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Reflections on ACB & BPI Columbus

I wanted to write a short note to you all about my 10 days in Columbus Ohio attending the 52nd annual conference of the American Council of the blind. This was my third time attending an ACB convention. Therefore, I have attended 3 NFB and now 3 ACB conventions. The experience of attending conventions of both of the major blindness consumer organizations in the States is very different. I find ACB to be a more inclusive organization in the sense they seem to embrace diversity more openly than NFB. whereas the NFB is for the most part a more revivalistic experience where they really use the convention to symbolize their philosophy on blindness.

The ACB convention is a smaller convention than the NFB, but the week is still packed with way too many things to do. Since ACB is what resulted from the NFB civil war, too many times they do things just to be different than NFB. on the surface, even though both organizations claim to be democratic organizations, ACB really does ensure affiliates have autonomy over their own activities and that the voting reflects the wishes of the affiliates and the members sitting in general session as well. ACB does not have proxy or electronic voting as an organization, but some of the affiliates do allow electronic voting.

The general sessions run for the mornings of each convention day. It is here I found out more about the TIGER project than I had ever learned here in Canada even being involved in library issues. Basically, Tiger is a project that libraries for the blind were working on outside the WIPO treaty process to develop agreements on what materials they could share without the treaty. TIGER does stand for something, but I can't remember all the words for the acronym.

Clearly we can't replicate what happens in the US. We are a much smaller population spread over a greater distance. but I think we should try to use our conventions more effectively to bring public attention to the issues here and also as an opportunity to educate ourselves on a number of blindness issues like both ACB and NFB do. Granted our convention is much shorter, but I am hoping I can do my part to ensure that our convention is something we can continue to be proud of like in the past.

Finally, I wanted to mention the other reason I decided to go to Columbus. As I mentioned, I believe ACB is a more inclusive organization than NFB. Here is one reason why I believe it. In 2000 the ACB charted as one of its special interest affiliates an organization called BFLAG (Blind Friends of Lesbians & Gays). Later on this organization changed its name to Blind LGBT Pride International. The goal of this organization is to bring issues of concern facing people who are gay, Lesbian Trans Gendered or Bisexual to the attention of ACB and also to ensure that LGBT publications can be made accessible to people who are blind. The organization is an excellent opportunity to link two minority communities while ensuring people who are blind don't face discrimination within the LGBT community.

At this years BPI convention held at the ACB convention, I have been elected as the first director from outside the United States. this is an excellent opportunity for me and for BPI to expand its international awareness. For more information about Blind LGBT Pride International, visit

Thanks for taking the time to read this note, and if any of you have any questions, please write to me.


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