Future Reflections

Volume 34 Number 2                                  Special Issue, Extracurricular Activities

A magazine for parents and teachers of blind children published by
the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults in partnership
with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.

Deborah Kent Stein, Editor


Copyright © 2015 American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults

For more information about blindness and children contact:
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230 • (410) 659-9314


Orlando Site of 2015 NFB Convention

The 2015 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 5-10, at the Rosen Centre Hotel at 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Rosen Centre staff only. Call (800) 204-7234.

The 2015 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins, $82; and triples and quads, $89. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $95-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2015. The other 50 percent is not refundable.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2015, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.

Guest-room amenities include cable television; in-room safe; coffeemaker; hairdryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Centre Hotel offers fine dining at Executive Chef Michael Rumplik’s award-winning Everglades Restaurant. In addition, there is an array of dining options from sushi to tapas to a 24-hour deli. The hotel has first-rate amenities and shuttle service to the Orlando airport.

The schedule for the 2015 convention is:

Sunday, July 5            Seminar Day
Monday, July 6           Registration Day
Tuesday, July 7           Board Meeting and Division Day
Wednesday, July 8      Opening Session
Thursday, July 9          Business Session
Friday, July 10            Banquet Day and Adjournment



Life, Be in It!
by Deborah Kent Stein


Shared Passions
by Christina Kuckie-Roberts

Judo Girl
by Sara Luna

Finding My Niche
by Chris Nusbaum


Blind Kids Can't March! Or Can They?
by Debby Brackett

Cheering Blind
by Deja Powell

"So Dad, When Can I Go Surfing?"
by Eric Vasiliauskas

Up on My Knees
by Serena Cucco


Community Service for Fun, Friendship, and Future
by Darian Smith


A Chance Like Everyone Else
by Nelly Gamino and Alex Gamino


ViStars: Empowering Blind Students
by Precious Perez

The Voices of Birds, the Smell of the Forest
by Przemyslaw Barszcz

Camp Abilities: A Sports Camp for Children with Visual Impairments
by Lauren J. Lieberman

Youth Challenge
by Mackenzie Maglic


Experience the Magic
by Pam and Roland Allen


Crafting Your Diamond
by Carlton Walker

Schedule of Events for Adults, Children, and Youth

Child Care in Orlando
by Carla McQuillan



Why Join the NOPBC?

Are you the parent of a blind or visually impaired child?  Don’t know where to turn? 

Founded in 1983, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) is a membership organization of parents, educators, and friends of blind children reaching out to give each other vital support, encouragement, and information. We have thousands of members in all fifty states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The NOPBC offers hope, encouragement, information, and resources for parents of blind or visually impaired children.  NOPBC provides emotional support and a network of other families dealing with the same challenges you are facing.  We also provide information, training, and resources to empower you to take an active role in guiding your child’s development and education.  We can provide information on your child’s rights and on the laws and legislative issues that will enable you and your child to become strong and effective advocates. 

Have you ever wondered what your blind or visually impaired child will be capable of when he or she grows up?  The answer to that question is that blindness/visual impairment does not have to stop your child from doing anything he or she wants to do.  We can connect you with other families and blind adults who can serve as positive mentors and role models. They can teach you the attitudes and techniques that will enable your child to become independent and to succeed in life.  

What is different about the NOPBC?

Our status as a division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the largest and most influential organization of blind people in the world, provides many benefits. Our members are well informed about the societal, legislative, and technological issues that affect blind people. We also enjoy the resources, support, and expertise of fifty thousand blind people who can serve as mentors and role models for us and our children. Finally, as our children grow up, they have the Federation to belong to.

No other organization for parents of blind/visually impaired children offers more programs, activities, and training to families, children, and youth.  One of our most exciting activities is our annual conference.  Every year since it was established, the NOPBC has conducted an annual conference for parents and teachers of blind children as part of the national convention of the NFB.  The program has grown to include five exciting days of workshops, training sessions, activities for all family members, including sighted siblings, and countless opportunities to meet blind adults and other families and children from around the country.

What is the mission of the NOPBC?

The purpose of the NOPBC is to:

•  create a climate of opportunity for blind children in home and society.
•  provide information and support to parents of blind children.
•  facilitate the sharing of experience and concerns among parents of blind children.
•  develop and expand resources available to parents and their children.
•  help parents of blind children gain understanding and perspective through partnership and contact with blind adults.
•  function as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind in its ongoing effort to achieve equality and opportunity for all blind persons.

Most states have an NOPBC affiliate chapter.  You can find your state chapter at <www.nopbc.org>.  If your state does not have a chapter and you would like to start one, please contact us.  We may be able to offer training and other assistance to start a state NOPBC chapter.

What are the programs, activities, publications, and resources of the NOPBC?

•  National and State Parent Seminars and Conferences
•  Future Reflections Magazine
•  NOPBC Website
•  Books and Videos
•  Blindkid & Other Listservs
•  Early Childhood Conferences
•  Pop-Up IEP Website
•  Slate Pals Pen Pal Program
•  AAF Free Braille Books Program
•  Share Braille Book Exchange
•  Writing Contests
•  Junior Science Academy
•  Youth Slam High School Science Academy
•  National Center for Blind Youth in Science Web site
•  NFB-NEWSLINE® Newspaper Service
•  Where the Blind Work Website
•  Free White Cane Program
•  Blindness 411 Facebook Group for Teens
•  NFB-LINK Mentoring Program
•  Scholarship Program
•  Straight Talk about Blindness Video Series
•  Parent Leadership Program (PLP)

Contact Us:
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

Life, Be In It!

by Deborah Kent Stein

When my daughter started high school, she signed up for an after-school program called Life, Be in It! Students volunteered at nursing homes, child care centers, homeless shelters, and an assortment of other programs in the community. Much of the focus was on helping others, but there was also a strong educational component. Beyond the confines of the classroom, students had the chance to learn through firsthand experience.

I loved the concept behind this program, and I was enchanted by the title. Life, Be in It! What a weird, hokey name! Yet how could it be more apt?

Most of us agree that academic studies are important, but living in the world involves far more than passing tests and writing term papers. A tremendous amount of practical learning takes place when students engage in extracurricular activities. They develop confidence, learn teamwork, and build leadership skills. They have the chance to be useful, to make meaningful contributions. Instead of learning at a distance, by reading and discussing, they learn by doing, through direct experience. And at the same time they get to have plenty of fun!

Extracurricular activities are invaluable for blind children and teens, just as they are for their sighted peers. Too often, however, blind kids are excluded from activities that would greatly enhance their learning and enrich their lives. Transportation issues may be a factor. Parents sometimes worry that their child won't be accepted by group leaders or peers. And of course there are those "safety concerns" that tend to rear up when they're least expected. "We'd love to include Joey, but we don't want him to get hurt . . ."

The articles in this special issue of Future Reflections present a variety of perspectives on extracurricular activities for blind students. Parents, program leaders, and kids themselves write about challenges, adventures, and triumphs. They describe activities that range from birding to marching band, from cheerleading to surfing. These accounts show that creative solutions may be called for. Sometimes it even takes a bit of advocacy before a blind child or teen is able to participate. Nevertheless, the end results prove well worth the effort. Life, be in it!

Shared Passions

by Christina Kuckie-Roberts

From the Editor: When parents learn that their child is blind, they sometimes conclude that he or she will not be able to take part in the activities they most enjoy and value. In this article, Christina Kuckie-Roberts of Illinois describes how she ensured that her son, Christopher, had a chance to share her passions for athletics and music, regardless of his blindness and additional disabilities.

Our eldest son, Christopher, was diagnosed at four months old with Norrie’s disease, a genetic disorder that occurs in boys and results in total blindness. After I received the diagnosis, I spent about ten minutes lamenting Christopher's vision loss. "He'll never see fireworks," I thought. But not once at that time did I assume that Christopher couldn't strive to accomplish certain lifelong goals that I had envisioned for my firstborn.

As the parents of an infant, we tend to dream that our child will excel in the areas that are most important to us. Music has always been an important part of my life, and I love swimming. I have been a member of Sokol Spirit, a division of the American Sokol, for many years. Sokol is a physical fitness organization with classes for those aged three through one hundred and three. We compete against other units in track and field, artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, marching, volleyball, and other activities.

I was confident that Christopher could push past the inconvenience of being blind, but early on I discovered there were still more challenges to face. Christopher was not meeting his developmental milestones. He needed help from a whole squadron of professionals—feeding therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and behaviorialists. Unfortunately, developmental delays are sometimes part of Christopher's diagnosis. Since Christopher was my first child, I didn't yet understand the severity of these problems. My naíve self continued to believe that someday Christopher would enjoy the things I love. I didn't view failure as an option.


When Christopher was three years old, I signed him up at Sokol Chicagoland. This Sokol was closer to home than the gym I attended, and it offered classes on Saturdays. I knew that I would have to stay with him during his classes. I assumed that his instructors had never had to teach gymnastics to a blind child before.

Coach Mike was, and still is, wonderful. He has always treated Christopher the same way he treats the other kids in the class. While Coach Mike instructed, I figured out ways to translate each move into something tactile that Christopher could understand. If we were doing a straddle stretch, I sat behind Christopher in a straddle, pulled his legs out against mine, used my torso to push on his back, and helped him grab his foot with his hand. When I asked him to stand in a lunge, I literally put Christopher's body in that position. When Christopher walked up to the high bar or parallel bars, I tapped the bar with my wedding ring so he could hear where to aim his hands.

When we did sit-ups, I positioned Christopher physically, and then I pulled him forward by his arms. Eventually, I did sit-ups next to him and held one of his arms so that we could do them together.

Then there were pushups. That was a hard one! I put Christopher's body in a pushup position, did a pushup over him, and pushed down with my entire body. Then I tried to pull on his shoulders and hips as a unit to show him the motion.

Christopher's favorite part of class was the trampoline. He was far better on a trampoline than any of the other kids his age. He really understood how to ride the bounce and use his arms. These are difficult concepts for most sighted children, but it all happened naturally for him. For safety, I stood on the corner of the trampoline frame and called out directions to Christopher when he moved off center. However, for the most part, he was able to make the corrections on his own.

Christopher is now ten, and he has continued in Sokol through the years. This past year he competed in track and field and in Boys Gymnastics Skills Day. He also took part in our annual exhibition, which includes a calisthenics routine, marching, and a sports themed special number.

Pretty much everyone at the five local gyms knows who Christopher is. Christopher has been in class with quite a few of the other boys all of these years, and they help guide him if I need to step out for a few minutes. The coaches, youth directors, and competition organizers all are accepting and willing to adapt to Christopher's needs. For example, typically parents and instructors are not permitted to coach a student verbally during competition. However, I am allowed to give Christopher auditory cues to help him maneuver safely on the equipment. At track-and-field events, I run alongside him during the races. For marching I help him make subtle adjustments to fix his direction. During special numbers, I am on the performance floor, leading him from position to position. It is my hope that eventually Christopher will be able to perform without my assistance.

Gymnastics has improved Christopher's grip strength, gross motor skills, coordination, and balance. Thanks to his Sokol experiences, he can now do more sit-ups than the rest of his fourth grade class at school. He can do pushups independently, and during a recent school function he demonstrated his knowledge of marching commands.

When Christopher is at Sokol, he feels completely included. He is just one of the boys. He smiles from ear to ear when he is able to run and play like everyone else. Every year at our annual exhibition, Christopher brings smiles and tears to audience and performers alike!


Another of our shared passions is music. From the time Christopher could walk, he would climb up on the piano bench and pluck out some tunes. He would match the pitch of the lawnmower outside the window, and raise the pitch as the mowing moved closer to the house. His favorite toys have always been musical ones, such as handbells, accordions, and pan flutes. When he was in third grade, all of the children in his music class learned to play the recorder. Christopher loved to practice at home, and we were all so proud of him at the class recorder concert. Now, I know what all of you are thinking—sixty third graders playing the recorder! That must have been painful! Surprisingly, it was pretty good!

At the end of the school year, the children are given the opportunity to try out different instruments and decide what they will play in band or orchestra in the fourth grade. Christopher picked the clarinet. It was a convenient choice, since I am a clarinet player myself. I spoke to Christopher's vision itinerant (VI) and forewarned her that I planned to sign Christopher up for band. Excitedly she agreed. She even learned Braille music over the summer to prepare for her new job requirements!

I also emailed the band director, Mr. S. I thought I should prepare him for what to expect and give him some of my ideas about adapting his teaching techniques and equipment. I wanted to make sure that any additional instruction Christopher required wouldn't inhibit the learning of the other band students. Mr. S. has worked extremely well with Christopher and adapted to his needs. For example, the extreme volume of full band was a little too much for Christopher at first. Christopher and his team moved gradually into full band rehearsals, and the transition only took a few extra days.

Christopher was so proud of himself at his first band concert in December! And we were pretty darn proud of him, too! In January, he actually kicked his aide and his vision itinerant out of his band lesson. He told them, "I can do this myself!" The VI called me and said, "I've never been so happy to be kicked out of someplace in my life!"

Water and Waterparks

Most of all, our family's favorite thing to do is vacation! And our favorite place to vacation is the Wisconsin Dells, the waterpark capital of the world! Waterparks are among the places where Christopher and his three siblings are equal. He can feel the same freedom and enjoy the same fun as Julie, Cadence, and Janelle. We never would have expected this eight years ago!

From the time Christopher was born, he hated baths. Showers were okay, but in a bath he would scream. This behavior continued when he started school. He hated the water table and hated to be splashed.

One day two of my other children were in the bathtub. I was supervising the two kids, and we were having fun and making a ton of noise. Christopher came in to see what the ruckus was about. Apparently he felt he was missing out on the fun. He asked to join the kids in the tub. I couldn't believe my eyes when he actually stepped in and started splashing with the other kids! That summer, when all of us went to the pool, Christopher decided to walk right in—no muss, no fuss.

Fast forward to today. Christopher loves to go down water slides, even the big, scary ones! It is humbling to watch Christopher's younger sister, Julie, carry the big double tube all the way up those stairs, while verbally guiding Christopher's path; or to watch his younger brother, Cadence, lead Christopher through the towering play areas. What is Christopher's favorite part? The wave pool!

Sometimes I dream about how much easier life would be if Christopher were "just blind." Sometimes I don't know where I'm going to find the physical energy to get us through another gymnastics class. But I do. Every time! And when Christopher jumps and laughs with his friends, and I see the glowing pride on his face, I know for sure that all the hard work is worthwhile.

Judo Girl

by Sara Luna

From the Editor: Sara Luna is in twelfth grade at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago. She serves as second vice president of the Illinois Association of Blind Students (IABS).

Throughout my life my friends and family have known me for many different talents and interests. Today I am best known by the moniker Judo Girl, a designation that makes me happy and proud.

Judo is a Japanese sport that consists of throws, pens, and submissions. It is sometimes confused with karate or tae kwon do because of the similar uniforms we wear. Next to soccer, judo is the second most widely played sport in the world. Every day judo touches the lives of millions of people, and it has transformed my life for the better.

Judo is one of the few sports that is played in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The only specific difference between Paralympic and Olympic judo is the position of the players at the start of a match. In Olympic judo with sighted players, the players begin their match standing ten feet apart on the mat, and they need to fight for their grips. In Paralympic judo, players who are blind or visually impaired begin their matches at the center of the mat. Opponents can start the match having physical contact with one another. If at any time during the match the players lose total physical contact, they will be brought back to the center of the mat so they can regain their contact, and the match will begin again.

I experienced judo for the first time on January 9, 2010, when I was twelve years old. More than five years later I still remember the precise date because the experience had such an impact on my life. That day I met a staff of teachers and coaches who loved what they were doing. I could tell that they cherished every moment they spent teaching judo. Later I grew to refer to these people as my judo family.

