The following is reposted with permission from Jason Hahr's personal blog The Voiceless Minority.
So, this weekend I attended my first Florida SAND conference. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had never been to an event like this. To be honest, I had heard mixed reviews from those who have attended in the past. It started off slow, there were some technical and arrival glitches with myself and my PCA. However, once we got there it quickly became apparent that this was not going to be anything like I had heard.
Friday night was kind of a chill night, I met some pretty amazing people and lost a rather interesting game of Uno. No official conference business took place that night. Although for some strange reason my PCA won a bag of espresso beans, I was hoping we would win the autographed football but still pretty awesome.
Saturday was the heart of the conference. Right away, Saturday morning, I realized that something was different. My college brain had kicked in again and I was in learning mode. I have tried two other academic endeavors since I graduated with my master's, one in real estate and one in political science. Neither of those were as engaging as the Florida SAND conference was. I guess it just took my brain a while to realize that disability advocacy was what it really wanted to focus on. As the Saturday session progressed we voted on the group's legislative platform; without getting into the details of the proceedings I will say that we came up with two legislative issues to focus on, that provider rates and transportation.
One of the key functions of Florida SAND is to provide a legislative platform for people with developmental disabilities. After the legislative part of the conference ended we broke for lunch where we were randomly mixed with other groups that had attended the conference. We were then given a challenge to overcome; having the sense of humor that I do, I find the word challenge ironic. The challenges ranged from how we would react being denied the right to vote to the rather controversial challenge of meeting Donald Trump. While I am supportive of Trump I will leave my feelings about that for another blog.
It is after lunch that the conference broke into my favorite sessions, characteristically at that point my body intervened. First, I witnessed a great presentation on marketing and fundraising that I was not familiar with. It was given by the head of the conference and her husband. After this I was hoping to attend a session on recruiting allies and like-minded individuals, unfortunately medical issues intervened. I was able to come back near the end of the session and caught some great tidbits from Whitney Harris with the Florida Chamber Foundation and a gentleman by the name of Arizona Jenkins.
The final session of the day peaked my interest because it dealt with increasing one’s voice on social media. This blog has been going on for quite some time now but even I learned some valuable dos and don’ts for increasing presence on social media and using it effectively to advance one’s cause. The night ended with a dinner at a local restaurant and a dance which was optional. Seeing as how I don’t have all that great of moves with or without the chair, I spent most of the dance talking to some really great people. I then went back up to my room to watch some TV before calling it a night.
The last day of the conference consisted of a general board meeting for all Florida SAND members. The conference wrapped up around midday on Sunday. Overall, the conference was very informative and very productive for me on a personal level. This was the first time that the conference had been held in nearly two years. However, it was hard to tell that there had been such a large gap between this conference and the last one. It seemed as if the conference and its organizers had put an extreme amount of effort to present a quality experience for all those involved. There are some things that need to be improved upon but improvement is always a good thing, nothing is ever perfect.