by Melanie Brunson

For some time now, you have been reading articles in "The Braille Forum" about tours and other activities that will take place during ACB's upcoming convention. There are indeed some exciting opportunities in store for those who will be joining us in Jacksonville. However, I don't think much attention has been given to the business meetings that will take place on Monday through Friday mornings of convention week. So I decided to provide a little of that attention in my article here. Now, please don't flip to the next article, or fast-forward your tape just yet! My reason for bringing up the subject of business meetings is so that you will know about some of the fun and practical things we are planning for the morning sessions and plan to attend those sessions.

For example, one of the people who will be speaking to us this year is Michael Mellor, author of "Louis Braille, A Touch of Genius." He will have a lot of interesting information to share with us about the life and work of Louis Braille, as well as his own work in compiling this new book about the individual whose life has had a significant impact on the lives of so many of us today. I spoke with Mellor by phone and think he will be a very exciting speaker. I imagine he will also provide an opportunity for people to get their books autographed, too. His presentation to the convention will be on Wednesday morning, but he will also be participating in an award presentation on Sunday evening.

Tuesday's program will feature our 2006 scholarship winners. Afterward, there will be a panel on emergency preparedness which will update us on what is being done to make emergency warnings on TV accessible, as well as very practical information about dealing with disasters.

Have any of you ever asked your local government to install an accessible traffic signal, or make improvements to public transit or paratransit service? Well, if so, then Thursday's general session is one you won't want to miss! We hope to give you the scoop on federal funding that is available for such projects through the New Freedom Initiative and answer questions such as what these funds can be used for, who is eligible for them and how to get access to them.

There are a variety of other presentations in the planning stages as I write. One of our goals is to cover topics that appeal to a wide variety of interests, so that there will be something for everybody in attendance.

I hope you will stick around for the convention business that will be conducted on Thursday and Friday. We will be holding elections for a number of positions on both the ACB board and the board of publications, and it is crucial that you exercise your right to choose the people who fill these positions. There will be other opportunities for you to influence the activities of both the elected leadership and the ACB staff through action on resolutions and amendments to the ACB constitution and bylaws, too. Those of you who have attended conventions in the past know this well, but some who are reading this may not have experienced this part of convention yet. For those of you who have not, I urge you to make it a point to do so this year. It can be both educational and fun. For those who are old hands at this process, I hope you will approach it with a fresh perspective this time around. Your voice can only count if it is heard and we need to hear from the largest cross-section of our membership as possible as we consider issues that are vital to our ability to carry out our mission, both within ACB and society at large.

On a somewhat related note, when you read your convention materials, you will also discover that the legislative seminar will be earlier than usual this year. It is being held on Sunday, July 9, in an effort to involve more people. I know that Day has some great plans for the seminar that should make it stimulating and informative, so I encourage you to attend it as well.

We face a lot of challenges in our quest to improve the quality of life and equality of opportunity for all people who are blind and visually impaired. However, I truly believe that within our ranks we have the resources with which to meet those challenges successfully. I hope that all of you will join us in July, roll up your sleeves and help us go to work on removing the obstacles, dispelling the myths about blindness and promoting positive opportunity. I look forward to the unique ideas, skills and abilities each of you has to contribute to that process and the interesting things we can make happen when we put them together!

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