From the mailbag . . .

Are you interested or know someone who might be interested in pursuing work in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) after high school? Do you enjoy investing your talent and energy in solving real-world problems? Join the National Federation of the Blind for NFB EQ, a week-long engineering program for blind and low-vision high school students.

At this program, you will collaborate with other students to solve authentic problems that exist in developing countries. You will spend the week working on a team to engineer solutions to a given problem. Your team will create proposals with accompanying models, which you will pitch to various stakeholders. After constructing life-size prototypes of your designs, you will test them in authentic settings. You will also have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with a number of engineers from across the country, some of whom happen to be blind.

To learn more and to apply, visit

The Specs

Participants: 40 blind and low-vision high school students (currently in grades 9-12); 20 students at each of the two programs.

Dates: Program 1: June 19-25, 2016; Program 2: July 31-August 6, 2016

Location: National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland

Application: Apply Now! Applications are due by Monday, April 25, 2016.

Cost: $0 (This program is free of charge).

Hashtag: #NCBYS

Additional Information

  • To be eligible to apply students must: be in grades 9-12 during the 2015-2016 school year, be blind or have low-vision, be a United States resident, and be available to attend the entire program.
  • Participant’s transportation to and from the program will be arranged by the National Federation of the Blind. Students will travel to Baltimore on Sunday and will travel home on the following Saturday.
  • This is a residential program; students will stay in dormitories at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and all meals will be provided.
  • In the evenings, after the conclusion of the instructional day, students will be engaged in various social and recreational activities.

What are students saying about EQ?

“Engineering isn’t about following instructions to the letter. It’s changing on the fly. It takes a set of skills to fundamentally change something to make it better while you’re working on it.”

“I’ve been taking engineering classes at school and now that I know there are tools [and] drafting boards. I’m going to ask for [them] next year. This program has made me more confident in what I can do.”

“Expectations for blind are really low. This program showed us all that there is a way to do things we never thought we could do. I always thought STEM seemed kind of impossible, but there are tools, techniques, and there is a way to integrate into the real world.”

“Participating in this program gave me the determination to push forward. If I hear someone say you can’t, I will push forward.”


If you have questions or require additional information, please contact:


Natalie Shaheen

NCBYS Project Director

Independent Consultant

National Federation of the Blind

410-659-9314, extension 2418


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1322855.


Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Winter/Spring Challenger Programs

The YMCA Challenger program is gearing up for Winter/Spring sports.  Challenger athletics are for anyone with a disability from ages 3-30; they also offer a variety of meet-ups for teens and older children.  We’re getting ready to try our very first Challenger program this Spring (soccer!!)–who knows, we might see you there!

From the mailbag:


Challenger Update: We are starting 2016 off strong and celebrating 10 years of Challenger! We finished Court Sports at Oxford Middle School with a near record breaking 40 participants! This past Saturday, 24 young adults joined us at Snow Creek for a fun afternoon of snow tubing- WOW that was a blast! Challenger is having our big fashion show next Saturday, January 30- for more information, click HEREA couple of our very own Johnson County young adults will be models for this annual benefit- looking forward to a fun night!
We have some GREAT things planned. Check out our upcoming sports and young adult events:
Sports (AGES 4 and OLDER):
BOWLING FEBRUARY 2- MARCH 8 Tuesday nights from 6-7 pm at AMF College Lanes (10201 College Blvd, Overland Park, KS)- SIGN UP NOW- SPOTS ARE FILLING QUICKLY!!!
SOCCER-  MARCH 23- APRIL 27 Wednesday nights from 6-7 pm at Arrowhead Administrative Center (6601 Santa Fe Dr, Overland Park, KS) 
Young Adult Events (AGES 12 and OLDER):
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6- VALENTINE’S ART  12:30-3:30 pm at Paul Henson YMCA (4200 W 79th Street, Prairie Village, KS)-
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12- VALENTINE’S PARTY *NORTH KC YMCA   5- 8:30 pm at North Kansas City YMCA (1999 Iron Street, North Kansas City, MO)- 
You can register online (see our web page- or call any YMCA (Paul Henson- 913-642-6800).
Thank you to those who have already registered! Please let me know if you have ANY questions about the program. We are always looking for more athletes and buddies :) If you are a new participant- WELCOME!
Hope to talk to you soon,

