Future Reflections          Winter/Spring 2008

(back) (contents) (next)

Remember the Past, IMAGINE the Future
The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC)
Celebrates 25 Years: 1983 – 2008

by Barbara Cheadle, President, NOPBC

How does one imagine the unimaginable?

Barbara Cheadle and former NFB President Kenneth Jernigan at the 1993 NOPBC Seminar in Dallas, Texas.Do you ever look at a new gadget or piece of technology and wonder how anyone came up with this idea? Do you ever read about some social practice from ancient primitive societies--such as abandoning newborn twins because (so it was believed) they are inhabited by evil spirits--and wonder how people could have ever thought this way? It is hard to imagine something new, either a physical thing, or different ways of thinking about people or the world around us.

There was a time when it made all the sense in the world to believe that the Earth was flat, and that evil spirits caused physical and mental illnesses. To suggest otherwise would invite being thought a fool, or worse, mad. Yet, astonishingly, history clearly demonstrates that the human race has a unique capacity to do this very thing: imagine the unimaginable.

Some of the greatest turning points in history were rooted in those moments when individuals or even small groups of people glimpsed a vision of something new, something different, something currently beyond their grasp. The unimaginable becomes a reality when an individual or groups of people pursue that vision and make it come true; consider Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement; Mohandas Gandhi and the non-violent movement to free India; Raymond Kurzweil and the invention of a reading machine for the blind; and Dr. Jacobus tenBroek who, with sixteen other blind men and women from seven states, founded the National Federation of the Blind.

In a return to Dallas thirteen years later, Barbara Cheadle and NFB President Marc Maurer at the 2006 NOPBC Seminar.I do not believe I exaggerate when I state that a turning point in the history of the blind was made twenty-five years ago on July 2, 1983, in Kansas City, Missouri, when parents of blind children made common cause with the organized blind and brought into being what would ultimately be known as the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind--the NOPBC.

From the beginning, the goals were bold and imaginative; the structure and premise new, fresh, and unique. Never before (so far as I know) had a national parents organization of children with blindness (or any other disability, for that matter) chosen to be guided and mentored by an adult organization of the same disability. Our affiliation was not to be a matter of lifeless words on paper, but a living, breathing, growing, and changing relationship--parents and their blind children interacting and partnering with blind adults.

On that day, we made the commitment to imagine together with the members of the National Federation of the Blind, a society where our children would be accepted as normal--with all the rights and the responsibilities that this implies--and given the same opportunities as all other children to achieve their potential and pursue their dreams.

As individual families and as an organization, we hitched our wagon to the star of the National Federation of the Blind, and that decision has made all the difference in the lives of thousands of blind children—some of whom are now young adults. And now, after twenty-five years, it is time to pause, take stock, reflect, take inspiration from our past successes, and consider what it is that we might imagine for the future.

At the 2008 NFB convention in Dallas, Texas, the NOPBC invites you--and all families and teachers of blind and visually impaired children--to celebrate with us our twenty-fifth anniversary as we “Remember the Past, IMAGINE the future.”

The day of celebration will begin in usual style on Sunday, June 29, with workshops, seminars, and activities for every member of the family--blind kids and sighted siblings, too. Following a day full of active learning is an evening of relaxation; an informal buffet dinner with our families (kids included) and friends in the NFB; and an upbeat, inspirational, yet fast-paced program highlighting twenty-five years of accomplishments.

And don’t overlook your opportunity to be a sponsor! You can honor your special child or student, express your congratulations, or send a brief message about what NOPBC has meant to you for inclusion in the commemorative program. The sponsorship form with details is on page xx in this issue.

See the convention bulletin at the beginning of this issue for details about how to make room reservations at the convention hotel and how to register for the NFB convention (which is a separate fee from the NOPBC registration and a requirement in order to get convention rates). Of course, as in past years, the workshops and other activities on Sunday, June 29, are only the beginning of many NOPBC-sponsored activities scheduled throughout the NFB convention. Following is a schedule of events followed by an NOPBC preregistration form:

NOPBC Schedule of Events
2008 NFB Convention * Dallas, Texas

Day 1: Sunday, June 29

Childcare: The NFB offers childcare (NFB Camp) all day (except during lunchtime) on Sunday, June 29, and during other convention sessions throughout the week. Complete information, including fee schedule, age requirements, times available, and so forth, is available on page xx in this issue. Please note that preregistration for NFB Camp is required. NOPBC Fees including dinner tickets to the Sunday night, June 29, anniversary buffet: $25 per adult, $15 per youth, ages 12 and up, and $7 per child, ages 6-11. Children ages 5 and under, no charge. Tickets for the buffet dinner may not be available at registration, so PLEASE preregister. Preregistrations are due June 20, 2008.

