by Penny Crane

Minneapolis what a beautiful, progressive city the American Council of the Blind chose for its 46th annual convention! I felt like a queen in the Hyatt Regency. Two friends, "Boo" (Bushemi, a big dog) and I shared a room. We didn't feel crowded at all.

The hotel staff was friendly and gracious. They'd had training to meet our special needs, even folding the bills so they could be easily signed by blind people. Every morning, we found a local newspaper outside the door.

Monday through Friday from 8:30 'til noon, we met for general sessions in a huge room with long narrow tables that had chairs along one side. Each table had a big state sign. Alabama was in front of Arizona. One day, in the back of an elevator, I heard a voice say, "The back of your head looks familiar." He was from Arkansas.

Some of the volunteer work I did was meeting people in the halls and taking them to their tables. I got to meet a lot of great people. There were volunteers everywhere!

Some of the issues brought up at the general sessions were digital books, quiet cars, the sizes of money and absentee voting. I thought the officer elections were interesting. We wore name tags, and stood up for the candidate we wanted. Sometimes there were so many people being counted that we had to stand for 15 minutes!

There were all kinds of sessions in the afternoons. As I am a senior citizen and a retired kindergarten teacher, I attended sessions run by the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss. One day the topic was depression and aging; another day, "Who shall I marry?" (I really enjoyed their wine and cheese mixer.)

I also attended the women's concerns committee sessions on a couple of afternoons. They had programs on financial independence and heart health, among other topics.

GDUI and ACB both held auctions. They were a lot of fun and raised a lot of money. I donated a hand-made baby quilt.

I was impressed with all the wonderful programs for the kids from being invited into the Hyatt kitchen and preparing box lunches with the chefs, to going to touch-and-feel museums.

A friend invited me to the Guide Dog Users luncheon, and the next day, I was invited to a breakfast. I learned about clicker training, Lyme disease testing, and international ID chips. I told a friend it was like two different worlds there: life above the table and life below it. I could just envision one dog saying, "How has your year been? Well, let me tell you about mine ..."

My convention experiences were fun, informative and uplifting. Observing long-time friends greeting each other made me feel like a visitor at a big family reunion!

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