enclosed by July 15th to:

Sandra Millington
CNIB Ontario Division
1929 Bayview Avenue  
Toronto, ON M4G 3E8 CANADA
Phone: 416-480-7468  Fax: 416-480-7140
<[email protected]>

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