65th Convention to Mark Amazing BVA Milestone

by Christina Hitchcock

Regional group officers, convention delegates, staff, exhibitors, and BVA members and their families should now begin preparing feverishly for the momentous 65th gathering of the Association’s national membership. The convention is scheduled for August 24-28, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia, just outside the Nation’s Capital.

In view of the recent Congressional resolution described in Tom Zampieri’s Legislative Update, coupled with the historic nature of Washington, DC, itself, there is no place more appropriate to mark BVA’s 65 years of service to blinded veterans.

Colorful red, white, and blue banner displayed outside BVA National Headquarters building informs DC’s Chinatown residents and visitors of the organization’s 65th anniversary.
Colorful red, white, and blue banner displayed outside BVA National Headquarters building informs DC’s Chinatown residents and visitors of the organization’s 65th anniversary.

DC Sights and Sounds

 

The Washington area is a family-oriented destination with the potential for a visit by land, by water, or both. One of the most unusual tours employs an original World War II DUK-W amphibious vehicle.

A 90-minute tour takes passengers through the streets of Washington followed by a splashdown in the Potomac River. The “Duck Tour” is not part of the BVA schedule but constitutes an example of the many potential things to see and experience in The Nation’s Capital.

The Washington area’s Metrorail (subway) transit system is the connection for blinded veterans and their families to hundreds of area attractions. Metrorail features five lines, 86 stations, and 106.3 miles of track. Photo courtesy of Destination DC
The Washington area’s Metrorail (subway) transit system is the connection for blinded veterans and their families to hundreds of area attractions. Metrorail features five lines, 86 stations, and 106.3 miles of track. Photo courtesy of Destination DC

Other options include the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of American History, the Museum of Natural History, and the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall. Visit the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia, or take a trip to Annapolis, Maryland, to visit the Naval Academy.

The newest of America’s Major League Baseball stadiums, Nationals Park, is a 15-minute Metrorail ride from the nearby Crystal City station. The Chicago Cubs will be in town August 23-25 and the St. Louis Cardinals will play a four-game series with the Nationals August 26-29.

Washington DC Metro Map

The Tourmobile Sightseeing Company will provide the Thursday trip away from the hotel. It will begin at Arlington National Cemetery and feature 16 possible stops.

Examples of stops include the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Memorials; the Washington Monument; the Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt Memorials; Smithsonian Museums; Capitol Hill; and Union Station. Passengers can choose to leave the bus or continue to the next site. Every 15 minutes another bus will arrive to take participants to the next optional stop. Depending on how long individuals stay at each site, the tour can take as little as four hours and as long as the entire day. Participants will need to be back on a bus by 3 p.m. to ensure their return to the cemetery by 4 p.m. and to the hotel before dinner time. If desired, the Capitol stop can include an audio-described tour of this historic building.

For more information about the stops, visit www.tourmobile.com or contact a BVA National Headquarters staff member. Tourmobile also offers additional tours to such sites as Mount Vernon and the Frederick Douglass home. Convention attendees may also arrange a twilight tour through Tourmobile.

Highlights of the Convention Week

 

Events kick off with convention registration and the opening of the Exhibit Hall on Tuesday morning. Exhibits will provide attendees with a unique opportunity to learn about new services and obtain hands-on experience with tools of the latest technologies developed specifically for the blind and visually impaired.

Arrive early so that you have a chance to visit the Exhibit Hall before the President’s Reception that evening. This time-honored tradition includes an opportunity to meet the National President and other national officers.

The first convention meeting will be Wednesday at 8:30 am. It will include attendees of the VA BRS conference. We expect Secretary Shinseki to open the session with a keynote address. We will then introduce special guests and dignitaries. A business meeting consisting of the reading of letters, a financial report, nomination of officers, and a remembrance of deceased members will follow.

Guests and spouses not participating in the business meeting may wish to check out the Auxiliary Silent Auction, the Exhibit Hall, or one of the area’s many shopping and entertainment opportunities.

We also anticipate that a number of our exhibitors will provide technical demonstrations in a workshop format between 1 and 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Additional information on that subject is provided in the registration packet. The afternoon’s activities also include the traditional Bylaws and Resolutions meeting. The National Library Service plans to host a reception in BVA’s honor in the early evening.

In lieu of or in addition to the day trip planned for Thursday, convention attendees may wish to venture out on their own. There is something available for everyone in DC! For information, call the DC visitor information line at 800-422-8644 or 202-789-7000, or visit www.washington.org.

Friday morning will feature the customary presentations on topics related to vision research and prosthetics.

The keynote speaker for the annual Father Carroll Memorial Luncheon will be Ray Hazan, President of BVA’s sister organization, St. Dunstan’s, in the United Kingdom. For many years Ray has been a good friend to BVA and to Executive Director Tom Miller. He lost his sight and his right hand in 1973 when, as a captain of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, a parcel booby-trapped by the IRA blew up in his face. After extended treatment in the hospital, Ray went for training at St. Dunstan’s and eventually began working there in 1977. In 2004, he was selected to be President of the facility. Ray’s inspirational stories and wealth of experience in the area of rehabilitation and adjustment to blindness in the U.K. will be shared with luncheon attendees.

