Braille Monitor                                                           April 2007

(back) (contents) (next)


The Memories and the Promise

Every NFB national convention is unique. If it is your first, it is likely always to hold a special place in your heart because it includes so many firsts in your experience. Some readers who open this issue are still considering whether or not to take the plunge and travel to Atlanta for the 2007 convention. Many articles in the following pages will provide information about the things that will be happening at the Marriott Marquis Hotel during the first week of July. We hope you will find the information useful as you consider whether to take your courage in both hands and step into the unknown by traveling to the convention and, if so, how early to arrive.

But this first article may also be helpful as you think about whether or not to come. It is a report of a tiny piece of what went on during the 2006 convention. The report first appeared in the Winter 2007 issue of Future Reflections, the magazine of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. I hope that you will read it even if you are not the parent of a blind child. By providing a glimpse of one element of the convention activities last year, it can kindle your imagination as you consider what you might experience this year in the parts of the agenda and the activities in which you are particularly interested.

So read on. Consider the impact that these events made on the families who took part in them. Then allow yourself to imagine what adventures and new experiences could be waiting for you in Atlanta:


2006 Convention Photo Report
(knowledge - pity) + (skills x confidence) + blind role models = self-determination
self-determination + (talent x perseverance) = SUCCESS

Is the task of raising a child an art or a science? Probably both. At the 2006 National Federation of the Blind national convention last summer in Dallas, Texas, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) adopted a theme—“The Equation for Success”--from the world of science. With the help of dynamic, knowledgeable presenters and a wide variety of programs and activities for parents and kids, we explored together the elements of the equation that lead to success for blind children and youth. As always, parents also discovered that simply observing the thousands of blind people traveling independently around the hotel and doing all the normal things that people do at conventions was itself as valuable as all of the organized seminars, workshops, and activities combined.

The following photos and descriptions are highlights from the 2006 convention. Mostly we have selected photos that depict the programs sponsored at the convention by the NOPBC. (As many people have observed, the NOPBC programs alone constitute a conference within a conference.) For a thorough overview of the entire convention, see the August/September 2006 issue of the Braille Monitor. The issue is available on the NFB Web site at (click on “Publications” and select “Braille Monitor”). Also back copies in print or alternate formats may be requested from the NFB Independence Market at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216.

The weeklong convention began on Saturday, July 1, a day set aside by the convention for NFB divisions to conduct seminars. And that’s where we begin our photo report:

Saturday, July 1, 2006

NFB President Maurer seated on the floor with the childrenThe NOPBC seminar begins with the annual “Kid Talk” with NFB President Maurer seated on the floor with the children. His time with the kids centers on the new Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader, dubbed the “best new invention ever” in the NOPBC agenda. Dr. Maurer shows them how the reader works, then passes it around while he patiently answers questions and encourages the kids to use their hands to examine the machine. “Lots of people don’t want us to touch things,” he tells them, “but that’s how blind people learn. At this convention we want you to touch things.”

Ryan StrunkAfter the children return to their seats, Ryan Strunk, president of the National Association of Blind Students, kicks off the adult portion of the seminar with a keynote address about the “Equation for Success.” He begins the speech with the statement that, in regard to the equation in the agenda, “in fact, there are two other elements involved: improv [improvisation] and luck.” With frankness and humor he explains that just before he came to the convention, he picked up some clothes from his dry cleaners and stuffed them in his garment bag. Unknown to him, the cleaners had removed the tags from his colored shirts (in his system, shirts with no tags are white) and gave him someone else’s dress pants, all of which he discovered only shortly before dressing for the seminar that morning. But, because he is flexible and has learned many problem-solving skills throughout his growing-up years--and with a little luck--he managed to put together a suitable outfit. Ryan continued to speak of his own experiences with sincerity and humor while delineating the components of the equation that combine to create successful blind adults.

Eric VasiliauskasFollowing Ryan Strunk, Eric Vasiliauskas, a pediatrician and parent of two blind sons, Vejas and Petras, speaks to parents on the topic, “The Power of Knowledge.” Who knew that Dr. V. (as he’s affectionately known) could turn such a dry-sounding title into a speech that moved many in the audience to tears? (This powerful speech was printed in its entirety in the March issue of the Braille Monitor.)

