[blindkid] Community track

H. Field missheather at comcast.net
Fri Apr 9 17:44:12 UTC 2010

Dear Carly,
Firstly, I encourage you to be thankful for the commissioner. She is 
teaching you early on in your child's life that he will face ignorance 
and fear-based discrimination as he chooses to take part in life in 
the community. You will need to learn how to deal with this and teach 
him what you learn so that he can advocate for himself as soon as 
possible and into his adult life. You shouldn't be shocked, indeed you 
should generally expect that you will encounter this kind of reaction. 
As the NFB explanation says, blindness is not the problem; it's the 
misconceptions and lack of understanding about blindness that cause 
problems. We have no evidence to suggest that this will change in the 
near future, so better to accept it and learn to deal with it in a 
positive way for all concerned.

Secondly, as this track organisation is, in fact, an organisation you 
should expect that there are policies and you should show good will by 
enquiring about them and complying. If there is a formal request 
policy then you should follow it. This is very much to your, and your 
child's advantage, because it will be very clear to all as to exactly 
what you are and are not requesting. If you aren't asking for special 
accommodations then that is what you can write on the form. I would 
fill in and submit the form as soon as possible. I would also 
completely ignore the drivel from the commissioner. If there is a 
board and there are policies, and you aren't asking for special 
accommodations then I don't see that there will be any problems 
arising from what she might say. The fact that this treatment of you 
and your child has happened is annoying but, sadly, fairly normal. It 
is your job to respond positively and firmly. You may wish to attach a 
cover letter to your form which says something like the following:

Dear board members,
Thank you for being so organised with your policies for children with 
disabilities. I have attached a request form detailing what my child 
does and does not need. You will be pleased to read that he needs only 
minimal accommodations in the form of------.

I was also please to speak with your Commissioner On Special Needs and 
as she told me she has never worked with and has had absolutely no 
experience with blind children, I enjoyed the opportunity to converse 
with someone used to accommodating children with special needs and 
educate her about the needs unique to blind children.

When I spoke with one of the coaches who will be working with my child 
I was also very impressed with the calibre of your volunteers and I 
know that my child will have a very positive time learning to be part 
of a sporting team. Spending the first five years of his life in an 
orphanage has severely limited my child's life experiences and this is 
a wonderful opportunity for him to learn how to have fun with other 
children, make friends and be successful as he tries new things. When 
he is finally ready to formally compete in a year or two I know it 
will be as a result of the kind teaching and support he receives from 
(name organisation). I look forward to being part of this wonderful 

Yours sincerely,


If you write such a letter, you are very diplomatically describing the 
situation to the board, laying out your request, your expectations and 
clearly showing them that you - the obvious expert on blind children 
because you have one - know far more about the needs of blind children 
than their commissioner who has, with her own mouth, told everyone 
that she hasn't worked with blind children before. The board will get 
the message as to who should be trusted regarding the danger, or lack 
thereof, for your blind child and other children on the team. Take the 
opportunity when conversing with members of the board to complement 
them on how well they meet ADA requirements. This will communicate to 
them in a very diplomatic manner that you know your child's rights.

In over 40 years of advocating for myself as a blind person, I have 
found that this is the best initial approach to take. Most of the time 
you are educating people and dispeling their inaccurate stereotypes 
and wrong thinking. You gain nothing by being confrontational and 
threatening and putting them on the defensive. People will defend 
themselves if you threaten them; it is instinct and it often has 
little to do with what is right of fair. You can always go to the next 
level if you need to. However, Brian will be far better off if you 
make these people your friends. Resentful, unhappy people can make his 
time with the team much less valuable.

Incidentally, I would work on desensitising him to the sound of the 
gun. This is very doable and will make a big difference for him in 
track. Please let us know how it all works out.

