Executive Leadership Conference to Provide 100% Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired Attendees; Exciting Technology To Be Demonstrated

November 3 – 6, 2019 at the Georgian Terrace in Atlanta, GA 

St. Louis, Missouri – September, 2019 – Over 220 national leaders will convene in Atlanta, Georgia this fall for discussions on the future of providing services to people who are blind or have low vision. With more than 26.9 million[1] American adults in the US and 226 million[2] more around the world living with blindness and low vision, and  thousands more projected to join these ranks, this is an important national issue.

Event organizer VisionServe Alliance, an association for leaders of nonprofit agencies across the country and Canada, holds its conferences in various U.S. cities twice a year. This year’s Executive Leadership Conference in Atlanta will use some pretty amazing technological adaptions as part of its meeting to ensure the content is accessible to ALL attendees, regardless of their level of sight.

With an average of 15 percent of its meeting attendees themselves being blind or having low vision, VisionServe Alliance is used to employing standard accommodations to make its meetings accessible, like offering its materials digitally or in Braille, and offering tips and training on-site hospitality staff and featured speakers. But this year’s conference presents additional accessibility challenges because the meeting will employ a format called Open Space Technology, which allows participants to set their own discussion topics and attend multiple break out sessions throughout the day. While it’s exciting for the attendees to have control over the agenda, a flexible format presents challenges for visually impaired attendees to fully participate in the activities.

“Open Space creates the possibility for amazing deep dive conversations about the challenges that face our field and the opportunities to innovate our practice,” says David Morgan, President & CEO Future In Sight in Concord, N.H., who is co-facilitating the event.

VSA plans to provide conference attendees access to additional resources from companies on the forefront of vision technology: OrCam’s MyEye, a tiny camera device that fits on the of a pair of eyeglasses and can read aloud any printed material; Aira’s  Horizon Kit including their Smart Glasses that transmit the wearer’s images to a representative who then offers assistance in real time to navigate buildings, streets, airports, stores, etc.; and Vispero’s popular screen reading software called JAWS that allows blind and visually impaired users to navigate the world wide web using audible descriptions of menus and images. Many other companies will be on hand exhibiting and demonstrating the latest tools for accessibility to people who are blind and visually impaired. Volunteers from local vision rehabilitation agency, the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta will also be on-site to provide assistance.

“We want this year’s conference to provide learning exchanges to engage a wider array of current and emerging leaders across sectors, disciplines, demographics, and industry segments including education, rehabilitation, employment, medical, technology and social services for people of all ages,” says President and CEO of VisionServe Alliance, Lee Nasehi. “We are also proud to have the support of other national organizations in the field behind this year’s event.” Co-Hosts of the VisionServe Alliance Executive Leadership Conference include ACB (American Council of the Blind)ACVREP (Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals), AER (Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired), AFB (American Foundation for the Blind), APH (American Printing House f/t Blind), BVA (Blinded Veterans Association), COSB (Council of Schools and Services for the Blind) CVI Atlanta (Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired – Atlanta), NAEPB (National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind)NIB (National Industries for the Blind)NOAH (National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation) , NRTC (National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision), Prevent Blindness, and USABA (United States Association of Blind Athletes).

Kathleen Zeider, President/CEO of ACVREP notes that, “VisionServe Alliance is uniquely positioned to convene this important summit in our field. We are excited that it will refine the collective focus and strengthen the collaboration in our field resulting in a greater impact for those we serve.”

Mike McGowan, Executive Director of NOAH, said his organization, “enthusiastically supports the efforts of VisionServe Alliance to gather the field together to discover ways to build a better world for people who are blind or have low vision. There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together.”

Participants at the VSA Executive Leadership Conference will ask, discuss, and suggest solutions to the biggest challenges in the field of blindness & low vision such as:

  • What can be done to assure access to all digital information including government websites, applications and voting processes?
  • Are public and private education resources meeting the needs of students?
  • What are the emerging challenges and solutions in employment?
  • How can we significantly enhance the resources for training and support for seniors?
  • How can we improve care for our veterans through partnerships with the private sector?

Co-facilitators include David Morgan, President & CEO of Future In Sight, Lee Nasehi, President & CEO of VisionServe Alliance, and John Mitchell, President/CEO of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Board Chair of VisionServe Alliance.

For more information and to register, go to www.visionserveallinace.org/conferences/

About VisionServe Alliance:

VisionServe Alliance is a consortium of Executive Directors/CEOs of 501(c)(3) nonprofits throughout the United States that provide unique and specialized services to people who are blind or with severe vision loss. We bring together the full diversity of services for one conversation with the ultimate goal of unifying the many issues and organizations operating independently of one another in the field. Members include organizations focusing on national advocacy and/or service issues, employment and manufacturing, adult vision rehabilitation, K-12 residential and on-line schools, early intervention and pre-school, dog guides, low vision clinics, and Braille production. Collaborative projects, national trends, stronger management and leadership, and advocacy issues have been born from these conversations and activities including the formation of the Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition, a consortium of leaders comprised from 19 national, state, local, private and public agencies with the goal of advocating for equal access and quality of life for older Americans with vision loss.

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[1] According to the American Foundation for the Blind. See https://www.afb.org/research-and-initiatives/statistics/adults

[2] According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. See https://www.iapb.org/advocacy/world-sight-day/

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