9th Annual Employment and Visual Impairment
Conference on Policy and Practice:
“Designing for the Future”
April 8, 2016
It was 8:27 a.m. on Friday, the Eighth of April. The elevators of Baruch’s Vertical Campus were packed and then their doors slid open to reveal the fourteenth floor. And there it was again - the annual throng of people queued up to check in for CCVIP’s Annual Conference on Employment and Visual Impairment. This was the 9th event, and this year’s theme was “Designing for the Future.” The hallway by the elevators and the reception area seemed a bit more frantic and congested than in previous years, though. Could it be? But of course, there were a lot more attendees this year.
Everyone headed to the main conference room where many “Good mornings,” “Haven’t seen you in a long time, how are you doing?” and “Are you psyched for the Conference?” were uttered. As everyone settled in while having breakfast or just relaxing, four gigantic screens flashed the Conference’s slide show tribute to this year’s sponsors. And then it was show time – the Conference was on!
CCVIP Director, Karen Gourgey warmly welcomed everyone to this year’s event. She asked how many were there for the first time, there was loud applause. She was curious as to who had attended every year; this time the applause was almost thunderous. Then, Karen referred to the animated slide show as a high tech alternative to what would have been a myriad of sponsor banners.
“It would have looked like a fiesta,” Karen jokingly remarked .
To which Brian Daniels, Associate Commissioner of the New York State Commission for the Blind, commented, “Karen, I don’t know about not being a fiesta in here. Everyone is feeling quite festive!”
Humor went to honors as CCVIP gave out its Distinguished Service Awards to Michael Cush and Nancy Miller from Blindline, at Visions Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Veronica Romero from Hidden City Café.
Then the Keynote speaker, Chen Guangcheng, brought the crowd back to the seriousness of visual impairment as he recounted all the challenges and atrocities he faced as a blind person in China. He told everyone of all the mental and physical abuse that was inflicted on him and his family until he was able to escape to the American Embassy and eventually the US in 2012. Mr. Chen continues his disability and human rights advocacy here, and also authored “The Barefoot Lawyer.” At the end of his remarks, Mr. Chen left the audience with words of wisdom, “Always solve the problems that are in front of you.”
Enthralled was the crowd as they headed for a variety of exciting morning workshops, followed by midday sustenance.
Next, we gave the Matthew P. Sapolin Visionary Award to Carl R. Augusto, retiring President and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind, the Louise Tropp Award for outstanding volunteers - Helen Li, Sifan Shen, May Figueroa, Dilcia Lopez and Terry Wrong. Finally, the Breaking Barriers Awards were handed to employers who had given employment opportunities to those with vision loss.
Then the vendors introduced themselves and invited everyone to the Vendors’ Exhibit that featured wearable technology, braille Bluetooth, even Social Security, among many others. Then a news flash! There were volunteers from the League of Women Voters that came as last minute guests. Attendees could register to vote in this year’s Presidential election right on the spot!
Then the crowd dispersed once again to attend afternoon workshops.
As all good things come to an end, so did the 9th Annual Conference on Employment and Visual Impairment. But not before the attendees were asked what we could do to further improve the Conference for next year. Among the suggestions were more demonstrations during the workshops, as well as a tactile floor plan of the Conference Center that will allow for more freedom and independent navigation. Duly noted; see you next year.
SAVE THE DATE: April 21, 2017
The 10th Annual CCVIP Conference on Employment and Visual Impairment