Braille Monitor                                                                                                   June 2004

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The First Jernigan Institute Technology Training Conference

 by Betsy Zaborowski

From the Editor: Dr. Zaborowski is the executive director of the new National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute:

The auditorium of the Jernigan Institute was filled during the general sessions.
The auditorium of the Jernigan Institute was filled during the general sessions.

April 7 to 9, 2004, our new National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute hosted a truly unique and highly successful training event, "Technology Training for Technology Trainers," cosponsored with Mississippi State University. Ninety participants, all of them technology, accessibility, or rehabilitation specialists from agencies all over the United States, attended. This was the first program conducted in the Jernigan Institute building, and it took great advantage of our beautiful new auditorium, the technology training lab, the spacious Members' Hall, and our extensive suite of conference rooms.

The training was delivered by our expert access technology team at the NFB's International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC), led by Anne Taylor, with the participation of four highly experienced access technology experts from the Iowa Department for the Blind. What made this training event unique and especially effective was the extensive participation of technology vendors in the training sessions themselves, particularly with the hands-on demonstration segments of each session. In addition to the training sessions, the Jernigan Institute's Members' Hall was transformed into a lively exhibit hall, showcasing the products of seventeen vendors of access technology products and related services. Participants were able to spend ample time conversing and networking with the vendor representatives and learning about their products and services.

Participants had a chance to tour the NFB's International Braille and Techology Center for the Blind.  Maurice Peret (seated center left) speaks to the group.
Participants had a chance to tour the NFB's International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. Maurice Peret (seated center left) speaks to the group.

To quote a highly satisfied participant, "What a superb job on this conference! I felt the tone was different than other conferences. Everyone in attendance is working with blindness and has something to share; the consumer-driven aspect helped shape the direction taken by vendors; and the size of the event was big enough but not too big." Another participant exclaimed, "The topics were very well laid out. Those who planned the program were very insightful to our needs. Again the NFB has outdone themselves!" Additional comments were equally congratulatory: "What I liked best was the attitude of inclusion, the depth of knowledge, and the quality of instructors"; and "the size of the groups allowed for great interaction with the trainers as well as networking with other professionals in my field."

In addition to eight separate technology topic sessions, three general sessions took place during the three-day event. Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the NFB, presented a thought-provoking speech entitled "The Topography of Technology, Blindness, and the Luddite." We were very pleased to have the Honorable Joanne Wilson, commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, speak to us on "Striving for Excellence: The Role of Technology and More." Finally we were highly privileged to have our longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, nationally recognized inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist, deliver a truly mind-bending presentation on "Access Technology and Disabilities in the Twenty-First Century." The texts of these speeches appear elsewhere in this issue.

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