Conventions: National Federation of the Blind National Convention 2018 Review!

Hello to all of my beautiful nerds traveling the vast universe, I am back from a nice rest because I was at the NFB National Convention last week and man it was a huge experience and a new environment since I never thought I would be at a convention minus the costumes that I am usually familiar with but I was in my element since I’m visually impaired myself. Let’s see what I have to say about this event. But first as always…

Disclaimer: This review is based on thoughts and opinions of the lead writer of this blog! Please Respect the thoughts and opinions since this based on the experience they went through.

Location: First is the location and that is at the Rosen Shingle Creek and man this place was bigger than the Rosen Center itself despite that one was also connected to the Convention Center downtown on International Drive. If you remembered when Gondras and I covered Omni Fandom Expo 2015 it was at the Rosen Center and you had the events on the bottom floor and top floor while Rosen Shingle Creek felt like it was like the World Center in my observation because a ton of ballrooms to work with, plus you have more panel rooms upstairs to use right above the lower lobby and then more escalators leading to more board rooms and a printing store, oh yes you can print stuff if you need it which I had to with my resume for the Job Fair, which I will get to a bit later. Plus you do have the food court which is a little pricey, I did have my snacks but I needed a caffeine recharge since their coffee shop was reasonably priced, even more reasonable than Starbucks. I would say the white chocolate lattes are great. Anyways, this place should be an anime convention place too because conventions do out grow their location, heck Holiday Matsuri is a good example of that, since there are tons of rooms to play with and even the main ballroom in the Sebastian areas were huge for General Sessions and held all of the State Affiliates of the NFB. Even the Independence Market and Exhibitors Hall was very well sized for what they were displaying and selling, which I will got to…

Exhibitors and Independence Market: Now! This room was pretty much where my money went because I found stuff I needed and found very well. I know it’s weird calling it Independence Market but it’s due to vendors selling items to help us in the blind community to be more independent such as books, tech, and even Braille slates! I found a vendor who sold my favorite full page slate which I still have from EBay. The main thing I wanted was a new watch because my old taking one had the talking part die permanently. Let me describe it, it not only has the digital numbers but it does have its talking setting where you can set the time, the alarms, and now you change the voice on the talking models now from when I looked at them. I decided to change to Braille because the thing is as a convention and concert goer, especially with one concert coming up in August, it’s hard to hear these things over the noise and not only that they can go off if you set the hour alert and can be a bit disruptive. So, I went with Braille and it was kind of hard to set the time on this but I like how to touch the watch face and where the hour and minute hands point to at the dots. Which on the clock face you have the 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 are single dots while the 3, 6, 9, and 12 have more of a wedge to touch while feeling the time. Plus it makes it better than just using my phone which I have done for the past year and a half to two years. Plus, this watch I paid for was not that bad because you have some going into the hundred dollar to two hundred range which I went with the $55 and a tip for women who love to grow their nails, go with the men’s model because the watch face is bigger and it’s easier to feel when you have long nails. I had long nails when I bought mine even though they broke during the entire week I was there and had to clip mine but getting the men’s version would be easier to feel since the women’s watch faces are smaller and the dots are too. Just letting you know. Besides buying different items for the independence part, I had to replace my battery for my Victor Reader Stream, for a while now I ran into the issue where I touched the battery and it shuts off and had to order a new one. I was glad that Human Ware was there to take care of that which they were promoting their Stream, the Stream Trek, and the Braille Note Touch. If you don’t know what the Braille Note Touch is, it’s basically where you take a Braille display and fuse with an Android tablet where you have the display and the keyboard on top of an Android tablet and you can also Braille on the tablet too. I almost went with this Polaris had my heart and yes HIMS was also there which I will talk about that with events next.

I did go to the State Affiliates area where in this area all the different NFB State Chapters were selling things to fund raise and you also get to talk to them one on one and get to meet who else is out there. I did buy some things and got to chat with Massachusetts since I was born in Boston and they were happy, I got to chat with Arizona since I will be starting at Northern Arizona in the fall and they are some of the nicest people, also even got a popcorn ball from Nebraska since they claim to have the best popcorn in the United States and they weren’t joking! I got a popcorn ball and they said it is soft and tastes like marshmallow and it does! If I go to Nebraska I must visit their popcorn shops and get more of these because normally around Halloween time when Brach’s does their popcorn balls they are hard cement! Not kidding. These from Nebraska, I highly recommend if you ever visit Nebraska or go to their State Conventions or even the NFB National. I also did get to meet Hawaii briefly because my brother was stationed there and they are also sweet too! I did have a bit of situation with charging banks from Alabama though. As you know, I had a Pikachu one from Think Geek which GameStop sold during Hurricane Irma time and somehow it did not like my Apple devices and wanted to get a better one since you know me and traveling especially with our convention travels and when I heard that chargers will be sold I went and asked about that on Day Three and found them at Alabama, the one that I was sold was not working right and even with the cords so I did exchange it and did lose the cords because they fell out of my bag somehow but the good news is the one that got exchanged works properly even with a new cord I got on EBay and got in the mail today. I can even recharge my Polaris with this thing with its own USB cord. But back to the story, even though I was sad, I decided to find New York since they also had one and they had two left and I was lucky to get theirs as well and that thing charged my Victor Reader Stream! So yes, I now have two charge banks and working because of Alabama and New York, which I must thank now and if I was out somewhere and one doesn’t work without any juice I do have a backup and also my friends can use since there are times where outlets aren’t always in close range even at a restaurant.

