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2005 Convention at a Glance

October 21-23, 2005 - Albany Clarion Inn - Albany, New York

On Friday, Maria Garcia, President of New York Parents of Blind Children, presented an informational seminar for the parents of blind children in attendance. There was lively discussion about the I.E.P. process, Orientation and mobility, and the education of multiply handicapped blind children. Representatives from the Center for Discovery in Sullivan County facilitated discussions.

While their parents attended the meetings Friday and Saturday, the kids enjoyed a playroom packed with activities and a visit by an Albany Fire truck and ambulance which they could explore. They then had a chance to play with Leo and Keena, search and rescue dogs of New York Search and Rescue. These dogs aided in the search and rescue operations following the 9/11 attacks. The children enjoyed demonstrations of the dog's abilities by their handlers Joe Fortis and Bill Davis.

Also during the day Friday, various pieces of technology of interest to blind and visually impaired persons, particularly the Kurzweil/NFB Personal Reader, were available in a jam packed exhibit room. The technology fair was arranged by Mindy Fliegelman.

At 4:00 Friday the Board of Directors met in the Dutch Room. They discussed convention arrangements as well as other topics pertinent to the organization.

The traditional hospitality and entertainment was held on Friday evening. Not only was there plenty of opportunity to converse and enjoy old friends, the conventioneers were also treated to by the melodious sounds of the Sweet Adeline's, scapula Chorus. They sang Kickin' It up a Notch, and Shine Your Light.

Later in the evening, Brooke Fox, professional singer and member of the New York City Chapter, sang and played guitar. She captivated the group with such classics as You're So Vain, and Lean on Me. A great time was had by all.

The New York State Association of Blind Merchants Breakfast was held at 7:00 am Saturday morning. Discussions on issues of concern to the vendors, and the Randolph-Sheppard program in general, were held.

At 9:00 am the convention was called to order by President Carl Jacobsen followed by an inspiring invocation given by Laura Herman, President of the Niagara Falls Chapter.

Carl presented the convention arrangements and announcements followed by greetings from Craig Hedgecock, President of the Capitol District Chapter and Ray Wayne, President of the New York City Chapter. This year’s convention was hosted jointly by their two chapters.

Next the Presentation of the 2005 scholarship was held. Ray Wayne introduced Adam Gleason, Terry Kosak, and Nooria Nordrat who were scholarship recipients. Each introduced themselves and were invited to be mentored by an NFB member for the duration of the convention.

In the Presidential Report, Carl Jacobsen reported on the daily deluge of phone calls the office receives regarding issues of and for the blind. He discussed our focus in Washington, topics such as Military Troop Dining, and access to technology for college students. He also addressed concerns about the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act.

He discussed the Albany Seminar and the Service Animal Protection act, the Office of the Blind Act, and the Newline bill. He announced that Newsline now has 200 newspapers on it with the Albany Times-Union becoming the 200th. He declared the need for reform in the Business Enterprise program and acknowledged fantastic growth in our Parents of Blind Children Division. He also announced the revival of the Summer Mentoring Program through the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped.

Carl thanked the Board of Directors and Linda Johnson, office Manager, for their hard work and encouraged us all to continue to strengthen our organizations working to change what it means to be blind.

Report from The National Office: Pam Allen thanked the NFB of New York and its members for the help we provided to Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She discussed the past National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky and the Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, as well as many other issues.

Report from the New York State Commission for the Blind: Discussed the recent changes with the Commission for the Blind, Tom Robertson's retirement, the closing of all Rehabilitation Services field offices, and the development of a strategic plan for the Commission with the help of the blind of New York. The Commission is looking for resources to expand programs.

Children’s Services is working to increase social and recreational opportunities. The attendance at summer camp has had a steady, significant increase over the past few years. Funds from the I.D.E.A. have been tapped to provide more transition counselors.

The number of elderly blind has steadily increased but funding for their programs has not. They need more recreational activities and access to technology. The goal is to distribute funding to those who need assistance the most so they can get the training and/or technology they need.

The commission is continuing to do what it can to help secure employment and education opportunities for the visually impaired. It has managed to fill counselor positions despite the hiring freeze and have established a counselor focus group to review case loads and review the provision of services in rural areas. The commission noted that the number of self-employed blind has also increased.

The administration of the Commission for the blind has been working to increase the quality of services and ensure state-wide consistency of services and policies. This is being accomplished through better communications, increased emphasis on informed consumer choice as the blind know better than anyone what they need.

Our need to be as active in the rehabilitative process as possible was emphasized.

Mrs. Wrobel also applauded Newsline and expressed a desire to utilize Jobline more in an effort to not just secure more jobs but better quality jobs.

The Coming Technology from the National Library Service: Ray Wayne discussed how the N.L.S. will be switching to a digital format from tape, large print, and Braille. He described the equipment and media which is being considered for use by the library service.

We then heard from Bob O’Brian from the Andrew Haskell Braille and Talking Book Library about the future of talking books and how it relates to the Haskell Library.

Jane Sommers from the New York State Braille and Talking Book Library reported on their successful year and the public relations activities of the past year. She also shared facts and figures about the library and their users.

New York Association of Guide Dog users and New York State Association of Blind Students met and held a program during the lunch break.

NFB Science Camp and Rocket On – James Dietz shared his reactions to this incredible experience. 18 blind kids visited the Jernigan Institute, designing, building, and launching a 16 foot rocket.

2:30 pm – The Kurzweil Reading Machine: a look, a listen, and a test. Pam Allen demonstrated the newest and most exciting development from the Kurzweil/NFB reading machine.

Presentation to Tom Robertson: President Jacobsen presented a plaque to Tom Robertson which stated “National Federation of the Blind of New York State - Presented to Tom Robertson in recognition of your service to the blind of New York State. You work with us as a partner, you expanded the programs of the Commission and you brought the blind of our state to a place where we could begin to imagine the possibilities. For this and for many other reasons we call you our colleague, with respect, our friend with joy, and our brother with love. October 22, 2005.” Tom responded and expressed his gratitude.

The Northeast Association of the Blind: Tom Robertson filled us in about what he has been doing since retiring from the Commission for the Blind and what he has planned for the Northeast Association of the Blind.

3:00: Making the possibilities possible. David Stayer reported on the progress at the Jernigan Institute and plans for the future. Also he explained the importance of raising funds to help pay for the exciting initiatives at the institute. At the conclusion of his speech over $1,000 was collected for the institute from members of the affiliate.

3:15: We know who we were, we know who we are, and we know who we will be (through song): Mindy Fliegelman led us in the Library Song; I’ve Been Working in the Workshop, and Ode to the Code, and the Battle Song of the NFB.

Excelsior Association of the Blind: Ray Wayne introduced Excelsior and gave us an overview of the agency and their plans. It will be modeled after the NFB philosophy and will be run for and by blind people. The goal is to provide training to blind persons of all ages and abilities. Carl explained how Excelsior came into being and why: “Blind guys teaching blind guys about being blind guys.”

Keynote address by Pam Allen, Member of the Board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind and Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. This address is a moving and touching speech entitled “The Crazy Quilt”.

Scholarship awards: Ray Wayne announced the results of the meetings of the scholarship committee.
1. National Federation of the Blind of New York State: Nooria Nodrat
2. Gisela Distal Memorial Scholarship: Terry Kosak
3. Maryanne Swaton Memorial Scholarship: Adam Gleason

We were once again entertained by Brooke Fox, professional singer and member of the NFB, New York City Chapter. She wooed us with songs such as You've Got a Friend and Stand by Me.

The convention concluded Sunday Morning with the business meeting and election of officers.

Convention Pictures