Warmest regards,

Heather Field

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carly B" <barnesraiser at gmail.com>
To: <blindkid at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Thursday, April 08, 2010 10:29 PM
Subject: [blindkid] Community track

Hi all! I'm an avid reader of this list and I am so impressed with the
excellent advice and support that's offered here! So I'm coming to you 
for a
bit of that for our family. We adopted our son Brian two years ago. He 
albinism and with it, low vision. He is 7 years old and in 1st grade. 
signed him up for community Track this spring. He had his first 
tonight. In an effort to create a comfortable adjustment, I contacted 
coach (it's a husband/wife team, and I spoke with the wife) and asked 
her if
I could tell her a little bit about our son. We had a very pleasant,
hour-long conversation. She has a teaching background, a son with a
disability, and seemed very understanding, warm, and willing to be
accommodating. That said, I didn't ask for any "unusual" 
accommodations, like
equipment or a one-on-one coach. His needs actually relate more to his
having been institutionalized for the first five years of his life, 
and he
is still playing catch-up in terms of skills like jumping with both 
feet and
landing with both feet, as well as other coordination skills. I 
that he has a strong aversion to loud sounds, especially sudden 
sounds, and
that he cannot stand the sound of the gun. I said that I want him to
participate in practices but not in meets, and that in the next year 
or so
when he is better able to tolerate the gun then he can start attending
meets. For now, I just want him to have the peer experience and 
gain some skill and confidence. She said she thought that was an 

Well, when I arrived at practice, the Track Commissioner was there. 
She came
over and greeted me, and then proceeded to explain to me that she is 
concerned about Brian's safety and the safety of the other players. 
mentioned this at least three times in the course of our 45-minute
conversation. I was shocked... will I ever stop being shocked? She 
also said
that the "Board" has a policy on the website (implying strongly that I
should have known about it and read it ahead of time) that requires 
child with special needs must have a written request for 
accommodations. (She
had a copy with her. It's dated December, 1998) It states that the 
must be made in writing, it must include "the child's name, parent's 
the sport, diagnosis and its affect on the child's ability to 
participate in
the sport, as well as the type of accommodation requested" and must be
submitted to the Board, and that "No request for accommodation will be
considered if these procedures are not followed." In other words, my 
the coach to discuss Brian ahead of time was woefully insufficient. 
policy also states: "Reasonable accommodations are actions, which can 
taken that will not place undue hardship on the association and its 
No accommodation will be granted which will expose any participant to 
undue risk of harm." As far as I could determine, this policy has not 
updated since 1998. (I should add that I'm pretty certain that the
Commissioner involved herself when the coach contacted her to ask 
whether there was any other signal they could use other than the gun. 
was a suggestion the coach made to me in our conversation, not the 
other way
around, and I specifically said this probably wasn't fair to ask for 
something I wouldn't expect. I think she was bending over backwards to
accommodate us, and asked the Commissioner about it on our behalf... 
the visit to practice tonight.)

The Commissioner mentioned that "special needs" are her "area" but 
when I
asked for specifics, she said she is an elementary school 
working with kids who have autism, ADHD, EBD and the like but has 
worked with a blind or low vision child before. I tried to take this 
as an
opportunity to educate, but it was not easy. She was the most ignorant 
resistant person I've come into contact with to date. In the course of 
conversation, she stressed that her coaches are all volunteers and 
that it
was very unfair to think that they should accommodate Brian in any 
way. She
added that many of them would probably quit if a child like Brian were 
enroll on their team. She admitted, however, that Brian's coach didn't
complain about anything I had told her about Brian and did not seem 
concerned. I told her that it was never my intention to drop and go, 
that I would be doing much of the accomodating myself. (I had said 
this to
the coach in our earlier conversation.) Toward the end of our 
she added that she is also very concerned about how other parents will 
when they see Brian in Track. Then she said, "You know what I mean, 
sure." I said, "Actually, I really haven't met anyone who has been 
about Brian in that way." She seemed very fixated on the idea that 
presence creates some kind of grave danger for everyone involved.

I am wondering specifically if ADA or IDEA address what in my opinion 
is a
draconian policy, and whether this organization falls under the 
umbrella of
either. It's a community sports organization which as far as I can 
doesn't receive any funding from the school district, but does use the
public school facilities. I'm not thinking about bringing legal 
action, but
I like to know what the law provides, more as an opportunity to 
educate, not
to bully.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts. God bless! --Carolynn Barnes
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