NOPBC Fees, no dinner tickets: $20 per adult, no charge for children and youth accompanied by family members. Teens accompanied by chaperones, $15 per teen.

The fee helps cover the cost of workshop materials, the packets and handouts from all NOPBC sessions, AV equipment for our speakers, the cost of our Teen Hospitality Room, and other expenses incurred by the NOPBC at the convention.

8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Registration. Those who preregistered should pick up name badges, packets, and dinner tickets at this time.

8:30 a.m. NFB Camp opens

9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Remember the Past, IMAGINE the Future (general session beginning with NFB President Maurer’s famous Kid Talk session)

10:30 – NOON Breakout sessions. Seven concurrent 90-minute sessions for adults.

Children, ages 10 and up, accompanied by a parent or adult are invited to participate in these sessions, too:
1. Getting Serious about Music Education: A hands-on look at the Braille music code and music software for the blind student. Instructor, Jennifer Dunnam.
2. Getting Serious about Math: A hands-on introduction to the abacus. Instructor, Annee Hartzel.
3. Touch, Sound, Movement, and Little White Canes for the Early Years (birth-5). Instructor, Denise Mackenstadt.
4. Games—Think Outside the Box: Learn how to adapt board games, and which games are blind-friendly right off the shelf. Instructor, Merry-Noel Chamberlain.
5. Blind and Multiply Disabled—Life after 21: Resources and tips to help parents maximize their multiply impaired children’s opportunities for an independent, productive life after they exit the educational system. Instructor, Barbara Schultz.
6. Low Vision: Low Expectations? How you can help your low-vision kid learn to use nonvisual techniques and develop positive attitudes to overcome subtle and not-so-subtle messages of low expectations. Instructor, to be announced.
7. What Do You Do When You Meet 2,000 Blind People? Is this your first convention and do you feel a little overwhelmed by all those canes and guide dogs? This session conducted by blind member Angela Howard will give you a chance to ask those “dumb” questions so you can relax, learn, and enjoy.

10:30 – NOON Teen Track 2008 (co-sponsored by the NFB Jernigan Institute): “Tonight on David Letterman—Educating the Public about Blindness.” Blind and sighted youth get a chance to go onto a “mock” David Letterman show and explain to the audience what it is like to be blind, or to have a blind family member. Coordinator, Mary Jo Thorpe.

NOON – 1:45 p.m. Lunch (on your own)

2:00 – 4:15 p.m. Sessions for children and teens according to age/grade levels. The children in grades K – 8 will have fun with the seminar theme, “Remember the Past, IMAGINE the Future,” as they learn more about themselves, blindness, and the skills of blindness through games, art, making Braille books, and other activities. Denver artist, Ann Cunningham, in collaboration with the children session coordinators, will be lending her talents to produce exciting, interactive projects and activities.

— Children, grades K – 2. Coordinator, Melissa Riccabono
— Children, grades 3 – 5. Coordinator, Ronza Othman
— Youth, grades 6 – 8. Coordinator, Gail Wagner
Teen Track 2008 (co-sponsored by the NFB Jernigan Institute): Training for the NFB American Gladiator. Recreational activities in partnership with the NFB Sports and Recreation Division. Coordinator, Mary Jo Thorpe.

2:00 – 4:15 p.m. Concurrent workshops for parents. Two sessions: 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. and 3:15 – 4:15 p.m.

Session One: 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
1. Early Years: Can I Be Your Friend? The development of social skills begins in the cradle. Instructor, Heather Field.
2. Elementary Years: Technology and Blindness Skills. Like the chicken or the egg question, we have to ask ourselves which comes first? Kristin Sims, Instructor.
3. Teen Years: From the Mall to College Campus. Preparing teens to travel in all settings. Instructor to be announced.
4. Special Topics: Raising the Mobility Bar for Multiply Disabled Students. Instructor, Denise Mackenstadt.

