Future Reflections         Convention Report 2008

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Blind Youth IMAGINE the Future

by Kayleigh Joiner, Jordan Richardson, and Anna Catherine Walker
A panel presentation at the NOPBC Annual Parents Seminar
June 29, 2008, Dallas, Texas

Editor’s Note: There is little that will grab parents’ attention faster at a seminar than an agenda item presented by children or youth. We all love to talk about our kids, and we love to hear the kids speak about their experiences, hopes, and dreams for the future.  This year we had three blind kids on our panel: Kayleigh Joiner, a high school student from Pearland, Texas; Jordan Richardson, a sophomore from Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Anna Catherine Walker, a second grader from McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania. With an optimism and excitement that was contagious to all within hearing, these three spunky youngsters presented the following remarks to an audience of enthusiastic parents, teachers, and blind Federation friends of the NOPBC. Here is what they said:

Kayleigh Joiner Photo Courtesy of Bobby CunninghamRemarks by Kayleigh Joiner:
One day my mom and I were having a conversation. I asked her, “Is Texas the only state that has problems with educating blind kids?” She said “No, definitely not.”

When you are young and just starting school, your parents think that your CTVI--certified teacher of the visually impaired--is the most knowledgeable person about blindness; or at least that is how it was for me. Little did my parents know how wrong they were. It deeply saddens me to say that in all of my years of education I have never had a good CTVI. It seems like no one knew what they were doing. My mom was, and continues to act like, my CTVI by searching the Internet for new technology, attending conferences, and helping me to understand concepts that I just don't get. Education is the steppingstone to just about everything else in life. If you don't receive a good education then you will struggle in college and in work.

People’s perceptions of my blindness have caused many different reactions. For example, when my O&M [orientation and mobility] teacher and I were learning the layout of my new high school, the secretary of the school took one look at me with my cane and said, “Are you going to be in Mrs. Brenda Taylor’s class?”

She was referring to the life skills class. My O&M teacher looked at the receptionist and said “No.” We both couldn't believe her reaction.

Some people automatically assume that just because we have a cane, that we have other problems too. While that may be the case for some people, it isn't true for everyone. Blind people can be academic students, too. My mom has told me that when I was young people would never address me directly when asking a question. They would always ask my mom. She would say, “Well she's right here, so why don't you ask her yourself? She can speak you know!”

I believe that it is important to help change the perception of what it is to be blind. I also feel that it is not just the adults that are misjudging us; it is also the children. I believe that is the reason why some kids make fun of others. It is because they themselves aren't sure of what it means to be blind, and are afraid to ask. In response kids will sometimes tease or even bully.

All of what I have gone through and all of what I have heard my friends have gone through has helped me to realize my calling in life. I feel that my calling is to teach. I feel that if I were to teach elementary education then perhaps the children would see that I--a blind person--could do the same job as a sighted teacher. Just because someone is different doesn't mean that he or she is any less of a person than you are. I won't be nurturing pity, but more of understanding and compassion. I also might tutor blind kids on the side. The way I look at it is this: Who better to teach you about blindness skills than a blind person herself?

In sixth grade I was blessed to have an amazing science teacher. She taught everything--from the Periodic Table of the Elements to genetics to the scientific method--all to song. And to this day I can still remember what she taught me. She took concepts that were hard for me to grasp and made them as clear as day. It is because of what she did that inspired me to want to teach in the same way. I know that I want to incorporate music into whatever I do because music is my life and joy.

I believe that blind children can do ANYTHING that they set their minds to. You just might have to be a little bit creative in coming up with a solution on how to do it. If you are having trouble coming up with something then there are listservs, parent groups, and organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind that you can join and get help [from]. I believe that with the proper training and right attitude that blind people can do whatever they want and live happy independent lives.

I am very fortunate to have joined the NFB. They [the members] have helped me to broaden my horizon of possible occupations that I might want to have as a career. They have given me another family that I can proudly say I belong to. They don't put any limitations on me and they show me that anything is possible. This organization has enriched my life to the fullest, and I will forever be thankful.

