Future Reflections         Winter 2010

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Picturing Convention

A child care worker at Kids Kamp reads to children from a print/Braille picture book.If you have never attended a convention of the National Federation of the Blind, it may be hard for you to picture such an event. Imagine more than two thousand blind people of all ages and backgrounds coming together for nearly a week at a magnificent luxury hotel. The tapping of hundreds of long white canes echoes from tiled floors in the vast lobby. Along every corridor jingle the harnesses of guide dogs. Blind children explore from room to room, calling excitedly to their friends at each fresh discovery, while newly-blinded senior citizens venture to take their first steps independently. At the pool blind teens splash and giggle as they make new friends. Over coffee and pastries newly-acquainted blind parents exchange ideas about teaching colors to their sighted children. In the exhibit hall blind people, teachers of blind children, and rehabilitation counselors get hands-on demonstrations of the latest technology.

Seated within a ring of tables, volunteers show fellow members some of the aids and appliances for the blind sold by the NFB Store.Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, former president of the National Federation of the Blind, sometimes described our national conventions as "the gathering of the clans." Like the Scottish clans of old, members of the National Federation of the Blind and their friends and families gather once a year. It is a time for sharing information and ideas, learning new skills, planning strategies, and renewing fellowship. Convention is suffused with the understanding that blind people are as capable, resourceful, adventurous, and fun-loving as everyone else. "Stretch your limits," and "Step out of your comfort zone" are convention mantras.

A student practices his kick in the pool while holding a float at armís length.The sixty-ninth convention of the National Federation of the Blind met from July 3 through July 8, 2009, at the Marriott Renaissance Center and the Marriott Courtyard in Detroit, Michigan. Convention began with "The Future Is Ours - and Theirs," a day-long seminar for parents of blind children and professionals in the blindness field. Additional workshops and presentations of particular interest to parents and professionals occurred throughout the convention. Activities for kids and teens took place all during convention week, from scavenger hunts to judo class to a workshop on astronomy.

At the Braille Flea Market, Anna Walker holds her cane in one hand and a stack of six Braille volumes with the other, balancing the books with her chin.Dozens of NFB groups, committees, and divisions held their annual meetings at convention. Some of these meetings focused on the concerns of blind people in a particular field or profession - blind lawyers, blind educators, blind musicians, blind people in health and human services, blind entrepreneurs, blind journalists, and blind scientists and engineers. There were sessions for blind seniors, blind students, blind parents, blind craftspeople, blind equestrians, and blind people in communities of faith, and more. Everyone was welcome to attend, to ask questions, and to offer ideas. Networking was a prevailing theme.

Visitors crowd around a table in the exhibit hall to examine the latest equipment from GW Micro.Early on the morning of July 6, more than a thousand Federationists took part in the third annual 5K March for Independence. After the triumphant marchers streamed back into the hotel, NFB President Marc Maurer opened the first general session of the convention. The general sessions, held on July 6, 7, and 8, included presentations on the education of blind children, assistive technology, new developments in Braille and audiobooks, and challenges and opportunities for the blind community in the future. President Maurer reported on Federation activities during the past year, and the assembled members voted on resolutions that will determine the organization's policies in the years ahead.

Sariah and Jake Mattinson with baby Sydney sit together at Family Hospitality Night.Convention closed on a high note with the annual banquet on the evening of July 8. Thirty outstanding blind students received NFB scholarships, and President Maurer delivered a stirring banquet address.

Ashleya Chamberlain shows a cantaloupe to a younger girl. Pieces of fruit and other objects help students compare the sizes of the planets.If you attended the 2009 national convention, the following pages may bring back fond memories and spark your anticipation of the convention to come. If you have not yet had the chance to attend an NFB convention, we hope this sampling of photos will convince you to join us in Dallas for Convention 2010. We look forward to meeting you!

 

Holding a sheaf of Braille pages, President Maurer talks with a boy in a red shirt in the exhibit hall. Both are holding long NFB canes. Marché Daughtry works a Brailled Rubik’s Cube while her mother, Zina Lewis, looks on.
Greg deWall, a blind judo instructor, teaches a girl to execute a leap. Her body is a blur in the air. A crowd of Federationists, many holding signs on poles, gathers outside the hotel to begin the 2009 March for Independence.
Maureen Lamperis and her son Joe Lamperis of Illinois address the rally after the March for Independence. Marchers carrying a huge banner that reads “NJ Student Soldiers” pass a smiling group of senior citizens holding a sign for the Arizona affiliate.
In the exhibit hall Colleen Wunderlich of Freedom Scientific demonstrates equipment to Shelby Craig of South Carolina. Sisters Elizabeth and Felisha Willis of Virginia examine paper shapes they will use to make a map of the solar system.
Toddler Brock Kaiser sits in his stroller, holding his 24-inch NFB cane. Convention can wear you out! At the end of a long day a toddler lies draped over her dad’s shoulder, fast asleep.

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