NFB National Convention Showcase

By: Kham Porter

I became blind a couple of years ago, and I thought my life was completely over. I was on the brink of falling into the deep dark black hole, until… I attended a structured discovery program in 2016 and went with them to my first NFB National Convention where I signed up to sing at the Talent Showcase.

On the evening of the Showcase I arrived at the auditorium very early and settled into a seat in the front row. It was quiet except for the sounds of the technician and stagehands setting up, judges getting into place, and organizers talking and laughing together. I wondered why no one greeted me with the usual “Hi! Can I help you?” I felt rejected and ignored. Other Showcase participants trickled in and I heard their friendly chatter as they gave their names and got checked in. I even felt a bit angry that people were getting checked in while I was still being ignored. Plus, I was there first and they were all cutting in! Then I began to figure it out.

Little by little, other contestants arrived. They were so friendly with each other, laughing and talking, I thought they were all old friends. The newly arrived contestants who sat on each side of me introduced themselves and asked my name. Then they called out to the check-in guy, “Hey, Kham is here!”

Ah, another piece of the puzzle. I was learning how things get done. They were so helpful, even giving me iPhone tips as we waited, and I learned that, contrary to my first impression, they were not old friends; they came from all over the U.S. and had just met. At last, I felt like part of the group.

Soon it was time to get in place for the performance and helpers gave me the lineup and told me where to wait offstage. Yes, they were also blind. And the technician I had heard doing all the impressive electronic setup work earlier? When it was time for me to sing I held out my cable so the tech could connect it to the sound system, and wow! It surprised me when the tech and I bumped hands a few times–he too was finding the cable by touch, not by looking for it!

So, one piece at a time, I got the picture. This was not what I expected, not the way things were usually done. It was a new experience. Blind people did everything!

My Showcase experience, and the overall convention experience of being with so many accomplished, independent blind people, was a breakthrough that convinced me that it was possible to return to work as a blind man and to resume doing activities I absolutely enjoy. Six months later, after continuing my training at the structured discovery program, I did just that. I returned to work as a legal and medical interpreter, requiring me to navigate court buildings and medical center offices. Life isn’t over. It is different and enriched. We can still pursue our dreams and live the lives we want.