Jordan RichardsonRemarks (a poem) by Jordon Richardson:

So You Want to Be…

Part I: For The Kids
So you want to be a…

Whatever your heart desires,
Here are some things
That you will need:
Excellent travel skills,
A thirst for knowledge,
And the idea that blind is respectable.

Have you heard
That blind people have done it before?
Dr. Jacob Bolotin
Or Senator Thomas Pryor Gore?
So you want to be a…
Dog whisperer.

Whichever one you choose
You will surely succeed
If you take the advice
That I know you'll need.

Be on time to your job,
Don't accept unneeded help,
And you won't get caught in a mob
Of the unemployed.

Before you decide
What you will be--
When you are still quite young--
Make sure you learn Braille
And the screen-reader called JAWS.
Don't be late to class.
Turn homework in on time.
Work hard to be sure
You do more than just pass.

As well as all of these,
You know that you need
The attitude
That you can succeed.

To be successful
You know what you need?
You need an attitude
Of determination and pride.
Don't ever feel
The cane is something to hide.

No matter what it be,
Don't give up on your dream.
Don't listen to the mustn’t, the won'ts, or the shouldn'ts.
Lots of blind people who have succeeded
Were told that they couldn't.

To reach your dream
You need confidence--
And that you can receive
From the people in this room,
As well as those you find in Kernel books,
Or here at convention.

To be successful,
You know what you need?
You need to read fluently--
Which you can do by reading a lot.
Read Braille and
Read it a lot.
Read it whether you want to or not.
Find something that you like
And take it wherever you go.

I've read a book
On a bus,
In a tree,
Under the covers is just fine with me.
I can do it,
So can you.

If you don't believe me,
You know you can call
Mr. Jerry Whittle
Or Mrs. Barbara Cheadle.
They won't mind at all.

Part II:  For The Parents
So, you want your kid to be…

Here are some things
You will need to do:
Take them everywhere
With the cane.
(Forgetting it
Will bring later strain.)
Be the mean parent,
And make them do chores.

This you must do
To be really sure
That your child
Grows up confidently.
To make sure
Your child learns real good,
You know what you should do?
You should push the school
To get him Braille.

To get your child
The perfect education,
You know what you should do?
You should educate the teachers
About blindness and what to do.

If you have any more questions,
You know whom you should call?
Call Dr. Ruby Ryles
And Dr. Fred Schroeder, too.
They won't mind at all if you do.

Part III: Back To The Kids
So you want to be…
Olympic Champion.
Maybe you'll be the first.

So you want to be a…
You want it so bad you could burst.

To become successful,
You know where you should go?
To the NFB's Buddy programs
In Louisiana,
Or Minnesota, too.
To become successful
In whatever you choose,
Go to these places
Where I know you won't lose.

Go to
YMCA programs.
Try a summer camp or two.
Until you find one that you like,
Try a few.

If you want to go
To the Buddy program,
Tell your parents to call these three:
Call Ms. Shawn Mayo,
Ms. Pam Allen,
And Ms. Julie Deden, too.
They'll be happy if you do.

Part IV: Finally, For The Parents Again
So you want your child to be…
A good choice maker.
Goal Setting.

If you want your child
To be all three,
Take this advice
And you'll yell with glee!

To help your children
Be the best that they can be,
It takes togetherness
To be all that they can be.

To help your child
Achieve this success,
Show them the NFB
And programs they provide.
If you need any more help
You know you can call
Dr. Marc Maurer,
And Ms. Carrie Gilmer, too,
They'll be ecstatic if you do.



Anna Catherine WalkerRemarks by Anna Catherine Walker:
Braille is important because people who need it can learn to read. And reading helps you get a job, and jobs help you get money, and money gets you things that you need to live with.

When I grow up, I will be a Braille teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a veterinarian, a librarian, a music teacher, and the President of the United States of America.

I don't want to be the first female President because it would take too long, but I want to be the first blind female President.


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