Final Touches Applied To 72nd Convention
by Chelsey Dumond
We are excited to welcome all of our members, their families, guests, VA staff, and exhibitors to the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront.
We hope that as many of our attendees as possible will support BVA members Larry Bustetter and Mark Armstrong as they lead engaging education sessions covering a variety of topics. Attendees at educational sessions will have the opportunity to learn about the Victor Reader Stream device, opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses, home automation devices, and the challenges of overcoming vision loss and communication skills for the deaf-blind community. To cap off the convention’s first official day, we invite our attendees to join us at the ballpark as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp take on the Mississippi Braves!
The Exhibit Hall, sponsored this year by LS&S Products, Ai Squared/Freedom Scientific/Optelec, Inclusie, and Mobience, will be open August 15-16. This year we will have more than 50 booths and seven new exhibitors present. They will actively interact with our members and VA staff. We invite everyone to take some time to experience what our exhibitors have to offer. The President’s Reception will take place Tuesday evening. Attendees will be joined by the Deputy VA Secretary Scott Blackburn, as well as the event sponsor Aira.
See below for a description of the Monday-Tuesday education sessions and a list of convention exhibitors Tuesday-Wednesday.
Wednesday will kick off the official business of the organization with a session open to all attendees. We encourage attendance that evening at the Guide Dog Users Group and Women Veterans Group Meeting. This will also be the time to get a taste of the local cuisine during the Dine Around. Interested parties may select the restaurants that appeal to their tastes and sample the offerings at those establishments, at the same time enjoying a few moments with their fellow veterans.
Representatives from the VA Ophthalmology, Optometry, and Blind Rehabilitation Service will address the Thursday BVA Forum, followed by the Father Carroll Luncheon and additional insights from American Printing House for the Blind Museum Director Micheal Hudson regarding the life of Father Thomas Carroll. The speech will be a follow-up to Micheal’s remarks two years ago at the same event. We encourage all of our blinded veterans, on Thursday afternoon, to attend the District Caucus meetings to meet with those living within their Director Districts.
Riverside's Five Points area of Jacksonville is a bohemian neighborhood with coffee shops, outdoor cafés, one-of-a-kind shopping, nightclubs, and antique stores. Photo courtesy of Ryan Ketterman for Visit Jacksonville and the Beaches.
The Friday morning Closing Business Meeting will be followed by a tour of the local Anheuser Busch factory for those who have purchased tickets. The convention will close on Friday evening with our Awards Banquet honoring the winners of the Major General Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement, the Irving Diener Award, the David L. Schnair Award, and the gavel presentations to deserving regional groups.
Monday Educational Sessions
- Victor Reader Basic and Advanced Skills—Bill Boules will lead two sessions covering the basic and advanced skills associated with the Victor Reader Stream device. This device allows for easy access of audio media including books, podcasts, web radio stations, and more. The Victor Reader Stream is a great single portable audio playback device that does not require the use of a personal computer.
- Veteran Owned Small Businesses—This session will help veterans discover the opportunities available to them while owning a small business. Funding opportunities, outreach ideas, and the policies and procedures required to receive VA funding for a small business will be discussed.
- Engaging Your Community—BVA Associate Director of Conventions and Projects Christina Hitchcock and Assistant Chelsey Dumond will lead a session on community resources and tools. The session will discuss how to set up a White Cane Awareness Day and instruct participants on how to conduct blind sensitivity training in their communities.
- Dealing with Change to Vision Impairment—The aforementioned Larry Bustetter, president of the Southern California Regional Group, will lead a hands-on session in which participants will discuss how vision impairment can affect an individual’s career and/or lifestyle. They will also assess their personal receptiveness to change through a 3-dimensional application.
- Examining the Communication Challenges for the Visually Impaired—Larry Bustetter will discuss with participants the communication challenges faced by today’s visually impaired. Basic effective communication skills will be reviewed and participants will discover the challenges of successful communication during a highly interactive activity.
