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2017 ACB National Convention Commentary

National Convention Commentary

By ACB of Maine President Mary Ellen Frost

 

Why do I like or want to go to the National ACB Convention? I take this on as a labor of love, sort of a working vacation. I never in the other fifty weeks of the year work so diligently; but at the same time feel so rewarded, excited and part of the whole purpose. Here you meet, converse and discuss the best and the worst of the situations facing blind Americans across the states; and you have the joy of a much larger pool to draw from when seeking answers. Each committee and special interest group all share and are part of the same goal. How to better the rights and liberties’ of their blind community, by offering ideas and practices that have worked for them, sharing with each other how they make it work. This year the convention was held in Nevada, and so my story begins.

 

When the sparks fly in Sparks, Nevada!

 

I arrived several days before the opening of the 56th. National American Council of the Blind Annual conference began. First, I wanted to be familiar with the location of the events for the coming week. With two towers and a gamete of meeting rooms, it is nearly a mile walk from the time your feet hit the floor, till you reach your destination. Second, I wanted to lend a hand where it may be needed to put the pieces together that will bring fourth this great event involving over fourteen hundred blind and visually impaired persons, across this United States from sea to shining sea. If you have never been to a national conference, it is a stretch of the imagination to comprehend the many pieces it takes to put together this large of a puzzle. Committees, affiliates, special interest groups, vender’s and so much more require hands on team work to coordinate this great effort.

 

While wandering around this huge convention center (and casino, sorry not my favorite place) I found much hassle and bustle. The ACB Mini Mall which is based in Louisville Kentucky shipped nearly the entire store of goods to Sparks. Upon arrival, crates and cartons need to be opened, marked in Braille and print, set up and displayed for shoppers. Items include everything from clothing to gadgets that bare the Sparks 2017 logo, which is a huge fireworks display. I worked with the Louisville team and many others from various states for two days setting up a temporary store in the exhibition hall.

The host committee is responsible for preparing the complementary ACB gift bags, which include numerous items such as gift cards, information tickets, trinkets and many other items that have been donated. Each and every person registered receives a bag, numbering well over twelve hundred. There again a good days work, with more than twenty people participating in completing this task.

The communications room is buzzing with Braille printers and large print copy machines, computers preparing articles for the daily newspaper all being checked by readers for accuracy, stapling and transporting to the information desk; which is another hub of wonder and excitement. Everyone wants to know where meetings are being held, how to get there, and many more questions than there are answers. All of this requires an army of volunteers who show up willing to work and make the attendees visit as pleasant as possible.

The huge banquet hall is set up classroom style with rows of tables labeled alphabetically by state names, special interest and affiliates. On opening night, each one is called by the secretary. His announcement is by name and the number of seats required for that group; and generally a little humor, like how many lobsters did you bring from Maine and plan to present the leaders of the body tonight!

I was so pleased to have board members Lindsey Ball and Joel McQuade with me this year in Sparks. This was their first time at a national conference. Lindsey was there to accept a scholarship for her continuing education in blind rehabilitation, and Joel is very interested to see the whole picture of how local, state and national work together to better the lives of blind and visually impaired persons in all areas across urban and rural environments. We all have the same struggles wherever we are located.

As the week progresses, tours are offered to areas of interest in the location of the conference. There is truth in the old adage “all work and no play, makes for a very dull boy”. The sports fans go to a baseball game, and many choose to do the city bus tour. Joel went to a dude ranch for a day trip and met many new friends. He also joined me on the old Western Country tour. I was fortunate to enjoy two very exciting trips. One was a dinner cruise on Lake Tahoe, and another was to Virginia City, which was   the old west town where television shows like Bonanza and Gun Smoke were filmed.

As the days moved on and more attendees arrived, you could start to hear the Sparks buzzing, as old and new friends met once again to laugh and reminisce. Every committee and special interest group that chooses to, has its meeting scheduled time of forty-five minutes, and there is a fifth teen minute slot to transfer to your next spot. Transition is when you just get a glimpse or hear a voice of someone you have not had a chance to catch up with to say hi, and add the statement, “let’s have coffee, do lunch or meet me at the ACB Cafe”.

When we finally get down to the work to be accomplished, it is almost always a difficult decision not to double book yourself. I want to hear what the (C C L V I) Concerned Citizens with Low Vision International is offering, but I really need to gather information from the rehab task force meeting; and so the juggling begins. I always plan to attend one of the leadership seminars, because each time there is new leadership and new ideas presented. Membership is also high on my list, and here you will find out how other affiliates have managed growth, the best way to make new members comfortable without overwhelming them, and the opportunity to gain better communication skills.

