The Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC) hosted our second annual OIB Program Manager’s Technical Assistance Conference on August 31 – September 4. With the support of OIB-TAC staff, Advisory Council members, and representatives from state agencies, we decided on the theme “Connect.” Sylvia Stinson-Perez, OIB-TAC Project Director, believes that this year’s conference provided great insight into the needs of the field of blindness and low vision.
The conference was hosted virtually, allowing us to reach program managers and service providers from 48 states and territories to engage in topics such as community outreach strategies, personnel preparation programs, and data collection.
Emily Damm, NRTC Communications Coordinator, believed the benefits of the virtual format included having additional presenters and the opportunity to open our sessions to more professionals in the field. Our most popular public session was “My Heart Is Not Blind: Voices of Older Blind” with Michael Nye. The video presentation provided a variety of stories directly from individuals with blindness that emphasized that we all must take the time to listen and engage with each other. As professionals, it is not enough to just teach someone independent living skills. We must be active participants in the adjustment, grief, and acceptance process to truly empower individuals. The video presentation is available on the OIB-TAC Community of Practice. Another public session was on Self-Advocacy with Hannah Fairbairn, the author of When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery. This session’s recording is also available on our Community of Practice.
For sessions that were closed to only program managers, we utilized breakout rooms and other features to provide an engaging experience for all in attendance. This included our sessions “Managing Remote Services” and “Policies and Trees.” Kendra Farrow, NRTC Research & Training Associate, believes the presentations and discussions will assist program managers with tasks from service provision to data collection. Another valuable session was a live Q&A with the Rehabilitation Services Administration. A summary document from this session will be posted in late September.
According to Stinson-Perez, the conference sessions “inspired, informed, and connected attendees meaningfully to each other – even in a virtual format!” We hope that the connections made and lessons learned will ultimately yield higher quality services for older individuals with visual impairments.