Another thing I did pick up which I was really excited about was from the National Braille Press! This is an organization that prints Braille books and sells them and not bad for pricing either and the books are for all ages because I felt a Dr. Seuss book while I was at their table. I got a book that I heard about through the Blind Side Podcast through an interview with the author Judy Dixon and it is called Writing Your Way: Composing and editing on an IPhone and IPad. This interview was very informative because it talks about the many ways you can edit on writing apps on your IPhone and IPad, I wonder about Android tablets since I do use my Polaris and Galaxy Tab E. I have to take a read myself and I was happy that they carried this at the convention and did buy it so I can have it and can use it as a teaching tool while working. I highly suggest National Braille Press in case if you need that specific Braille book for your loved ones or even as gifts for them because we don’t want to leave anyone in the dark without a good book! I may have to talk to them and see about getting my books in Braille, what about that?

Besides some of these companies, there were also Google showing off their tech which I want to get myself a Chrome Book since I got to test out Chrome Vox on them and of course wishing they had Google Play cards which I will talk about down in the Needs in Improvements area for one thing. Also, a new app has been developed for locations which is like Soundscape but more in detail called N Reach and I have become an affiliate with them by the way, which I need to get my cards out to businesses. (Tried to on Monday at the mall but couldn’t get the chance!) And one awesome exhibitor is 3D Photo Works who does tactile photos, Braille plaques, and audio descriptions for exhibits and they are trying to get into more museums, which reminds me I need to still talk to the Science Center because this would help any blind visitors be able to feel the photos that are displayed, read the plaques, and not only that hear any information because at their booth they talked about how they helped with the Vietnam Exhibit in Washington and had three pictures as examples. If you want these guys to do something a museum near you, I would suggest talking to the museum and have them get in contact with this company because a blind person like me can’t see the exhibits, the last exhibit I was able to see was the Tiffany Glass Exhibit here in town and I can imagine what if their exhibit had these plaques and this kind of tactile work on top of it. There is a lot to think about with this company.

Events: Woot! A lot to talk about here and I feel my fingers hurting slightly! I am still pumped! There were a lot of events to go to and so little time because a lot of them took place at the same time and a good tip is choose wisely while reading the agenda in its final form. Which the good thing was you can download and store it for your pleasure. I downloaded, nice tip for everyone with a Braille device, the Word document and transferred it over onto my Braille Sense Polaris so I can feel it if I need to. I should do that with all of the convention guidebooks or if I get KNFB Reader I can take pictures of it too.

Day 1 was more seminar day where you can meet some of the companies that will be there in the Exhibitors Hall and of course in the morning there was also parent meetings for any blind parent or parents with blind children to discuss tips and advice and many other things even talking about the day care services that were going to be on site. I went to the HIMS Seminar since I do have my Polaris and of course discussed some issues with the typing in Word Processor where I and other people experienced where the cursor moved time to time. This was annoying while taking notes on the JAWS Certification materials. Also some issues with navigating the Google Suite editing areas. Hoping that can be fixed even with the next updates.

The next few days were filled with General Sessions where the president, Mark Rickabono, talked about many things that the NFB has been working on to improve our lives as blind people, heck even his speech almost put me in tears because I faced so much back in school, I still remember how I was taken out of my Exceptional Education Minor to be in my Writing Minor because I was told how I can’t make it through Grad School because it would be too hard for me, heck I am going now! I didn’t stay for resolutions on Saturday, well the end of it, because it was going to be a long ways through it and I felt that I was falling asleep, heck I fainted a bit after Friday’s session let out. It’s due to exhaustion since I did commute with paratransit and had to be there in time for the first General Session. And of course, we did find out where next year NFB Convention is was going to be for National and that is in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino! Knowing Nevada is happy about that! Hoping I can save enough to go out there or get a Master’s to try for the NFB National Scholarship again which this convention did inspire me to look into more schooling if I can because what if I want to continue with my education? Let’s see what’s happens!

