Conference brewing on what blind people are doing

April 26, 2010 • Posted in Beth Finke, blindness, book tour, technology for people who are blind, Uncategorized, writing by

When I first lost my sight, friends came up with suggestions. “Here’s something you could do,” they’d say, their voices gushing with enthusiasm. They’d read a story about a blind guy who para-sails, a blind woman who ran the Chicago marathon, someone who canoed, another who loved his tandem kayak. “You could do that, Beth!” They meant well. I knew that. But at the time I was busy figuring out how to pour coffee into a cup without spilling. Put toothpaste on a toothbrush without getting it all over my hands. Write an address on an envelope. Did I look like I needed something to do?!

And so, I really appreciated it when the organizer of a fundraiser I spoke at on Friday night opened the evening saying, “You know, we read a lot of stories in newspapers about what people who are blind can do.” He mentioned the blind woman who is a chef, the blind guy who climbed Mt. Everest. “For our conference this October, we’re not so interested in what people who are blind can do; we’re interested in what they are doing. And they’re doing a lot!”

The conference he was talking about is the Vision Midwest Annual Conference put on by 12 State, Inc. From their web site:

The Vision Midwest Conference for blind and visually impaired individuals and the professionals who serve them offers educational, sports and cultural opportunities with a Midwestern focus.

It takes place on October 22 thru 24, 2010 at Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI, and is the first of its kind. The conference schedule promises expert presentations on everything from careers to cell phones, cutting edge stem cell treatments to sensory gardening. One panel discussion is about relationships where one spouse is sighted and the other is blind, another panel discusses accessibility at art museums. And get this for a workshop title: “A Tactile Guide to the Solar System with Digital Talking Text”!

I’m slated to sit on two different panels at the conference: one about blogging, and another about writing as a career. I told the organizers it didn’t matter to me what day or time my panels were scheduled, as long as they didn’t conflict with this one:

Rod Maccoux (Green Bay, WI), Home Brewer and Wine Maker, on Home Brewing and Wine Making.

I don’t think our panels could face that sort of competition! Plus I want to go to the home brew and winemaking session myself. Not to hear what this Maccoux guy can do, but what he is doing!


Beth Finke Captures the Spirit On April 28, 2010 at 11:32 am

[…] Beth has just written a wonderful post in her blog that capture the spirit of the Vision Midwest Con….  It really is more about what people who are blind or visually impaired are doing – and they’re doing a lot! – than what they “can” do. […]

bethfinke On April 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Happy to check out the young reds for you, Stu – assuming that session includes a blind, ahem wine tasting…!

Bob On April 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm

So, will you be going to the solar system workshop?

bethfinke On April 29, 2010 at 11:26 am

Hmmm. Probably not. I *do* like the title of that workshop, though!

Deb Kukulski On April 30, 2010 at 7:26 am

Beth, that sounds very exciting and you are amazing!

bethfinke On April 30, 2010 at 9:21 am

Aw, Deb thanks for the compliment. Really, it is the teachers of the blind and visually impaired and the trainers at the Seeing Eye who are amazing. Plus the employers who have taken a chance with me since losing my sight, they are amazing, and imho, have been rewarded for their gamble! Last but not least are the amazing friends, family and loved ones who have stuck with me through all my changes and still support me now. Example: Mike has agreed to come along to the conference in Madison this October and sit on that panel about marriages where one person is blind and the other one sighted. You all better sign up soon — with that panel and the beer-and-wine-making workshop alone, The Vision Midwest conference is sure to sell out in record time!

Gretchen On April 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm

And for the samples?

bethfinke On April 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Oh, yes, of course it goes without saying that if the Green Bay man gives out samples they’ll be lining up out the door. And i didn’t even tell you about the blind yoga instructor who is coming, apparently she has designed some sort of special mat so you know where you are on the mat wihthout having to constantly feel the edges with your fingertips while you are yoga-ing? I’ll check that out, too.

bethfinke On April 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Unless, that is, the yoga session is scheduled *after* the beer and wine sampling. Afraid I’d just lie on the specially-made mat and fall asleep (and snore!) then…

Bonnie Hibel On May 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Hi Beth,
Believe it or not, this is my first time reading and participating in a blog. You’re right, this is great!
I’m hoping to see you at the 12 State conference. I’m not sure if It will be Andy or Mort who will be attending with me, but I am determined to get one of them to take me.

bethfinke On May 1, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Welcome to blogland, Bonnie! I have some good news for you: the 12 State Vision Midwest planners are thinking about hiring a bus to take all of us from the Chicago area up to the conference in October. maybe you won’t need Andy or Mort to go with you at all –you can fly solo!

Jenny On May 7, 2010 at 9:25 am

Not fair! Another thing I want to go to but can’t 🙁
Beth I’m going to have to either move to the US or stop reading your blog.

bethfinke On May 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Oh, Jenny, I’ve been to Northern Ireland and know how beautiful it is there — beautiful terrain and beautiful people with a beautiful spirit. Cant’ say that I recommend a move to the US. Would especially not recommend you move to Arizona! right now, The police might get stopped on the street for looking like a foreigner.
I don’t want you to stop reading my blog, though, either. Hmm. What to do?
Wanna come for a visit, maybe? We have a pull-out couch. OJ of course would be welcome, too –Hanni will share her treats.

bethfinke On May 7, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Oops, I didn’t mean the police might get stopped in Arizona, I meant *you* might get stopped in Arizona by the police for looking like a foreigner, Jenny. I guess I was feeling so upset by that recent legislation that it messed up my typing.

Jenny On May 12, 2010 at 8:14 am

Cool I’ll book a flight when this volcanic ash clears up!

bethfinke On May 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

Okay, will look (okay, listen) for you around, hmm…2012?!

London Lake Pickett On May 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I have written my first book, “Adventures with Buster” It is a children’s book that will entertain and educate readers about guide dogs and blindness. My guide dog, Buster< and I have been a team for 2 1/2 years. So that's what I'm doing, and I would like to know how to get invoved with this convention even though I live in NC. Thank you – London

bethfinke On May 11, 2013 at 6:42 am

Dear London,
CONGRATS on writing a book! This conference in Wisconsin only met once — it’s not an ongoing conference. You might look into some of the more major conferences about blindness to promote “Adventures with Buster”: the American Council for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, the American Federation of the blind. I think all of these conventions meet around the Fourth of July each year, so not too late to get involved. Good luck!

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