ACB and NFB Conventions, LightHouse Wrap-up.

Summer is the time for getaways of all kinds — recreational, professional and educational. In July, LightHouse staff and community members headed out to blindness conventions, where they had a chance to catch up on the hottest adaptive tech developments, network around advocacy issues and establish new connections with friends and colleagues. Check out these highlights from LightHouse staff who attended National Federation of the Blind and American Council of the Blind conferences.


The convention was held in Phoenix, Arizona, from July 9 to 17. There were 2,000 blind and low vision members in attendance.

On the opening night, ACB President Mitch Pomerantz gave a rousing call to action that outlined the challenges facing the blind and low vision community in the critical areas of education, rehabilitation services, employment, transportation and information access.

Kathy Martinez from the U.S. government’s Office of Disability Employment Policy elaborated her efforts to increase employment of people with disabilities in the federal Department of Labor and throughout the federal government. The work, she said, of recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting persons with disabilities must happen at the intersection between disability and culture.

Prominent disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold spoke about successes in structured negotiations with Bank of America. As of now, all B of A ATMs talk, and thus, are fully accessible to blind customers. Feingold is currently taking up issues around the lack of accessible, electronic health records.

One outstanding presentation at ACB this year was given by Paul Edwards, the director of disabled student programs at Miami-Dade College in Florida. He continued the conversation on disability and employment by treading into the often ignored or shied-away from area of attitudinal barriers that complicate employment for people with disabilities.

This was an important talk because, as the LightHouse sees it, blind jobseekers find greater success when they can hone their ability to exercise personal initiative and judgment, practice different ways (mental, physical and emotional) of being prepared for new worksite culture and can avoid the pitfall of letting perceived discrimination get them down.

There were also many vendor and service demos at ACB. If you missed it, listen to 20 podcasts from vendor interviews at Serotek. Be sure to check out the National Library Service link. Their ACB presentation featured a special talk by one of NLS’ most popular book narrators, David Hartley Margolin.


This year’s convention was held from July 3 to 8 in Dallas, Texas. Approximately 2,500 blind people from all over the country gathered for an action-packed week.

There were workshops on fundraising and membership-building, as well as workshops hosted by Apple, Oracle, Freedom Scientific and more.

Blind people with various interests gathered at division meetings, including ones for lawyers, educators, performing artists, sports and recreation, science and engineering, and of course, students.

The exhibit hall during the convention was lively and crowded. Some of the vendors in attendance were: Freedom Scientific, HumanWare, Handy Tech North America, A T Guys, RFB&D, Bookshare, GW Micro and En-Vision America.

Several notable people spoke throughout the convention:

Jessica Finnefrock, Blackboard Learn’s Senior Vice President of Product Development, promised to continue working with the NFB to make its website accessible to blind students and teachers.
download the speech here

Michael Hingson, a 9/11 survivor, spoke about his terrifying exit from the World Trade Center with his guide dog by his side.
download the speech here

Dane Glasgow, eBay’s Vice President of Buyer Experience Product Management, presented on how eBay is improving the buying and selling experience for blind users.
download the speech here

Mike May, Chief Executive Officer of Sendero Group, presented his newest ideas for GPS and location-based services using bus stop and geocoded media content.
download the speech here

Dennis Hong, Ph.D., Director of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech, enthusiastically spoke about his work with the NFB to create a car that can be driven by the blind.
download the speech here

Timothy Cordes, M.D., Ph.D., Resident in Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, spoke about his personal experiences as a blind doctor.
download the speech here

And finally, there was a wonderful presentation for the NFB’s Bolotin Awards. LightHouse community partners Mike May and Apple were two recipients of the 2010 awards.
download the speech here

Joining a membership organization for visually impaired people is the best way to stay in the loop about convention and conference schedules. Besides being a lot of fun, these events can give you a strong sense of community and present you with new tech options, chances to network and more!

Consider becoming a member of:

American Council of the Blind

National Federation of the Blind

California Council of the Blind CCB’s convention is coming up in October 2010!

For more blindness membership organizations, contact the LightHouse Resource Center.