Session Two: 3:15 – 4:15 p.m.
1. Early Years: Listen—Your Little One is Trying to Tell You Something. Parents have a lot to do with their children’s development of language and communication. Instructor, Heather Field.
2. Elementary Years: Mobility: Making it Work in the Public School Setting. Instructor, Denise Mackenstadt.
3. Teen Years: Fun, Friends, Fashions, and Fitting In. Instructor to be announced.
4. Special Topics: The Challenges of Home Schooling. Instructor Brunhilde Merk-Adam.

6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Family buffet, casual dress, bring the kids. (See NOPBC registration information on page xx for cost. Please note that tickets must be purchased in advance.)

7:00 – 8:00 p.m. NOPBC Celebrates 25 Years. Program with surprise awards, inspirational addresses, and highlights of NOPBC accomplishments (No fees, attendance at dinner not required).

8:00 – 10:00 p.m. Family Hospitality

8:00 – 9:30 p.m. Teen Talks: As in previous years, experienced, sensitive blind leaders are asked to conduct these two talk sessions on the all-important teen topics of dating, relationships with parents, social interactions with peers, and so forth. Moderators are experienced blind adults with extensive experience with children and youth. Parents are not invited. The session for boys will be led by Dan Wenzel and the girls by Christine Boone. For boys and girls ages 14 and up.

Day 2: Monday, June 30

8:00 – 10:30 p.m. Cane Walk: Session I: The Cane Walk is for blind kids, their family members, and/or teachers. It is sponsored by the NOBPC in partnership with the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University and the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

10:00 – 12:30 p.m. Cane Walk: Session II (repeat session)

10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Teen Track 2008: Orientation to the Convention for Teens, Teen Hospitality Room. Contact Brigid Doherty at the hotel for the hotel suite/location.

2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Demystifying Chemistry with Dr. Andrew Greenberg (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Cary Supalo (Pennsylvania State University): Come join us as we explore the wonders of the chemical sciences. Using state of the art tools and techniques designed specifically for laboratory independence of blind and visually impaired students, you will run a series of fun and exciting chemical reactions. These safe and hands-on chemistry activities will highlight such topics as acids and bases, solution concentration, and nanotechnology. Included in the presentation will be an introduction from blind chemist Cary Supalo, a doctoral candidate at the Pennsylvania State University. Participants will be broken up into groups according to elementary, middle school, and high school levels, as well as a section for parents. Preregistration is required for participation. See NOPBC registration.

1:00 – 4:30 p.m. Teen Hospitality Room. Games, music, and socializing for all teens. Drop in anytime. Contact Brigid Doherty at the hotel for the hotel suite location.

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Dad’s Night Out: This is an opportunity for fathers to talk about their kids in an informal, social atmosphere. Blind dads of sighted kids are also welcome to join the group.

Day 3: Tuesday, July 1

7:30 – 9:30 a.m. NOPBC Board Meeting

11:30 – 12:30 p.m. Teen Track 2008: Teen Meet and Greet with Division Reps: Come learn about the various divisions of the NFB.

12:45 – 4:15 p.m. Teen Hospitality Room.

1:00 – 3:30 p.m. NOPBC Annual Meeting and Program: Keynote address by 2008 NFB Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Winner and a program with continued highlights from the 25th Anniversary celebration. A brief business meeting with elections of officers and board members to follow.

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. Parent Power Workshop: Moderator Barbara Mathews. An NOPBC workshop about expanding and strengthening state and local parent groups, fundraising, developing programs, and recruiting members.

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Braille Book Flea Market and Reunion for Braille Readers Are Leaders 7:00 p.m. Books on Time: Mobilizing the Troops for Action Despite considerable efforts over the past ten years, blind children still begin the first day of school without their books. Now is the time to educate and mobilize a force of advocates at the grass roots who will help us overcome this injustice. The session will cover how the law is supposed to work, how to assist families in navigating the complaint process, how to create change at the local level, and how to assist the NFB national office in tracking the problems with timely, accessible textbooks. More specific details will be available in the coming months about the specific time, location, and agenda for this important training seminar. Sponsored by the NFB Jernigan Institute in collaboration with NOPBC.

Day 4: Wednesday, July 2

7:00 – 9:00 a.m. NOPBC board meeting

Lunch break Teen Hospitality Room.

7:00 – 10:00 p.m. Teen Track 2008: Teen Dance: Want to go to a dance with your kind of music? Come get your groove on with other teens at the NFB Youth Track Dance. Teens 14-18 are invited. Music will include: Top 40, Hip Hop, R&B, and even country! There will also be games and time to chat.