More things took place, heck I even volunteered at the Braille Book Fair which takes place during the convention where kids and their parents can look through many Braille books and take them and have them sent home to where they live via UPS. I felt really good volunteering at this because I love reading even if it is in Braille and having that experience to help out did help me have the one on one with kids and their parents, I even gave tips to a woman who had a girl who went through a stroke and needed tips on getting her dexterity back. Plus it gave me leverage before I start teaching blind people again and I felt more of my confidence again as I helped. And to tell you the truth, I missed volunteering for things like these since it gives me experience and a bigger heart as I help.

Let’s see what else happened! Oh right! Friday night, Gondras met up with me and besides meeting up with me we had an amazing experience and that was…: drum roll: we got to interview Apl D Ap from the Black Eyed Peas! :: hears fans screaming:: I wanted to interview him since an interesting fact is that he’s visually impaired and was performing this year and this was a great opportunity to get someone who has been in the music business who is also blind in on the YouTube side of this blog since it’s a nice change from our voice actors we get to interview and we get to learn more about him. Just hold on and follow us on Twitter @ Nerdy Shique when we upload the video from this interview along with more information about his own charity, Apple of My Eye, hoping I spelled that right, and so much more! And other people I got to meet were the developers of the Be My Eyes app which as you may have seen my Assistive Tech Panel from Omni 2017 where I demonstrated this app, will I have a future interview with them? I will be in the works of setting that up to do it over Skype since they are from Denmark which made it interesting even with one of them having my eye condition on top of it. I did demonstrate it on my Polaris and it works as much as the Apple version. I did Tweet them about it too. And finally, I got to go to Google’s presentation on their tech because I wanted to see what’s new in their development in Accessibility even with Android. Again, I want a Chrome Book after this presentation because I want to be open minded in the tech and they are also developing an app that is like Seeing A. I. almost and maybe I should write about that one as well if I can test it on my tablet or on my Polaris so stay tuned for that! I didn’t go to Microsoft’s presentation because I had so much to do in between and Google did their presentation at the same time, but Microsoft did a repeat and I only got to their Narrator portion. I did hear how their presentation focused more on the Narrator side rather than Soundscape and Seeing A. I. which I heard that demo for Seeing A. I. was not as great. Okay Microsoft, you do awesome presentations at E3, what’s going on? If I was there and demonstrating Seeing A. I., I would do all of the channels on it because it is critical to show off each one even with currency. And of course, if you guys were at that presentation, I would say go to my posts about Soundscape where I tested it in two malls so far and I did test it out in Shingle Creek which it did detect the area I was in. And finally, my finishing event, I did go to the job fair but briefly since I did have to catch my ride. It was loud! But at least I got to talk to the NFB and the New Jersey Coalition for the Blind about the Access Tech positions on top of it and did find Lighthouse Central Florida since they were also looking for people. It felt great to re-connect with them and give them updates.

Rating: CONVENTION ACCOMPLISHED! This convention deserves a Convention Accomplished because it kind of makes me connect more with my blind peers in one place. Even though I missed the costume parts but this was a different environment and a new aspect of conventions. This brings a huge community together and get to know each other, what is going on with us in one huge organization, not only that make us think that we’re not the only one being blind even in our own state. I got to meet people from Nebraska, Arizona, Hawaii, heck there was Puerto Rico as one of the NFB Affiliates! Wishing I caught one of the members but hey I cheered for them along with Arizona and Massachusetts. Plus, I found out that I am not the only blind cosplayer that exists because one of the National Scholarship Finalists was one too! She makes her own stuff and I got to meet her which was awesome! I want to suggest that the NFB should have a Geeky Division because we are blind geeks/nerds. That is why there is nerd in this blog’s name. Still, this convention was very inspiring and I hope to go to more of them even if they end up in Georgia, Massachusetts, even in Louisiana if Gondras and I get to travel that far.

Needs for Improvements: Well, not all conventions are perfect so there are some needs for improvement.

