There’s probably no better day to begin blogging again. The rain is coming down as though it’s day 20 out of 40, as in Noah’s Ark.
I’ve had so much on my mind for the past few months, I figured I’d share a bit here.
This summer I had an opportunity to attend the state convention of the American Council of the Blind in Orlando. I have been a member of this organization since I along with 7 others began the local chapter in Monroe County, PA in 2006. I thought the experience would have an impact on me at least as much as my first state convention of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind.
There are several reasons it didn’t. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it or would plan on attending future conventions.
I think I built up my expectations a bit too much. I imagined much more in the way of vendors, and enlightening seminars and workshops. Keeping my ear to the current developments in the blind community when it comes to technology, advocacy issues and general interests it was difficult to find something new and exciting during workshops.
I imagined the convention would give me a great opportunity to meet new people who are interested in many of the same things as I am as well as a chance to share our experiences. I still believe this to be true although I didn’t meet as many new people as I would have liked.
One of the great things about attending any convention is not standing out as I travel with my cane. The hotel and conference area was pretty large with some open areas that can make it a bit more difficult to navigate. It really only took one practice walk to feel comfortable traveling on my own without assistance from volunteers or family. Not having the opportunity to do this on a daily basis really makes me miss this when I return home. There’s nothing better than traveling independently without people assuming I need there help simply because I am using a white cane.
PCB State Convention:
I recently had the opportunity to take some of the lessons I have learned during conventions and share with volunteers and staff at the Chateau Hotel and Resort, where the Monroe Chapter of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind will host the 74th PCB State Convention on November 6-8.
Along with general information such as how to perform sighted guide and dispelling some of the many mis-conceptions associated with blindness, I had a chance to address and hopefully dissuade others from committing one of my greatest pet peeves.
Many times while walking alone to my hotel room or through the hallway, I can hear an attendant moving out of the way. Noticing them, I greet them accordingly, "Good morning" for example, but I am greeted with silence. I realize sometime I have my Barry White persona so maybe I spoke to low, so I repeat myself, doing my best impression of a politician greeting potential voters, "Good Morning!" Nothing! What the umph is up with that? I hate this, people don’t do this! I can hear some of you now, maybe it’s a language barrier? Well, I kicked it in Spanish, "Buenos Dias!" Nada. I then tried French, "Bonjour" Nope! So I reverted to the universal language and flipped them the bird! Well, at least I did in my mind.
Ironically, walking into the hotel that very day I passed someone standing near the entrance and unintentionally tapped them with my cane. At first I was unsure if it was a person or some structure. When I realized it was a person, (he cleared his throat), I said "Oh, hello, pardon me!" Nothing, nada nil! I guess it would be wrong if I took my cane and…
Did I mention I can’t stand when people do this! (Breathe, T, breathe!)
This year’s convention has been pretty involved. Among several other duties, I am working on a Low Vision Expo that is being held as part of the PCB Convention but open to the general public. I have been leading the effort to promote the expo.
Based on our experience promoting MCCB events in the past, I knew there would be some definite challenges. Individual’s experiencing low vision, are often very reluctant to admit they are losing their sight. Many of which are seniors who either believe it is just part of their aging or believe whatever their current mechanism for coping is sufficient.
And whatever you do, don’t mention BLIND! That word alone probably keeps Depends in business. (Was that mean?)
We have had radio and television opportunities where I instructed everyone involved to purposely limit the use of the word blind in fear of scaring away those who are most in need of the information being presented at the expo. In fact, I have limited my own contact promoting this event because as a total, I too scare the stuff out of many of these individual’s with low vision. this is not just my opinion, the American Foundation for the Blind has surveyed and found that the most feared among the public in terms of health issues is blindness. Yes, we beat cancer and HIV/AIDS. Hey so this year, I should trick or treat as a blind guy! (Was that mean too?)
The expo is attempting to appeal to two very different philosophies. The medical centric and the advocacy centric.
The medical centric believes, the cure is the cure! Prevent and or cure blindness and we no longer have a problem. The advocacy centric is saying the problem is not based in the loss of a sense or function, but rather it’s the way society thinks about disability. The result of which plays a major role in the 60 – 70 percent unemployment rate, inaccessibility and of course, hotel room attendants and others contracting their own temporary disability, the inability to speak when spoken to.