I decided to try judo because all of my friends were getting involved in it. I was intrigued by the idea of throwing someone around. For the first time, on that cold January day, I had the chance to participate fully in a sport that I thought would be fun.

Before I started judo, most of the people around me thought of me as a fragile blind girl. I was never allowed to participate in gym class at school because my teachers were afraid I would get hurt. Judo was a completely different story! Sure, some people I knew were still a bit concerned for my safety. For some reason, though, they thought judo was an acceptable sport for me to practice. That meant the world to me!

The first time I threw someone, I felt strong and empowered. I was not aware of it at the time, but that was definitely the point when I started to shed my status as the fragile blind girl.

When I started in judo, I was not a confident person. I was pretty insecure, and I did not believe in myself. One person helped me change all that, my sensei, or teacher, Bret Wolf. During class he often told me that he believed in me and that I could be a champion some day. I felt he was the first adult in my life who genuinely believed in me without patronizing me. Because he believed in me, I began to believe in myself. As my confidence grew, other people began to believe in me, too.

I cannot think of any more appropriate word to describe the people I train with than family. Throughout my five years in judo, I have built a bond with the people at my dojo, or training center, that is stronger than anything else I have ever felt. My senseis are some of my best friends, and I think of my training partners as brothers and sisters. We all learn from each other and laugh together like any other family.

I have built a particular bond with one of my training partners. Her name also happens to be Sarah (with an h), and she is sighted. Though we accidentally have pulled each other's hair out and made each other bleed on a regular basis during class, we still love each other. Whenever we work together we push each other to be better judo players than we were at the beginning of class. That is what judo friendships are all about.

For me, one of the most appealing aspects of judo is that my blindness is not a big deal. Finally, after many years of being held to a lower standard in athletics than my sighted peers, I have found a sport where my blindness does not hold me back. I learn all the same techniques that my sighted peers learn. The classes at my dojo include both sighted and visually impaired students. We all learn from each other and help one another, regardless of visual capabilities. I cannot express how refreshing it is to know that in judo no one cares that I am legally blind. In fact, some of my training partners occasionally forget that I am visually impaired. To them I am just another student. In judo class I am expected to work hard and try my best, just like everyone else.

Over the years judo has taught me discipline and self control. Before I started practicing judo, I was a very lazy child. I never really needed to work hard. Back then I never pushed myself to work harder than I had to in school or athletics.

Oh, how things changed! When I first started in judo, everything was fun and games because I was participating at a recreational level. However, when I began to take judo seriously, I started to attend more advanced classes. The transition was hard for me to make, because for the first time in my life I had to work really hard to improve at what I was doing. It was a fun yet difficult time in my judo life. That transition period really helped me develop the discipline I needed to push myself to heights I had never imagined. This discipline has taught me never to stop fighting for my dreams, no matter how daunting the challenge may seem.

Because judo has given me so much, I try to give back whenever I can. My dojo runs judo demonstrations on a fairly regular basis. These demonstrations take place at various events such as sports festivals, brain injury conferences, camps for military veterans, and even the annual student seminar of the NFB of Illinois. The purpose of these demonstrations is to make more people aware of what judo is. It is unfortunate that judo is the second most played sport in the world, yet most Americans know little or nothing about it. During these demonstrations I have helped teach a variety of people, from Girl Scouts to wounded veterans. It is truly rewarding to see the excitement of a child when he throws someone for the first time, or the joy of someone with a medical condition when she discovers that she can participate in judo despite her limitations.

For the past five years, participating in judo has been one wild ride for me. Through judo I have developed confidence, endurance, perseverance, athleticism, and discipline. I also have gained an extended family of training partners whom I love with all my heart. Everything my judo family has taught me has helped me be successful in national and international tournaments. Judo has turned me into the person I am today, and I will never forget that. No one thinks of me as a fragile blind girl anymore. Now people know me as the Judo Girl who just happens to be blind.

Finding My Niche

by Chris Nusbaum

From the Editor: The teen years are a time for questioning assumptions and exploring possibilities. For most teens, the quest to belong can be painful as well as exciting, and blindness may compound a teenager's concerns about fitting in. In this article, Chris Nusbaum, a high school student from Maryland, writes about his search for connection and fulfillment through extracurricular activities at school and beyond.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a niche as "a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment." Such a position is often quite difficult to find, as most of us can attest who are in the process of deciding on a career.

During the teen years the world quite literally opens up to us. From the time we enter high school our teachers and parents bombard us with a vast array of possibilities, asking again and again, "Which will you choose?" Not only do we face this array of choices regarding careers, we also can choose among a tantalizing range of extracurricular activities. Sports, music, service organizations, drama, summer camps, internships, work experience programs--all of these and many more become available to us on the day we enter that previously unknown universe of high school.

While it is comforting to know that we have so many opportunities to use our unique talents and interests, it can also become overwhelming. When blindness is a factor, it adds some issues that make the choices even more complex. In my experience, the excitement of these limitless possibilities is sometimes curbed by the low expectations of those in charge. Too often in my early years of high school, I joined an extracurricular activity with all the enthusiasm, passion, and ambitions of my sighted counterparts, only to have my determination squelched by those who, because of their ignorance about blindness, prevented me from becoming a full participant. I was left constantly searching for an activity where I truly could fit in and contribute.

My journey began in my freshman year. Each year our school has a period when all the clubs advertise their activities, and students can sign up for those that interest them. Encouraged by my middle-school teachers, I signed up for a number of clubs that appealed to me, from the Leo Club to the Student Government Association to the Future Educators of America. Through those activities came many friendships, some lasting to this day. I met students who shared my interests, talents, and passions. Having made these connections, I was often invited to hang out with friends after school and jam with my fellow chorus members during whatever down time we had in chorus class. Never was I alone at the lunch table that year. There was virtually no hesitation about accepting me for who I am, blindness notwithstanding. The teachers and club advisors were a bit harder to convince, but even they eventually came to realize that I could participate fully in all aspects of extracurricular life.

Meanwhile, I was becoming more and more active in the National Federation of the Blind. During middle school I attended a youth program at the Jernigan Institute. It changed my life and gave me an unquenchable passion for the organized blind movement, especially as it relates to students. In November of my freshman year I was elected to the board of the Maryland Association of Blind Students, and I continue to serve there today. My involvement in the Federation awakened me to the constant need to educate the public. I tried to do my part to change what it means to be blind, using my involvement in school activities to raise awareness about the true capacities of blind people. When my attempts to connect school clubs with the NFB failed, I formed my own club. Called the Braille Club, it was meant to respond to the curiosity sighted students have about Braille by giving them an opportunity to learn the code. I envisioned this club as a conduit for collaboration between my high school and the Federation.

At first, the response to this club was overwhelmingly positive. Twenty members were on the roster within two weeks. Attendance soon began to dwindle, however, and even those who at first seemed most interested lost their enthusiasm. To my disappointment, the club ceased to function. I remained undeterred, however, and kept up my busy extracurricular schedule. If freshman year was any indication, I thought, high school was going to be great.

The summer after my freshman year I attended the Summer Training and Employment Project (STEP) at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Brimming with new skills and fresh confidence, I returned to Maryland ready to take on the world. I thought my friends from freshman year would welcome me back with open arms, and others would gravitate to me because of my newfound independence. As I raised my expectations for myself, I also raised my expectations for my sighted peers.

Unfortunately, by sophomore year most of my peers had found the social cliques that are so characteristic of high school life. These exclusive circles always hung together, letting in no outsiders. I felt that my blindness, along with the many other characteristics that make up my personality, made me something of an anomaly in the high school community. I began to feel myself slipping into that awkward position known so well to many teenagers. I wandered around on the fringes of high school society, without a place I truly could call my own. I had lost any sense of belonging. I began to accept anyone who would accept me, even if it meant feeling that I was in the wrong crowd. Sociability and communication are among my greatest assets, and this was not a position I liked.

The most curious examples of my sudden shift in status came from the choir and the Leo Club. At the end of ninth grade I auditioned for and won spots in the two most advanced choirs in the school. I was very excited about this new opportunity. I thought I would be able to make new and more lasting friends. Here was a group of students with common interests. Clearly the choir members cared about cultivating their talents—after all, they had made it to the top of the musical ladder.

What I found, however, was wholly unexpected. Instead of an accepting community with a common purpose, I found the most cliquish group of people I had ever encountered. The choir members seemed to regard me as an alien species, completely separate from and unequal to themselves. They accepted some of the new choir members into their seemingly secret society, yet they ignored me as though I were not even there. What a disappointment! Even the teacher seemed to support their exclusivity. It appeared to me that the teacher created a gulf between the popular choir members and the outcasts, who were neither considered for solos nor asked to critique a performance. I began to feel completely cut off from the world I could most relate to—the world of vocal music. I even considered dropping the class.

Then I met another singer who felt that she, too, was a stranger in a strange land. She asked me to help her with a musical project she was working on in her spare time, and the rest is history. We are now actively dating and closer than ever before.

Even more disappointing was the Leo Club, the high school equivalent of the Lions. I joined the club in my freshman year because the tradition of Lion membership runs deep within my family. Furthermore, I thought the club would be the best avenue for collaboration with the Federation to educate the public about blindness. Shortly after the founding of the international organization, Helen Keller, the renowned deaf-blind advocate and author, issued a challenge to the Lions to be "knights of the blind," working on behalf of blind people everywhere. Our first Lion advisor recommended me for a position on the club's board, to which I was soon elected.

Things went very well until a new advisor was assigned to us at the beginning of my sophomore year. After this change, every attempt I made to do something beneficial for the blind was shot down. I heard the argument that the population of blind people in our area was too small to warrant any real service efforts by our club. Eventually I gave up these attempts, choosing to focus my efforts on the club's current service projects. Even then, however, I found myself relegated to an ever lower status in the club's work. When opportunities for volunteer work arose, I was told that, for safety reasons, a blind person should not serve in the same capacity as a sighted person. The blind, the advisor reasoned, were a population to be served by philanthropic organizations such as the Lions, rather than a population with the capacity and the desire to serve our fellow human beings. As our advisor told me in a particularly revealing conversation, "You're already missing out on enough in life because of your blindness. Just relax and let us serve you." When I ignored her paternalistic admonitions and showed up at service projects anyway, I was told to sit and wait to be given a job. That job, of course, never came.

It wasn't long before I decided that the life of a second-class Leo was not for me. I resigned my membership in the Leo Club to focus on more beneficial projects. However, I began to despair about my extracurricular involvement. I felt that virtually every school organization I had joined had been a disappointment. I wanted so much to serve my community alongside my classmates, but I seemed to encounter resistance, discouragement, or outright refusal at every turn. I began to wonder whether I would have to give up all school activities, focusing my energy on the Federation and my church.

Then came an opportunity I had been trying to earn since the beginning of my high school career. I was invited to apply for membership in the National Honor Society (NHS). NHS is an invitation-only organization for students who exhibit a commitment to the ideals of "scholarship, leadership, service, and character." With the help of the president of our Maryland NFB affiliate, who wrote one of my letters of recommendation, I was inducted into the organization in May of my sophomore year. In this organization I finally found a home in the extracurricular life of my high school. At long last I have found a group of students and adults who work together as a team, treating all members equally. I am now actively engaged in many service projects through the NHS, and I immensely enjoy my involvement in this organization.

As I write this, I am nearing the end of my junior year. Looking back on my past year of extracurricular activity, I observe that some things have changed, while others have remained the same. In school I have continued my involvement in the NHS, and I have found that the new year has had no adverse effect on my inclusion in our programs. I am no longer a member of the Leo Club, and I am much happier for it. In choir the other students have begun to accept me as one of their own, and I have had some fun experiences with those who ignored me the year before. There are still some times, however, when I feel like an outsider looking in during choir rehearsals and social times. I also have begun to take it upon myself to participate in some community activities, even if I am not doing it as part of a school club.

Through my entire high school journey, with all its ups and downs, one thing remains constant—the support and love of the extended family I find in the National Federation of the Blind. In this organization I have found a dynamic and diverse group of people who welcome me with generous hearts, accepting me for all that I am. I have found people who do not judge me because I am different or less knowledgeable than they are. They embrace the whole of my character, flaws and all. This extended family challenges me to raise my expectations of myself and realize my full potential. Seldom have I heard anyone in the Federation say "You can't," but frequently I have heard people tell me, "You can."

The most significant change that has come about this year is that finally I have found my niche. My niche is in mentoring blind children and their families, showing them by word and deed that it is respectable to be blind. My niche is in working with our future leaders to help them realize their full potential, challenging them as so many others have challenged me. My niche is in building our movement and proclaiming our message of hope. My niche is in the National Federation of the Blind.

I believe that everyone has a niche—a small part of this vast world in which we are meant to make a difference. None of us is destined to change the entire world, but we are called to change our own small part of it. Therefore, let all of us—student or parent, old or young, blind or sighted—find our own niche and begin to make a difference through whatever role we are called to play. Together we will transform dreams into reality.

Blind Kids Can't March!
Or Can They?

by Debby Brackett

From the Editor: Uncounted numbers of blind children and teens have participated in school marching bands. Nevertheless, questions arise time and again about whether or how blind students can take part in this activity. In this article Debby Brackett, an active member of the Florida Parents of Blind Children, relates the experiences of her daughter, Winona, when she played the trumpet in her high school marching band.

Can a blind student take part in marching band? From basic parades in middle school to full-fledged half-time shows and competitions, it can be done, and it can be fun, too! Like any meaningful activity, marching band requires a lot of determination and dedication. In addition, some extra ingenuity must be called upon in order for a blind marcher to learn and execute complex, coordinated routines. Seizing every opportunity, my daughter, Winona, learned and performed all of the necessary maneuvers to participate in her high school marching band. She says that marching band was a major highlight of her high school experience.

Winona joined the school band when she was in third grade. Because she didn't yet know Braille music, she learned her music by ear with the encouragement of her musically gifted brother, her peers, and the school band directors. An elementary school band director, Mr. Cancilla, helped her select the trumpet as her preferred instrument. In middle school another band teacher, Mr. Gilbert, willingly gave of his time during lunch break and after school to help Winona learn her music. Frequently he recorded the parts she needed to learn so she could practice at home. A guide was enlisted to direct her during parades.

In high school Winona finally won the fight with the school district to obtain Braille music instruction. Braille music allowed her musical independence to soar! Her high school music teachers, Mr. Marcucci and Mr. Himelberger, came up with imaginative ways to help her. They listened when Winona suggested ways to make her participation in band not only possible, but seamless.

Every spring Winona found a fellow student to guide her in band the following fall. Her guide had to be deeply committed to working with her. He or she had to learn the formations and attend all of the practices, including a two-week band camp during the summer. The guide also had to go to every football game and competition in the fall. With her first guide, Winona found it worked best for the guide to stand directly behind her, with hands on her shoulders to steer her in the direction she needed to go. The two of them had to be in perfect step, moving as one, and of course they had to be in step with the rest of the band.

Fulfilling Winona's need became a blessing to those students who guided her. Often the student was someone who longed to participate in some meaningful activity, but for a variety of reasons had been unable to do so. Student guides became an integral part of the band's group dynamic.

Each of Winona's guides was wonderful in a unique way, but our favorite was a boy named Tim. Tim was a great kid from a pretty rough background. As a guide he was dedicated, enthusiastic, and eager to ensure that Winona could focus on the music without worrying about where she had to be. Tim was a junior when he was recruited to guide Winona during her freshman year. He really wanted to play football, but the coach didn't think he was dedicated enough to be on the team.