An attentive crowd looks on, Osterhaus describes math techniques, tools, tips, strategies, and resources for blind youth.After lunch on Saturday Susan Osterhaus, a math teacher from the Texas School for the Blind, leads a standing-room-only workshop. As the attentive crowd looks on, Osterhaus describes math techniques, tools, tips, strategies, and resources for blind youth. The workshop was one of three topics in the middle school/high school strand. There were four workshop strands in all--early years, elementary years, middle school/high school, and special topics--and three workshop titles per strand, for a total of twelve different workshops for parents and teachers.

Angela Wolfe and Cindy PlacAngela Wolfe, coordinator of the “Art with Feeling” afternoon session for children ages eight to twelve, poses for a picture as youngster Cindy Plac (El Salvador) displays her latest creation. Kudos go to Wolfe for putting together and conducting this session at the last minute when the original program had to be canceled.

Matt Maurer and Jasani WhiteheadMatt Maurer, President Maurer’s brother, plays a Braille-related game with six-year-old Jasani Whitehead (Iowa) at the Braille Carnival. The Braille Carnival was reorganized this year into smaller, multiple sessions in order to provide more individual attention to each child.

In “Talk about It Theater,” coordinated by Carrie Gilmer, kids tackle difficult social situations they may encounter in their daily lives. Through a skit they create then act out, these blind and sighted youth learn how to react to ignorance and misinformation about blindness.

Barbara Pierce and Dasha RadfordInstructor and mentor Barbara Pierce of Ohio, and Dasha Radford, age ten (North Carolina), quickly become close-knit friends at the knitting workshop for kids ages eight to twelve.

Jimmy Cale and R. J. Crease of Indiana are intrigued at the prospect of trying out newly developed lab tools for blind students during the “Chemistry: Seeing Color through Sound” program for teens.Jimmy Cale and R. J. Crease of Indiana are intrigued at the prospect of trying out newly developed lab tools for blind students during the “Chemistry: Seeing Color through Sound” program for teens. Organized and conducted by Andrew Greenberg of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, and blind chemist Cary Supalo of the Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind (ILAB) project, this workshop was one of three afternoon sessions offered to teens in collaboration with the NFB Jernigan Institute, Center for Blind Youth in Science.

Group of teens at a table.The chance to get together with other teens to share experiences is a convention plus. While parents and younger kids relax and enjoy socializing Saturday night at Family Hospitality, teens talk about issues concerning dating, relationships with parents, social interactions, and more at Teen Talk, a regular NOPBC-sponsored session just for teens. Throughout the convention, NOPBC also offers a safe, supervised hangout environment in the Teen Hospitality room.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Roland Allen instructs Nautica WhiteheadOrientation and mobility instructor Roland Allen of Louisiana teaches nine-year-old Nautica Whitehead of Iowa how to use a cane on stairs during the NOPBC-sponsored Sunday morning Cane Walk. On the Cane Walk blind children learn tips and techniques based on the structured-discovery method taught by (mostly) blind volunteer instructors while sighted parents and siblings have the option of experiencing a cane lesson under sleepshades.

Shawn Payne of Utah and his sons Andrew, age three, and Jacob, age five.Shawn Payne of Utah and his sons Andrew, age three, and Jacob, age five, pose for a picture after participating in one of the two Cane Walk sessions. Parents with infants and toddlers have the option at the Cane Walk to spend time with Joe Cutter talking about early movement and cane use.

On Sunday afternoon MATHCOUNTS Executive Director Lawrence Jacobson speaks to the Math Now! Forum and Seminar for Math Lovers about the need for our country to entice young people from diverse populations into math and engineering careers. Lawrence JacobsonThe forum was preceded in the morning by a closed math competition between teams of four students--Hannah Weatherd, Michael Taboada, Kyra Sweeney, and Megan Bening--and four adults--Steve Jacobson, Nathaniel Wales, Jason Ewell, and Paul Dressell--using Brailled MathCounts local and regional level competition materials.


Kyra SweeneyKyra Sweeney concentrates on a problem in the individual round.


The members of the kids’ team listen intently while Kristin Chandler of MATHCOUNTS gives instructions. The results of the competition are announced at the forum. Engineer The members of the kids’ team listen intently while Kristin Chandler of MATHCOUNTS gives instructions.Nathaniel Wales of California gets the top score, but close on his heels was Louisiana seventh grader Michael Taboada, who took top honors for the kids’ team.

