by Carla Ruschival

From blast-off to touchdown, the 48th national convention of the American Council of the Blind will be an out-of-this-world experience. Over 300 programs, workshops, tours and other events will pack convention week from July 3-11.

As is true every year, the national convention is our chance to discuss important issues that affect blind and visually impaired people in their daily lives. Take this opportunity to discuss transportation, rehabilitation and legislative issues at special ACB workshops. Learn self-advocacy techniques at the NELDS seminar, and see all the latest high- and low-tech gadgets in the exhibit hall. Participate in technology users' groups, learn about career opportunities, and attend special-interest meetings on an impressive array of topics.

After a busy day it's time for fun. Kick off the week with the Welcome to Florida party. Try out new activities in the Recreation Zone, or make your debut as a stand-up comic at the students' Comedy Night. Enjoy a great program of music at the FIA Showcase, stop by a mixer or two to see old friends, or bid all night long at the ACB auction.

Get out and about with an ACB tour. Launch into convention week with a visit to the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, July 3, and bring your convention spaceship back to earth with a visit to the Daytona racetrack or a relaxing evening at a dinner theater on Saturday, July 11. Orbit Orlando throughout the week with tours to the Holy Land Experience, Wonder Works, the largest library of braille books in the world and much, much more.

CAUTION: Are you an old hand at convention? Don't think you can steer your 2009 convention ship without checking the schedule on the pre-registration form. Some events have moved to a new date and time, such as the CCLVI Game Night (now on Monday). Some old favorites won't be there this year, such as the Seeing Eye breakfast, while other past favorites have returned to the schedule (watch for a great LUA workshop on Monday evening).

JUST FOR KIDS: Bring the entire family to convention. There's a week of fun for the kids.

The Youth Activity Center and Kidz Zone will once again offer up tours, swimming, games and crafts, and of course special YAC T-shirts for everyone. Light breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided. The fun gets under way on Sunday afternoon with a pool party, and every day, Monday through Friday, will be teeming with fun.

CONVENTION REGISTRATION: Pre-registration forms will be mailed on or around May 20, and on-line pre-registration will open at the same time. Pre-registration will remain open until June 24. You MUST register AND pay for items during this period in order to receive discounted pricing. You may purchase tickets at the registration desk at the hotel; registration prices will apply to all on-site purchases even if you have pre-registered.

SPECIAL NEEDS: A $20 deposit will once again be required if you wish to borrow an assistive listening device (ALD) for the week. Make the deposit on the pre-registration form; pick up the ALD at the registration desk. Receive your refund when you return the ALD to registration as you leave the convention. The ALD will come with a fresh battery; you are responsible for supplying additional batteries during the week.

If you use a wheelchair, scooter, etc. and you plan to take tours, you MUST notify us of your need for a lift-equipped bus when you pre-register. Remember that tour volunteers cannot act as personal assistants on tours. If you need a personal guide or assistant, please arrange to take the tour with a friend who is willing to give you his or her undivided attention.

If you need to request an interpreter, please do so NO LATER THAN June 15. Tell us the type of interpreter you need and the session(s) or event(s) you wish to attend. Be sure to include details on how we can contact you for more information.

Whether you need an interpreter, a lift-equipped bus, or other reasonable accommodation, it is absolutely imperative that we know of your needs by June 15. We will make every effort to fill requests received by that date. Request reasonable accommodations on the pre-registration form, or contact Sally Benjamin, local host committee co-chair, at 1-800-267-4448, or by e-mail at [email protected].

The American Council of the Blind is not required under the ADA to provide personal care assistants or round-the-clock services of any kind. ACB, hotel staff and volunteers cannot administer medications or provide transportation.

TRANSPORTATION: Taxi fare from the Orlando airport to the Rosen Centre is about $35 each way for up to seven people. Service is 24 hours a day, and accessible vans are available; ask the cab starter to call one for you. Taxi service from the Sanford airport is $95 each way. For more information on taxis, call Yellow Cab at (407) 422-2222.

Shuttle transportation is available from the Orlando airport to the hotel through Mears Transportation. Cost is $20 one-way or $33 round-trip per person. Mears does not serve the Sanford airport. For more information about Mears shuttles, call (407) 423-5566.

The bus station is about 12 miles from the hotel, and taxi fare is approximately $30.

Paratransit (Access Lynx) service is door-to-door, and rides can be reserved one to 7 days in advance. If you wish to use Access Lynx services while you are in Orlando, please fax documentation of your eligibility for paratransit services two weeks in advance of your arrival to (407) 849-6759, attn.: Eligibility. Follow up with a call one week in advance to (407) 423-8747 to make sure your paperwork has been received and to make your first ride requests.

Look for more information on public transportation in the June issue and on the e-mail lists.

EXHIBITS, ADVERTISING AND SPONSORSHIPS: The ACB convention is a great chance to let people from all over the country and around the world know about your company's products and services. For more information on exhibit, advertising and sponsorship opportunities, visit our web site at, or contact Michael Smitherman (Exhibits) at (601) 968-4164, or Margarine Beaman (Advertising and Sponsorships) at (512) 921-1625.

HOTEL RESERVATIONS: If you are holding a hotel reservation that you no longer need, please cancel it right away. This is extremely important, as it allows others to reserve that room and prevents ACB from over-committing its room blocks. Your cooperation in this matter in a timely manner is appreciated.

To make a reservation at the Rosen Centre, call (407) 996-9840. Rooms are $83 per night, single/double, plus tax. Add $10 per night for each additional person in the room.

KEEP UP WITH CONVENTION: Keep up with all the latest convention announcements. Join the acbconvention e-mail list by sending a blank message to [email protected].

For convention questions or special concerns, contact Carla Ruschival at (502) 897-1472 or by e-mail, [email protected]; or call the ACB national office at 1-800-424-8666.

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