This was no mere groundbreaking being celebrated at the National Federation of the Blind's annual gala. This was also the celebration of a new facility that was groundbreaking itself. The NFB's new National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, to be built adjacent to the NFB's headquarters in Baltimore, will be the first education and research center developed and operated by an organization of the blind.
About 600 guests gathered at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel to herald this new beginning and reflect on advances already made for the blind. The guest list was evidence enough. Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies CEO, invented the first reading machine for the blind. CEO Wally O'Dell's company, Diebold Inc., manufactured the first ATM machines for the blind.
"I make [hand-held] computers -- like Palm Pilots -- for blind people," explained Deane Blazie, founder of Blazie Engineering. Add another to that list: Mike Hingson. The Quantum ATL district channel sales manager made national news with the story of how his seeing-eye dog led him down 78 floors to safety during the World Trade Center attacks.