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Letters From Federationists

Editor's Note: One of the main purposes of the NFB:AE is to bring blind people together in local, provincial, and national meetings to discuss common problems and work together to formulate solutions. Ninety Canadians attended the recent National Federation of the Blind Convention in New Orleans. It would be impossible to re-print all of the letters explaining what the experience has meant to blind adults and parents of blind children. The following is a representative sample:

From Toronto, Ontario

At the first Canadian delegates' meeting on June 29 in New Orleans, you addressed the need to send NFB:AE members to National Federation of the Blind conventions in the US. The privilege of attending, you described as a gift. After attending my first convention, I feel this is an understated description, based on the whole experience.

For a while, I have searched for a group that pushes action forcefully behind its words and ideas. Throughout the convention, the resonant and unanimous drive for "Security, Equality, and Opportunity" was inspiring and helped resolve my search. Having only known the CNIB, the notion of "the blind leading the blind" was one of particular concern. Thus, from the moment of arrival at the convention, to have fellow blind persons operating every aspect and detail, helped consolidate my feelings towards the Federation. President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan further inspired my Federationist feelings through their incredibly moving speeches.

My interest in R & D and technology was satiated by the numerous meetings of like focus. Discovering technology issues I had not considered, and being surrounded by so many brilliant minds, was fairly intimidating. Trading ideas and solutions to both common and obscure problems, I hope will contribute to a climate of solidarity which our community needs.

The scope of topics addressed during the convention was impressive. There was either a division, committee, or group to assist with every aspect of living as a person with a vision impairment. From education to business or from law to parenting, the phrase "something for everyone" truly applies. It is comforting to know that there are organized groups from whom support can be derived at different states of life. This allowed me to further understand your push for attendance at the US conventions.

It would be easy to go on for pages laying out what I gained from this convention. I would like to say thank you for the gift of the ability to attend the 1997 National Federation of the Blind, New Orleans convention. I must add that it feels awkward offering a simple "thank you" in light of what I have received.

Yours sincerely, David Senf

From Spruce Grove, Alberta

The convention was a real experience. It was wonderful to see so many wonderful blind role models. The message that is being carried forward by the NFB is most heartening to us as parents. To meet with and listen to blind individuals who are confident, self-actualizing persons went a long way to allay our fears as parents and convince us that Benjamin would indeed be OK. For his part, Benjamin also very much enjoyed the proceedings. He was very interested in hearing the various professionals speak about their successes.

We are very thankful for the opportunity to have attended the convention. We look forward to other opportunities to meet with and discuss common issues related to parenting a blind child.

We look forward to our next meeting. Roy and Dianne McConnell

From Brantford, Ontario

I would like to thank you and the NFB:AE for the opportunity extended to Greg, Shannon and myself to attend the convention in New Orleans. As parents of a multi-handicapped sixteen year old girl we are always looking for ideas and suggestions to improve her quality of life.

Shannon attended the first aid/baby-sitting course on the first day of the conference. She was excited about getting together with her friend Sarah Mainland. Two positive things came out of the day. First, Shannon was able to socialize with other teenage girls her age. Second, for whatever reason, she decided her cane was a useful tool and has used it since. Up until this day, Shannon only used her cane at school if it was convenient for her.

The high point of the week was the afternoon we spent with Mr. Joe Cutter the pediatric O & M specialist. Mr. Cutter was able to show Shannon and ourselves various caning techniques that suit her capabilities. We have also seen an increase in Shannon's understanding of her surroundings with the new NFB cane.

We found the National Federation of the Blind to be an incredible organization for blind and visually impaired people who are academically inclined. These people will have the support and encouragement to go into higher levels of education and careers. For the more complicated individual the NFB:AE can be a good source of information and networking.

We would also like to applaud all the people involved in organizing the convention. The hotel accommodations, the shuttle service between hotels and all of the information available to us was exceptional.

The convention gave us the opportunity to see other blind individuals in action. We have learned that with time and proper training Shannon does have the opportunity to be as independent as she is capable of being. We thank you for the experience of seeing our child from a different perspective.

Yours truly, Darlene and Greg Hall

From Victoria, BC

The experience has changed many people's lives and will no doubt have far reaching impacts for many who attended. Kay Cahoun, who attended the convention as a guide for Maryam Youseffi, has already begun studying Braille and hopes to complete a combined course in rehabilitation and orientation and mobility. Brad Erhardt and Don Urquart are joining forces to open their own computer programming business. Tepi Hughes noted that she is now doing independent traveling in Victoria-a feat that she did not have the confidence to attempt prior to the convention. Elizabeth Rotenburger echoed many other people's comments when she noted that perhaps the most memorable experience for her was the experience of being part of a majority instead of a minority and realizing that she was not the only one with her particular eye condition. She also noted that meeting so many successful people in her chosen field of journalism has given her a sense of renewed commitment and faith that her goals can be reached.

Sincerely, Sandi Dewdney