Jean Bugby and her adult daughterJean Bugby is accompanied by her adult daughter, who is blind and severely multiply disabled, as she copresents at the Sunday afternoon workshop, “An Introduction to Active Learning.” The Texas School for the Blind (TSB) partnered with the NOPBC by providing two other presenters for the workshop--Amy Doezema and Sara Kitchen, both teachers at TSB.

Kevin Harris       Brad Weatherd

NOPBC board members Kevin Harris (left) and Brad Weatherd organize the first-ever Dads’ Night Out at the 2006 convention. The informal meeting at one of the hotel lounges featured buffalo wings, beer, camaraderie, and lots of talk about--what else?--their kids.

Monday, July 3, 2006

The NOPBC annual meeting on Monday afternoon pulls together parents at every stage of involvement in the NFB. Here president Barbara Cheadle (center) consults with NOPBC treasurer and longtime leader in Louisiana, Sandy Taboada, (left) and first-time parent Teri Turgeon (right) of Massachusetts. Teri and her husband John are among the eighteen sets of parents who attended the convention with funding from the NFB Parent Leadership Program--a new initiative to develop parent leadership at the state and national levels.

On Monday from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., Braille book lovers of all ages gather for the Braille Book Flea Market.

Ahbee Orton of Texas makes several selections and sits down to read.

Ahbee Orton Bianca Saranieco Anna Walker

Bianca Saranieco of California browses through a stack of Braille book titles, and Anna Walker reads a book with her mother, Carlton Walker of Pennsylvania.

The Braille Book Flea Market is fun for the entire family. The Colton family—Denise, Rick, and Katie--pause for a photo before Katie gives her Braille book selections to the UPS volunteers to be boxed and later taken to the post office to be shipped Free Matter for the Blind back to their home in Utah.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Gail Wagner Merry-Noel ChamberlainIf it’s Tuesday night, it must be IEP workshop night. Teachers Gail Wagner of New Mexico and Merry-Noel Chamberlain of Iowa, both past winners of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award, copresent a workshop for parents and teachers who are veterans of the IEP process (it was purely coincidence that Tuesday, and therefore the workshop, fell on July 4). Other workshop options included an IEP workshop for those new to the process and an “Access-It-Yourself” workshop about how to locate resources.

Hula WorkoutNani Fife of Hawaii leads a workshop designed to put the fun back into exercising with her “Hula Workout” seminar for Federationists of all ages.

Lindsay AdairLindsay Adair of Texas proudly shows off her Independence Day dress to the photographer who stops by NFB Camp to get a few snapshots of the kids whose parents take advantage of the NFB-sponsored childcare services, coordinated by Federation volunteer Carla McQuillan.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Joe CutterOn Wednesday the convention adjourns at noon, and the afternoon is free for convention attendees to relax, take in the local sights, or drop in for a little bit of Cane Talk with Joe Cutter and other Federation mobility instructors.

Kristin Turgeon and her father JohnKristin Turgeon (Massachusetts) and her father John examine and compare access technology in the vast exhibit hall. The convention brings together in one place at one time, about eighty vendors--nonprofits, for-profits, big companies and small--of specialized products, materials, and access technologies for the blind. The exhibit hall is a rare opportunity for blind kids and their families to, as one mom put it elsewhere in this issue, “Try before you buy.”

Levi BressanLevi Bressan from Colorado savors his chance to sit in a red 1957 Thunderbird, one of many coveted cars at the classic and antique car show in the parking lot of the hotel on Wednesday afternoon. The show was organized by the new Classics, Antiques, and Rods (CARs) Division of the NFB.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

On Thursday night a record-breaking crowd packs into the ballroom to partake of the festivities at the annual banquet. On Thursday night a record-breaking crowd packs into the ballroom to partake of the festivities at the annual banquet.

Marc MaurerDr. Maurer delivers his banquet address, entitled “An Element of Justice,” to an enthusiastic crowd.

Friday, July 7, 2006

On Friday, after a general assembly session filled with roll calls, legislative reports, debates, and votes, we begin to depart the convention center in Dallas. Satisfied with a week full of fun, Barbara Cheadle and Anton Kiwimagieducation, and rejuvenation, we bid farewell to many friends. Barbara Cheadle says see you next year to two-year-old Anton Kiwimagi of Colorado.

(back) (contents) (next)