Tim lived thirty minutes from the school and had no transportation. We agreed to drive him to and from practices and events if he would make the commitment to attend them all. He did an excellent job of learning the routines and making sure Winona got to wherever she needed to be on the field. He truly became a part of the band, though he had no musical ability.

That spring Tim was recruited for the football team. Beyond a doubt he had proved his dedication and commitment. Naturally he leaped at the chance to play football, but his decision to leave the band was a difficult one. Tim came to every band event he could squeeze into his busy schedule. One day when Winona's new guide was unavailable, he didn't hesitate to give up his half-time break. He came off the bench and marched onto the field to guide her once more.

Each week our local TV station runs a feature called "Student Spotlight." During Winona's junior year, reporters came to record Winona and her guide in action. They followed Winona around all day at school, including band practice and the Friday night football game. When asked about her role in the band, Winona's guide replied, "I play the Winona." The reporter did an excellent job of promoting the whole band, avoiding the "poor blind kid" mentality. As a result of the story, the band received donations that helped purchase new uniforms and instruments.

Our high school marching band won many awards, including several Superior ratings and a Best Music Performance prize. These awards demonstrate that the presence of a blind student had no negative effects, and perhaps had a positive one, on the performance of the marching band. More students who are blind or have other disabilities should be encouraged to participate in activities such as marching band. Does it require hours of time and dedication? Yes! Building any talent does. Is it worth the time and effort? Yes, indeed!

Today Winona is attending Stetson University School of Music, where she is studying music performance. Her expenses are paid in full by scholarships based upon her musical talents. The university currently has no marching band, but Winona and others are hoping to change that.

Cheering Blind

by Deja Powell and Jill Flygare

From the Editor: Deja Powell is an orientation and mobility instructor in St. George, Utah. She is enrolled in a PhD program at Capella University and was awarded the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship for $12,000 at the NFB national convention in 2014. In this article, the story of Deja's cheerleading career is told from two points of view. First Deja reflects on her experience, and then her former coach, Jill Flygare, shares her thoughts and perspective.


Recently I received an email from a young woman who has ambitions of trying out for her high school's cheerleading squad. She wanted to know if it was possible for someone like her, who is blind, to be a cheerleader. Her desire to be a cheerleader hit close to home. I had the same aspiration when I was in high school.

I grew up in Salt Lake City and have been blind since birth. When I entered high school I was quite shy. I was thrilled to be out of junior high and on to bigger and better things, but I lacked confidence and struggled to accept my blindness. Like any teenager, I was trying to figure out who I was, where I fit in, and what my goals and dreams really were. I was confused about a lot of things, but I knew one thing for sure. I knew I wanted to be involved in everything high school had to offer. Determined to build my confidence, I set a personal goal to step up and step out.

My mom is a dance teacher, and I started dancing when I was two years old. I loved every style and every minute of it! For as long as I could remember, the thing I wanted to do most in high school was dance. Much to my dismay, things didn't go as I had hoped. I didn't make the drill team or the dance company. I was crushed! I wanted it more than I'd wanted anything to that point in my life. I knew I could be a dancer; my mom had always told me and shown me I could do it. What now? I still had to reach my goal of getting involved.

I have always loved sports. I love the thrill of the game, I love being part of a team, and I wanted to be involved with my school. What better way to be involved and support my school's teams than becoming a cheerleader?

I loved the idea of cheerleading, but I honestly couldn't understand how I could do it. I had never met nor heard of another blind cheerleader, and I sincerely doubted it was possible for a blind person to meet such a set of challenges. How could a blind person follow a game, learn cheer movements, find the proper place in group routines, do stunts, execute jumps, or stay in sync? The list went on and on. Even if I actually made the cheering squad, I would have to tell my advisors that I was blind (or rather, that I had a vision problem, which is how I worded it back then). That scared me more than stunting or performing. I had become very good at keeping my blindness a secret. I didn't use a cane or read Braille, and I was quite talented at pretending I could see things that I really couldn't.

I expressed my concerns about cheerleading to my mom, and she told me that I just needed to try out. She assured me that we would figure it all out when the time came. Nevertheless, my doubts got the upper hand. I canceled all my plans to try out for the cheerleading squad. My fears were just too much.

However, my mom was not having it. She reminded me that I said I wanted to be a cheerleader; at least I had to give it a try. She's a smart mom!

I cried myself to sleep the night before the tryouts, but I did try out, and I made it! I did sophomore cheerleading in tenth grade, and then I made the varsity squad my junior and senior years.

But how did we make it work? I say we, because it really did take a whole team effort. My coaches and my squad quickly learned to adapt things to make cheerleading possible for me. My coaches showed me the moves by placing my arms in the correct positions, and I quickly learned the names for the various cheer maneuvers. High V, low V, T, half T, herkies, toe touches, stag jumps, high kicks, and hurdles—I learned them all. My learning process was very much hands-on. Fortunately I had terrific coaches and teammates who were always willing to step in and correct me.

One aspect of cheerleading that I thought I would never be a part of was stunting. The idea that I could be part of a routine that involved throwing girls into the air seemed way out of the realm of possibility. But my coaches threw me right in with everyone else. We always counted out when the stunt was going up and coming down. While this is already a common practice in cheerleading, it worked perfectly for me. My coaches never ruled anything out. They let me try it all until we figured out what worked.

My coaches included me in every aspect of the squad. They pushed me just as hard as they pushed everyone else. They made me run laps when I was late, corrected me when I made mistakes, yelled at me when I deserved it (like when I rolled my eyes at my coach). That was exactly what I needed. They had the same expectations for me that they had for the other cheerleaders, and that was a huge part of my success.

The other important part of my success was keeping a dialog open with my coaches. I wasn't always great at that. I needed to ask lots of questions, to ask for help and reach out to others for ideas. Being silent and just wondering how to do something never worked for me.

Cheerleading was not exactly where I aspired to be in the beginning, but it turned out to be the best confidence builder I could have found. I was part of a team and part of my school. I realized that, as a blind person, I really could do anything I wanted to, as long as I had the right tools, the right attitude, and the right people setting high expectations for me.

Do I wish I had made my life easier by using a cane? Could I have reached out to other blind people such as Pam Allen, who was also a cheerleader? Do I wish I had been more confident in my blindness? Absolutely! But cheerleading turned out to be a great starting point for me on my journey.

Now I want you to read about my cheerleading from the perspective of my coach. It's been twelve years since I was in high school, but I believe the information is still relevant today and may be helpful to any advisor who is considering having a blind cheerleader on the squad.


I began teaching and coaching at Granger High School in Salt Lake City in 1998. I inherited a varsity cheerleading squad that had been pre-selected; this was a learning year, a year to see what kind of talent the school had to offer. I watched the juniors closely to see who would emerge as leaders and who would be content just to follow along. Who would replace the seniors?

The sophomore cheerleaders were under the leadership of a different director, but I paid close attention to them. I knew I would be pulling them up to the varsity squad the next year. As I watched them through the summer, I noticed a tall, dark-haired girl. I won't say that I remember her as the best one out there. What I do remember is that she had a smile so big, and she had legs so long. She could dance, stunt, and remember the cheers--all important qualities in a good cheerleader. And most important to me, she had a great attitude.

I finally asked, "Who is that girl?"

"Her name is Deja," was the response. I didn't expect what came next. The director told me Deja was blind.

I will admit that I was taken aback at first. I thought there was no way a blind girl could be a cheerleader. How would she do stunts? How could she learn the cheers? How would she work in a group? Then I stopped and reminded myself that I had witnessed her doing all the things I was questioning. After all, perseverance and positive attitude are what every cheerleader needs and should exemplify, and Deja clearly had those qualities. I also felt that as a coach I had the responsibility to give her an equal chance. I knew I could indeed teach her.

Deja tried out and made the varsity cheerleading squad. She was under my coaching for two years, and she was a great addition to the team. However, in a way, she was just another cheerleader. Once we figured out the best way for her to learn, her blindness didn't negatively impact her ability to master the cheers or new dances. Although it took her a little longer to learn the routines, once she learned them she never forgot.

Muscle memory is important for cheerleaders, and it becomes even more important when you are blind. I often placed Deja's arms so she could feel when she was in the right position. This helped her build that correct muscle memory, ultimately helping her become a stronger cheerleader.

Thinking back, I probably should have worried a little bit more about stunting, but for some reason I didn't. We used a hand-on-hand approach to show Deja the placements of her hands when basing a stunt, and this method seemed to work well. By our second year, we had a solid plan of action, and teaching routines ran smoothly.

I believe if we had announced to the opposing team that we had a blind cheerleader, no one would have been able to pick Deja from the rest of the squad. One of the greatest gifts of working with Deja was her attitude. She just wanted to be a member of the team. As a cheerleader, she didn't want to be treated differently. She didn't want different expectations or goals from her sighted teammates, and she didn't want to stand out.

The experience of coaching Deja taught me that there are no limitations to being a cheerleader, except those that you put on yourself. If you are blind and you want to be a cheerleader, be one. Be the best cheerleader you can be, using whatever techniques work for you. All you need is the courage to try out, the dedication to work hard, the perseverance to keep going, and the fortitude to stand up to those who tell you NO. Above all, you need a positive attitude through it all.

If you are the parent of a blind child, you need to be your cheerleader's biggest cheerleader. Stand behind your child and encourage her or him. Help your child find ways to make it work. If your blind child wants to be a cheerleader, know that there will be obstacles. There will be bumps and bruises, and there will be hurt feelings. All of this comes with growing up, being part of a team, and simply living life. Teaching our children, whether blind or sighted, to cope with these struggles should be a shared responsibility between parent and coach. I'm grateful I took a chance on a blind cheerleader. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my coaching career.

So Dad, When Can I Go Surfing?

by Eric Vasiliauskas

Reprinted from Future Reflections, Special Issue on Sports, Fitness, and Blindness, Volume 26, Number 2

From the Editor: Eric Vasiliauskas is a physician who lives and practices in California. He has served on the board of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and he has frequently contributed articles to Future Reflections.

Young children, whether sighted or blind, share an innate curiosity about the world. They constantly ask questions and want to do this or try that. While it is particularly important to create an atmosphere that actively encourages and supports a blind child's desire to explore, sometimes such quests for new experiences can catch you off guard. This is how one such request played out.

Several summers ago, I was invited to lecture at a medical conference in Hawaii. My wife, Rasa, and our two boys, Vejas and Petras, accompanied me. Disney's Hawaii-based cartoon movie Lilo and Stitch debuted that very week. I was not particularly surprised when, after listening to the Read-A-Long audio book version of Lilo and Stitch, my ever-inquisitive, soon-to-be first grader asked, "Dad, what exactly is surfing?"

As we continued to drive, I did my best to explain. Vejas was already very familiar with kickboards. Before the trip we had already discussed that a boogie board was in a sense a bigger version of a kickboard that you lie down on to ride a wave. I further built on these concepts and elaborated that a surfboard was sort of similar to a boogie board, but much longer, and that rather than lying on it, you actually stand up on the board to ride the wave.

Since I knew where this line of conversation was likely to lead, I decided to preemptively divert the discussion by enthusiastically reassuring him that we would go boogie-boarding later that week, and that the activity would give him a sense of what surfing is. I could tell that this parental diversionary tactic was only partially successful. I'm convinced that is when Vejas first started to dream of surfing.

A vacation in Hawaii could hardly be considered complete without attending a luau. As part of the pre-dinner festivities, in addition to exhibits featuring hula dancing, Hawaiian instruments, and local arts and crafts, there was one devoted to surfing. Vejas had never actually laid his hands (or feet for that matter) on a surfboard. Once the crowd around the exhibit thinned out a bit, we walked over to meet the young local surfer in charge of the display.

Vejas, in his usual fashion, struck up a conversation and asked a barrage of questions about surfing. As Vejas then climbed onto one of the surfboards, I started to make wave sounds and to move the board around in an attempt to simulate the motion of waves, so as to give him a sense of what it might feel like to surf. He was visibly intrigued and excited.

My then five-and-a-half-year-old enthusiastically seized this opportunity to ask, "So Dad, when can I go surfing?" I did what I imagine many parents of a recent kindergarten graduate might do in this situation and decided I would try to punt this one for a while by rationalizing that as we were near the end of our trip, we would try surfing "the next time we go to Hawaii." As a compromise I proposed that we would not only go boogie boarding the next day, but sea kayaking as well.

We in fact had a great time the following morning. We rented a two-person sea kayak. Vejas sat in front, wearing his life jacket, and I sat behind him. As we paddled out into the calm bay, we discussed water safety, and I shared some stories from my younger days as a lifeguard.

Toward the end of our adventure, a rogue wave sneaked up on us from behind. Fortunately, I noticed it just in time to yell to Vejas to brace himself and hold on as tight as he could. As my adrenalin surged, I leaned into my paddle with all my might. The wave lifted us and carried us forward as it proceeded toward the shore. We essentially surfed the wave in our kayak, and to this day I am amazed that we actually managed to remain upright.

As we recovered from the excitement, I explained to Vejas how we would have handled the situation had we gone for a major tumble. It occurred to me that this was a perfect opportunity for a real life lesson. Thus, after conferring with Vejas, once we reached the shallow water near the beach, we together tipped the kayak over--on purpose. I then showed him how to right the kayak and how to pull himself out of the water and climb back in. Vejas got such a kick out of this, that upon his request we repeated this maneuver over a number of times.

Next we went boogie boarding. Only adult-sized boards were available for rent, and it soon became evident that Vejas was not long enough to kick effectively or really to stabilize the board, nor could he adequately anticipate the bigger waves in this part of the bay. We discovered that if he lay on top of the board and I positioned myself directly over him, I could kick with my fins and make sure we caught the waves. This way we were able to ride bigger waves together. We caught some great waves and had our fair share of spills as well. Vejas beamed as he relayed the morning's adventures to his mother and little brother that afternoon. Yet while boogie boarding was lots of fun, Vejas knew it was not the same as surfing.

Well, as fate would have it, we decided to go on a real two-week vacation (no work this time) to Kauai the following summer. As soon as the airplane's wheels lifted off the ground, Vejas stopped reading the book his mother had Brailled for him for the flight. He turned his head toward me and in a very focused fashion extended his hand to find my face. Gently he guided it in his direction with the clear intent of making sure he had my full attention. (I wonder where he learned that maneuver?) He then pointedly posed his question, a question that undoubtedly had been brewing ever since we began to plan this trip. "So Dad, when are we going surfing?" I reassured him that we would look into it once we got to Hawaii.

About a week into the trip, Vejas again asked, "So Dad, which day is my surfing lesson?" I realized at that point that there was no getting around it. That evening I looked through the multitude of brochures and visitors' guides we had accumulated. I saw a promising ad for lessons by a local world-renowned champion surfer.

Rasa and I both believe that our children should have the same types of experiences as other children. By this time we had met or heard of many remarkable blind individuals and of their accomplishments. We had thus already come to understand and fully believe that there is virtually nothing blind people can't do if they put their minds to it. Inspired by blind skier Cara Dunne-Yates and her family, I had even taken Vejas skiing with me when he was three years old. Yet as I dialed the number listed in the advertisement, I began to imagine what the person answering the phone would think. Not only was I asking for surfing lessons for a six-year-old, but a blind one to boot! To my pleasant surprise, the woman who answered the phone with a friendly "Aloha!" took this all in stride. She called me back within the hour and informed me she had arranged for a private surf lesson.

Several mornings later, we woke up very early and drove forty-five minutes to Poipu Beach, where at seven AM we met Vejas's surf instructor, Miguel. He had grown up in Hawaii and had started surfing at such a young age that he didn't remember how old he was when his father first put him on a surfboard. Miguel had been on the professional surfing circuit for a number of years. He had a nine-year-old son whom he had taught to surf at three years of age on this very beach. He did not seem even a little bit phased by the blindness issue. He asked appropriate questions in a tactful way. He wanted to know how strong a swimmer Vejas was, and he was pleased to learn he had been taking formal swimming lessons weekly since he was three-and-a-half years of age. He asked if Vejas had enough residual vision to distinguish the water, the sand, or the surfboard. Vejas informed him that he could only see light.