Rachel Oswald, CTRS
Adaptive Program Coordinator
YMCA of Greater Kansas City
Paul Henson Family YMCA
4200 W 79th Street
Prairie Village, KS 66208
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Adaptive Yoga

MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital in Overland Park is offering an Adaptive Yoga class for people with disabilities and their families on the last Tuesday of every month.  I’ve attached a .pdf of the first month’s invitation here: SCIintrotoyoga1.26.16

Posted in Events, Kansas, Kansas City Metro Area, Overland Park, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ms. Wheelchair Kansas

From the mailbag . . .

I am writing to ask for help! We have extended our deadline for Ms
Wheelchair applicants this year, but we are having difficulty
finding women who may be interested.

Do you or your colleagues know of any wheelchair-mobile women who we
might contact to tell them about our program?

If you know of anyone who may also know, please forward this on! I
know they are out there, I just need to find them!

Thank you so much,

Carrie Sunday
Ms Wheelchair Kansas 2015
​ ​


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Resolutions and Marble Mazes

I have been a terrible blogger this past year.  Despite my best intentions, I let time get away from me and didn’t get much of anything published.  My apologies.  This year, I’m hoping to do better:  I’ve resolved to post once a month, more if I can.  Here’s hoping for a bloggier 2016!

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce Peanut’s absolute FAVORITE Christmas gift from last year:  

a marble maze.  (The photo above features Peanut playing with his marble maze in our upstairs hallway.)  Also known as a marble run, it features brightly-colored plastic pieces that can be slotted together to make awesome, complicated, noisy pathways for marbles to run down.  He has had some trouble keeping track of the marbles, true, but this has still been an engaging toy for him. 

I think any B/VI kiddo could enjoy one of these with a little assistance–the marbles make a ton of noise as they travel through the maze, making them easy to track, and the toy is easy to put together in all sorts of configurations.  Once the child understands the concept of gravity as it applies to the maze (things must tilt down for them to work), this toy provides hours and hours of entertainment.  

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KSSB Summer Programs

This year was Peanut’s very first year at the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB) summer school.  It was a three week program that ended this past Friday with a musical extravaganza, and I cannot recommend it enough.  Peanut got to spend three weeks immersed in a school where everyone was like him, and we think it did wonders for his self-esteem.  He also learned a lot–without always realizing it–and had a lot of fun.  He came home excitedly to tell us about:

  • swimming
  • fishing
  • playing t-ball
  • sliding on a water slide (like a Slip n’ Slide)
  • riding bicycles
  • rollerskating.

He came home daily with a sheet of paper tucked in his backpack that explained what he’d done in school for social skills, O&M, technology, and other aspects of the Expanded Core Curriculum, so we had a good idea of what he’d been doing even when he didn’t want to tell us all about it.  If you’re in the Kansas City area and have a school-aged child with a vision impairment, be sure to check out KSSB’s summer programs for next year.  You’ll be glad you did.

Information on this year’s program:


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Adventures in Reading: Can You Make a Scary Face?

The cover of Can You Make a Scary Face?Sprout’s current absolute favorite book–I’ve read it at least 20 times now, most of those in a row, since we checked it out on Saturday–is Jan Thomas’ Can You Make a Scary Face?  The book features a brightly-colored lady bug that speaks directly to the reader, asking him or her to play make believe with the bug.

One of the inner pages of the book.  The lady bug is on the right page, and the left page instructs the reader to "Pretend you have a tiny bug on your nose.  WIGGLE IT OFF!"The pictures are large, simple, and high-contrast, making them easy for my VI kiddo to see.  The best part, however, is interacting with the book; this book shows that reading can be fun by having kids get up, sit down, laugh, dance, and wiggle.

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Crown Center’s Fairy Tale Village

Location:  The bottom floor of Crown Center by the Coterie Theatre.  Crown Center is at 2450 Grand Blvd in Kansas City, MO.

