by Dan Spoone
We are in the throes of the winter season. Are you tired of the cold weather and the short amount of daylight before another winter night? It is time to look toward spring and the thoughts of warmer days with new growth and renewed optimism for an exciting 2020.
There is no better way to get your ACB juices flowing for the beginning of spring than an exhilarating trip to our nation’s capital for the ACB D.C. Leadership Conference. This is our favorite ACB event of the year. It is a wonderful opportunity to visit the D.C. area before all the annual tourists descend on the National Mall and the Smithsonian Institute and the halls of Congress.
The leadership conference runs from Saturday, Feb. 22 through Tuesday, Feb. 25, with the board of directors meeting on Saturday, the presidents’ meeting on Sunday, the legislative seminar on Monday and visits to Capitol Hill on Tuesday. There are lots of free evenings to share a nice dinner with old and new friends. The sessions are filled with interesting speakers and presentations from our ACB leaders, and there are lots of chances to network with colleagues from across the country.
The highlight of the conference is the Tuesday visit to Capitol Hill. There is just something special about walking into your representative’s office and announcing that you are a member of the American Council of the Blind and you have an appointment to meet with their legislative aide on important imperatives that will benefit our blind and visually impaired community.
Several years ago, Leslie and I had an appointment with Rep. Alan Grayson’s office. We were having a very cordial visit with his legislative aide in an office conference room when Rep. Grayson walked in to grab a cup of coffee. We introduced ourselves and shared our concerns about durable low vision aids and our bill to create a demonstration project for these devices to be made available through Medicare and Medicaid. He turned to his aide and asked, “Are we a co-sponsor on this bill?” The aide responded, “No.” Rep. Grayson said, “Sign us up right now!” Leslie and I thanked Rep. Grayson for his support, and we gave each other high fives and big hugs after we were back in the hallway. It was so rewarding.
We decided to go to the snack bar in the Cannon Building and grab a quick bite to eat before our next appointment. We shared our story with a nice woman at the snack bar who helped us purchase some lunch. At the end of our conversation, she let us know that she was the chief legislative aide for Rep. Miller from Michigan and she would see if she would co-sponsor the bill. The next week Tony Stephens sent out an email with a list of all the new co-sponsors on the bill. Both Grayson and Miller were on the list. Yes, we can do it!
Please consider attending the D.C. Leadership Conference. We need everyone’s voice to encourage Congress to do what is right for the blind and visually impaired community. Together we can make a difference!