By Jennifer Dunnam
As I finish writing this column, excitement builds as more than 80 Federationists head from all over Minnesota to join our colleagues in the movement for the 74th Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. There is always much to see and learn, new members to meet, and plenty of work and fun. Much change is afoot as has been the case in Minnesota especially for the last while. We will be learning about new ways to spread the word about what is true and what is not true about blindness. We will be celebrating the work of Dr. Maurer and will be electing a new president and helping him lead this strong, vibrant movement forward. We will focus and make plans for strengthening existing chapters, which are the bedrock of our movement, and starting new ones.
Thank you to all who attended the Semiannual Convention and helped to make it a success. You will read more about the happenings later in these pages. It is clear we have a strong movement and much upon which to build.
Our chapters have been doing a variety of outdoor fundraisers and get-togethers to enjoy the weather and build our movement. We will in the coming months be working on chapter building and on new chapters such as in New Ulm and an at-large chapter.
As was mentioned at the Semiannual Convention, the September gala to celebrate our building and our programs is postponed to next year. A tremendous amount of work has been done on this event and is continuing. Currently two interns are working with other Federationists to research more about the history of our headquarters building.
At this writing, Dan Wenzel has been the director of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) for two months. He is doing a tremendous job managing all the transition discussed at the Semiannual Convention and more, and seeing that the students, youth and adults get the kind of excellent training that only our NFB centers can offer.
We have our Possibilities Fair coming up in August to connect seniors with role models and resources on how they can live the lives they want as well.
We need everyone's help with the Walk for Opportunity on September 6. Please ask your friends and acquaintances for contributions so that they too can be a part of building a bright future for blind people of all ages.
We are always on the lookout for ideas to make our Annual Convention informative and interesting for all who attend — new members and long-time convention attendees alike. For my own part, when I was a newer member, it was the well-thought-out philosophy of blindness and the ways the Federation put it into action that hooked me. However, an essential component of my being interested at first and feeling I could really learn something from the organization was the practical, everyday ideas about how to do things independently and efficiently as a blind person. I learned many small tips that probably should have been obvious to me, but that I had never thought about as a young teenager and one of the only few blind people I knew.
Live the life you want, we say! But how? What kinds of solutions are there to the problems of blindness? If we have an online system that is designed in such a way that it prevents blind people from reading the course material or taking the tests, or doing a job for which she is otherwise quite qualified, this is a problem, needing a more broad-based effort to solve than, say, a large college campus that the blind person doesn't yet know his way around. Sometimes we do need the help of our larger society to solve problems related to blindness, but sometimes we just need an idea from a fellow blind person. Some problems become much less issues when we get comprehensive adjustment-to-blindness training so that we learn the skills we need. And sometimes we just need to draw on the collective experience of our colleagues in the movement — just because I as an individual who has not figured out a solution does not mean that none of us has. Sometimes the solution may involve asking for help from someone with sight, but as we learn more in the Federation, we find that those times, although not a bad thing if done judiciously, are not nearly as necessary as we at first might have thought.
To tap into our collective experience, at the Semiannual Convention we asked several people to share practical tips on ways to do things nonvisually that might be helpful to others. We will do this again at the Annual Convention, so please be there, and if you have an idea for this or any other aspect of the upcoming Annual Convention, please let me know.
I look forward to our continued work, on the big things and on the little things, to build our movement stronger for the future.