During the 2022 American Council of the Blind Conference and Convention held in Omaha, NE in July, I had the opportunity to participate in two tours outside of the hotel. These were the first ACB-sponsored tours I attended since I wasn’t able to squeeze any into my convention itinerary when I attended the 2016 ACB convention in Minneapolis. I wanted to share a few highlights from these tour experiences as a visually impaired guest.
Tour #1: The Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters
I was vaguely familiar with the Mormon faith and the Church of Latter Day Saints prior to embarking on this tour. However, I learned a great deal from the experience.
The guides, many of whom were missionaries serving at the facility, made sure we had an accessible adventure. We got to touch some of the statues outside of the building which represented some of those who had perished along the Mormon trail westward in the mid-19th century. The guides also pulled out a nice selection of items for us to feel, everything from cooking appliances to stuffed creatures. In addition, there was a log cabin we got to explore inside the center representing what an actual residence looked and felt like during this era.
Finally, the missionaries were very open to us asking as many questions we had. They also went out of their way to visually describe and explain certain things. I was very impressed with both their knowledge as well as their willingness to interact with us. They indicated this was the first time a group of visually impaired individuals had paid their center a visit.
Tour #2: The Omaha Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center
This tour took attendees back in time to the 19th century to explore the Lewis and Clark trail. A big highlight of this tour was getting to watch an audio-described documentary about Lewis and Clark, which was originally produced by legendary documentarian Ken Burns. The cool thing is that the center actually had this film described by a narrator specifically for those of us from ACB who went on the tour and for future visually impaired guests. I felt like this showed that they went above and beyond to make the experience fully accessible.
In addition, we participated in an activity where we held onto ropes and other tactile objects to simulate the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, both of which were key landmarks on the trail. Plus, they had a variety of animal furs we could touch, each of which represented certain animals that some might have encountered on the Lewis and Clark trail.
The Bottom Line
If you ever get a chance to attend an ACB convention in person, I highly recommend checking out some of the tours. The ACB Convention Committee works very hard to ensure all attendees have a fully accessible and immersive experience in all of these events. If you were to visit one of these tour sites individually, you may not be able to enjoy this same experience.