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2001 Vancouver NFB:AE Conference

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Carole Robertson is President of the Toronto Chapter of the NFB:AE.

It was a beautiful day on May 25th ,2001 when we arrived at the campus of the University of British Columbia. We settled in to wonderful accommodations at the Gage Towers complex. When we went downstairs we encountered many people-many who were accompanied by Guide dogs or had white canes. We knew we were going to have a great opportunity to meet new people and have interesting discussions regarding issues that concern the NFB:AE.

We all convened for a welcoming reception sponsored by the Vancouver Chapter and financially assisted by the Toronto Chapter. It was wonderful meeting so many blind, vision impaired and deaf-blind people.

We were warmly welcomed and greeted by dignitaries from the University of British Columbia. The spread of food was plentiful and delicious. We mingled with wine, food, and interesting conversations as we were getting to know one another. One helpful touch was the students who assisted us by serving food and guiding us where we wished to go. We were all excited and looking forward to the business sessions and workshops commencing next day.

The next morning we gathered together, and were introduced to the present Executive. The President's Report by Robert Fenton was very interesting as he described the challenges he faced and met during his presidency. He thanked all those who helped him and inspired us to move forward to build our organization.

The keynote address given by Wendy Edey, a blind Psychologist from the Hope Institute in Edmonton, was most inspiring. Her subject "Moping, Coping and Hoping" outlined many of the stages a blind person goes through during the journey to acceptance and getting on with life.

After a brief coffee break we had to choose between two concurrent workshops. One was a motivational and goal setting session by Ljiljana Ljubisic (known as Lilo) a blind athlete who outlined her struggles with blindness from childhood onward resulting in winning many medals in the Paralympics and success as a motivational speaker.

The other choice was a discussion on Human Rights cases which was very meaningful and very well received.

In the afternoon there was a workshop on legislation for guide dog users and also a workshop on "Technology for Today and Tomorrow". This was most interesting for many of us who want to learn more about how technology can help us.

Board nominations took place after these workshops and we learned more about the people who hoped to lead our organization.

Following the nominations there was a plenary session stressing the need and the methods for access to information. This session provided a lot of good ideas which people could take to their chapters for action.

Then we had the opportunity to interact with the specialists who had their newest technology on hand.

The Resolutions Committee met to discuss the many resolutions that were to be presented next day to ensure they were clear, not duplicated, and in order. Those of us who wished to participate in the BC Blind Sports "Run for Light" fundraiser in Stanley Park were encouraged to do so, and several delegates participated. After a long stimulating day we all went off to dinner with friends or gathered together to socialize with one another.

Saturday morning we arrived full of enthusiasm in anticipation of another day of workshops and business. By now we had come to know one another better and friendships began to develop. There was a real camaraderie among all of us. The day began with a presentation of issues and strategies for employment of the blind. It was most informative for those seeking employment.

Following this there were two concurrent workshops-Education of Blind Children and Oral & Written Advocacy through Story-telling. Both workshops were excellent. Bob Fenton showed us through humor and stories we are familiar with how different perspectives can be used in making our point in advocacy issues.

After lunch scholarships were presented to three worthy candidates who really appreciated our help and concern. There was a short update on the Refreshable Braille Project. The business meeting of this conference consisted of reports from the Treasurer on tape as he could not be there and a report on membership. Every year our membership has increased and we will strive to continue to grow.

Resolutions were a high point of the conference. They were both practical and controversial as they excited the members and created a lot of discussion. There were fifteen resolutions in all and some of the highlights were: that we retain the name of our organization, the conference be held every other year with a business meeting held in the intervening year, and others that are more detailed and will be explained further by national office. In the evening at the candidate's forum, the candidates for election to the Board presented their platforms. The three candidates who were not able to be at the conference gave their presentation via conference call and were able to answer questions put forward by the membership.

On Sunday morning the remainder of the resolutions were addressed and the Board elections took place. Our new President is Gordon Dingle from Sarnia, Ontario. Richard Marion was re-elected by acclamation as Second Vice-President; Michael Yale was acclaimed as Secretary; and Corry Stuive was elected as Board Member at Large. Ross Edie will continue as First Vice-President; John Rae as Treasurer; and Irene Lambert as Director at Large. Gordon Dingle outlined his hopes for the future of NFB:AE and will devote himself to our organization.

Along with the business of the conference there were tours of the Crane Library and other attractions of the UBC campus and despite the ongoing transit strike at the time, we were all able to get around and enjoy our time in Vancouver. All in all it was a great conference where we made new friends and shared information about the work being done in their chapters, how they are dealing with their situations and their aspirations for the future.

We are all looking forward to the next conference in 2003 in Montreal.