by Carla Ruschival

ACB held its 22nd and 31st national conventions in Phoenix, and now we once again return to this great city in the sand in 2010.

That first Phoenix convention in 1983 looked very different from today's grand event. Special-interest affiliates met on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Exhibits were open over the same days, and there were less than 40 booths. The pre-convention board meeting was on Tuesday evening, and general sessions were scheduled all day Wednesday, Thursday morning, and Friday and Saturday. There were overnight tours to the Grand Canyon at the beginning and end of the week, a beach party on Tuesday evening, and tours on Thursday afternoon and evening.

The look of convention week changed in 1986, and so 1992 was similar to today's schedule. General sessions began on Sunday evening and met each morning, Monday through Saturday. Special-interest groups met Sunday and weekday afternoons, Monday through Thursday. The ACB legislative and diabetes seminars were on Friday afternoon. There were more exhibits, short weekday afternoon tours, and a national convention committee in addition to the local host committee.

Now in 2010 ACB will once again meet in Phoenix. As usual, much will remain the same -- outstanding exhibits, tours that are both educational and fun, and great programming. Also as usual there will be some changes, some new twists that will make the convention week better than ever.

At its September meeting in Phoenix, the board previewed the brand-new Downtown Sheraton. The hotel received rave reviews; the food was delicious at the District Restaurant (on the lobby level), and the staff was wonderful.

ACB conventions are filled with fun; tours and events at the hotel offer opportunities for learning and entertainment. But, like professional conferences, this week with ACB is also packed with informative workshops, seminars, programs and exhibits. In an effort to assist attendees to receive professional development credit for their time in Phoenix, the week of July 9-17 will be appropriately termed the 49th annual ACB conference and convention.

Past changes in schedule have made it possible for more and more programming and activities to be packed into the conference and convention week. In response to the needs of several groups for more programming time, in an effort to make more efficient use of available meeting spaces, and to better accommodate the needs of exhibitors who offer sessions in the early evening time block, a few schedule changes will be in effect this year, as follows:

1. As in the past, all breakfasts will be scheduled from 7:00 to 8:30 a.m.

2. Luncheons will begin at 12:15; end times for luncheons and their accompanying programs will be 2:30 if the group will not continue to occupy the room for additional programming, 3 p.m. if the group will have more programming after the break.

3. Afternoon and early evening sessions will be divided into three time slots. Session 1 will be from 1:30 to 3:00; session 2, 3:30 to 5:00; and session 3, 5:30 to 7:00. Groups such as AAVIA and RSVA, who fill their afternoons with speakers and business, will utilize sessions 1 and 2; such groups will be asked to schedule their breaks around 3 p.m. Moving the 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. start times for short sessions to 1:30 or 3:30 will in several cases make it possible for more groups to utilize the available meeting spaces. More efficient use of volunteers and better service from the ACB Café are also pluses.

We are now accepting reservations for exhibit spaces, and 2010 sponsors are beginning to add their names to popular services and events. For more information about advertising and sponsorship opportunities, contact Margarine Beaman at (512) 921-1625 or at [email protected]. To reserve exhibit space, contact Michael Smitherman at (601) 968-4164 or [email protected].

It's not too early to make hotel reservations for conference and convention week. Rates are $89/night, plus tax. Call 1-800-325-3535, and be sure to let the reservationist know you are with the American Council of the Blind.

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