The 1999 NCCE Conference
DO-IT hosted a booth at the conference run by the Northwest Council for Computing and Education at the convention center in downtown Seattle. I decided to help with the exhibit. This was going to be an adventure. I was going to have to stay in a downtown hotel and learn to get around in new territory.
I used my online resources to pick a hotel. When I visited the Seattle Network online, I found a couple of places that offered rooms for less than $100. I called each one to find out what they had to offer. After my investigation, I made a reservation at the Pacific Plaza. While it was further away from the convention center, the people there were very accommodating and agreed to help me get transportation to and from the hotel. When I went online to find out about transportation to and from the airport, I discovered that the downtown shuttle stopped at the Four Seasons Hotel and I would have to walk the rest of the way to the Pacific Plaza. As a result, I decided to go by train. The railroad station was a lot closer to downtown and the rates were a lot cheaper. I was able to get a round-trip ticket to Seattle for only $36.
Before leaving town, I made all the necessary arrangements. I kept online contact with Kristin so I would get assistance around the convention center. In addition, I made sure that she had the number of the hotel as well as my wireless phone number.
The day of the big adventure arrived. I left Gresham at 10:30 am to catch a train at 12:30. It was one of those high-speed trains, which are a lot faster. In addition, they originate in Portland so there is less of a chance of being late. When I boarded the train, I asked the conductor to call the station in Seattle to make sure I got the assistance I needed. When I reached Seattle, the porter took me out in front of the station so I could get a cab to the hotel. When I arrived at the hotel, I was directed to my room where I was able to drop off my supplies and get settled in. I went down to the restaurant for dinner and discovered that I could have the charges added on to the cost of my room. This meant that I did not have to spend a lot of cash.
On the first day of the conference, at 11:00 am, Julie came to meet me at the main entrance of the convention center and she directed me to the booth. When I got there, I didn't think I would have any visitors. However, visitors came from everywhere. People thought I would lose my voice by the end of the conference.
I had a wide variety of questions to answer. I had a couple visitors who worked for learning centers and wanted to learn about how to make PC systems accessible to people with visual impairments. I was able to talk them through the process. In addition, I gave them my online address so they could contact me if they had any further questions. Some of our visitors were from elementary and high schools. They had disabled students attending their schools and wanted to know what kinds of accommodations to provide. I was able to give them advice on different kinds of computer technology. Most of the people I talked to had general questions about DO-IT. I told them about the Scholars program and the Pals program. Most of the visitors collected written documentation.
The second day was quieter than the first. I arrived at the convention center at about 11:15. The first thing we did was called a poster session. This was where the staff set up posters and people could ask questions about what they saw. It was similar to the booth in that people asked questions about similar things. A lot of people asked me about DO-IT. A few of them asked for my e-mail address and there were some who asked me questions about special technology. When we got back to the booth, there were very few visitors. While I was at this conference, I got to tour some of the other booths. I learned some good information that might be useful for my work experience. At 3:15, I went back to my hotel and started making preparations for my trip to Southern Oregon the next day. On the following day, I woke up early and checked out of the hotel. I kept a copy of my receipt so I could scan it and add up the charges. I got transportation to the railroad station where I was able to catch a train back to Portland. When I arrived, I went to Greyhound and caught a bus to Medford. By the time I got there, I was very tired out, but I felt I had achieved a lot.
I learned some really important lessons from this experience.
- Be very careful when selecting a hotel. Don't just choose one that offers the services you want. It might not be within your budget. However, you should not always select the cheapest hotel because it might not have the services you need. When you find a hotel that is within your budget, call them and find out what services they offer.
- Charging meals to your room is a good way to pay for them. This allows you to cover all of your expenses in one purchase. You don't have to carry as much cash or manage as much paperwork.
- If you use a cab or shuttle service you like, ask your driver about arranging more transportation with that company. If the driver can not answer your question, he will at least give you the number of the dispatcher. If you can pre-arrange transportation ahead of time, this will increase your chances of getting to your destination on time. Some transportation services have online servers. This allows you to e-mail the company and ask questions before you leave town.
- If you have the opportunity, you should check out other booths at the conference you are attending. You might learn something new and it might turn out to be very useful.
- Out of all those lessons, here is the most important: communication is the key to a successful mission. As long as you can tell people what you need, your mission will be successful.