Future Reflections Winter 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!