They first practiced on land for half an hour. Miguel had Vejas explore the entire surfboard. He explained that the front of the surfboard is termed the nose, while the back end is called the tail. Vejas learned that the sides, or the rails, are particularly important, as that is where all the balance is. The deck is the part you ultimately stand on.

They went over the dynamics of positioning on the board. Miguel had Vejas lie on the surfboard with his hands holding onto the rails and his toes pointed toward the tail. He then had Vejas start out in paddle position and pretend to catch a wave. Miguel described how, as Vejas first engaged the wave, he would need to put his arms in push-up position and then pop up into surf stance. (I must admit that it was refreshing for me to hear an outside person emphasize the importance of body posture and head positioning.) Then, like a drill sergeant of sorts, the instructor had Vejas practice by verbally and tactilely guiding him through the motions of springing up and assuming the proper surfing stance. They did it over and over and over again, until the motions were kinesthetically integrated to the point that they were nearly automatic.

Miguel then looked at me and announced that it was time to graduate and move the lesson to the ocean. He chose a spot in the coral reef where the waves rolled in gently. Miguel instructed me to wait in the shallow water by the shore to catch Vejas when he arrived. I watched as they headed out to the water, and I prepared my camera. In the distance, Miguel then guided the surfboard around so that it pointed towards the shore.

When the right wave finally came along, Miguel gently pushed the surfboard forward. From there the wave and Vejas took over. On his very first run, Vejas pushed up, then moved his back foot into position, followed by his lead foot. His legs were appropriately bent, and his head looked forward as he assumed a near perfect surf stance.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I was not fully prepared for what followed. I was in fact so mesmerized and blown away that not only did I forget I had a camera, I literally watched Vejas surf right past me. As I cheered him on, I forgot that I was supposed to catch him. I was suddenly shaken from my trance a few seconds later, when the nose of his board lodged into a sandbar, and Vejas unexpectedly lunged forward off the board. Ouch!

I rushed over to him, not quite sure what to expect. Before I could ask him how he was, he exclaimed, "Did you see me, Dad? I want to do that again!" You should have seen the joy on his face and the beaming sense of accomplishment that radiated from him after catching his first wave, standing up, and riding the wave all the way to the shore. He was, as we say in California, "totally stoked!"

It was a storybook-perfect first run. He surfed for another hour that morning, taking his fair share of spills and wipeouts among the better runs.

I, too, was beaming through the rest of the lesson, with fatherly pride. I have to admit that it was fun to watch the smiles on the faces of passersby out for an early morning stroll on the beach. They were amused as they saw this six-and-a-half-year-old kid realize one of his dreams and enthusiastically persist, despite the spills. I kept imagining what they would think if they knew that this determined youngster was blind as well.

Talk about a self-confidence building experience! Vejas's accomplishment commanded an immediate sense of respect from his peers.

During parent orientation night a few weeks later, the teacher allotted me five minutes to talk about Vejas and blindness as it related to his first grade class. I explained how for Vejas to compete successfully in life, he would ultimately be held to the same standards as his sighted peers. Thus it was crucial that he learn to be independent and to do things on his own. I had prepared a brief handout for the parents that included child-oriented websites about blindness with pictures, descriptions of some remarkable blind individuals, and activities Vejas enjoyed. It also included suggestions on how parent-volunteers and classmates could facilitate our son's socialization and promote his independence in the classroom and during extracurricular activities.

The pictures of Vejas's summer activities were by far the most powerful part of the handout. We included these in our parents' portion of his IEP document as well. In a way that written and verbal description could not quite do justice, the pictures of our blind six-year-old surfing immediately challenged the established paradigms of the parents, teachers, and other school staff, and even the VI professionals. Preconceived notions of what a blind child is capable of began to melt away. The minds of those who would be interacting with our son were opened, allowing them to see him as a capable, adventurous boy who is eager to take on life's experiences.

During that same vacation Rasa and I read the Future Reflections Introductory Issue paperback for the first time. We read with great interest as blind adults, educators, parents of blind children, and even blind kids themselves shared experiences covering a wide variety of topics pertinent to growing up blind and to raising a blind child. Importantly, each was presented from a positive, uplifting, practical, and success-in-academics and success-in-life perspective. How refreshing and comforting it was to find such a concentration of viewpoints that paralleled and supported those we had come to develop!

One of the chapters in this introductory issue included the presentations of a panel of five blind youths who spoke at an NFB Convention on the topic of "Fun, Friends, and Fitting In." The young panelists individually and collectively demonstrated that blind kids can do—and in fact do do—things that sighted kids do. They highlighted the importance of independence and stressed how actively working to enhance their blindness skills not only facilitated their independence, but also their self-confidence and socialization.

During the flight home I read each child's speech to Vejas. He eagerly listened to every detail. Vejas was very excited by these "virtual encounters" with each of the young presenters. Like him, each of them was blind, and they shared many of his own interests. The profound impact that Adam, Brian, Jennifer, Noel, and Lauren had on my son soon became evident. He turned to me and excitedly and earnestly exclaimed, "So that's why you want me to be more independent!" Indeed, these five young Federationists had managed to get across this message and ignite an internal desire to strive for increased independence in our son in a way that his teachers and we as sighted parents had not quite been able to do.

Next we read excerpts from an issue of the Braille Monitor about a large number of blind high school graduates and college students who had earned scholarships from the NFB. Even at this young age, Vejas was excited by the range of careers these success-oriented young men and women were choosing to pursue. As I watched, an amazing transformation began to take place in my son before my very eyes—a transformation sparked by the stories and ambitions of blind children and blind youth. I truly began to understand the potential power of the National Federation of the Blind.

Vejas is now ten years old and is the proud owner of his very own seven-foot yellow surfboard. He had a second lesson with Miguel a few years later, and he has had several additional formal lessons with other surf instructors since then. Vejas looked like he was having so much fun out there on the waves that he inspired me to take up surfing last year.

I once asked Vejas which instructor he thought was the best. "Miguel," he responded without much hesitation. When I asked him why, I was admittedly a little surprised by his insightful response. Vejas said it was because Miguel paid the most attention to detail and had the highest expectations of him.

Perhaps some of the biggest limitations the blind face are conceptual biases that most of us have grown up with. Unfortunately, these misconceptions of the capabilities of the blind are relayed either directly or indirectly to our blind children at a very young age by the adults and even children that they interact with. The NFB is devoted to changing what it means to be blind. I submit that accounts of the accomplishments of young Federationists may have the greatest potential to influence changes in perceptions of what it means to be a blind child. "Perceptual early intervention" via peer-based stories has the potential to serve as seeds of inspiration of what is possible to other blind children, their parents, and teachers.

I urge more parents, children, teenagers, and young adults to take the time to write and share your adventures and experiences to help develop a childhood-focused resource of what is possible. If enough of you do so, perhaps some day these stories may even evolve into a dedicated "Kids Corner" in Future Reflections or the Braille Monitor.

Up On My Knees

by Serena Cucco

From the Editor: Many readers of Future Reflections know Serena Cucco through the writings of her mother, NOPBC past president Carol Castellano. Here is Serena in her own words, describing a summertime activity she has come to enjoy.

For years, try as I might, water skiing simply wasn't happening. I couldn't get up on those skis if my life depended on it! Then, a few years ago, it occurred to my Uncle Johnny, an engineer who really enjoys solving problems, that a device called a knee board might be the solution for me. Instead of starting in a crouch while holding onto the tow rope and being pulled to a standing position on skis, you simply kneel on the board. You hold onto the tow rope for dear life as the boat pulls you up and out of the water.

Getting on to the knee board takes quite a bit of strength and energy. One of the strong guys in the family holds the board steady as I pull myself on. He keeps holding the board till the boat starts to move. Then, off I go!

I follow along for a while in the wake of the boat, and then I feel the water turn choppy. I realize I'm going out of the wake as the driver turns the boat hard.

Now the fun begins! Suddenly I'm bouncing hard over the chop at high speed. I love it! I've been told I have an ear-to-ear grin on my face. Sometimes I go so far out that when I finally fall, the person who launched me has to swim quite a distance to come get me.

Now, instead of working hard and never getting up on those skis, I have to work hard to fall down when I want to stop my ride!

Community Service for Fun, Friendship, and Future

by Darian Smith

From the Editor: After serving for a year in AmeriCorps, Darian Smith formed the Community Service Division of the National Federation of the Blind. The division encourages blind youth to get involved in service to others through local and national organizations or by starting their own grassroots projects. Darian wrote this article for Future Reflections in the hope that parents and teachers will pass it on to their blind children and students.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. "How can community service be fun?" Community service isn't a trip to the mall or the theme park, and it's not the latest video game. It's volunteering. When you volunteer you are serving your community.

Community service might not scream out fun like the recreational activities I mentioned, but believe me, volunteer activities can get you out to meet new friends, try new things, and even learn something.

Getting started isn't that difficult. Chances are your gateway to service is within easy reach, just waiting for you to take advantage of it. Check out the tips below from the Corporation for National and Community Service, found at <www.nationalservice.gov>.

Tips for Youth Who Want to Volunteer

1. Take the lead! Is there an issue in your community that you would like to see addressed? If you're not sure where to begin, ask a parent, teacher, or community leader to help you to get started. And then see how you can make a difference.

2. Get your friends involved and meet new people, too! Volunteering with old and new friends can be lots of fun, and it's also a great way to boost your confidence.

3. Find your inner hero. Have you dreamed of being a doctor or a firefighter? You can check out opportunities at local hospitals and fire departments to get a glimpse of what community heroes are doing and to make a difference as part of their teams.

4. Ask your school about group opportunities. Sometimes classes will get a chance to serve together, or there might be clubs at school that you could serve with and join. This can be a great way to get to know your classmates better.

5. If you play a sport or take dance classes, or if you are involved in any other activities, talk to your coach or instructor. See if your team or class might be able to do something together. What a fun way to hang out with your friends outside of practice!

6. Talk with your parents, friends, teachers, and other adults about your volunteer activities. Not only will you be encouraging them to serve, you will have the chance to reflect upon how your activities change you and your community.

7. Volunteer with your family. Get your family involved in one of the National Days of Service, such as Make a Difference Day or Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service. Spend a day painting murals or cleaning your neighborhood park. Check out <www.mlkday.gov> for more information.

Volunteering Blind

You may be thinking that because you are blind, many of these ideas won't work for you. Before you get that notion into your head, give volunteering a chance. Mary Church did, and here is a bit of her story.

Mary Church is a leader in the student division of the NFB of California, and she is active in California’s new Community Service Division. Although she leads a very busy life, she makes time to volunteer at a therapeutic horse ranch. Here is a post she sent to the community service blog.

"Compassion is what makes the world a better place. The willingness to give to others makes life a little brighter. Everyone has the capacity to give, even if all one can give at a particular moment is a wave hello or a smile.

"I was born totally blind and was raised in rural California. My parents encouraged my sister and me to volunteer our time ever since we were very young. We were always doing something. Whether it was playing with kittens at an animal rescue shelter or talking to people in a nursing home, I have always been looking for ways to make the world a better place. As a junior in high school, I started volunteering at DreamPower Horsemanship. This is a therapeutic horse ranch in the foothills of Gilroy, California. Programs offered at DreamPower serve a wide range of people with varying abilities. Everyone at DreamPower is respected, and I have only heard good things about DreamPower from the public.

"I decided to volunteer because I wanted to see what the field of therapeutic riding was all about. My blindness hasn't stopped me from doing the same jobs as other volunteers. I clean stalls, show people the goats at events, act as a peer counselor, and do whatever miscellaneous work needs to be done around the barn. Many people first assume that because I am blind, I am taking lessons there. When I tell them that I am actually a volunteer, they act surprised.

"I have had to learn and devise my own alternative techniques for doing things, but for the most part, I have been able to manage. One of the chores that needs to be done, regardless of the time of year or the weather, is stall cleaning. At first, I didn't know how I would be able to clean a stall without being able to see where the mess was. However, I found a way. Everything is usually at the back of the stall, which makes it a lot easier. All I do is get everything into two or three large piles and then scoop it up into a wheelbarrow.

"Another concern that people have is safety around horses. Horses are big animals and can hurt a human without meaning to. This means that a horse handler needs to be aware of safety at all times. One of the key things I've learned is to always know where the horse's body is in relation to mine. This includes feet! To do this, I keep one hand on the horse at all times when I have it tied to a hitching post for grooming. With my hand on the horse, I can push back if it lunges toward me. The horse feels more comfortable when it knows where a person is.

"Another reason for keeping my hand constantly on the horse is that I can feel where it is moving and pick up some of its body language. Horses use body language among other methods to communicate with the herd. A toss of the head can mean unhappiness, while making licking and chewing noises means contentment.

"Serving other people by feeding my passion has changed my life. I remember that when I went to school, I always looked forward to Fridays when I could get off school and head to the barn. There was always an adventure waiting for me. I have been through rough times, but going to DreamPower has always been the highlight of my week. My hope is that all blind people will get a chance to know what it feels like to give back. There is no better feeling in the world than going home knowing that you made someone else's day."

It can be scary to try something new, but the benefits outweigh the risks. Remember that finding an opportunity to do something you enjoy can build your confidence, connect you with new friends, and open your mind to new possibilities. Furthermore, community service experience can aid you in finding a job. Through community service you can learn to problem solve and to work independently or as part of a team. You can put these skills on your résumé and impress your future boss.

Volunteering also can give you a boost when you apply to college. Colleges love to see community service experience on your application. The more diverse it is, the better. Scholarship applications look more impressive when they show community service activities. The National Federation of the Blind offers scholarship opportunities on both the state and national levels. Those community service experiences can be nice feathers in your cap when the folks on the scholarship committees look at your application.

Remember that you have friends and mentors in the National Federation of the Blind to support you along the way, whether you are starting out with gusto or tentatively testing the waters. One resource is the Community Service Division. The Community Service Division is here to support anyone who wants to volunteer, doing anything from working with animals to planting trees to helping build homes. We have a listserv, which you can join by going to <http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/community-service.nfbnet.org>. We also have a Facebook group at <https://www.facebook.com/groups/2057597728770515>. You can follow us on Twitter: @NFBCSDIVISION.

A Chance Like Everyone Else

by Nelly Gamino and Alex Gamino

From the Editor: At the 2014 Convention of the NFB of Illinois (NFBI), Nelly Gamino and her almost thirteen-year-old son, Alex, gave a presentation about a recent experience. Alex had been subjected to discriminatory treatment due to his blindness, and the Gaminos had turned to the NFB for advocacy. Here is the speech they delivered at the NFBI banquet.

NELLY GAMINO: I have to start by saying that last night I almost cried when Alex started singing at the talent show. I was not prepared for the deep voice! I hear him speak every day, and I guess I got used to the tone, but singing? Well, that was different! And speaking of his voice changing, that change is what brought on our first real experience of discrimination.

I guess we have been very lucky. For more than twelve years we have found people who looked past Alex's visual impairment and treated him just like any other child. In fact, our experience has been so positive that at first it was even hard for me to identify what occurred with Alex's choir as discrimination.

ALEX GAMINO: I was in the choir for four years, and I enjoyed those four years very much. But then my voice got lower and my director said it was time for me to move up to DiMension Choir, a group specifically for boys in that age range when their voices are changing. My director submitted my name for the auditions. The problem was that the director of the DiMension group did not think I would be a suitable performer because of my vision.

