Greetings from the Sun Shine State

Greetings from the Sun Shine State
By Paul Lewis


Hello to all the members of CCLVI, who may be reading this article.  This is the first article that I have written for Vision Access, and I am sure it will not be my last.


Initially, I was asked to write the article by our President, and since she is my president x 2, I was happy to write it.  I hope you find it interesting, informative, and enjoyable.


If this was being written a few months ago, instead of greetings from the sunshine state, it could've been titled greetings from the disaster state. This past hurricane season was one of the worst experienced by Florida, but of course we are not the only geographic region that's suffered through this past hurricane season.


This leads me to a question; do the local and state governments, not only in Florida but in all the states, offer sufficient training for their volunteers to aid the visually impaired and blind residents who may decide to go to either a special-needs or non-special-needs shelter for protection during the storms?  Of course this concern should also apply to people with other disabilities or who have multi disabilities.   


This occurred to me after I received an article from the FCB's Project Insight, by way of the PCB, that offered inside and guidance to healthcare professionals in working with the blind and visually impaired.


During Irma, many people who went to shelters found themselves there for an extended period of time.  Those of us with vision loss, as well with people with other disabilities, will certainly face greater challenges, especially when in an unknown environment.


Even better, would be for the emergency response departments to seek out people visually impaired to act as volunteers during times of emergencies.  


If Irma and some of the other horrendous storms that we suffered through this past year are the beginning of a trend, these are some thoughts to consider.  Many communities, if not all; have recovered from the storms, and in Florida, we are in the midst of the time a year we like to call of the season where our populations increase threefold or more.


At this point, I would like to relate to you an adventure that I had in early November. During the first weekend of November, I had the pleasure of attending the FCB board meeting with Leslie. It involves one of our transportation providers, Amtrak.


While the incident could've become very negative it turned out to be very positive. The board meeting was in Jacksonville, and on Monday morning, myself and four others were traveling back to our homes via the train.  We were all sitting in the area where we were asked to sit, and we were told it was not necessary to check in at the ticket window even though one of our group had done so.


The conductor from the train had come down to talk with us, got our destinations and let us know that someone would be coming back to pick us up and take us to board the train.


So we were sitting and talking, waiting for someone to come get us. Then we heard a whistle and the train pulling out with us still in the waiting area. An Amtrak employee did show up before the train left with a cart asking if anybody needed assistance to board the train, but we did not feel that applied to us since Amtrak has a great track record in assisting those with vision loss boarding the train.


The question that arose was when and how would we be getting home. 


The assistant station manager and the safety manager both came to talk to us, and told us they were talking to their supervisors as to what could be done.


The first option they came up with was to put us up in a hotel for the night and we would take the train the following morning.  None of us liked that alternative as we all really wanted to get back home. To Amtrak's credit, they came up with another plan, even though the first option would've been the most expedient and easiest to do.


So here's what happened, Amtrak found drivers to take us to our home destinations, and in fact they took us from the station to our front doors.   They also each gave of us $25. So you Amtrak's credit, they accepted the responsibility for us missing the train and then made it right.   


What could've been an awful and terrible experience was completely turned around. KUDOS TO AMTRACK!!!!


We all got home safely even though a little bit later than we had originally anticipated. 


Here is a quick update on what's been happening at the FCCLV.  We have had a number of our members re-sign for another year. The fact that our dues are double the dues of the at-large members shows the dedication of our membership.   


At our meeting that will be held during the FCB state convention in May, we will be electing new officers which will include a brand new president.


We are also hoping to become more proactive in reaching out to people and increasing our current membership. 


In fact, our membership reads like a Who's Who of people who are active in the FCB as well as their own local chapters in addition to the FCCLV.


And of course we are looking forward to getting together as a group in May and looking forward to our speaker who is returning for a third time.   


Finally, we are installing a program to sponsor one of our members to attend the National Convention.


Wishing all of our members a wonderful and memorable holiday season!