Monday, November 21, 2016

The Great Gathering-In

A Call for Washington Seminar for the NFB

Christina Clift of M C I L By Christina Clift
At 5:00 PM on Monday January 30, 2017 members of the Memphis chapter of the National Federation of the Blind along with more than 500 of their fellow Federationists will once again come together for the Great Gathering-In at the Capitol Holiday Inn in Washington D.C. The Great Gathering-In serves as the opening session for the NFB’s Washington Seminar. 

The Washington Seminar is an annual event of the National Federation of the Blind which introduces the agenda of blind Americans, as well as the  priority issues requiring congressional attention over the coming year. The issues are selected from official positions of the Federation and may address concerns in the following areas: relevant civil rights issues; educational programs and services; rehabilitation of people who are blind for competitive employment; the operation of vending facilities by people who are blind on public property; specialized library services for the blind; the organization and funding of federal programs; Social Security and Supplemental Income programs; and other timely topics. Approximately three legislative initiatives are chosen for priority attention during the Washington Seminar.

During this three day period members of the Tennessee delegation will learn about and advocate for initiatives that will improve the lives of blind Americans.  Participants will learn how to talk with their local Congressman and Senators about issues on the NFB’s legislative agenda and about bad public policies that attempt to relegate the Blind to second-class citizenship. 

NFB members will swarm Capitol Hill to speak with Tennessee legislators about their concerns and demand the Congress member sponsor legislation that will benefit the Blind.  Some of the issues addressed during previous Washington Seminars included the Quiet Car Initiative, Technology, Education  and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act, and the Space Available Act. So far, the priority legislative issues for 2017 have not been released but more information can be found by visiting

“Washington Seminar demonstrates the power of the Blind as a collective voice for change,” said NFB of Tennessee President James Brown.  “It’s a powerful sound hearing hundreds of white canes tapping their way around Capitol Hill.” We invite anyone who is interested in advancing the cause of Americans who are blind, to join us from January 30th to February 2, 2017 in D.C.  We hope to see you at our Great Gathering-In, so you can become a part of creating change in the lives of the Blind.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Memphis Center for Independent Living believes the in using “people first” language. Often you will note in this article “the Blind” and "Blind people" are used in an apparent contradiction to the strict person-first ideal. MCIL recognizes cultural exceptions to the people first guide. You may be familiar with "Deaf" with a capital D used by most people who are deaf. The capital “D” denotes a cultural identity surrounding a signed language and a set of cultural norms separate from the mainstream local culture. People who are deaf who capitalize the D see their deafness as more than just a physiological state, also as an identity. The same applies for people who are deaf-blind and for some people who are blind who, while sharing a language in common with the mainstream, may feel necessary assert a specific community identity.