NELLY: A few days before the audition, I got a phone call from the choir director Alex had worked with. She said they wanted to talk to me about some "safety concerns." She asked if we should talk at that moment, or did I want my husband to be present? Obviously I said I wanted all of us to be present, including Alex, as he was the one who would have to follow the safety rules. So we set up an in-person meeting.

The director and the manager started the conversation by telling us how much they loved Alex, how much they had enjoyed having him in the choir for four years, and how well he had been doing so far. But . . . yes, there was the but. But were we aware of how much more challenging the next level was going to be? Had we seen some of that choir's performances? For example, the most recent performance involved singers running down the aisle of the Harris Theater in the dark to get on and off the stage quickly. The manager proceeded to show us a videoclip of it on her phone (yes, she was prepared!) She continued by telling us that the expectations were much higher, not only in singing but in choreography. Choir members had to be able to get themselves on and off the stage safely and independently. Alex might have to sit out of certain performances that would be too hard for him, and they didn't want him to feel excluded.

My husband and I explained our vision for our son, how we expect just as much of him as we expect of our other son who is fully sighted. We said that we don't keep Alex in a bubble. He has learned to ride a bike and to swim, and he has tried roller skating, ice skating, and gymnastics. What happened when he fell while doing those activities? Well, he was expected to get up, dust himself off, and keep going, just like our other son. No, we said, we had no concerns. Yes, we felt that Alex was up to the challenge of higher expectations. Hadn't he proved to them in the past four years that he could function quite independently? He had traveled with the choir to Wisconsin, Nashville, and Kansas City, for entire weekends each time. Never once did they have a complaint about him. Never once did they have to do anything extra in order for him to participate.

We brought up many examples of visually impaired performers. We suggested ideas for how they could accommodate Alex. Nevertheless, we were told to think about it. Did we really want to put Alex through an experience where he might often have to sit out?

We asked to speak in person to the director of the new choir to better understand her concerns and to help her think of ways to accommodate Alex. The choir manager said they would get back to us with a time that worked, but we didn't hear back.

ALEX: In the meantime, my parents sat down with me and basically laid it out. "Alex," they said, "do you want to continue in choir? If you do, we will do whatever it takes to ensure you get the opportunity, but know that you will have to work extra hard to just be seen as equal to the other kids." To be frank, I was already wondering about continuing in choir myself, even before all this came up. I mean, I love music, but going from school in Villa Park to Chicago for choir practice, and then traveling back to Berwyn where I live, was pretty tiring. I was getting more and more homework since I was in middle school. But now I wanted to do choir, if nothing else, at least to prove that I could do it.

NELLY: I followed up with an email, and we were told the DiMensions director would talk to us on the day of the audition. That day we waited for three hours. Alex's name was called, and he went in to audition, but the director never came out to talk to us. We were told things were really hectic and that we would talk during the week.

ALEX: When I went in for the audition, I was very nervous. After all the debating, I wanted to prove myself worthy. When I went in, I saw quite a few others there. I was even more nervous now, because I saw that I had competition. I waited a while, and they finally called me and some others to go in. I hadn't realized that multiple people went in at the same time, but I was like, "Why not?" As we went in and sat down, we were instructed to take turns singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." We each took turns singing a line, and then we sang small parts in small groups. Finally it was over, and I left.

NELLY: A couple of weeks went by, and we still had not heard back, not even about the results of the audition. One day, as I dropped off Alex at the BELL program in Chicago, I ran into Debbie Stein. In passing I mentioned what we were going through. She immediately said, "Let us know if you need our help. We will be more than happy to attend a meeting with you."

That same night Debbie copied me on an email that she sent to the NFBI president, Patti Chang, informing her of the situation. Immediately Patti said, "We will educate them. We are with you."

I followed up again, and I finally got a call back from the same person with whom we had had the first conversation. She called to inform us that the director did not feel Alex would fit into the new group. Furthermore, because his voice was changing, he couldn't stay in his old group, either. She went on to say that it would be best if we found a choir that focused less on performance and show, as Alex definitely had vocal talent. They were on the way to South Africa, but if we wanted to speak in person and discuss in more detail they would be more than happy to do so when they returned.

We sure did want to meet in person! And this time we would bring a member of the National Federation of the Blind with us!

I set up the meeting and informed them that someone from NFB would join us to help address their concerns about a blind person's ability. They did not take the news very well. They said they would be more than happy to speak with an NFB representative at another time to discuss accommodations they might make for blind members someday in the future. Nope, Debbie Stein was going to be right there with me, whether they liked it or not. And I showed up there with my guest.

Somewhere between my notifying them about my additional guest and the actual meeting date, their tune started to change. Sure, they still brought up some safety concerns that Debbie and I were able to address immediately. This was my favorite: "What if Alex falls and breaks his arm while he's getting off the bleachers?" Debbie responded, "I'm sure an organization as large as this, that even takes kids on trips out of state, has insurance to cover accidents." The meeting ended with the choir directors acknowledging the fact that Alex was talented enough to be part of this choir. If we were okay with the expectations they described, they would email us the registration link.

ALEX: My experience with the choir was challenging, not because of my vision, but because of the assumptions the adults made about my abilities based on my vision. Or lack of. The director assumed that since I am visually impaired, I would not perform as well as the sighted kids. Normally I try not to get offended with people's assumptions; I just try to educate them about my abilities. But I was honestly disappointed that, after being part of this group for four years, they would try to discourage me from joining DiMension just because of my sight.

In the end, due to schedule conflicts with school, I was not able to join DiMensions after all. But it felt good to fight back and get the opportunity to take part. I just wanted the same chance as everyone else.

Empowering Blind Students

by Precious Perez

From the Editor: ViStars is an organization in Massachusetts that was created to empower blind students. In this article Precious Perez, one of the group's original members, explains how ViStars has helped members become more confident and active. You can learn more about ViStars at <www.vistars.org>.

My name is Precious Perez. I am seventeen years old, and I live in Chelsea, Massachusetts. I grew up learning to adapt to the world around me, and I have always gone to public school. At first I believed I was the only blind kid around, because I was the only one at my school. I am very lucky to have found the support and encouragement to be independent and pursue my interests, but many blind and low vision students don't get this backing from their families and communities.

On scholarship I take private voice lessons and sing in the Handel and Haydn Society's Young Women's Chorus, and I hold leadership roles within the NFB of Massachusetts. In addition, I am part of a nonprofit organization called ViStars. ViStars focuses on empowering blind students in and around Boston by bringing us together and providing after-school activities such as sports and community service.

ViStars was created by two teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs) who wanted to form a group of blind students that would provide support, encourage independence, and build lasting connections and friendships. I was one of the first members of the group, which began about four years ago.

ViStars has taken away the sense of isolation that many blind kids feel in their communities and replaced it with empowerment. One of the first things we did in the group was apply for the MBTA Ride Service, a transportation service for people with disabilities. Through this service we gained a means of transportation to get to our meeting place. Every activity allows us to build confidence and enhance our skills. For example, when we planned a visit to a trampoline park, we researched the costs and made phone calls to set up the activity. We reach a consensus on proposed activities based on our interests.

On holidays, as part of community service, we all make Braille holiday cards for a program called Hugs for Soldiers. The program distributes handmade cards to soldiers in the US Army who are stationed overseas. We also brainstormed ideas for educational posters about blindness to put up at our schools. This idea is still a work in progress, but since I recently was accepted into the National Honor Society, it is something I will most definitely put into action.

I also play on the ViStars goalball team we started. We are registered as a club sport with the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). We went to the National High School Goalball Tournament in 2013. Goalball has provided me with the chance to be part of a competitive team where I can play independently. I wouldn't have gotten this experience at my school, since I would require assistance or guidance to participate in most of the sports played there. Goalball also has strengthened our bonds as a group.

In 2013 we had the opportunity to speak about our group at the state convention of the NFB of Massachusetts, and we spoke about goalball at the 2013 NFB National Convention. Our group currently has ten members. Before they joined, some of the students who have low vision rejected the idea of blindness and would not use the resources available to them. Now two of these students have started to use long white canes. Because they have been around other blind students their age who are successful, they have come to realize the cane's significance. Another student started to utilize social media to connect with me and another member, something he would not have done before.

The environment that surrounds me when I am with the other ViStars students is one of openness, friendship, and acceptance. It is so powerful for me to listen to everyone else's stories about dealing with misconceptions, or to hear a person who is taciturn in school jump into conversations, completely at ease. I can call up a fellow member and get input on a situation I am struggling with. I can express my doubts about inclusion in a particular situation without feeling judged. Above all, I can be who I am.

ViStars is not only a way to gain access to community service and extracurricular activities such as sports. It is a lasting foundation of support and a network for all of its members. I am honored to have been a part of this organization since it began. I am grateful for the opportunity to help other blind students embrace their blindness and achieve independence as I have.

For more information, email us at vistarsnet@gmail.com. You can find us on Twitter with the handle @vistarsne, and we’re on Facebook at Vistars Inc.

The Voices of Birds, the Smell of the Forest

by Przemyslaw Barszcz

From the Editor: Przemyslaw Barszcz is an educator with the Polish Nature and Forestry Foundation in Krakow, Poland. A few months ago he wrote to ask if readers of Future Reflections would like to learn about the foundation's program to teach blind students about the natural world. Here is his story.

Is it possible to observe birds without seeing them? The term "birdwatching" commonly refers to one of the most popular forms of outdoor activity. However, if you focus entirely on watching the birds, you may miss the richness of information to be found in bird calls and songs. Birding by ear is a delightful and gratifying way to explore the woods and fields.

In 2012 the Polish Nature and Forestry Foundation, together with students from the Special Educational Center for Blind Children in Krakow, launched a program called Voices of Birds and the Smell of the Forest. Since the beginning, we have met monthly at the center with a group of young people who are interested in birds.

The science of ornithology is based largely on the sense of hearing. Both hobbyists and professionals learn to identify birds by recognizing their distinctive voices. In the case of many species, listening to vocalizations is the most effective way to gather information. Some bird species, such as the corncrake and bittern, lead such secretive lives among the grasses and reeds that few professional ornithologists have ever seen them. However, the presence of these elusive species can easily be detected by a person who knows their voices and knows where and when to listen for them.

The skills of birding by ear apply all over the world. Much of the time birds don't want to be seen, but they often want to be heard. Voice is their primary means of communication, and bird sounds convey a lot of information. We can learn to decipher much that is hidden in the voices of birds.

In addition to revealing the species, the voice of a bird includes a great deal of important information. A female calls differently from a male, and the calls of young birds are quite unlike those of adults. The warning voice of a bird that has spotted a hawk or a cat is very different from the voice of a male seeking a mate or the cry of a hungry nestling. By interpreting bird voices, we can learn which bird species inhabit an area, how abundant they are, and whether they are breeding or migrating. We can also find out what birds are doing at a given moment--whether they are looking for a partner, feeding their young, warning others of danger, or migrating.

A person who knows how to interpret the voices of birds may even be able to tell where migratory birds have passed the winter. For example, a birder in the UK was listening to starlings during early spring. He concluded that the starlings had arrived recently from wintering grounds in Africa. After a few moments he pinpointed their exact wintering grounds, announcing that the birds had returned from the Sous Valley in Morocco. How did he know? Starlings imitate the voices of other birds. These British starlings imitated the song of a redstart subspecies that is endemic to the Sous Valley. The Sous Valley is the only place on earth where this subspecies can be found.

One day as I wandered through the mountainous forest I imitated the whistle of the pygmy owl. After a moment I heard the warning calls of small birds called tits. I knew that the tits recognized the voice of this rare predator. It was a sign that I had found the pygmy owl's hunting territory. Indeed, that evening I heard the pygmy owl's hunting call!

Another time, as I sat in the living room, I listened to the tweeting of sparrows at the bird feeder. Suddenly the sparrows gave nervous rattling calls, and I heard the whirr of wings. I predicted that in a moment my neighbor's cat would enter my terrace. Thanks to hearing the birds, I knew the cat was coming before I saw it.

The willow warbler and the chiffchaff are small birds that inhabit the forests of Europe. Visually it is very difficult for even an expert to tell these two species apart. They belong to the same family, and both have slender beaks and grayish-green and white plumage. To make identification even more difficult, they are both very lively birds, constantly darting here and there in search of insects. Yet identification proved to be easy for the students in our classes at the Center for Blind Children. These two species have completely different voices. After hearing them only a few times, the children could tell a willow warbler from a chiffchaff in the early spring forest.

Knowledge of bird voices and sensitivity to the sounds of nature can help a blind child become oriented in the environment. Outdoor activity improves health and fitness. With experience and knowledge, a blind child might become a birding guide or a nature scientist in the future. One modern method of scientific research is the recording of the natural sounds in a given area such as a tropical rainforest. The recording is analyzed to reveal the prevalence and activity of various species. One such research project, the Automated Remote Biodiversity Monitoring Network (ARBIMON), is being conducted by the University of Puerto Rico. *1

The identification of bird species and behavior by sound, along with the implementation of scientific tools and methods, has been the main goal of our work with blind and visually impaired children. Above all, we want the children to gain an appreciation of the beauty of nature.

Fifty children at the Special Education Center for Blind Children have participated in the project. We divided the students into three groups. First each group had four classes at the school. During these classes, the children gathered information and learned a number of skills. Among the areas of focus were the following:

The children learned that beech wood is much heavier and harder than pine wood. They found that juniper needles sting when touched, while fir needles are soft. They learned that the essential oil of spruce differs from the essential oil of pine. They even had a chance to taste a ramsons, or bear's garlic, a wild plant related to chives.

After the classes we went on several field trips. Each group took three excursions: First, to the early spring forest; second, to the Fish Ponds; and third, to the late spring forest.

Two distinct seasons in the forest showed us a wide spectrum of birds. We chose Las Wolski (Wolski Forest) for both of our forest trips. The forest has a natural character and a lot of old, hollow trees that attract many bird species. We identified a lot of interesting birds, many of which the children heard for the first time. The children were thrilled to hear the voice of the thrush, which they had only known before from descriptions in books.

During our spring trips to the forest we heard and recognized more than twenty bird species. We heard the cuckoo, whistling nuthatch, Eurasian blackcap, great tit, buzzard, rare black woodpecker, and many others.

For our other trip we visited the area of Spytkowice and Zator in the valley of the Vistula, where a vast complex of ponds was built in the Middle Ages. It is one of the most interesting places for birding in Poland and in all of Europe. My friend, British professional birder David Lindo, has described this site in his blog article "Heaven in a Fish Pond."*2 At the Fish Ponds we observed the Eurasian reed warbler, great reed warbler, common reed bunting, graylag goose, western marsh harrier, white stork, and several kinds of grebes and terns. The true curiosities were the black stork, bittern, black-crowned night heron, and the smallest European heron, the little bittern.

At the end of the program, we met for a picnic in Wolski Forest. We gathered around a bonfire and grilled sausages.

Our project was co-financed by the Regional Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Krakow. We also obtained the honorary patronage of the Polish Minister of the Environment. If you would like more information about our program, please write to us at polfund@gmail.com.


  1. "Capturing the Sounds of Biodiversity," National Public Radio, July 19, 2013.  <www.npr.org/2013/07/19/203606166/capturing-the-sounds-of-biodiversity>
  2. "Heaven in a Fish Pond," <http://urbanitybirder.blogspot.com/2009/04/heaven-in-fish-pond.html>

Camp Abilities
A Sports Camp for Children with Visual Impairments

by Lauren J. Lieberman

From the Editor: "This game is too rough for you. They're throwing a ball around, and you won't know where it is. You better sit this one out." Blind and visually impaired children hear such warnings all too often at school, in after-school activities, and at the park. With a few simple adaptations, however, blind children can play most sports and active games. Physical activity is just as important for blind children as it is for their sighted peers—and it's just as much fun!