Even during this busy time there is an opportunity to socialize. The sister power breakfast sponsored by the Women’s Concern Committee is a must. And also the Alliance on Aging lunch offers shared ideas with your peers. It was here I met an 84 year old gentleman who was attending his 56th consecutive convention, and now in a wheelchair, he still is involved with many committees and activities. As I have heard Marje say, “we are a bond from cradle to grave”. At this convention there are activities organized for every generation of life.

The general session runs four consecutive days from 8 am till noon, and the last day is a full day until all business is satisfied. Sponsors such as Sprint, Google, Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Morgan Chase and many more speak to how they are making their companies more accessible, and the benefits they offer. Many reports are given from officers and leaders to keep the attending body informed of how the organization is running, handling business and issues that come into focus. The afternoon schedule consists of meetings, social gatherings, work sessions and rest as needed! This is an exciting, eventful experience and friendships grow from year to year.

All considered I enjoy the pieces of the puzzle I am able to contribute, and will look forward to the 2018 conference in ST. Louis, Missouri. Each person comes with an agenda. You may be a presenter, which I have had the privilege of being, and you may need to attend cretin meetings to gather information pertinent to questions for which your group needs answers. Some come only for the vacation tours offered, others work to come to the aid of persons having a difficulty navigating their way to and fro. Whatever the reason you choose to attend this amazing event, please know there are hundreds of people putting in time and effort to make this an experience you will remember!

 

Wishing you all the best,

Mary Ellen

 

 

2017 Maine White Cane and Guide Dog Awareness Walks

2017 White Cane Walks

 

On Saturday, the 14th of October, 2017, a group of travelers took to the sidewalks and streets across the great state of Maine to show their independence, their ability and their unwavering camaraderie. These are the times that brave users of mobility canes and guide dogs get the chance to show everyone that there is a place for them, there is a time for them, and the time is right now.

 

As the communities of Augusta, Dover, Bangor, Presque Isle and Portland carried out their busy day, the annual white cane and guide dog awareness walks took to the streets, and once again the crowds of energetic travelers took to the sidewalks of Maine.

 

This year’s events gathered in that same excitement as walks of the past have, and as the canes swept and the paws moved forward, 2017 took shape with the same meaning as the years before.

 

This was my 7th walk, and just like the first, my heart pounded away with exhilaration as the Augusta event got underway.

 

To all those who sponsored and took part in the planning of these events, thank you from a proud and grateful member of the blind community of Maine. I have made many wonderful friends at these walks, and am already looking forward to next year’s gathering.

 

Hats off to you all, and ACB Maine is proud to know you.

 

A Note from the President

 

Teamwork!

 

 

Hello everyone!

 

I would like to take this time to welcome the new officers,board members and current members who have agreed to support the American Council of the Blind of Maine with their time and efforts for the betterment of our blind community. It is our mission to advocate for the blind through education of available services, and keeping the Maine State Legislator’s informed of what is needed to enhance the lives of our blind citizens.

 

When an opportunity to work in collaboration with others presents itself, our lives stand to be greatly enriched. Through teamwork, we use our skills and share our gifts in service to others. Through collaboration, we find appreciation for the diverse expressions of how a variety of aptitudes and skill sets help meet the needs we all have in life.

Even so, teamwork may not always be easy. So we stay grounded in awareness of our purpose as a grass roots organization growing in consciousness of how best together we are able to promote the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life for all the people of Maine who are blind and visually impaired. It is important to remember that each and every person is unique. We have been chosen and elected by our peers to be the team leaders, we each bring our skills to the table and we work together to move forward. When we work toward our mission, we will join in one goal for all.

 

As the new team leader of this wonderful organization, my hope is that we all walk into the future with respect in an effort of all that we stand for and hope to accomplish together.

 

 

Mary Ellen Frost

President, American Council of the Blind of Maine

 

 

 

2017 ACB of Maine State Convention

 

2017 ACB of Maine State Convention

 

Once again the ACB of Maine State Convention found itself in the great city of Bangor, and as the members entered the conference room that Saturday morning, a buzz filled the air.

 

This year’s event had a plethora of informative speakers, as well as an auction that was very entertaining.