6:30 – 10:00 p.m. Concurrent workshops for parents. Two sessions: 6:30-8:00 p.m. and 8:30-10:00 p.m.

Session One: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
1. All About Your Child’s IEP: Annee Hartzel, teacher of the visually impaired, and Denise Colton, parent of a blind child. Hartzel also served on a committee that developed state educational standards for Braille students in California. Hartzel will review the basic principles of how to write an IEP, provide tips on being an effective advocate in the IEP meeting, and so forth.
2. Drop-in Play and Learn with Heather Field: Parents of infants and toddlers (ages 0-5) are invited to bring their kids to this hands-on interactive session with Heather Field. Heather will answer questions and demonstrate toys and activities to encourage development and age appropriate behaviors.
3. Letting Your Child’s Wild Side Out: Join us as we explore how young blind children can enjoy fun, age-appropriate activities like surfing, skiing, snowboarding, gymnastics, Frisbee, rollerblading, and much more. Both presenters will use PowerPoint presentations with pictures and video of their blind children engaging in all of the above activities. Warning: While supervised children of all ages are encouraged to attend, be prepared for the consequences: they may very well ask you when they can try these activities too! Led by Dr. Eric Vasiliauskas and Grace Tiscareno-Sato.

Session Two: 8:30 – 10:00 p.m.
1. All About Your Child’s IEP: (repeat session) 2. Good Educational Programs Are Built on Good Evaluations: this session will help parents and teachers learn to identify the elements of good assessments. The workshop will identify sources of assessments, how to develop and evaluate teacher-made assessments, and strategies for identifying sources of independent evaluations. A panel of instructors to include Dr. Ruby Ryles, Carol Castellano, and others.
8:30 – 10:15 p.m. Hobbies, Crafts, and Games: Supervised arts and crafts activities for children ages 6-12. You want to go to an NOPBC workshop, but you have kids who are almost too old for a babysitter but maybe not old enough to stay by themselves, so what do you do? Bring them here for an evening of hobbies and crafts! NOTE: This is a program for the children of parents who are attending NFB workshops within the hotel. It is not a childcare service. Parents are welcome to come with their child and do an activity together. Coordinated by Heather Fields.

Day 5: Thursday, July 3

Time TBA Scout Open House: come learn about scouting from representatives with Boy Scouts of America and blind Federation scouts. More information forthcoming.

1:00 – 3:00 p.m. NFB Jernigan Institute Open House: Come to talk to Barbara Cheadle about the development of the Parent Outreach department of the Jernigan Institute and learn about other Institute programs.

1:45 – 6:15 p.m. Teen Hospitality Room.

8:00 – 10:30 p.m. Astronomy and the Invisible Sky: Come participate in hands-on activities to see what a night under the stars is all about. Weather permitting, we will also have an outside star party. Led by Noreen Grice of You Can Do Astronomy LLC and the Museum of Science, Boston. Kids of all ages, including blind adults and friends in the Federation, are welcome to attend. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Day 6: Friday, July 4

Lunch break Teen Hospitality Room.

NFB Banquet Along with other NFB Divisions, NOPBC will announce the much sought after 50/50 raffle drawing

Day 7: Saturday, July 5

NFB General Session
*During the session, NOPBC will announce contributions to the White Cane Fund, tenBroek Fund, Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Fund, and Imagination Fund.

NOPBC Board Officers

Barbara Cheadle, President. Married: John Cheadle; three children: John Earl, age 31, Charles (Chaz) (blind), age 30, Anna, age 26. Baltimore, Maryland.                                  Carol Castellano, 1st Vice President. Married: Bill Cucco; two children: Serena (blind), age 24, John, age 21. Madison, New Jersey.



Brad Weatherd, 2nd Vice President. Married: Jill Weatherd; two children: Hannah (blind), age 15, Levi, age 13. Saratoga, Wyoming.                        Carrie Gilmer, Secretary. Married: Phillip Richardson; four children: Joe, age 25, Kate, age 22, Jordan, age 17, Maya, age 10. Minneapolis, Minnesota.                       Sandy Taboada, Treasurer (Dr. Sandra Merchant). Married: Joe Taboada; two children: Michael (blind), age 15, Robert, age 13. Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

(back) (contents) (next)