In general, blind and visually impaired children have been shown to be less physically active than their sighted peers. They often exhibit deficits in gross motor skills such as running, galloping, sliding, throwing, kicking, and batting. The reasons for these deficits are complex, but limited opportunities and lack of knowledge on the part of physical educators and caregivers are important contributing factors. One way to help blind and VI children develop their physical potential is to expose them to a variety of sports. Another way is to educate teachers about the capabilities of students with visual impairments. Camp Abilities was created to do both.

Camp Abilities is a developmental sports camp model for children and adolescents who are blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind. With my colleague, Dr. Monica Lepore, I founded the camp in 1996 at the College at Brockport, State University of New York. The first camp served twenty-seven athletes and included thirty volunteer coaches. To date, the program has served more than two thousand athletes at over twenty-two locations across the United States and abroad (Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, Ireland, and Portugal). Each camp shares a similar structure and mission with the original Camp Abilities, while adding unique features specific to the geographic locality. In order to find the camp closest to you, look under "other camps" at our main website, <www.campabilities.org>.

Camp Abilities is built upon the premise that instruction in a variety of physical activities and sport experiences improves the lives of blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind students. Camp Abilities offers after-school sports and Paralympic sports as well as recreational activities. Sports with formal instruction include, but are not limited to, beep baseball, goalball, track and field, swimming, tandem cycling, judo, self-defense, and gymnastics. During free time, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, horseback riding, rock climbing, rollerblading, basketball, beep kickball, and dancing are available.

The activities at Camp Abilities are integral to the camp's main purposes. Our first goal is to empower students with visual impairments to be physically active members of their communities. Our second goal is to train pre-service teachers from a variety of fields to teach physical activities to students with visual impairments. Finally, we strive to educate parents. At the beginning of camp we spend a lot of time training the parents, and we provide them with a big folder of resources at the end. Camp Abilities fulfills its purposes by providing high quality teaching, a one-on-one camper to counselor ratio, and access to blind and visually impaired role models.

During the week of Camp Abilities, campers are assessed on their process of performance and the product of their performance in each major sport. The counselors are pre-service teachers who undergo a ten-hour orientation over two days prior to the arrival of the campers. During the week of camp, counselors complete process and product assessments. The assessment is sent home to help the parents learn what their children can do. Parents are encouraged to share assessments with the children's physical education teachers.

At Camp Abilities the children are exposed to highly accomplished blind and visually impaired role models. Among the athletes who have come to camp are Jim Mastro, a 7X Paralympian in judo and track and field; Peter Gottwald, a silver medalist in track; Asia Miller and Jennifer Armbruster, gold medal goalball players; Cody Colchado, a national champion in power lifting; Kris Scheppe, a world champion sailor; and Trischia Zorn, the winningest Paralympian in the world, with forty-one medals in swimming. It is very important for blind and visually impaired children to have role models they can learn from and admire.

The Camp Abilities staff helps members of the community learn about and support youth with visual impairments. Lions Clubs assist with funding, meals, transportation, and overall setup. Through their involvement with the camps, club members have the opportunity to see what the children can do. Once children learn a sport at camp, they often get actively involved in school and community sports back home. The more active the children become, the farther they spread the message about the athletic abilities of blind and visually impaired people.


Physical education programs for blind and visually impaired children require funding for electronic equipment, educational materials, and products necessary for specific instruction. The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is a government-funded agency that sells specialized equipment and educational materials. Some of the cost of these items can be defrayed by Quota Funds, which are available to parents and teachers through the child's school district. To access these products contact your child's teacher of the visually impaired or orientation and mobility instructor. (See "APH Quota Funds: How to Access Free Educational Materials for Blind and Deaf-blind Students," Future Reflections, Summer 2013, <https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr32/3/fr320315.htm>

Table 1: Physical Activity Products from The American Printing House for the Blind

Name of the Product


Sound Balls

Hard foam sound balls in red or yellow that can be used universally in most ball sport units

Jump Rope Kit

Kit that comes with a rope-less jump rope, beaded jump ropes, plastic jump ropes, a foam mat to jump on and a manual to help the child learn how to jump rope

30-Love Tennis Kit

A tennis kit that comes with foam tennis balls, two racquets, blindfolds, and a tennis manual with rules of the game and modifications

Walk-Run for Fitness Kit

A kit that promotes walking and running. It comes with two talking pedometers, a guidewire, a tether, and a manual to teach children what to wear, how to use the different guide running techniques, advocacy, etc.

Sport Court: Touch & Play

A kit that provides 13 different tactile fields and courts. It includes a manual that describes each sport, the history, rules, instructional modifications, equipment modifications, and strategies for teaching children who are both deaf and visually impaired or blind.

Everybody Plays! book

This is a book for children in third to fifth grades that describes how children with visual impairments can play a variety of different sports. It opens with a forward by Erik Weihenmayer, and ends with advice from elite athletes.

Games for People with Sensory Impairments book

This book is for parents and physical education teachers. It has a very long list of sports and games with specific modifications for children with visual impairments as well as children with multiple disabilities or deafblindness

Going Places book

This book is a transition guide for adolescents with visual impairments from 14 to 21 years of age. It provides a curriculum to help these young adults decide what sports and recreational activities they would want to do when they graduate from school. It also provides extensive information on role models and advocacy approaches.

Every product comes in large print, audio, and Braille versions depending on the child’s needs. See APH.org and go to physical education and click on the products button.
Below are some additional resources.


Aillaud, C., and Lieberman, L.J. (2013) Everybody Plays! How Children with Visual Impairments or Deafblindness Play Sports. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.

LaCatorglia, M. (2009) Run, Play, Move. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind.

Leibs, A. (2013) The Encyclopedia of Sport and Recreation for People with Visual Impairments. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Lieberman, L.J., and Cowart, J. (2011) Games for People with Sensory Impairments (2nd ed.). Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.

Lieberman, L.J., Modell, S., Jackson, I. (2006) Going Places: A Transition Guide to Physical Activity for Youth with Visual Impairments. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.

Lieberman, L.J., Haibach, P. (in press) Motor Development for Children with Visual Impairments. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.

Lieberman, L.J., and Houston-Wilson, C. (2009) Strategies for Inclusion: A Handbook for Physical Educators, (2nd ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Lieberman, L.J., Ponchillia, P., and Ponchillia, S. (2013) Physical Education and Sport for Individuals Who Are Visually Impaired or Deafblind: Foundations of Instruction. New York, NY: American Foundation for the Blind Press.

Schedlin, H., and Lieberman, L.J. (2011) Sports for Everyone: A Handbook for Starting Sports Camps for Children with Visual Impairments.  Watertown, MA: Perkins Publishing.


Winnick, J.P., and Short, F.X. (2014) The Brockport Physical Fitness Test. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. -- Health related fitness test for children with visual impairments ages 10-17


<http://www.aph.org/pe/Motor-Video-Feedback.html> -- A video on how to teach motor skills to children with visual impairments.


<http://rousettus.com/products/?gclid=CIi0-45zpKECFddR2godSXZlvw> -- Yoga mat with Braille and raised shapes for positioning plus an instructional DVD.

<www.Braillegifts.com> -- bell soccer balls and basketballs

<www.seegreatthings.com> -- Goalball kits from the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Rochester

<www.beepkickball.com> -- Provides rules for beep kickball as well as a place to purchase beep kickballs

<www.Flaghouse.com> -- Audible balls and other equipment

<www.costore.com/qwestpioneers/welcome.asp> -- Beep baseballs

<www.glowproducts.com> -- Everything that glows, including frisbees

<www.Independentliving.com> -- Beeping volleyballs, basketballs, and soccer balls

<www.campabilities.org> -- Information about Camp Abilities as well as teaching strategies for blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind children

<www.twu.edu/INSPIRE> -- Information about adapted physical education for all children

<www.tsbvi.edu/recc/pe.htm> -- Resources and published material related to physical education and sports for children with visual impairments from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

<www.usaba.org> -- Information about the United States Association for Blind Athletes, our national governing body for sports for visually impaired, blind, or deaf-blind individuals. It includes a link to game modifications for children.

<http://www.us-games.com> -- Great equipment.

<www.disabledsportsusa.org> -- Modifications to sports and equipment for children with disabilities

<www.pecentral.org/adapted/adaptedmenu.html> -- Ideas for assessments, IEP development, research done about adapted PE, and instruction for students with disabilities

<http://www.perkins.org/resources/scout/education/phys-ed-and-sports/adapted-physical-education.html> -- Online seminars on ideas and teaching materials

Youth Challenge

by Mackenzie Maglic

From the Editor: Communities across the country have developed programs that provide children with disabilities the opportunity to take part in sports and other activities. One such program, offering a wide range of options for kids and teens, is Youth Challenge in the Greater Cleveland area.

Youth Challenge (YC) is a nonprofit organization in Westlake, Ohio. The program brings together children with physical disabilities and youth volunteers who enrich each other's lives through one-on-one participation in adapted sports and recreational activities. Last year, YC began outreach for blind and visually impaired children to start up a grassroots goalball program in partnership with the United States Association of Blind Athletes.

Goalball is a Paralympic sport that is played by athletes who are visually impaired. The objective is to throw a ball into the opponent's goal. The regulation ball has bells inside, permitting players to locate it by ear.

The outreach was a huge success. After just one goalball practice, the excitement spread, and more and more interested participants signed up. Soon we formed a team of nine boys and girls who are committed to weekly practices.

The parents of the team members frequently express their appreciation for this program. They have shared many stories about what Youth Challenge means to their children. One mother told us that she had to bribe her eight-year-old son to come to his first goalball practice. He had tried several other sports and strongly disliked them all. His mother promised him a trip to the store after the goalball practice.

After ten minutes of goalball, the boy was all smiles. He had a fantastic time with his teammates, the volunteers, and the coaches. Following practice he told his mom and his coach how much he loves goalball and wants to be in the Paralympic Games someday.

The next morning, the coach received an email from the boy's mother. She said that her son would like a goalball for his upcoming birthday, and she asked for suggestions on where to purchase one. It was great to receive such positive feedback! We hear many similar stories from the other children and their families.

Youth Challenge strives to meet the interests and needs of our athletes. It is evident that there is a shortage of opportunities in the area for blind and visually impaired youth to participate in team sports with their peers of similar abilities. Dedicated teen volunteers attend each practice to serve as guides and sports assistants. A typical goalball practice includes athletes practicing a set of drills to work on their throwing, blocking, and court orientation skills. This practice is followed by some game play. As a tradition that started on our first day, practices always end with a few jokes and a snack. Most of the jokes are made up by the athletes on the spot. It's great to conclude a practice by enjoying a few laughs together!

The camaraderie that has grown among the participants, volunteers, coaches, and parents has built an ideal team environment. Every practice is full of smiles, hard work, education, and friendship. Strong bonds have developed between the parents of team members. Parents enjoy coming to practice and mingling with other parents. They love to watch their children take part in sports that are designed so they can participate fully.

Several members of the team told us they also wanted to play soccer. Youth Challenge has now started a five-a-side soccer team for children with visual impairments. After having so much fun and success with goalball and soccer, the participants now take part in general YC recreational programs throughout the year. The team members have joined YC for swimming, horseback riding, and outings to the nature center and the Cleveland Zoo. YC also offers art, bowling, rock climbing, dance, drama, and a variety of sports such as archery, cycling, swimming, fencing, table tennis, volleyball, powerlifting, and more.  Each program is unique and allows participants to foster friendships in an inclusive environment that incorporates adaptations and modifications as needed.

Youth Challenge is excited about the recent purchase of several tandem bicycles. We will soon offer cycling to the children with visual impairments at a program called Run 'n Roll. At Run 'n Roll, participants will be able to engage in both cycling and running. The energy level of the goalball team is always at the maximum, and the players take a particular liking to running.

Youth Challenge is in the process of developing a strategic plan for beginning a YC track-and-field program. This program will be another great opportunity for visually impaired children. Goalball has planted the seed for children with visual impairments in the Greater Cleveland area to engage in team sports. More importantly, it has allowed the participants to meet new friends and have an assortment of fun experiences. Youth Challenge will continue to offer new and exciting opportunities for children and young adults with visual impairments.

Currently more than 170 participants with disabilities and a pool of more than 450 teen volunteers are involved with YC. The high-energy, positive, and nurturing atmosphere opens opportunities for these young people to learn about themselves and others, develop skills, and achieve success that they never dreamed possible.

Experience the Magic

by Pam and Roland Allen

Reprinted, with updates, from The Student Slate, Summer 2013

From the Editor: A dazzling array of theme parks is located in and around Orlando, Florida. If you plan to attend the 2015 NFB national convention, you most likely will consider a trip to one or more of these parks during your convention stay. Yet you may wonder how blind people navigate these busy attractions. Pam and Roland Allen are longtime Federationists and theme park aficionados. In this article they offer some excellent tips for navigating the crowds, finding the rides, and having a great time.

This year, thousands of Federationists will flock to Orlando for our landmark seventy-fifth anniversary convention. Whether you are a veteran conventioneer or a newbie attending convention for the first time, you know there is nothing more empowering and inspiring for blind people and their families than this yearly gathering. People from all over the world will come to learn about and to share the positive message of the National Federation of the Blind, to see the power of collective action, and to witness how lives are transformed and the future is made brighter for all blind people.

Many of you may be planning to spend time in Orlando before or after the convention to enjoy the incredible attractions. One of our favorite places to visit is Disney World. It truly is magical, regardless of your age! It is also a travel adventure, whether you are blind or sighted. It's a great opportunity to use your skills! Here are a few pointers we hope will be helpful as you navigate "the happiest place on earth."

We have been to Disney World more than ten times. Although we enjoyed a couple of the trips with our friends or families, the vast majority of the visits have been for just the two of us. We have navigated several of the Disney hotels and all of the Disney theme parks and Downtown Disney as blind travelers. We find it most convenient to stay on Disney property at a Disney hotel, since free transportation is plentiful. However, we also have stayed offsite. Just be sure to take possible transportation costs into account when deciding your budget. Also add in the time needed to shuttle between your hotel and the various parks.

Countless articles, books, and websites specialize in "all things Disney," from where to stay to how to schedule your visit to deciding on the best places to eat. We encourage you to do your research about the various parks, restaurants, and attractions ahead of time so that you have an idea of which attractions are at which parks. <Disneyworld.com> has a thorough listing of all restaurants, menus, shows, and rides arranged by park. Knowing ahead of time the "must do" activities for you will help make your experience even more memorable! We will warn you right now that you will always leave Disney wanting to come back for more. Since convention will be held in Orlando for two more years, you will have the opportunity to return again and again.

Disney World provides a variety of ways for blind guests to access information at the parks. Our first stop is always Guest Relations. Animal Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios all have Guest Relations offices located relatively close to the park entrance. At Guest Relations, you can secure the information most helpful to you. We have used the Braille guidebook as well as the audio receivers provided by Disney. You are required to pay a deposit that is refunded when you return the materials. You may also want to ask a Disney cast member where to find the tactile map of each park.

The Braille guidebook provides a description of the layout of the park and offers detailed information about rides, shows, and restaurants. The audio receivers are designed to provide information and descriptions of your surroundings as well as extensive descriptions of many of the live shows and performances. When you pass an attraction, the receiver will alert you. Our Federation friends Jesse and Mary Jo Hartle, who are also Disney fanatics, utilized the receivers at a performance of The Lion King and enjoyed vivid descriptions of the action and costumes. The receiver has a strap for carrying. We usually bring a backpack or bag to carry the Braille guidebook. (When you enter the parks, all bags are searched, so be prepared.)

