Compiled by: Kristen Witucki, College Success Program Curriculum and Content Editor
Learning Ally was thrilled to join the 2020 National Federation of the Blind Convention once again as a bronze sponsor. We enjoyed meeting many individual members in the exhibit hall, hearing and learning from their stories and connecting them with resources. As we reflect on the 2020 convention experience and plan next steps for our programming, we decided we'd like to feature the convention experiences of a couple of our community members. We hope you enjoy their reflections!
Miso Kwak, College Success Mentor
I have fond memories of attending two NFB national conventions while I was in college. The thrill of navigating an unfamiliar hotel, meeting old and new friends, and walking around the exhibit hall are some of the highlights I still remember. This year, the convention went completely virtual. On one hand, I was sad that it took away some of my favorite elements of the convention, and on the other hand, I was glad that the virtual nature of the convention enabled me to join the convention for the first time in many years, while also being able to juggle my work at home.
Despite no in-person interactions, I found the virtual convention experience as engaging and memorable as my previous experience of attending the convention in-person. I especially enjoyed the Upward Mobility seminar, which was packed with advice and insights on carving out one's career path from blind people working in various sectors. I also appreciated ways in which NFB highlighted the importance of diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality within the blind community.
Jonathan Zobek, College Success Summer Intern
I learned a lot at the 2020 NFB National Convention. I attended many meetings, from the National Association of Blind Students Business Meeting, to the Humanware Live webinar, to the meeting for the Committee on Autonomous Vehicles and Innovations in Transportation. However, the meeting that I learned the most from was the meeting for the Committee of Professionals in Blindness Education (PIBE). As an aspiring TVI, I thought that this meeting would be beneficial and educational, and it certainly was. After discussing business, there were great speakers, such as a representative from the American Printing House for the Blind, and they were all informative. After the speakers presented, there was a Question and Answer session with the speakers and other members of PIBE. As one would probably expect, the vast majority of questions centered around adjusting to online learning, considering how hands-on blindness-specific education is. The answers were interesting and pointed me in the direction of many resources such as the APH webinars about blindness related topics, the APH Hive, Distance Education Resources from the NFB, and Paths to Literacy.
Aside from the resources, it was great to find a network of blindness professionals, including TVIs, O&M instructors and many other professionals. As I begin my TVI coursework in the future, I will certainly reach out to this knowledgeable group of professionals for help. I look forward to becoming a more active member of this group.
Outside of individual meetings, I learned that it is possible to have a convention experience remotely. Even at the beginning of 2020, nobody would have guessed that the convention would have been held over Zoom, and for the most part, it was successful. It was nice to mingle with companies and organizations at the virtual Exhibit Hall, hear the familiar voices of friends in the Federation, and learn, network, and meet new people. Even though the convention was online, I was still exhausted at the end from the jam-packed agenda. This format also allowed for greater access to the convention, considering how it was free of associated costs, such as hotel, transportation, and food. Overall, my second NFB National Convention was a positive experience.