Every summer we pack ourselves up, staff, ITP students and summer students, and head out to the National Federation of the Blind convention, wherever that may be – Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas. This year it was going to be in Houston. It often proves to be one of the most important learning experiences for our blind students during their time in training.
But this isn’t every summer. It isn’t just any summer. We don’t even have any summer youth this year. And the NFB convention for 2020 is a virtual one. For those of us who have gone to the NFB convention for years, it is bittersweet. We miss the excitement of 3000 blind people gathering in a huge ballroom for the opening ceremonies, but we still get to bump into friends and colleagues in any number of Zoom meetings or at the President’s Suite (yes, virtual). All the elements are there – technology sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday the Board of Directors meeting, Resolutions Committee and the always energy-infused National Association of Blind Students meeting late into last night! And the NFB’s commitment to diversity and equality again has a strong presence in the agenda every day. All we’re missing are key chain and candy sales in the hallways between sessions.
(Yes, there’s even a virtual exhibit hall. We have our own booth, by the way, and thanks to all those who stopped by to learn about our training program. We look forward to meeting in person when you become students at the Colorado Center for the Blind!)
A special shout out to our four fellow Colorado NFB members who were proponents for important resolutions in yesterday’s committee meeting. All passed and will go before the full convention for a vote on Friday. One of those was our own Jen Spears, who recently moved from teaching Braille to take charge of the front desk. Along with her were two others from CCB we are also proud to mention: Maura Loberg just graduated last month and is back home in Nebraska, and Kelly Cusack will soon graduate from CCB. Both Maura and Kelly are entering college as freshmen this fall! Great Job all of you!
And we have to mention the newly-elected President of the student division, Trisha Kulcarni, who was a summer student here in 2018. We’re proud of her, and excited for a great transition that ushered in another class of young leadership among the blind students and in the NFB!
One of the things that makes our hearts especially proud at convention is that the National Federation of the Blind President since 2014, Mark Riccobono, is one of our graduates.
Today is Thursday, and the third of our five-day virtual convention. That means it’s Division Day, with divisions of the NFB of all kinds meeting. So, we’re here at the center with meeting broadcasts going on in eight different rooms (perfect for social distancing). First up this morning are the Sports and Rec Division, Amateur Radio, Computer Science, Blind Merchants, the Performing Arts Division, and the Blindness Rehabilitation Professionals, plus a few folks interested in something else tucked away in other rooms or offices listening to their division of choice. People are surfing between division meetings, checking everything out, just like our own little version of the convention. We even made little snack packs for everyone!
Convention is something that is best enjoyed together, and we all benefit more by sharing and discussing speakers, resolutions and ideas. so for the opening ceremonies this evening, we’ll still be spread out, but we’ll be together in these many rooms, streaming and cheering that first moment that is always such a rush!
NFB 2020 – Yes, the Colorado Center for the Blind is truly present, anticipating that first fall of the President’s gavel!