The American Council of the Blind celebrated its 51st annual conference from July 5-14, 2012. It took place in the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky. The city had something for everyone; from Churchill Downs to the Maker’s Mark restaurant. Just over the state line in Indiana, tourists went to a farm and a glass factory. Conventioneers also visited the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory and Museum. Just outside the hotel, visitors could purchase a ticket for a steamboat dinner cruise. The hotel was only two blocks from the restaurant district and the locals were welcoming, which made the entire experience very gratifying.
Affiliates were busy hosting everything from a talent show to a cigar night. I heard that the Three Dog Bakery tour was perfect for both two and four footed tourists alike.
I love going to the national convention because it gets me energized about my role in the blindness community. I catch up on the political agenda and socialize with other blind people. The vendor hall is also a main attraction; I get to talk to all the assistive technology companies and shop for gifts. It feels like a bazaar and I love it.
It can be overwhelming, though, and I always make sure I schedule in some downtime for both me and my dog. Our dogs work harder than we do, sometimes leaving the hotel room at 7 am and not returning until 8 the same night, with only short breaks to eat and relieve themselves.
The main bar in the Galt House’s conservatory bridge walkway between the towers was built from a fish tank and was about 20 feet long. Although it was lost to me, I always got a kick out of the kids’ reactions. One time, a bunch of guide dog users came walking off the elevator and I heard a kid exclaim, “Whoa, look at that!” We all had a laugh with that one. Another time, as we entered the elevator, a little girl got scared and made her mother pick her up. I couldn’t blame her; she’s eye level with our dogs.
Imagine twenty or thirty cane and guide dog users all waiting for the elevator. Now, imagine the elevator doors opening and 30 other blind folks exiting. Can you say chaos? I call this phenomena elevator roulette. It was always a toss-up if we could get in the elevator on the first shot or not. One time, fed up with it, we asked a sighted man to help us find the stairs and learned all the back routes using them instead. It saved us a lot of time and frustration.
The most helpful thing I’ve learned during a national convention is to be flexible and give yourself enough time. If you over-commit, you will be stressed instead of enjoying it.
Have any of you gone to conventions or conferences this year? Tell us about your experiences.