Remember Your First…

By Mary Ann Grignon, Membership Development Leader

In the spring edition of The PCB Advocate, I spoke to old timers, (no offense intended). Now, I thought I would address those of you who have never been to a conference. You might be on the fence as to whether you will attend this year. I think the stories you are about to read will give you the nudge you need to jump off that fence right into making your plans for the conference at the Double Tree by Hilton, Pittsburgh (Greentree).

Let’s begin with Kathy’s story. She says that she vividly recalls sitting in the lobby of the hotel listening to passersby, marveling that most of them were using guide dogs or canes. Kathy remembers thinking “Wow, they are all just like me. Sometimes they will lose their way just like I do and there’s no need to feel embarrassed.” Kathy reminisces that she felt like she was shoulder-to-shoulder with her peers instead of the odd-one-out, as the only blind person in a crowd. “The amazing thing,” she says, “Is that all of the presentations were accessible. I’ve been to dozens of professional conferences and often, the presenters use PowerPoint to reach their audience. I have so often felt frustrated and alone. Not so with a conference for those with vision loss. You can count on the fact that the primary concern of each presenter, is for your enjoyment and maximum participation. If I must sum it up in one word, it would be empowering.”

Will has this to say about his experience. “My overwhelming (and lasting) impression of my first time to a PCB convention was one of surprise and admiration at the level of professionalism, competency, and collegiality; from the welcome I got at the registration desk, to the quality of the presentations, to the efficiency with which Council business was dispatched, to the fun members shared with what seemed to be genuine warmth and joy. But this overall impression was informed and reinforced by the really cool, intelligent, funny, confident, and competent people I met who just happened to have vision loss. These were people with real lives, getting out there and getting things done, doing the small everyday things, doing the big game-changing things, and making life better for others. These people had challenged the status quo, surmounted barriers, changed paradigms, and blazed trails for others to follow and improve. But most inspiring of all, they were real people, not perfect, certainly not supermen or superwomen, but good folk who had overcome their doubts and fears, and, relying on the strength they drew from one another, were willing to listen, willing to try, willing to be wrong, willing to fail, willing to suffer a little pride so that others could benefit from their experiences. Frankly, given my experiences with other blindness organizations and various schools for the blind, this came as a pretty shocking revelation and one which has inspired me to this day.”

My own story is different insomuch as not only was it my first conference of those with vision loss, but it was also a lot of other firsts. It was the first time I was ever in a hotel on my own without a sighted partner, the first time I had ever eaten out in a restaurant without a sighted partner, the first time I ever read a braille menu and for sure the first time I ever felt like everything was accessible to me. For those of you who remember first meeting the members of the Monroe County Council of the Blind, you might remember that we were all a bit exuberant. The reason we were all so exuberant was simply that being at a conference for those with vision loss was liberating. At the conference, you could let down your guard, if only for a weekend. You could enjoy the braille menus, the programs that are handed to you in your preferred format and the comradery.

So, leaders and long-time members of PCB, encourage those who meet the criteria for a first timer scholarship to apply. Share your story with them. Empower them! Time is running out to apply. Here are the details.

What does a scholarship include?
• Ground transportation to and from the conference site in Pittsburgh
• 3 nights lodging at the conference hotel (double occupancy)
• Stipend for meals while at the conference
• Conference registration fees

Student Scholarship
• For High School and College Students who are blind or visually impaired (given priority) or:
• College Students with Sight enrolled in a blindness-related area of study

Newly Adjusting to Vision Loss Scholarship
• Must have experienced significant vision loss within the last five years

PCB Member Scholarship
• Must have been a dues-paid member for 2016 and 2017
• Must be active within a PCB chapter or on a PCB team

How to Apply?
• Choose your preferred format, braille, audio file, or Word document
• Provide your name, full mailing address, phone number, email address, and which scholarship you seek
• In approximately 250 words, tell us about you, your blindness or vision loss, how you meet the scholarship requirements, and why you wish to attend the PCB Conference
• If possible, include the name of a PCB member who would provide a reference for you
• Submit all application materials by Friday, September 15 to scholarships@pcb1.org or PCB, 931 N. Front Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102.

For questions regarding any of these scholarships, contact me directly at 570-807-1276 or maryanna0407@gmail.com.

On a separate membership note, to better serve you as PCB members, the Membership Development Team in conjunction with the office and PCB board will be updating our membership database with some new information and insuring that your data already stored is current and accurate. So, be on the lookout for our new and updated membership form in the fall.

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