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Reflections on Anaheim '96

Editor's Note: Phil Wiseman is the newly-elected President of the Toronto Chapter. In this article he describes his first NFB convention. As a relatively newly-blinded individual, Phil gained a perspective not available anywhere else. Here is what he has to say about it.

During the week that I spent in Anaheim, California, I found many things that impressed me as a participant at the convention. Prior to my arrival I had no idea what kind of experiences lay in store for me, except that I expected to find it both informative and enlightening. I would like to share my impressions with you.

My arrival at the convention was a little unnerving as I have never experienced such a "sea of white canes" gathered in one spot before.However, I quickly got over my initial fear and realized that the other blind individuals were no different than me. They were simply going about their business without allowing their blindness to hinder them.

There were various division seminars that were taking place simultaneously. The most interesting one for me was the "Computer Sciences Division" session. The number of people who attended was remarkable (over 150). I was quite impressed with the way that people have managed to keep up-to-date with the latest technology using Windows-based applications, graphic user interfaces (GUIs), etc. I know that I, as an individual with partial sight, encounter difficulty using some of the latest tools. It was quite encouraging to hear of some of the devices and ways to use the computer. The session concerning the use of the Internet was quite interesting.

The technical aids exhibit showed some very practical low-tech gadgets as well as special computer devices for the blind. The one that impressed me most was from a vendor from California who was showing a computer that produced three dimensional images on a "special" printed canvas. By touching the picture on the canvas, you could feel the indentation and bumps exactly as the image appeared on the screen. It is difficult to explain--you had to be there to see it. It was really something!

I was quite inspired by the many young students who qualified for scholarships. I was very impressed to hear of their accomplishments and dreams. Their enthusiasm and dedication to the National Federation of the Blind was encouraging to see. They are the ones who will carry the torch for tomorrow.

It was interesting to meet fellow Canadian "Federationists" and to hear from other chapter presidents of activities in their own chapters. It also provided me with an opportunity to make new friends and to put faces to names.

To give you a sample of the information I learned, I found that there were "singing" teacups that would sing music if the light in the room was on. When the light was turned off, the music would stop. This was a practical way for blind persons to "conserve energy" in the home.

The many contacts that I made with other Federationists in the United States and Canada provided me with some new friendships that I hope will last for a long time. I look forward to seeing them at the 1997 convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.

I am quite thankful that I had the opportunity to attend the 1996 convention in Anaheim. I found that there was a lot of information that I would not have learned if I had not gone.

I look forward to New Orleans in 1997 and urge you to join me.

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