- Wearable Devices Panel—Wearable technologies offer community assistance and independence to the blind and visually impaired. Various exhibitors onsite will present a brief description of their products and the benefits they provide to the blind and visually impaired. Attendees will have time for questions and comments during the session and will be able to visit each organization represented in the Exhibit Hall.
Tuesday Educational Sessions
- Officer Training 1: Secretaries and Treasurers—Successful BVA regional group secretaries and treasurers will lead this workshop, which will discuss the responsibilities of each role and how to keep a group’s activity consistent with the regional group manual. The workshop will discuss all of the requirements a regional group is required to meet and what each officer can do in order to stay ahead of the game. Secretaries and treasurers play a pivotal role in a regional group, making this session imperative to attend.
- Officer Training 2: Presidents and Vice Presidents—Presented by BVA regional group officers, the training has as its purpose a review of the roles of regional group presidents and vice presidents. The session will cover requirements to attend the convention and what needs to be done in order to be considered an active regional group. Participants will work on leadership, communication, and organizational skills that will positively impact the regional groups.
- Preparing for a Disaster—Attendees of this session will learn the basic skills and knowledge relating to emergency preparedness. These skills can help those in your community better assist you in time of need and allow you the peace of mind inherent in being prepared.
- Deaf-Blind Communication—BVA member Mark Armstrong of Augusta, Georgia will highlight alert and communication technologies that assist veterans and others with dual vision and hearing loss to maintain independence. Mobile Technologies, personal and at-home alert systems, and the tools to overcome difficult communication situations will be discussed.
- ABCs of Regional Group Planning—Larry Bustetter will briefly explore the challenge of regional group member engagement. Attendees will identify specific problems and the basics of strategic planning to offset such problems and increase engagement, recruitment, and retention.
- Home Automation—BVA National Secretary Paul Mimms will share his knowledge and experience on home automation for the blind and visually impaired. Veterans in attendance will gain knowledge about the possibilities offered by home automation that can enhance their lives through voice control. Offerings from Apple, Google, and Amazon are all accessible and can be tailored to the needs of the blind or visually impaired homeowner for security, comfort, and convenience.
- Grassroots Legislation—Melanie Brunson will share her knowledge of local and national government and how participants can engage their local and state officials. Participants will learn the process and skills associated with creating a positive change in their communities. If you wish to improve your local transportation options, or petition your local government for audible crosswalk signals, or obtain advice for a problem you are having in your community, this is a session for you.
American Printing House for the Blind
Baum USA Inc.
Bita Low Vision Enhancer
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Christian Record Services
Designs for Vision, Inc.
Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation
Fork in the Road Vision Rehabilitation Services
Freedom Scientific/Ai Squared/Optelec
Guide Dogs for the Blind
Guide Dogs of America
Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Hearing Centers of Excellence
Helen Keller National Center
Iron Bow Technologies
National Cemetery Administration
National Industries for the Blind
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Noir Medical Technologies
One Touch Self Defense Project
Randolph Sheppard Vendors of America
Social Security Administration
Southeastern Guide Dogs
Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind
VA Office of Mental health and Suicide Prevention
VA Office of Research and Development
Vision Centers of Excellence
Diener Award Origin and Future
The annual Irving Diener Award will be presented at the BVA 72nd National Convention’s Awards Banquet on August 18 to the blinded veteran who best contributed to the work of his or her regional group and the organization as a whole.
Irving Diener was a New York businessman who served on BVA’s National Advisory Committee and continuously supported the organization in the 1950s and 1960s.
Last year Irving Diener’s son, Ed, of Fairfax, Virginia, visited BVA National Headquarters with additional financial support for the award in the name of his grandson, who is also Irving Diener’s great-grandson and namesake, Alexander Irving Diener.
Less than a month later Ed presented Alexander Irving with a plaque containing a BVA Certificate of Honor at the latter’s home in Colorado.
“He was very impressed and happy,” Ed later reported.
Ed Diener and grandson Alexander Irving Diener, son and great-grandson, respectively, of early BVA advocate Irving Diener.