Saturday morning consists of the Closing Business Meeting. Agenda items for this session include voting on the bylaws and resolutions, election of officers, and convention site selection for upcoming years. Three regional groups have submitted bids to host the BVA 67th National Convention in 2012. BVA members are encouraged to attend afternoon sessions that will include a legislative update by Tom Zampieri and a leadership training orientation by Sam Huhn.

The final event, a capstone for the week, is the customary BVA Reception and Awards Banquet on Saturday evening. National President Roy Kekahuna will present the Golden Gavel, the Silver Gavel, and the individual awards mentioned in this issue’s President’s Page.

Ground Transportation and the Crystal Gateway

 

The Marriott Crystal Gateway Hotel, located in the “urban village” of Arlington’s Crystal City, offers complimentary airport shuttle service to and from Ronald Reagan National Airport from 6:05 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.

A towering presence in Arlington’s Crystal City business district, the Marriott Crystal Gateway is surrounded by the area’s best in convenient shopping, dining, and transportation to the District of Columbia. Photo courtesy of Arlington Economic Development.
A towering presence in Arlington’s Crystal City business district, the Marriott Crystal Gateway is surrounded by the area’s best in convenient shopping, dining, and transportation to the District of Columbia. Photo courtesy of Arlington Economic Development.

The hotel is one mile from the airport, but the trip takes approximately ten minutes due to winding roads and a few traffic signals. Subway service from the airport costs $1.75 one way during rush hours (5-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.) and $1.45 during off-peak hours. Estimated taxi fare one way is $7.00. Parking is $21 per day with in and out privileges.

Reagan National Airport advertises wheelchair service and assistance for visually impaired travelers. For wheelchair service or “blind assist,” please contact the airline in advance to be assisted with luggage. There is no charge for wheelchair assistance but gratuities are appreciated.

Convention attendees who would like to be met at the gate by a BVA volunteer should email their arrival and departure information to Margarine Beaman at oleo50@hotmail.com, or call her at least three weeks in advance at 512-921-1625. Every effort will be made to have someone at the gate to meet individuals traveling alone.

The hotel is connected by tunnel to the Crystal Underground, a shopping center that also connects to the Crystal City Metrorail station.

Crystal City is filled with high-rise apartment buildings, corporate offices, hotels, and dozens of diverse shops. There are restaurants in all price ranges. The hotel itself features a health club, indoor and outdoor pools, and a whirlpool. Restaurant Mez, specializing in Mediterranean food, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while the The Atrium offers a lounge-type atmosphere for dinner.

Convention reservations for the hotel can be secured by calling 800-266-9432. Individuals making reservations over the phone must remember to indicate their affiliation with the Blinded Veterans Association in order to receive the group rate. Participants are urged to reserve rooms as far in advance as possible with July 14, 2010 being the final date to receive the BVA $149 per night room rate.

Due to the popularity of Washington, DC, and the presence of another convention, the BVA room block could fill up before July 14. It is recommended that convention attendees reserve their rooms early. Registrations by telephone can be done most quickly. In the event that space is not available, please call the Sheraton Hotel, located across the street from the Marriott, at 888-627-8209.

Convention Registration

 

BVA mailed convention announcements and registration packets to all members in mid-May. Members who may not have received the information may locate it in full on the convention webpage. They may also request that one be sent to them by postal mail or email. The registration fee is $100 for each adult and $65 for children 12 years old and younger.

Convention and hotel registrations completed by June 14, 2010 will have met the early registration deadline and will be eligible for a five-night complimentary stay at the hotel. The drawing for the prize, an $821 value, will occur during a major convention event or meeting.

The final registration deadline for mailing forms and payments to BVA National Headquarters is July 14, after which attendees must pay $120 to register adults and $85 for children. The cancellation deadline for convention registration is August 1.

Remember These Dates

 

Monday June 14—Early deadline for securing hotel reservation and submitting convention registration materials. Attendees meeting this deadline will be entered in a pool of contestants to win a complimentary five-night stay at the Crystal Gateway Marriott.

Wednesday, July 14— Final deadline for making hotel reservations and for mailing in registration form and payment to BVA National Headquarters without incurring a $20 late fee. The total cost when registering late is $120 per person.

Thursday, July 15—Deadline for BVA members and regional groups to submit convention program announcements and ads. Please contact me, Christina Hitchcock, for information.

Sunday, August 1—Deadline for cancellation of pre-registration in order to receive a full refund.

Tuesday, August 3—Deadline for receipt of the completed regional group delegate credentials form and official proxy form for non-attending members (credentials form was mailed to regional group officers by the BVA Administrative Director while the proxy form was included in the individual convention package).


Travel Tips

 

Based on recent research I have conducted, the following tips could be of assistance for blinded veterans traveling to upcoming conventions or who are using air travel for other purposes:

1. Pack medicines and other medical supplies in carry-on luggage. The strict limitation on gels and liquids does not apply to prescriptions or other liquids needed by persons with disabilities or medical conditions. However, they must be packed separately in quart-sized, zip-lock bags and declared at the security checkpoint.

2. Note that the limit of one carry-on and one personal item does not apply to medical supplies, equipment, mobility aids, and assistive devices. These items are also exempt from checked baggage restrictions and fees. If blinded veterans have an assistive device (it is always wise to take a spare cane or other prosthetic aids) in their checked luggage, they may request that the fee be waived for that bag. This is not a rule that customer service representatives must follow, but it is a courtesy often extended if requested.