Microsoft Demo All Aspects Of Accessible Products: What I mean by this is that I heard that not all of the aspects of seeing A. I. was not tested and well that got me thinking why aren’t demonstrating all the aspects of products. I did notice that Narrator was tested in all aspects and knowing they want to show that it’s a free screen reader but to me Microsoft has way more stuff to it and that it can be demonstrated more from what I heard.
Repeat the Demonstrations throughout the Week: What I mean by this is that I noticed that according to the agenda that Microsoft was the only one who got a repeat because not everyone can go to every demonstration in the agenda. I think this would benefit anyone who couldn’t make it to the Google one and can go to the second showing since one day they were at the same time as Microsoft and that would be nice if it was vice versa for anyone who wanted to see Google but didn’t get to. Repeating the brand demonstrations can help with the overload and can give more options to people in what to do after the General Sessions are done. Plus, it gives the person what they missed a new opportunity to catch it later if they have something else to go to or needs to eat.
Time Slots Should Be More Organized: What I mean is that there were times where some things ran over during General Sessions or that when I get to an area that the time changed and etc. I know the final agenda is published way in advanced but they should at least confirm some of the time slots to be accurate and edit the agenda before the convention probably two weeks before because I noticed that some things ran over or an example I was supposed to volunteer at 1 in the afternoon for the Braille Book Fair but I had to go back at 3:45 for the actual event. I think it would be easier to either edit the agenda to fit the time slots or during the presentations, like Google did, set a timer for each speaker because some of them ran over and doing the timer thing can help out a little. If you have to be up on the stage for fifteen minutes then set that timer and not only that, if you know your event starts late then send a group email to the newsletter since some people do check their emails during the day whether it’s on the Polaris, Braille Note Touch, or on their phone they can read it and say, “Oh! It got pushed back! Gotcha!” I understand so many events so little time but starting on time makes more sense.
More Volunteers to Guide: What I mean is that I feel like there were volunteers to tell you where the escalators, stairs, and ballrooms were but there should’ve been more and they should’ve also given more details in where to go like this ballroom to your left or right and probably have some volunteers to able to say, “Hey, need some help! Grab on and I will lead you!” Heck, even for bathrooms because there were some bathrooms where there was single room and so many people were trying to get into them and it was hard to tell Women and Men from that one particular bathroom, would be nice to have someone standing and say, “Women’s Bathroom over here!” and vice versa since it was hard getting around when there were people with canes and dogs in one area. And also, didn’t know that I couldn’t sit in one part where it was to the side that was counted as foot traffic areas, should be nice to have volunteers warning us about that too because there was no mention of that as rules anywhere even if you were to the side or at least have volunteers asking, “Hey, do you need a seat? There are free seats over here.” Just saying!
Making Registration Easier to Navigate: I bring this idea up because while walking round the Registration Area we didn’t know where to go or how the lines were split. I heard there were ropes before, where were they? That would be easy or I gave this as an idea and that is Lego Tape on the ground. Oh yes, there is tape made with Legos that you can use to stick and build upon one on top of the other, it would help with the shoreline bit with getting around the Registration area instead of bumping into the ropes which I did before and it was not pleasant, it happened one year at an anime con by the way. People were surprised that it exists because Assistive Tech FAQS mentioned this as a way of building an ergonomic platform for a keyboard. NFB you should try it out for making shorelines for this area or even the Exhibitor’s Hall and the General Session and Presentation Rooms to help with finding exits and chairs.
Making Signs For Tourists: Another thing I have noticed is that a few stray tourists were hanging around the convention area that weren’t a part of the convention which I have asked directions. They didn’t know what I was talking about and realized that they weren’t there for the convention just sitting around. I understand that some tourists like to sit around but there are other areas for them to be in that is not the convention floor, as in they can be the food court area, the pool, and there was another side to the hotel, which this brings me to my last point and that is there should be signs for any stray wonderers telling them that a blind convention is being held in this hotel, like one sign would say, “Welcome to all tourists! There is a blindness convention this way! Try to help our patrons.” Because there are times where not all tourists know what event they are witnessing and not there for it, trust me I’ve seen it with anime conventions where people stayed at the hotel for theme parks and family but hang around the area which can be confusing even for a blind person. And the helping part, the tourist may be able to help if they had amap of the event to guide if need be for instance if someone had the map and I asked where registration was and they can say, “Oh, I have a map here that someone gave me, follow me.” It can make things a little easier since we can get lost and not everyone would know that they are in an area where people may need help in.

Well, I think that’s good enough here because I think I talked about so much when it came to this convention already. I think I smell smoke from my fingers. This convention was fun and sad to hear that it won’t be in Orlando for a while but hey at least people can travel to someplace they never been before. I hope to go to Vegas but if not you guys in Vegas and other parts of the country who are blind or knows someone who is blind to check it out and also be a member of the NFB because they believe in living the life you want since blindness doesn’t define you as a person. I want to thank the NFB of Florida for giving me the Dr. Jernagand Scholarship so I can be a part of this convention by attending it and getting to interview Apl D Ap and not only that getting to give my services to the Braille Book Fair. So, this hoping for the future especially with me since there are more things to explore and do for this blog and the YouTube Channel. So make sure you follow us on Twitter! Until next time!

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