by Liz Wisecarver
From the Editor: Liz is the chairman of our Communications Committee and a very active member of our affiliate in Texas. Liz wrote this for our Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog, and we gladly reprint it here. Last month you were offered a long version of our convention roundup, but here is another perspective that is shorter and captures the enthusiasm that many of us felt:
Finally, we were back together again for the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in New Orleans. There were over 2,500 participants in-person and over 1,000 joining in virtually! Many of us, myself included, dusted off our cane-travel skills and had to remember how to prepare for a week packed with exhilarating presentations, social outings, and opportunities to network with blind people from across the country. Thankfully, it was not too difficult to get back in the swing of things and enjoy everything national convention had to offer.
This national convention truly did feel like one big family reunion. I met up with many old friends and ventured out to new restaurants in the French Quarter. The hotel was easy to navigate, and most everyone was willing to give directions or volunteer as talking signs. I worked a shift at the NFB-NEWSLINE® table in the Exhibit Hall and later at the cane table in the Independence Market. I highly recommend working in the Exhibit Hall or Independence Market if you can fit it into your convention schedule. You’ll meet so many interesting people and can give back to others by sharing your knowledge or by simply using the CrowdCompass app to look up where a vender is located. It was reinvigorating to hear hundreds of tapping canes throughout the conference hotel and around town.
The Texas affiliate brought nine young blind adults as part of our CAREER Mentoring Program. The group included students from the Texas School for the Blind (TSB). None of the students had been to an in-person national convention before, and traveling alone without parents was new for many of them. Our mentors helped them organize their convention schedules, find plenty of food options, and taught them how blind people gather information to navigate through crowded convention halls. It was rewarding to see them grow and build their confidence as they explored the hotel, made new friends, and experienced the National Federation of the Blind’s positive philosophy about blindness firsthand. One of our mentees is now applying for the Louisiana Center for the Blind adult training program! A special thanks to the teachers and staff from TSB who have been so supportive and were able to join us in New Orleans.
Even though we wore masks and took COVID-19 tests before arriving at the hotel, some people did get sick. But we stepped up to help our sick members stay as comfortable as possible while they were isolating. We took care of members by having test kits available, making hotel arrangements so they could isolate themselves, and bringing them what they needed to recover, including hand-delivering banquet meals and dropping off snacks and medicine.
I took a COVID test during convention and was able to independently complete and read the results of one of the Ellume COVID-19 Home Tests available to participants. Thankfully, mine was negative. It was empowering to administer the entire test myself, and I hope more medical home test manufacturers will follow Ellume’s example by making their products fully accessible to the blind.
The 2022 NFB National Convention was definitely a success. I especially enjoyed sessions about diversity and inclusion, the tactile art room, and learning about new developments from Aira. The General Session opening ceremony was particularly impressive with a marching band passing out Mardi Gras beads and a live demonstration of how to cook authentic pralines with samples for everyone. That will be hard to beat next year in Houston. I’m glad many of the meetings were streamed live so we could listen from anywhere, and those who could not join us in person could participate. You can find recordings of the sessions on our YouTube channel and on nfb.org.
No matter how you participated, I hope you had a wonderful national convention experience this year. The NFB of Texas is looking forward to hosting everyone in Houston next year! Let’s keep up our renewed energy, hope, and determination, as we continue to build the Federation in our own towns and around the world.