 

This year’s convention also saw a gathering of ACB of Maine, as well as Pine Tree Guide Dog Users. The usual faces were there, joined by new and energetic folks from both near and far. There’s something about a room full of white canes and guide dogs that provides both motivation and inspiration. Hats off to all who joined the camaraderie, and best of luck to you all this upcoming year.

 

Information spread through the room fast this October, with speaker after speaker presenting their latest news, updates and new innovations that will surely benefit the blind and visually impaired communities of Maine, the United States, and around the world.

 

ACB of Maine would like to thank all members of the Pine Tree Guide Dog users who attended the meeting, and all of the great speakers who took the time from their busy days to share and inform everyone who attended this year’s event.

 

Next year’s convention will be held in the Southern Maine city of Westbrook, which has graciously hosted our conference in the past.

 

There’s new ideas, new assistive technology releases, new ways to do things and new ways to connect with each other. The last several years have seen a blur of activity with new innovations and technologies. Imagine, if you can, where the technology will be just a few short years from now. The future holds the hopes and dreams of those who continue to move forward, and whom never forget to walk along side an incredible family built on friendship, loyalty and inspiration.

 

ACB of Maine would like to wish you the best with all your endeavors, and invite you to join us as we move ahead towards a tomorrow filled with those special ingredients that makes us one of the best organizations around.

 

Please feel free to take a look through our website, and while you’re at it, go grab yourself an ACB day!.

 

 

2017 White Cane Awareness Walks Information

With hints of autumn in the air, it’s time once again to announce the annual white cane awareness walks throughout the great State of Maine. Over these past recent years, communities around the sstate have set aside one Saturday in October to take part in this national day of awareness observation. Maine is proud to be a part of this event, as several towns and cities across the state hold associated white cane and guide dog awareness events.

 

On October 6, 1964 by a joint resolution of Congress, HR 753 was signed into law as “White Cane Awareness Day”‘. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s proclamation

emphasized “the white cane as both a tool and a visible symbol”. On October 15, 2000 President Bill Clinton proclaimed October 15 as

“National White Cane Awareness Day” reminding us of the history of the law.

White Canes, as well as Guide dogs are used with training by blind and visually impaired folks to travel and maneuver through out their communities in an independent and capable manner.

 

Please drivers, try to always comply with, and make an effort to be aware of Maine’s White Cane Law that states you must stop, and yield right of way to a person using a cane or guide dog in a crosswalk.

 

In recognition of this national day of observation, this years events will be held throughout the state on Saturday, October 14th.

 

This year’s scheduled events are as follows:

 

***

Dover- Foxcroft

Participants will be meeting at 10 am in The Mill parking lot.

Walk will proceed to Rite Aid, then return to Mill parking lot to socialize.

All are invited to join.

Sponsored by The Dover Low Vision Group

For more information, contact Nancy Matulis

Phone: (207) 270-2730

email: nancy.Matulis@yahoo.com

 

***

Presque Isle

Walkers will be meeting at Wilders parking lot at 10 AM

The walk will consist of a few laps of Main Street

All participants are invited to a social breakfast following the walk.

For more information, contact Bruce Archer

cell: 512-6300

email: Bruce.a.archer@maine.gov

 

***

Augusta,

Pine Tree Guide Dog Users will be hosting the White Cane Safety Day event.

Participants will be gathering at the Maine State Library around 9:30.

After introductions, announcements and presentations, the walk will take place along the streets in and around the capital complex to proudly display our independence and mobility skills.

The walk will end back at the Maine State Library.

Refreshments will be served, and all are welcome!

For more information, contact Cheryl Peabody

Treasurer, PTGDU

Phone: 872-7594

email: epeabody@roadrunner.com

 

***

Bangor

Event will take place once again at the Bangor Mall, from 10 to 2.

Demonstrations will provide awareness of the White Cane Laws, services for both adults and children, and There will be presentations regarding an understanding of visual impairment.

There will also be additional information, as well as aids.

Consumers are all welcome.

For more information, contact:

Pat Monahan, email pmonahan@theiris.org

 

***

Portland

Registration begins at 9am @ The Iris Network

189 Park Avenue

A 1.5 mile wheelchair accessible walk will take place from the Iris campus around Deering Oaks Park.

Food and drinks will be provided, along with a raffle, special guests and gifts.

Register online at www.theiris.org

Or contact Terry Tomchak at ttomchak@theiris.org