[NFBOH-Cleveland] [Ohio-Talk] The Difference a National Convention Can Make, by Alex French

Jessica Stover jjstover at kent.edu
Thu Feb 13 01:24:09 UTC 2020

Alex! I’m so happy for you and proud of you! This makes me smile. Can’t
wait to get to know you some more when you come back and share your
experience with our Akron chapter and the rest of the federation about your
time in Louisiana. Cheers

On Wed, Feb 12, 2020 at 8:15 PM Suzanne Turner via Ohio-Talk <
ohio-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:

> The Difference a National Convention Can Make
> by Alex French <>
> Editor's note: The following article speaks for itself. I was one of the
> people that Suzanne Turner asked to talk with Alex. It was clear that he
> needed what he could learn from the national convention. We got to work to
> make it happen for him. Here is his story of what he learned at convention:
> It's June 25, and I'm in a dark place. I had recently had a doctor's
> appointment in which I was told that there wasn't any noticeable
> improvement
> in my eyesight. I had a brain tumor back in December, and the resulting
> surgeries left me in the dark, literally and figuratively. I am now totally
> blind after having perfect vision for twenty-nine years of my life. I was a
> firefighter, expecting to buy my first home with my seven-year-old
> daughter.
> Instead, I was moving back in with my parents, effectively unemployed, and
> learning how to live as a blind person. Enter the National Federation of
> the
> Blind.
> When I discovered that I might never have eyesight again, I began to do
> some
> research to determine my best route to regain my independence. I discovered
> the Louisiana Center for the Blind, BLIND Inc., and the Colorado Center for
> the Blind. So I decided to contact each and gather some information. This
> was how I learned about the National Federation of the Blind. I had decided
> to contact the Cleveland chapter of the NFB since it wasn't far from my
> home. In this conversation I learned that the national convention was just
> two weeks away. Newly blind, I had no idea that this organization even
> existed or that they had a national convention. Suzanne Turner, the
> Cleveland chapter president, said that I should try to attend because it
> would be a life-changing experience. She was absolutely correct. But, with
> only two weeks before the convention, how would I pull this off? That's
> when
> I learned how amazing this organization really is. Suzanne reached out to
> some contacts within the organization, and they found me a room. Not only
> did they find me a room, but someone was gracious enough to cover the cost
> of the convention, because they believed the experience would be so
> life-changing for me. Moreover, my mom happened to be off work that week.
> The stars seemed to be aligning for me. My mom and I were able to find
> flights and would be attending our first convention together.
> As for the convention itself, it was life changing for me and also for my
> mom. This was really our first time being around blind people. We live in a
> small town and had never met another blind person. At convention we met
> some
> amazing people. In line to check in, I met a guy my age living in Chicago
> and attending school there. I also met a gentleman from Boston who lives in
> New Jersey and works as a regional sales manager for a major company. We
> met
> a school-age girl who was part of the CCB summer program. She was there
> alone. These were just the people I met checking in.
> I got to attend multiple seminars, including a Sports and Recreation
> meeting, where I learned about blind baseball and blind hockey. I also
> attended an empowerment seminar, where multiple speakers discussed how they
> are able to overcome the low expectations of the general public. We met
> blind lawyers, doctors, and teachers. I quickly learned that I could do
> anything I wanted. My blindness didn't have to hold me back.
> This was equally important for my mom to learn. To this point she had seen
> me go from completely independent to learning how to navigate the house
> alone again. There was a veterans' division, so I got in touch with them as
> well since I had served 10 years in the Air Force. It was there I learned
> about the veterans' ceremony, in which they introduce all of the blind
> veterans. The blind veterans also did a presentation of colors, with a full
> color guard. This ceremony left my mom in tears.
> This was just the start. We decided to explore the exhibit hall, where we
> learned about all the assistive technology available today. We also met a
> lifelong guide dog user who gave me his number so I could contact him with
> any questions if I decided to get a guide dog. Perhaps more important to my
> mom, we met one of the owners of Two Blind Brothers, a clothing company
> completely designed by and for the visually impaired. My mom was elated. As
> we walked away from their booth, my mom turned to me and said, "I can
> totally see you doing something like that." It was a truly powerful moment
> for me. The next day was our last unfortunately; we had to leave early
> because of a death in the family.
> We decided to attend the LCB luncheon, where I met even more amazing
> people,
> including Pam Allen, the executive director of the center, and half of the
> staff. I also met Caroline, who has become my best friend and has even
> started helping me learn Braille. We have grown very close and continue to
> help each other grow stronger and spread the word about the NFB. Later that
> night, we met with fellow Ohio people for dinner, including Ohio president
> Richard Payne, the Cleveland chapter president, Suzanne Turner, and the
> Akron chapter president, Dave Berch. It was an awesome way of ending my
> first convention.
> The experience overall was absolutely unbelievable. I would highly
> recommend
> taking a trip to the national convention to anyone who could possibly make
> it. It truly was life-changing, and this is only half of what I actually
> wanted to share about the convention to further express how life-changing
> the experience was. Since attending, I have learned to ride a bike as well
> as race my daughter in the swimming pool. This organization is amazing, and
> I'm happy to say that because of the connections I made at convention and
> the help of its members I'm attending LCB this fall. This is just my first
> experience with the NFB, but it will be one of many more to come. My mom
> and
> I are already looking forward to next year's convention.
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Jessica Stover
jjstover at kent.edu
jessicastover10 at gmail.com
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