by Tom Panek, Guiding Eyes CEO
Gus and I flew to Las Vegas last week to participate in the American Council of the Blind’s “Let’s Make a Deal” conference. The annual gathering attracted nearly 1,500 blind and visually impaired people, including entrepreneurs, students, teachers, rehabilitation professionals, attorneys, guide dog schools, parents and the Guiding Eyes team. Our work at Guiding Eyes is complimented by the American Council of the Blind’s mission to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity and quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired.
For Gus and me, this was our chance to put his training and our work as a new team to the ultimate distraction test, navigating the many sounds, bright lights and architectural wonders of the “entertainment capital of the world.”
If you have been to Vegas, you’ll know that getting from your room to the lobby can be a real challenge. The hotels are masterfully designed so that you get lost in the maze of card tables before exiting to the light of day to find a patch of turf.
Fortunately, Gus held fast and kept on his poker face, weaving under bridges, ignoring the hustle and bustle in the casinos, outpacing a gondola through the Venetian’s Grand Canal and barely lifting an ear to the echo of Italian serenades and the sirens of lucky winners.
The Guiding Eyes team, including Kathy Zubrycki, Becky Barnes, Ron Davidson, Shanon Walsh, Chrissy Vetrano, Lori Busse, Stephanie Koret, Joy Hawksby and Jennifer McLain were on hand in force. The time was wisely used to work with our existing graduate teams and to meet prospective students; we were able to showcase Guiding Eyes to a broad cross-section of blind and visually impaired people from all over the nation.
We attended many workshops and seminars which provided opportunities to learn new skills and participate in discussions on a wide range of topics. We also received information on new technology, such as screen readers and other unique products. (Ask Shanon to demonstrate the marvels of her new negative ion bracelet!)
Fortunately, unlike the movie Viva Las Vegas starring Elvis, with Gus at my side I did not end up in the pool losing cash – nor did we have to enter the hotel’s talent contest in hopes of winning a prize sizable enough to pay for a new race car engine to compete in the Grand Prix.
We did end up fixing an engine at the motor sports track, but I will leave that story for next time. For now, Viva Las Vegas!