French Delegation

by George Holliday

In early August, I received a telephone call from Melanie Brunson, executive director of the American Council of the Blind. We discussed my hosting a meeting for a delegation from France as a member of the ACB board. She informed me that I was to contact Caroline, the tour coordinator of a tour agency in Canada, to finalize details for the meeting. 

During several conversations with Caroline, the two-hour meeting was scheduled for Sept. 13 at Associated Services for the Blind in Philadelphia. She informed me that the 31-member delegation included 24 visually impaired individuals, and that François, the tour guide, was the only one speaking English. He wanted to discuss the following: 

How does ACB work? What are the goals and/or mandates? What is being done to help blind or low-vision people in the community or at the workplace? What special programs are put in place by different agencies? Discuss the daily life (both benefits and obstacles) of blind people in the USA. 

Once everyone arrived, I attempted to humor them with some French I retained from school, even though François had to come to my rescue. It was an honor to talk briefly about ACB. The presenters were held to a time limit. The members of the delegation were informed of several advocacy efforts on pending legislation, which included discussion on quiet cars, currency, voting and pedestrian safety. I distributed copies of "The Braille Forum" in large print and cassette, and told them about ACB's web site, where they could find more information. 

John Horst, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind, discussed issues pertaining to PCB and distributed PCB brochures. Derby Ewing, Director of Human Services, discussed services and programs at ASB. Myrlene Harvey, District Manager of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services of Philadelphia, discussed services and programs. Ed Facemyer, past BBVS consumer and employee now retired, gave us a brief description of him receiving services, working for BBVS and his activities since retiring. Sarita Holliday, an employee of the VA Medical Center, provided an overview of the demographic representation of legally blind veterans who receive services at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center in addition to those seen throughout the country. Stewart Hughes, Director of Family Services, Family Resource Room at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, discussed how he became involved with the Little Rock Foundation. He also discussed the services that he and I provide at the resource rooms at CHOP and Wills Eye Hospital. Following the presentations, the guests asked several questions. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the group. Everyone received my contact information in case they had additional questions after returning home. 

After leaving the meeting, the delegation toured the braille department and met with Rene Snowden, library representative, where she discussed the library services and programs. 

I have never seen a more enthused group. They were very patient as François translated for them. The presenters had to learn on the fly how much to say before the translator took over. 

While they boarded the bus, François informed me that everyone wanted to shake my hand before leaving. It was an honor and pleasure to participate in such an event for ACB. 

Au revoir for now!