We also ask someone at Guest Relations about the schedule for the shows and live entertainment so we can plan accordingly. Numerous apps are specific to Disney, but we have not used them yet, since we did not have iPhones the last time we visited.

Many people have asked us about using our canes in the parks. Using the "pencil grip" is a definite must, since the parks are extremely crowded. We have taken our straight canes on several rides or have walked with them to the ride and then handed them to a cast member to hold. Our canes were always ready and waiting for us as soon as the ride stopped, so there was no problem at all. We found our straight canes to be more durable than folding canes in a crowded park. Pam lost a couple of telescopic canes when they were stepped on by accident.

Cast members were happy to answer questions if we had any, and they did not insist upon over-helping us. We have not traveled at Disney with a guide dog, but the National Association of Guide Dog Users is an outstanding resource for tips.

When traveling around the parks, there are literally thousands of people to give directions when needed. In fact, the majority of guests are constantly stopping cast members or visiting a store to ask for information.

Many of you have heard about FastPass, which allows guests to get a specific window of time during which to come back and experience particular attractions. FastPass is a great feature because it saves visitors time waiting in line. There are FastPass ticket machines by many of the popular attractions. You insert your Disney pass/ticket in the machine, and it prints out a ticket with your designated time slot. Again, there are always people around to read the time to you. We have been told that it is also possible to preorder FastPasses for up to four attractions in a park, so check with a Disney cast member about that possibility.

A few of the restaurants had Braille menus when we were there last, but most did not. We looked at many of the menus online ahead of our visit. Servers were always gracious about reading the full menu to us, even at counter service restaurants.

Most of the tips we have shared are not specific to blindness. Don't be intimidated. Orlando will give you a great opportunity to use and expand your travel skills. You and your family will have a wonderful way to educate the public while enjoying an incredible place.

Our blindness never detracted from our visits to the Disney parks. Of course, we used Braille and audio materials to gain information. We had to ask where the end of the line was or where the FastPass machines were located. Be prepared to wait in long lines, but make it fun! Disney is an experience of a lifetime! Take time to experience the magic!


National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
A proud division of the National Federation of the Blind

Crafting Your Diamond:
The Four Cs of Bringing Up Blind Children 

The 2015 National Seminar and Conference
for Parents & Teachers

At the Diamond Anniversary National Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind
July 5 – 10, 2015
Rosen Centre Hotel
Orlando, FL

Crafting Your Diamond: The Four Cs of Bringing Up Blind Children

by Carlton Walker, President, NOPBC

Hello. As the president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), a proud division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), I have the privilege of writing this essay inviting you to the NOPBC’s Annual Conference which will be held at the NFB National Convention Sunday, July 5 through Saturday, July 10, 2015, at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Florida. In addition to serving as the NOPBC president, I am employed as a teacher of students with blindness/visual impairment in Cumberland and York Counties, Pennsylvania, and I am an attorney with my own solo practice. But, by far, my heart and mind are dedicated to the NFB and the NOPBC – I relish the opportunity to share with others and learn from friends!

As I write this essay, I am enjoying a much-anticipated and long-awaited vacation with my husband, Steve, and our daughter, Anna Catherine. I am stretched out on a comfy sofa in a lounge area on our cruise ship, the Norwegian Sun. We enjoy getting away on a vacation, and a cruise offers us just what we like: lots of choices and few demands. On these cruises, we cannot help but learn about all the shopping opportunities in the Caribbean – and chief among these is shopping for diamonds.

This seemed quite apropos, given that we will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of our National Federation of the Blind this year. From the gem-buying workshops I have attended, I discovered that the “Four Cs of Diamond Buying” apply to our blind children as well. While the diamond’s four Cs are Cut, Carat, Color, and Clarity, the four Cs of rearing a successful blind child are Competence, Confidence, Creativity, and Community. Competence requires the acquisition of, practice with, and mastery of nonvisual skills and tools, such as Braille, the long white cane, and access technology. Confidence provides a platform upon which these skills may be used. Creativity brings in the beauty of the individual – a diamond unlike any other who uses these skills in new and exciting ways. Community represents giving back – competent, confident, creative blind children and adults are full members of their communities and contribute to their growth and strength.

While I cannot afford to purchase a diamond, I believe that our children, blind or sighted, are the most precious gems we will ever encounter. Like diamonds, they are strong and possess qualities that some might not expect. Diamonds are known for their beauty, but they are actually quite valuable for industrial uses that have no relation to their physical appearance. Similarly, even though outsiders may not understand it, our children help us and others to experience, and see, our world in ways we would surely have missed without them. And, like rough, uncut diamonds, our children’s beauty and value cannot be fully realized until they experience the empowerment of nonvisual skills that let them shine.

Please join us at the Rosen Centre in Orlando, Florida, July 5-10 for our annual NOPBC Conference. As noted above, we will also be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the NFB. Learning and fun, friends and family, love and laughter – you will find each of these in abundance throughout the convention, both with other parents of blind children and with blind adults -- our children’s role models. Come meet us in Orlando as we learn the tools, techniques, and philosophies that will allow our diamonds to sparkle now and throughout their lives.

Schedule of Events for Adults, Children, and Youth

Please visit www.nopbc.org for activities updates and registration information.


9:00 AM – 4:45 PM                          Full-Day Seminar—General Session and Workshops

7:30 - 8:45 AM   REGISTRATION
Parents, children, and youth are invited to start the morning together at the “Crafting Your Diamond” Seminar. At 10:45 a.m. children preregistered with NFB Child Care will be escorted to the children’s activity in the child care rooms, and youth ages eleven to eighteen will be escorted to the Youth Track activity rooms. Save your NOPBC registration badge for free admission to Family Hospitality after the Seminar!

9:00 - 10:45 AM                 GENERAL SESSION
Welcome with NOPBC President Carlton Walker, Kid Talk with NFB President Mark Riccobono, Keynote Address, Student Panel, and more!          


11:00 AM             NOPBC CHILDREN’S ACTIVITY (ages 5 – 12) in NFB Child Care
                                Music and Movement—Conchita Hernandez, Teacher of Blind Students
                                To participate, child must be signed up for child care for this day.
11:00 AM             NOPBC YOUTH TRACK ACTIVITY (ages 11 – 18)
                                Ice Breakers—Garrick Scott,President, NFB of GA
                                A Dog in My Life—Nat’l Assoc. of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU)
Session 1
Additional workshops sponsored by Professionals in Blindness Education (PIBE) and the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) will be available during each time slot for parents and teachers to attend. 

Learn to Play & Play to Learn
Facilitating your child’s learning and play. This session will be of special interest to families with children with additional disabilities. Instructor: Heather Field, Special Educator

The ABCs of Braille
A hands-on workshop that will teach the beginning of Braille reading and writing. Instructor: Jamie Allison, Lead Instructor, NFB BELL of SC

The National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA) & the National O&M Assessment (NOMA)
What’s in these new, cutting edge assessments? Will they benefit your child?  Instructors: Sheena Manuel, TBS, NOMC, Outreach Specialist, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness; Casey Robertson, TBS, Faculty, PDRIB

Using Readers
Learning the critical skill of using a human reader for academic and personal tasks. Instructor: Carol Castellano, Director of Programs, NOPBC

12:15 PM             LUNCH on your own. Pick up children from Child Care.

1:30 PM                CHILD CARE REOPENS
2:00 PM                NOPBC CHILDREN’S ACTIVITY (ages 5 - 12) in NFB Child Care
                                To participate, child must be signed up for child care for this day.
            Monsters and Me—Ann Cunningham, Tactile Artist; Debbie Kent Stein, NFB of IL

2:00 - 4:45 PM  NOPBC YOUTH TRACK (ages 11- 18)
            Fun & Games—Richard Gibbs, Owner, 64 Oz. Games
            The Magic of Science—Dr. Cary Supalo, Independence Science; Robert  Jaquiss, American Thermoform
Session 2

Ages & Stages
Facilitating the child’s progress toward the next logical step in development. This session will be of special interest to families with children with additional disabilities. Instructor: Natalie Shaheen, Director of Education, NFB Jernigan Institute

Standardized Testing and Testing Accommodations: What You Need to Know
What are the issues with Smarter Balance and PARCC? What testing accommodations will work for your child’s success? Instructors: Mehgan Sidhu, General Counsel, NFB; Valerie Yingling, Paralegal, NFB; Carlton Walker, TBS, President, NOPBC

Independence Skills for Real Life
What skills does your child need for an independent future and how can you cultivate them? Instructor: Instructors: Sean Whalen, Karen Anderson, National Association of Blind Students (NABS)

Technology: Home & School
What kind of technology do BVI kids need? Instructor: Eric Guillory, Director of Youth Services, Louisiana Center for the Blind

Session 3
Additional workshops sponsored by Professionals in Blindness Education (PIBE) and the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) will be available for parents and teachers to attend. 

Fostering Independent Movement & Travel in Your Child
Working toward maximum independence and self-determination for your child.  This session will focus on young children and children with additional disabilities. Instructor: Denise Mackenstadt, NOMC

Make-&-Take Graphics
Learn the basics of making tactile graphics for children and create one to take home. Instructor: Carlton Walker, TBS, President, NOPBC

Independent Living Skills and Independent Movement & Travel for the School-Age Child
High expectations, real-life goals, and how to achieve them. Instructor: Mary Jo Hartle, NOMC, TBS

Using College Disability Support Services (DSS)
How DSS offices provide accommodations and how to access and use them effectively without losing your independence. Instructor: Candice Chapman, Cody Bair, Derek Manners, NABS

By 5:30 PM  Pick up children from child care promptly! 

Relax, snack, chat, meet new families and teachers, and connect with old friends. Veteran attendees will be on hand to welcome you and provide information. Free admission with 2015 NOPBC Conference name badge; $15/adult and $5/child without badge. Pizza and lemonade will be served. Co-sponsored by Professionals in Blindness Education (PIBE).

At this meeting we especially welcome our families whose children have disabilities in addition to blindness/visual impairment. Come meet, chat, and network. Facilitators: Laura Bostic & Casey Robertson, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness (PDRIB)


8:00 - 11:00 PM  NABS Student Social (ages 14 – 18)


Child Care is CLOSED on this day.

8:45 - 10:30 AM   CANE WALK Session I

11:00 AM - 12:45 PM  CANE WALK Session II
Wondering if your child should use a cane? Curious about how a cane works? Learn and experience the Discovery Method of travel at these special workshops. Parents, teachers, blind/VI children, and siblings are welcome. Coordinator: Jeff Altman, NOMCT, CVRCB

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM             TWEEN ROOM OPEN (ages 11-14)
Text or call Penny Duffy at 603-892-6355 for location. Feel free to bring your lunch.

(Rehearsal begins at 1:00 PM)
Our young blind models & NFB stars strut their stuff on the runway. Come enjoy the fashions and music and support NOPBC. $5 at the door. Coordinator: Kim Cunningham, 2nd VP, NOPBC

Swim through shark-infested waters, race through an alligator-infested swamp, shoot down barriers to independence (on hotel grounds—no danger involved). Join us for this fun-filled family fundraiser. $5 to participate. Raise money for NOPBC by collecting pledges—please bring pledge sheets (at end of this article) and donations to event. Coordinator: Jean Bening, NOPBC Board 

Has the NOPBC helped you and your family? Would you like to get more involved?  Come learn about leadership opportunities in your state. Coordinator: Carol Castellano, Director of Programs, NOPBC


In the morning, visit the Exhibit Hall and the Independence Market; attend the NFB Board of Directors meeting—it’s open to all. In the afternoon, drop the kids off at their activities early and come to the NOPBC Annual Meeting!

10:00 - 10:45 AM  NOPBC YOUTH TRACK (ages 11 – 14)
11:00 - 11:45 AM  NOPBC YOUTH TRACK (ages 14 – 18)
                Unleashing Your Inner Monster, Ann Cunningham, Tactile Artist

Give your child lunch, then drop child off early at child care on this dayso that you can attend the NOPBC Annual Meeting which begins at 1 p.m. 

NOPBC CHILDREN’S ACTIVITY (ages 5-12) in NFB Child Care 
Takes place during Child Care afternoon session.
To participate, child must be signed up for child care for this day.
                Fun & Games—Richard Gibbs, Owner, 64 Oz. Games

1:00 - 4:00 PM  NOPBC YOUTH TRACK SESSION (ages 11-18)
                Student to Student—National Association of Blind Students (NABS)
Attention parents and teachers! Be sure to attend this important meeting featuring the 2015 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children; update from the NFB Jernigan Institute; the latest info on accessible science, textbooks, art, games, technology; writing contest winners, Parent Power, Kid Power; NOPBC business, elections.  Special bonus: meeting attendees receive priority entrance ticket to Braille Book Fair!

To celebrate the NFB’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the American Action Fund has generously donated 750 print-Braille books to this year's Braille Book Fair!  A book lover's dream! Browse tables of new and used Braille and print/ Braille books. Volunteers will box your books and deliver them to the post office for Free Matter shipment to your home.  Books are free; donations are encouraged to support our Braille programs. Co-sponsored by NOPBC & NAPUB. Coordinator: Krystal Guillory, Teacher of Blind Students, NFB of Louisiana BELL Coordinator.

7:30 - 9:00 PM  DADS’ NIGHT OUT
All dads, sighted and blind, are welcome at this NOPBC-sponsored event. Call Bill Cucco at 201-602-6318 for location. 



Be there for the bang of the gavel and the roar of the crowd! See the NFB Convention Agenda for program details. NFB general sessions take place all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Many additional events and meetings take place before the morning session, at lunchtime, and in the evenings.

12:15 - 1:45 PM    TWEEN ROOM OPEN (ages 11-14)
Text or call Penny Duffy at 603-892-6355 for location. Feel free to bring your lunch. 

7:00 - 8:15 PM Adopting a Blind/Visually Impaired Child
A look at the adoption process from initial considerations to real life at home from experienced adoptive parents. Instructors: Sandy Bishop, Adoptive Parent, POBC of MD; Merry-Noel Chamberlain, TBS, NOMC, and Marty Chamberlain, Adoptive Parents, POBC of NE
7:00 - 8:15 PM    IEP Workshop for Parents of Blind/VI Students 
The basics of IEP development and how to be an active and effective participant. Instructor: Dan Frye, Attorney; Executive Director, NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired

8:30 - 9:45 PM    Staying Calm
How to get through an IEP meeting without raising your blood pressure and losing your cool and your mind! Instructor: Sharon Maneki, Advocate; President, NFB of MD

7:00 - 10:00 PM    NOPBC CHILDREN’S CRAFT & GAME NIGHT (ages 5 - 12)
This activity is for children whose parents are attending NOPBC evening workshops.

7:00 - 10:00 PM    NOPBC YOUTH TRACK ACTIVITIES (ages 11 - 18)
Deal Me In: Learning Poker & Other Card Games—Instructors: Jason Polansky & Ben Schuler, Summer Staff, Louisiana Center for the Blind


8:30 AM               CHILD CARE OPENS

NOPBC CHILDREN’S ACTIVITY (ages 5-12) in NFB Child Care 
Takes place during Child Care morning session.
To participate, child must be signed up for child care for this day.
Science Adventures—Dr. Cary Supalo, Independent Science; Robert Jaquiss, American Thermoform

12:15- 1:45 PM   TWEEN ROOM OPEN (ages 11-14)
Text or call Penny Duffy at 603-892-6355 for location. Feel free to bring your lunch.

Has the NOPBC helped you and your family? Would you like to get more involved?  Come learn about leadership opportunities in your state. Coordinator: Carol Castellano, Director of Programs, NOPBC


12:15 - 1:45 PM  TWEEN ROOM OPEN (ages 11-14)
Text or call Penny Duffy at 603-892-6355 for location. Feel free to bring your lunch. 

