Monday, April 3, 2017

National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee Meets in Memphis

Next years convention is in Nashville

By Christina Clift
Christina Clift
During the 2017 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee 200 blind individuals gathered at the Crown Plaza Hotel in downtown Memphis to learn how to live the lives they want and that it is respectable to be blind.  

Some of the topics discussed over the three-day weekend included: exciting advances in technology, updates on legislation that will improve the educational opportunities for all blind students, how to stay fit and healthy, and updates from organizations such as Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation, The Tennessee Library for the Blind, and the NFB national office. Convention attendees also had the opportunity to drop by the hospitality suite, explore the exhibit hall, and participate in several raffles.  

At exactly 9:00 AM on Saturday morning the gavel sounded which opened the 2017 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee.  The welcoming ceremony highlighted the rich history that Memphis offers in the areas of music and basketball, as well as greetings from the Tennessee legislature by Senator Reginald Tate. 
Throughout the entire day the theme of “Federation Heart, Grit and Grind” was continued.  It not only reflected Memphis’s love for the Grizzlys, but also the spirit of our organization.  

Perhaps one of the most anticipated topics of the morning was the live demonstration of Aira.  This technology provides visual interpreting through the use of a device hooked onto a pair of glasses.  It can provide blind individuals with travel instructions to reach a destination, describe patterns on a rug, give menu suggestions at a local restaurant that you might like, recognize faces, and help you find an empty seat in a crowded room.  

You access a live Aira representative through an app downloaded to your phone and through a terminal she can see what you are looking at by asking you to scan your environment.  Although it is still in the testing phase, Aira created quite a stir in convention attendees.  Vocational Rehabilitation will be getting lots of requests as soon as it becomes available to the general public.  You can find more information about Aira by visiting their website at  

OrCam also provides a device that hooks onto your glasses which will read print that it sees.  James Boehm said, “I can sit in the back of my class at Vanderbilt and Orcam will read what my professor has on the screen. It’s provided me with a way to instantly access things I would normally have to wait for someone to read or send by e-mail.”

NFB Tennessee closed the first day of general session out by electing three new individuals to our state board of directors.  They included Greg Self from Knoxville, Shannon Hanson from Knoxville, and Joh Harris from Murfreesboro.  These three individuals will be a great addition to the state board.
On the last day of convention reports were given from each Tennessee affiliate chapter and division.  It’s was an opportunity to get a peek at what other chapters were doing for outreach, community education projects, fundraising, and membership. After hearing the reports it’s safe to say that our chapters are strong, active, and growing throughout the year.  

It was a time to also reflect on the lives of the members who died and didn’t make it to convention.  The Federation is like a family and we miss those who are no longer with us, cheer on those who are in poor health, stand up for those who need help, and welcome new members with hope, love, and enthusiasm.  We also selected our location for next year’s convention which will be Nashville. We hope to see you there.