Cost:  Free!  They can also validate your parking.

Web site

A few weekends ago, we ventured out to a play date at the Fairy Tale Village exhibit at Crown Center.  It was definitely improved from the last time we saw a Fairy Tale Village there–the walking spaces were wider, and it wasn’t quite as cramped–but it was still an incredible mad-house, overflowing with children who clearly hadn’t been out of the house in a while.  Lesson learned: skip the Fairy Tale Village on the weekends.

Peanut and Sprout ran around as wildly as the other children, and I think both enjoyed it.  Peanut tossed his cane to his dad as soon as we entered the space and was off–although there are surface challenges in the form of stairs, small doorways, and bridges, he still navigated it all fairly easily.

As with most of the exhibits in this space, it’s largely vision-based.  The buttons for sound effects generally don’t work, and the manipulatives tend to have a visual element:  one can pull a cord to open the curtains shielding Sleeping Beauty, for instance, but both the curtains and the Beauty are behind Plexiglas, rendering them nonexistent for many B/VI kids.  Truly enjoying the exhibit will require a sighted guide:  someone would need to explain that the tool set you an play with is in the Three Little Pigs’ house, that the large eggs are painted gold for the golden goose, or that the plush food is ingredients for the Little Red Hen’s baking.

If you’re willing to make that investment, go on a weekday when the space is less crowded, and have a fairy tale lover, I think this exhibit is still worthwhile.  Your child can weigh the golden eggs, count the seven dwarves’ plates, build with the three pigs or bake with the Little Red Hen–s/he will just need help to realize that’s what s/he is doing and really get “in” to the experience.


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National Braille Association Spring 2015 Professional Development Conference

From the mailbag:

Celebrating 70 Years of Service! Thursday,
April 16, 2015 – Saturday, April 18, 2015

Calling all Transcribers, Educators, Parents, Braille Readers,

We would like to extend an invitation to the National Braille
Association Spring 2015 Professional Development Conference and the
kick-off event of our 70th anniversary year. From April 16th to April
18th, we will convene in the “friendly city” of Austin, Texas.
Referred to as the city of slogans, Austin is most known for being the
“live music capital of the world.”

We are pleased to announce that we will be offering the three-day
intensive training on the Unified English Braille (UEB) code that was
so well received at our Fall 2014 conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This training, referred to as “UEBe Ready”, is a must-attend workshop
for any transcriber or teacher who needs to be prepared to transcribe
using UEB.  This workshop is limited to the first 200 people who
register, so make sure to sign up as soon as possible.

Additionally, we will be offering a three-day “Braille Boot Camp, “ a
two-day training on CorelDRAW, and our standard three days of half-day
workshops. Some workshops are limited in the number of participants,
so don’€™t delay in registering.

Our host is the Double Tree Austin. The room rate is $149.00 per night
for single or double occupancy. Reservations must be made on or before
March 29, 2015 to receive the conference rate. Early-bird Registration
is $175.00 through February 28, 2015. There will be NO On-site
registration at this conference. To register, and for additional
information, visit our website:

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NFB Community Service Division Seeks Youth Blog Posts

From the mailbag:
Are you a middle/high school/college student?
Do you  Volunteer in your community with friends, family, a group or church?
or  Volunteer on your school/college campus with a campus group or friends?
Then the Community  Service Division would like to hear about your experiences.
In the month of  February  we are accepting and featuring  submissions from
students from middle  school to grad school.  non-grad and in-between for our
<>). So if you  are a student and doing
the community service thing  then send along your story to our blog  chair Chris
Parsons at
<> anytime between now and the end of the
Stories can be 500 words or less, include what you do and  with whom.  they may
also include how you got involved with the group/project and what kind of
alternative (non-visual) techniques you use to serve along side your sighted
peers to get the job done.


p.s. If your child doesn?t do so but wants to, there?s no  reason why they
can?t start :).
Feel free to be in touch if support/ideas are needed.

Darian Smith
President, National Federation  of the Blind Community Service Division
twitter: @goldengateace
Connect with the Community Service Division
Facebook: search for ?NFB Community Service Division?.

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