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Tips & Advice for Convention

Members of the 2017-2018 NOPBC Board of Directors share some tips with you about attending NOPBC Conference & the NFB Convention.

Carol Castellano -Board Member

Many of us go to our first convention after reading articles and comments by Federation leaders.  When we go to the convention, we realize that these people are there, too.  Feel free to find them and talk to them.  (Since we sit in state delegations during the big convention sessions, it's easy to find people.)  Our tradition in the Federation is to "make appointments" with those to whom you'd like to speak.  I don't think anybody has ever turned us down!  It's your big chance to talk to the leaders--don't be shy!

Carol Akers -Board Member

1. Bring a sweater or jacket because meeting rooms tend to be cool. 2. Food- eating in restaurants all week is expensive, but there is always a grocer near the hotels. Buy breakfast items, fruit, a few snack items, even lunch items and save  your funds for dinner at the end of your day.  We have purchased a loaf of bread, lunch meat and cheese, etc to carry a lunch with us and not have to wait in line to order lunch. Saves time. 3. Bring a notebook to take notes, names, share information and pens, highlighters to mark items of importance. 4. Shoes-Walking shoes! 5. Exhibit hall- a must see, but plan to go back more than once. 6. Free Braille book fair- don't overlook this for your child, it is an amazing opportunity. 7. Pack and repack. Make it easier  for yourself by not overpacking. 8. But do pack a bathing suit. 9. Just relax, it is overwhelming the first time, but it is also exciting, amazing and fun and never be afraid to ask someone for advice, directions, or say hello. 10. This is one place that your family can feel all included, not different, no explanation needed.

Penny Duffy - Secretary

I like to reserve my room early in January. This is the first step for me. I like to be in the convention hotel and I want to make sure it doesn't sell out.  I try and break up all my major convention travel purchaces I buy airline tickets in April, Register for the NFB Convention in May and then do the NOPBC Conference registration in June.  This helps me spread out the costs.  Depending on who from my family is coming I try and share the room with another mom and her family. I also try and eat in the room for breakfast and lunch.  I have gotten rides to the supermarket or even gotten groceries delivered to the hotel!  Not having to worry about breakfast and lunch not only saves a lot of money but also is a huge time saver.  Highlights for me is the NOPBC conference, General Session, the Exhibit Hall and just meeting new people and catching up with old friends.   Pace yourself.  You don't have to do everything.  

Melissa Riccobono - Board Member

The convention is a marathon-not a sprint. So remember to pace yourself. The agenda is packed with "must see/must do" items, but there are so many thatno one can possibly fit all of them in. And, especially if you are bringing your children with you, remember they will need down time, and that is perfectly all right! So, look at the agenda each day and highlight all of the things you'd like to do. Then, make a plan. If there are a lot of things going on in the evening, perhaps it makes sense to let everyone sleep in a bit in the morning, or come back to your room for a rest in the afternoon, so the evening will be more enjoyable for everyone. Also, divide and conquer tends to work well if this is an option. Perhaps you go to a meeting by yourself while someone else watches your children, and then you switch.

Make sure to look at the speakers scheduled during the general sessions. These speakers are chosen for a reason, and so many have wonderful stories to share that will truly help parents and kids understand what it means anddoes not mean to be blind. It's all right to walk in and out of general session, so choosing even a few speeches you want to listen to is much better than skipping general sessions altogether.

The opening session is a lot of fun for families, so consider taking your kids with you. There is usually entertainment and there is nothing like being in the room when the gavel comes down to call the convention to order.

Finally, this is truly a safe place for you and your children to ask questions, interact with others, and try new things. Depending on their age, let your children explore, try new things, and practice new skills. This is truly what the convention is all about.

Tabatha Mitchell - Board Member

We use points to book our hotel so we never stay in Convention hotel. We find a hotel with kitchen setup & drive over each day. We always go to Costco at beginning of trip. We always drive. We pack a cooler bag, 1 jacket, long pants & long sleeves for everyone. We’re hikers so we think like hikers. Pack light. You carry out what you carry in. No one is going to carry your stuff. If you don’t want to keep up with it or carry it, don’t bring it. 

We do pack a cooler bag for the entire family for the day. It includes lunch (usually sandwiches) & some snacks that travel well. I generally have my entire family there (4 or 5 kids) including a grandmother & a friend or two. Everyone gets a bottle of water as we get in the van to come over in the morning. They have to keep up with their bottle or spend their own money to buy drinks. (The kids earn $ by doing odd jobs at home & this continues on trips/vacations.) 

An adult is assigned cooler duty each day & we determine the carrier based on who’s doing what each day. We do encourage them to interact with groups/federationists that are selling snacks as fundraisers at convention instead of going to hotel snack shops & lunch lines. We do however let them make a trip into the shop & stand in line so they can observe the blindies living life. We also want them to FEEL the burn of their hard earned $ leaving their pocket for a $5 brownie that smelled SO good but really wasn’t. 

My kids & family & friends are expected to work tables, volunteer & actively participate during the week. Every body has an agenda of their assignments/expectations for the day. Every morning we cover who will be where when. This addresses pickups & drop offs. (We do this at home every morning as well so this is their routine.) Generally kids/dad/nanny get to pick their activities/sessions, but sometimes they get assigned activities or sessions or jobs based on what I need covered. Kids normally do Youth Track & sighties are expected to participate along with the blindies. 

Sighted kids are sent through the Independence Market to look at things & think of things we may need for Eme. This is an extremely valuable part of learning for the sighted family members. We look first. Discuss findings over dinner or while at the pool later. Determine what needs to be bought at what part of life. Knowing what tools are available is a huge part of inclusive thinking for my sighted kids. They take their awareness & knowledge back to their teachers & other kids. To me, that’s the absolute biggest win. My sighted kids don’t take excuses because they know there are tools. They offer the solutions they’ve seen with their own eyes & touched at the Independence Market & teachers/caregivers are taught on the spot by them & the teachers don’t get to slide by. Huge. Huge. Huge part of Convention experience for us. Especially the initial years. 


Carlton Cook Walker​- Board Member

Ten Tips for Parents at the National Federation of the Blind Convention by Carlton Anne Cook Walker, J.D., M.B.A., M.Ed (blog post)

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