HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2014 ACB CONVENTION
By Carla Hayes
I have been attending the ACB National Convention since 1986. Each year’s convention has been uniquely memorable. This year’s ACB National Conference and Convention in Las Vegas, NV was no exception! Here are a few highlights of the week’s happenings.
Our home for the week was the Riviera Hotel and Casino located on the Strip in Las Vegas. Even though the Riviera has 2,000 sleeping rooms in five towers, its own convention center, a casino, a health center, several shops and restaurants, a food court, a theater, a pool and a health center, I found it very easy to get around and learned to independently navigate most of the facility during the first two days that I was there. Our stay at the Riviera was made even more pleasant by the exceptionally courteous staff, as well as the complimentary wireless in the sleeping rooms, the access to the pool and health center, for which many hotels charge additional fees. I enjoyed my stay at the Riviera and welcome the opportunity to return to this hotel for a future convention or even a vacation.
The ACB General Session opened Sunday evening, July 13, and continued Monday through Friday mornings. For me, there were three memorable highlights of this year’s General Session; the first was during the opening session on Sunday evening when Dan Dillon from Hermitage, TN sang his original song, “On The Other Side,” as a tribute to his wife, former ACB Second Vice President Brenda Dillon, who passed away last year. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The second highlight was Monday morning’s report on accessible tactile currency presented by Dawn R. Haley from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC. After updating us on the status of accessible currency, she announced that free money identifiers would be available to NLS patrons beginning in September, and for the rest of the U.S. population of people who are blind or visually impaired, beginning in January 2015. Free iBill Talking Money Identifiers were given to qualified convention attendees during convention week. She also informed us about free mobile apps for identifying currency. The third highlight of the General Session was Friday morning, July 18, when PCB’s own George Holliday was re-elected to the ACB Board of Directors. Congratulations, George! (Audio archives of the general sessions and the banquet program are available on www.acb.org.)
As at previous conventions, the ACB special interest affiliates and other groups sponsored a plethora of workshops and activities which are too numerous to describe in these pages, but I will mention a few that I attended. On Sunday, July 13, the American Association of Blind Teachers (AABT) held its annual breakfast, program, and business meeting. This year’s program topic was “Education Around the World.” Representatives from several foreign countries told us about how their students who are blind or visually impaired are educated. Later that afternoon, there was an informative introductory workshop on the Unified English Braille Code (UEB), co-sponsored by the Braille Revival League (BRL), and the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). The UEB will become the official contracted braille code of the United States of America in 2016. On Wednesday, July 16, the Independent Visually Impaired Entrepreneurs (IVIE) and the Rehabilitation Task Force co-sponsored a luncheon and program titled, “Entrepreneurship for Newbies and Experts.” Later that day, Friends-In-Art (FIA) and AABT joined forces for a sing-along where we learned and sang simple songs and rounds from around the world. That was an enjoyable way to end a long day of meetings, programs and presentations!
This year’s convention also had its share of tours. Convention attendees could visit the Grand Canyon, take a city bus tour, ride the gondolas at the famous Venetian Hotel, learn about organized crime and law enforcement at the Mob Museum, or literally have a “blast” at the National Atomic Testing Museum. Thrill seekers could go sky diving, rafting at Hoover Dam, experience 160 mph of real life NASCAR racing, or take terrifying roller coaster rides. Of course, there were also plenty of tour alternatives for the less adventurous among us. In general, this year’s tours were more expensive than those of previous conventions. I only took one tour this year. On Tuesday, July 15, I went on an AABT-sponsored tour to the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation, a state-of-the-art facility with a braille library, a technology lab, a horizontal rock climbing wall and much more. I actually climbed the wall and did very well!
Finally, what would an ACB National Conference and Convention be without exhibits? This year, there were plenty. One interesting new product that I saw was the HIMS Blaze EZ, a pocket-sized player with OCR and Wi-Fi for books, documents, music, podcasts, Internet radio, recording, DAISY and more. One of my most memorable moments in the exhibit hall was when I had the opportunity to visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing booth, where I was handed my free iBill Talking Money Identifier.
This year’s convention was informative and exciting. Would you like to learn about new things and have a lot of fun? Then, save the dates and start saving your money. The 2015 ACB National Conference and Convention will take place from Friday, July 3 to Saturday, July 11 in Dallas, TX. The convention hotel will be the Sheraton Downtown, and room rates will be $89 per night. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.