Come share your ideas and help to plan next year’s conference.


The NFB National Convention is a complicated week of events. This important information can help you stay organized and take advantage of the many opportunities that will be available. The NOPBC Conference takes place within the NFB convention. The NOPBC conference, the NFB convention, and NFB Child Care have separate registration and fees. In addition to registering for the NOPBC conference, it’s important to register for the NFB convention so that you receive our special hotel room rates.


A group of parents will be meeting informally in the hotel lobby to take a trip to Wonder Works, an interactive indoor amusement park, a short distance from the hotel. All are invited.  






Register online at www.nopbc.org or make check payable to NOPBC and mail with form to:
Pat Renfranz, NOPBC Treasurer
397 Middle Oak Lane, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Save money by preregistering! Preregistration must be postmarked by June 15.
After June 15, please register on-site in Orlando.


By June 15

On-site in Orlando

1 Adult
2 or more Adults



Child/Youth  (up to 18 years)

Children are free, but please list names & ages below


Adult Name ____________________________________________________________________
                [ ] parent of blind child                  [ ] professional                  [ ] other___________________

Adult Name ___________________________________________________________________
                [ ] parent of blind child                  [ ] professional                  [ ] other___________________

Please list additional adults on a separate sheet.

Address ___________________________________________ City ________________________
State ________________ Zip _________________ Phone _______________________________
Email ___________________________________ Alt. phone ____________________________

Child/Youth 1—Name (first and last), age, brief description of vision and any additional disabilities:
Child/Youth 2: _________________________________________________________________
Please list additional children/youth on a separate sheet.

How many people?

Prereg. by June 15

On-site reg.


1 Adult                        _____

@ $30

or @ $40

= $______

2 or more Adults  _____

@ $50

or @ $70

= $______

Child/Youth              _____



= $__00__

Total Registering  _____



Total Enclosed: $______

For parents/teachers of blind children:

_____  I would like to receive the NOPBC free national magazine Future Reflections
                _____  in print         _____  as an e-file
_____  This is my first national convention           If not, how many have you attended?  _____
_____  I am a member of my state NFB/POBC
_____  I would like to receive more information about my state NFB/POBC

PLEASE NOTE: Preregistrations postmarked after June 15 will be returned. Also, remember that registrations for the NOPBC Conference and NFB child care are separate and must be mailed to different places.


Second Annual
at the National Federation of the Blind Convention
July 6, 2014, Orlando, FL


Please make checks payable to NOPBC & bring to the event. Donations are tax-deductible.
FUNATHLETE NAME: _____________________________________________________   Goal: $_______

ADDRESS: __________________________________________________________________

PARENT’S EMAIL: ____________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

FUNATHLETE NAME: ______________________________________________________   Goal: $______

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________

Sponsor Name: __________________________________  Pledge/Donation Amount: _______

Address: ____________________________________________________________________

Email:  ______________________________________________________________________


Saturday, July 4        

1:00 PM                        Informal group trip to Wonderworks (time tentative)

Sunday, July 5

7:30 - 8:45 AM              Seminar Registration
9:00 - 10:45 AM            Crafting Your Diamond Seminar General Session (Adults, Children, Youth)
11:00 AM - 12:15 PM   NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
11:00 AM - 12:15 PM   Youth Track
11:00 AM - 12:15 PM   NOPBC Concurrent Workshops
2:00 PM                          NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
2:00 - 4:45 PM              Youth Track
2:00 - 3:15 PM              NOPBC Concurrent Workshops
3:30 - 4:45 PM              NOPBC Concurrent Workshops
5:30 - 7:00 PM              Family Hospitality
7:00 - 8:00 PM              Family Networking
8:00 - 9:30 PM              NOPBC Board Meeting
8:00 - 11:00 PM            Student Social (ages 14 -18); time tentative

Monday, July 6

8:45 - 10:30 AM              Cane Walk Session I (Adults, Children, Youth) 
11:00 AM - 12:45 PM     Cane Walk Session II (Adults, Children, Youth)
11 AM - 12:30 PM          Tween Room
2:45 - 4:00 PM                 Youth Style Show (all ages)
5:45 - 6:15 PM                 Breaking Barriers Funathlon (all ages)
7:30 - 9:30 PM                 Parent Leadership Program

Tuesday, July 7       

10:00 - 10:45 AM        Youth Track (ages 11 - 14)
11:00 - 11:45 AM        Youth Track (ages 14 - 18)
1:00 - 4:00 PM            NOPBC Annual Meeting—you may drop your child off early                                   
                                       in child care this p.m. in order to get to the meeting on time
1:00 - 4:00 PM            Youth Track
2:00 PM                       NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
5:00 - 7:00 PM            Braille Book Fair
7:30 - 9:00 PM            Dad’s Night Out

Wednesday, July 8                

7:00 - 9:00 AM             NOPBC Board Meeting
12:15 - 1:45 PM          Tween Room
7:00 - 9:45 PM             NOPBC Concurrent Workshops
7:00 - 10:00 PM          Children’s Activity (for children whose parents are in the NOPBC workshops)
7:00 - 10:00 PM          Youth Track

Thursday, July 9

12:15 - 1:45 PM          Tween Room
7:30 - 9:30 PM            Parent Leadership Program

Friday, July 10

12:15 - 1:45 PM          Tween Room
12:30 - 1:45 PM          NOPBC Brainstorming

Child Care in Orlando

by Carla McQuillan

Children between the ages of six weeks and twelve years are invited to attend child care during convention sessions this summer. The children will be divided into groups by age, with appropriate toys, games, and activities available to each. Child care is staffed by qualified, experienced teachers, including Michelle Chicone, a certified teacher of blind children.

Child care will be open during all general sessions of the national convention; the NOPBC Conference on Sunday, July 5; and Division Meeting Day on July 7. It will also be open during the convention banquet on Friday, July 10.

Throughout the day, the preschool and elementary-school children in child care will engage in a variety of activities. Activities will include dance, arts and crafts, water play, and daily field trips (available for an additional fee). During the banquet, the children will be provided with dinner and entertainment by Pirate Red, the magician/clown who provided entertainment last year.

For registration information and additional details regarding the program, please visit the NFB website at <www.nfb.org>. The registration deadline is June 15, or as space is available. See you in Orlando!



Braille Book Fair
Elainna Moore--HR Dept.
8901 Atlantic Ave.
Orlando, FL 32824

Calling all Braille readers, teachers, and parents! It's that time again—time to sort through all those boxes and donate those gently used but no longer needed Braille books to the 2015 Braille Book Fair sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. The primary goal is to get more Braille books into the hands of children, youth, and beginning adult readers. Most needed are: print/Braille storybooks (we are looking to distribute 750 print/Braille books to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NFB), leisure reading, cookbooks, and poetry. Children are so hungry for their very own books that every year, despite generous donations, most of our books for young children are gone in less than an hour. Begin your search through those boxes in your basement and attic, and ship your donations to the address above. Please label the side of the box to indicate the type of book it contains. Though you are shipping the books to a UPS office, they can be sent as Free Matter for the Blind by the US Postal Service. Books will be held at the UPS address in Orlando until convention. If you have any questions, or if you would like to volunteer at the Braille Book Fair, contact Crystal Guillory at (318) 245-8955 between 5 and 7 p.m.


2015 Touch of Genius Prize
National Braille Press
88 St. Stephen St.
Boston, MA 02115
Deadline for Submissions: February 1, 2016
The Touch of Genius Prize was established to recognize an individual or group of individuals who contribute to innovation in the field of tactile literacy for blind people. The prize can be granted for innovative, accessible computer software, Android applications, iOS applications, or tactile hardware that promotes Braille and/or tactile literacy. The $20,000 prize is provided through support from the Gibney Family Foundation and National Braille Press.

On April 2, 2015, the 2014 Touch of Genius Prize was awarded to TechBridgeWorld Research Group at Carnegie Mellon University for the Braille Tutor, an automated Braille writing tutor that addresses challenges associated with learning to use a slate and stylus. The Braille Tutor was developed in response to the observed need for enhancing literacy for the blind in the developing world. An honorary mention was presented to Intuitive STEM Accessibility System, an interactive platform to make complex STEM material accessible using a hyperBraille device.

2015 Schneider Family Book Awards
The American Library Association (ALA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Schneider Family Book Awards, which honor an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Each winner receives a $5,000 prize and a framed plaque. The award for books for young children went to A Boy and a Jaguar, written by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by Catia Chien (Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt). The award for the best middle-school title went to Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan). Girls Like Us by Gail Giles (Candlewick Press) won this year's teen award.


Wired Differently Conferences
208 Ash Ave., Suite 103
Virginia Beach, VA 23452
(800) 251-6805
Contact: pd at accutrain.com
Las Vegas: June 22-24, 2015
Atlanta: June 29-July 1, 2015
Niagara Falls: July 15-17, 2015
Now in its third year, the Wired Differently Conference assembles this summer in three locations: Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Niagara Falls. A wide array of critical insights and best practices will be shared for reaching and teaching students with emotional and behavioral conditions—individually, in groups, and in inclusive settings. Some of the most common disorders to be addressed include, but are not limited to, autism, Asperger's syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Wired Differently Conference is part of the Innovative Schools Summits, and attendees enjoy access to all summit keynote presenters and breakout sessions on a space-available basis.

Envision Conference on Low Vision
Contact: Shamain Bachman: (316) 440-1551 or (316) 258-6996
Location: Grand Hyatt Hotel, Denver, CO
Dates: September 9-12, 2015
The tenth annual Envision Conference will offer ophthalmologists, optometrists, occupational therapists, teachers of the visually impaired, and others ninety hours of clinical education and research sessions pertaining to low vision. Many sessions can earn attendees continuing education credits.

Alliance for Braille Literacy
Contact: Joni Bush, jonibush@gmail.com
Location: St. Louis, MO
Dates: October 16-18, 2015
The Alliance for Braille Literacy will hold its third annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. The meeting will begin with a celebration in honor of Dr. Abraham Nemeth’s birthday. The meeting is open to members of ABL and to all those who support the use of Braille in the STEM fields.


USABA 2015 Summer Festival and Rocky Mountain State Games
United States Association of Blind Athletes
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Contact: Matt Simpson, (719) 866-3019
July 21-26, 2015
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Deadline for Applications: June 5, 2015
Through funding from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) will host a summer sports festival in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The focus of the camp is on active duty military and veterans who have experienced vision loss, but all blind or visually impaired athletes are eligible to apply to learn more or sharpen their skills in numerous sports, including goalball, track and field, archery, powerlifting, biathlon, and rock climbing. Camp attendees will also have the opportunity to compete in the Rocky Mountain State Games in multiple sports. Five coaches will also be selected to enhance their sports knowledge.

Visually Impaired Surf Camp
IndoJax Surf Charities
Contact: Jack Viorel, Director: (910) 274-3565
July 13-17, 2015
Location: Wrightsville Beach, NC
IndoJax is a family-owned surf school that has been located near Cape Fear, North Carolina, since 2006. The school prides itself on safety, quality of instruction, and attention to detail. IndoJax Surf Charities is committed to empowering disadvantaged, medically fragile, and special needs children by exposing them to the ocean environment and teaching them to surf. The school believes that the ocean and learning to surf have profound healing properties and can build self-esteem in children with special needs. Surf camps are provided free of charge.



Technology Resource List
Whether you're a novice just getting your feet wet in blindness technology or a pro wanting to keep up with the latest innovations, this list is a comprehensive resource unlike anything else out there. It groups technology by topic, and it gives details about features and pricing.


Volunteer Spot
Volunteer Spot is a website that makes volunteering easier by providing free signup sheets, volunteer scheduling software, and volunteer management software. Whether you're organizing a project or signing up to volunteer your time, this site will prove helpful.

Family Friendly Volunteering, Ideas from A to Z
This site provides an online brochure with a selection of ideas for projects that are both fun and useful to the community. Get ideas for helping animal rescue organizations, running clothing drives, distributing gently used books, collecting used toys for children in foster care, and much more.


Stay Still, Squeaky!
Sonokids Ballyland
Stay Still, Squeaky! is an interactive, accessible audio ebook for the iPad. The book engages children with both sound and visual effects, so blind and visually impaired children can share it with sighted siblings and friends. High-quality audio (narration, sound effects, and song) carries this fun story for very young children. The audio is complemented with graphics in bright colors and strong contrasts. This book is available for download through the Apple Store.

White Cane Day
by Kristin Grender
Illustrated by Jacob Slovacek
ISBN: 9781633186071
Kristin Grender is a TVI and O&M instructor in Wisconsin. After searching in vain for a book that would explain White Cane Day to her students, she decided to write one herself. This book for very young children presents White Cane Day from a child's point of view.


Norton Anthology of Western Music
The National Library Service Music Section has added the sixth edition of the Norton Anthology of Western Music to its Braille collection. This new edition adds more music and also includes a third volume dedicated solely to twentieth-century composers such as Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin, and Morton Feldman. The hardcopy Braille text consists of twenty volumes, providing historical notes, tactile graphics, and other contextual information. The book can be ordered from the NLS Music Section using Catalog No. BRM 36037, or it can be downloaded in electronic Braille from NLS BARD. The NLS Music Library contains Braille and large-print musical scores and manuals on teaching and transcribing Braille music.


Childhood Explorer
Association for Childhood Education International
Childhood Explorer is an online publication that focuses on the experience of childhood around the world. It includes informative and inspirational stories about childhood and about projects and campaigns that provide quality education, care, and support to children and youth in diverse communities and circumstances.

Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly
Contact: Kim Vecchio, (800) 747-4457, Extension 2279
Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly is an international, multidisciplinary journal designed to stimulate and communicate high scholarly inquiry related to physical activity for special needs populations. Articles are informed by a range of disciplines, including corrective therapy, gerontology, health care, occupational therapy, pediatrics, physical education, dance, sports medicine, physical therapy, recreation, and rehabilitation.


America the Beautiful--National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass
Contact: (888) 275-8747 (ASK-USGS)
The National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and several other federal agencies that manage parks and recreational areas offer a lifetime pass, free of charge, to any US citizen who has a permanent disability. Free annual passes are also available to members of the US military and their dependents. The pass allows the holder and accompanying passengers in a single, private, noncommercial vehicle to enter federally operated recreation sites across the country.


Free Transportation Guide
Mississippi State University National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision
A Transportation Guide for Persons Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision offers creative ideas for transportation options and tips on using specific modes of transportation. The guide can be downloaded in PDF or MS Word formats.


NFB Independence Market
200 E. Wells St. at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230
Contact: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2216
The Independence Market of the National Federation of the Blind sells a variety of toys and games that can be enjoyed by blind and sighted players. Among them are backgammon, checkers, chess, nine man morris, sudoku, and an assortment of Braille playing cards.

64-Ounce Games
Contact: richard@64ouncegames.com
64-Ounce Games is a print-on-demand company that has created accessibility kits for more than fifty popular board and card games. In order to use an accessibility kit, you must have a retail version of the game. A sampling of the games available through the 64-Ounce Store includes Apples to Apples, Boss Monster, Cards Against Humanity, Citadels, Coin Age, and Coloretto.

Braille Games and Fun Toys for the Blind
Braille Superstore
The Braille Superstore offers card games and accessories, dominoes and dice, board games, and brain teasers. The sporting goods section features top quality balls with bells inside and wireless beeping units.

Perkins Solutions
Perkins Solutions sells a variety of games, puzzles, and toys for the blind, including large-print Bingo cards, Braille Rummicub, Braille Uno cards, Sudoku Touch, and the Audio Dart Master Talking Dartboard.

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