Recent Conference Highlights
The Top 12 Highlights from the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute Conference
After returning from Seattle, where I attended the successful and information-packed 24th Annual Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute (held jointly with the Pacific Northwest AER Conference this year), I couldn't help but think about the highlights of the conference. I spoke with staff and participants to develop this Top 10 list, but there were so many great things about the event that we ended up with a Top 12. Before getting to the list, a reminder: if you attended the conference and have not yet filled out the evaluation, please go to the evaluation form webpage and complete the questionnaire. Your feedback helps us improve this event!
Here is AFB's JLTLI and PNWAER Top 12 list, straight from Seattle, Washington!
- Mickey Damelio's presentation, "O&M and Play: Having Fun While Facilitating Development in Multiple Areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum," or, as I call it: "Teaching parents and educators that it's okay for children who are visually impaired to fall down and get cuts and bruises."
- Ike Presley wandering the aisles and hallways, speaking the gospel of low-vision technology and the expanded core curriculum. Everywhere you went, you would find Ike speaking his mind and sharing ideas and resources. Speak on, Ike!
- Darren Burton's presentation, "Apple Accessibility: Education, Entertainment and Productivity," where he demonstrated the latest in iTools and various features. We were amused when Darren showed off a weather app that forecast conditions in Seattle as rain, rain, rain, and more rain.
- The launch of FamilyConnect's social networking tool, FamilyFriends, which allows parents and families of children with visual impairments to create Facebook-like profiles and "friend" parents of other children. This will provide parents with a more personal experience on FamilyConnect.
- The vast amount of information shared by the amazing speakers presenting during the preconferences on optic nerve hypoplasia, orientation and mobility, and recreation and physical education. The attendees expressed their enthusiasm for these preconference sessions by filling rooms past capacity.
- Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez's general session speech, which brought us an update on the Department of Labor and the U.S. Federal Government's initiatives to provide equal accessibility in all facets of life for persons with disabilities. She mentioned her sister, Peggy Martinez (Seattle Lighthouse), who later sang at the 90th Anniversary celebration—an impressive performance!
- John Rafferty's general session speech where he shared his background and tips on leadership culled from his vast experience as president and CEO of CNIB. He also announced the launch of CareerConnect Canada—the result of an exciting partnership between AFB and CNIB, with more sure to come in the future!
- Tom Sullivan's keynote, where he impressed the audience with his speaking, singing, and storytelling abilities. Mr. Sullivan awed and charmed us, and provided plenty of laughs with his stories of youthful high jinks. There was the one about drifting down the Charles River to the Boston Bay to replicate Huck Finn's voyage, and another about being expelled for the eleventh time from the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA.
- The presentation of the Gallagher Award to Master Sergeant Jeffrey Mittman of NIB. Sgt. Mittman's story was so moving it inspired two standing ovations. He served in the U.S. Army for 22 years until injuries sustained during fighting in Iraq ended his military career. He now works to improve opportunities for veterans and other persons with vision loss. He is a true inspiration, and a deserving recipient of the Gallagher Award.
- The Migel medal presentation to Dr. Bill Wiener. Dr. Wiener is a much-lauded leader in the field, particularly on the topic of orientation and mobility, as was evidenced by the number of prominent members of the blindness field who spoke at the presentation.
- The Access Awards. A number of stellar recipients were recognized for their extraordinary work in providing accessibility to persons with vision loss:
AFB's 90th anniversary celebration, which was capped off by AFB leaders Carl Augusto, Paul Schroeder, and Mark Richert rocking the house onstage with a number of guest vocalists. This was a sight to see—or at least hear! All let loose and relished the time to network, mix, mingle, and tear up the dance floor.
- • Accessible Twitter allows screen reader users much greater access to the popular social networking tool.
- • Lexmark International, Inc. allows persons with vision loss to use software-based access to bypass difficult-to-use touch screens on copiers, scanners, printers, and fax machines.
- • CBS Television Network, which began describing their television programs before it was a requirement, now provides video description for 22 percent of its primetime shows, the most of any network.
- • Walt Disney Parks and Resorts took accessibility for persons with disabilities to a new level. The company developed a device that allows persons with vision and/or hearing loss to access descriptions and more while navigating the popular Disney theme parks.
Truly, I could have kept going with such sessions as Cay Holbrook's "Patterns, Revised APH Braille Instruction: Part One," which received great reviews from all attendees. Or, by mentioning the name heard most frequently when navigating the conference: Scott Truax! Scott works for AFB, but worked in Washington for over 22 years. He was definitely one of the most well-known people at the conference. Scott was instrumental in putting together the conference with his co-chair, Mark Uslan.
AFB is grateful to the Pacific Northwest AER chapter, Seattle Lighthouse, Washington State School for the Blind, and all of the great volunteers who made the event so successful and unique. A big thank-you goes out to the amazing sponsors and vendors who added to the great atmosphere and quality of the event. The conference would not have been possible without a large team made up of members from Seattle, elsewhere in the United States, and Canada.
I'll see you at the next JLTLI!
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