The Amputee Coalition of America Conference proved once again that putting
four hundred amputees together in the same hotel is a pretty good idea.
However, it was obvious from day one that the members of the St Johns Amputee
listserv had a distinct advantage over the other amps in attendance, we
already knew each other without ever meeting.
Outside the Ramada
Four Days in Chicago
ACA Conference June 12-15, 1998
Day One June 11
Travel: Almost everyone was delayed in arrival by air due to a significant
thunderstorm that lodged over the Chicago area for the day. I arrived on
the "red-eye" from Reno at 5am. I spent the first half of the
day in the lobby of the Holiday Inn waiting for a room. I was awoken by
Al Pike at one point from then on we waited in tandem.
By about 5pm just about everyone had arrived and the presence from the
amputee listserv was significant. Pat from Portage, Indiana had us all
scheduled for a BBQ at her place. The road trip to Portage was significant
as it was my first experience in Chicago traffic. The 90 minute trek also
got one vehicle lost, they eventually turned up.
The food at Pat's BBQ was incredible. Those that had met before caught
up on various issues and we started to put faces to online names and personalities.
The bbq was a great kick-off to what would be an incredible weekend of
learning and just having fun.
Day Two June 12
Registration got started at about 9am and we started to meet the folks
that had missed the bbq. The opening event was fairly low-key with speeches
by ACA President Patty Rossbach and a speech from Paralympian Al Mead.
The latter created a somewhat mixed reaction, proving that what inspires
some does not for others.
Sessions started immediately after the opening. I attended the Town Hall
meeting for Support Group Leaders hosted by Georgie Maxfield. This session
gave opportunity for the support group operators to voice the experiences
and learn from each others mistakes.
I also tried my hand at rollerblading with Casey Pieretti. As it was my
first time I was a little nervous, just glad the carpet was soft and the
pads and guards worked well! Ideally I would liked to have seen another
AK to see how they skated. Many of the BK's seemed to pick it up quickly.
| The evening featured entertainment, the highlight of which was George Valasquez'
tap dancing in the roaring 20's theme. George has an incredible outlook
on life and he expresses himself perfectly through his dancing.
Day Three June 13
Promised to the busiest day for everyone. The exhibits opened and I shared
a table with Al Pike and Tony van der Waarde, getting set up was the main
order of the morning. The exhibits opened at 10am and the amputees present
caught up with the latest technologies.
Not only does the exhibits give the amps a chance to see new stuff but
also for enterprising amps like myself to meet up with many people I have
dealt with on a professional basis over the last two years. I also used
the fact that so many progressively minded exhibitors were in one place
at the same time.
After dinner the exhibits continued and I ran out of brochures and business
I also had a role to play with Kath Duncan's Australian TV crew. I acted
as tour guide and pointed out significant developments in prosthetics.
After an hour or so of filming Kath Duncan, Steve Kurzman and I found a
quiet sport for an interview, which basically turned in to a two on one
on why Ian Gregson didn't like "devotees" too much.
Saturday evening numerous folks from the St. Johns List made good on their
open invitation to attend the Fascination dance being held at the Ramada.
Fascination is a "social" group formed by double BK Bette Hagluund
in Chicago some thirty years ago.
It was with some trepidation that about twenty of us made the trek to the
Ramada. Our trepidation was confirmed as several list members went in advance
and felt completely set on as the walked in, they left even before we arrived.
The Fascination meeting seemed to be attended by well dressed men over
the age of 50 and numerous ladies of different ages. A number of the devotees
had already made their presence felt at the ACA's Holiday Inn. Peter Schlegar
had once again approached several women, proving once again his lack of
social skills matched his audacity in believing that women might actually
be attracted to him. Others such as Mike Freeman simply hung around the
Holiday Inn, skulking in the back ground, hoping not to be noticed and
failing. The devotee presence at the ACA was higher than in 1996, presumably
since the Fascination meeting was scheduled at the same time.
Organiser Bette Hagluund seemed to be a genuinely talented woman whose
superior social skills seemed out of place with Fascination group. However,
she is dedicated to bringing amputees and those who are sexually stimulated
by them together. I felt however that Bette could have also utilised her
skills more effectively around the ACA.
Al Pike & Ian Gregson seek enlightenment at the Ramada
| We were also entertained at the Ramada by the science fiction convention
in progress at the same time. Some of those prosthetic parts matched our
own in quality and workmanship!|
On returning to the Holiday Inn some chose to call it a night and some
headed off to the hotel night club to party until the early hours.
Day Four June 14
My prosthetist claims I can and should walk better, so in attending the
Gait Analysis Clinic, I was hoping to solve some problems. After a few
minutes of video taping and chat the problem was solved. All I have to
do now is remember!
I also attended Bob Gailey's "Functional Assessment evaluation".
This is an university study to give professionals some standards on how
to assess functional ability for insurance and medicare coverage purposes.
The golf class was well attended. Golf is by far the most popular recreational
sport for amputees, with thousands of players in North America. Dan Cox's
expert instruction got everyone clued in to the attraction of the sport.
Outside the Museum of Science & Industry
| Sunday afternoon caught a van load of amputees heading off to downtown
Chicago to try and find the Museum of Science and Industry. After skirting
around downtown to find the entrance to Lakeshore Drive, we finally made
it to the destination.|
Of all the peculiar coincidences I ran in to Paralympic athlete and double
AK Kris Lenzo in the museum. I had not seen Kris since 1984, turns out
he had never heard of the ACA, a reminder of the work yet to be done.
On the way back to the freeway we got lost in the south side of Chicago,
which was a little scary. Burned out apartments and gangs of youths hanging
around corners reminded us there are people far worse off than us and that
skin colour and employability can be a bigger handicap than any amputation.
By the time we got back to the Holiday Inn it was time for our final dinner
and a few good byes. It almost felt as if we didn't really have to say
good bye to other list members, since we would be chatting via e-mail for
the rest of the year.
What was significantly noticeable was the number of listmembers who attended
| Bruce Jaster
Sandy & Rich Friend
| Lee & Charlene Myles
Tony van der Waarde
| Patty Johnson
Carol S. Wallace
| Cynthia & Don Black
Rick and Joni van Dyke
| Art Yeomans|
This represents a large increase over the dozen or so subscribers that
attended the 1996 event in Atlanta.
Everyone is already looking forward to next year's ACA Conference in
St Johns Amplist members at the ACA 98
To see more pictures
at the ACA Conference check out this link