INL’s Shawn Dobbs visits Washington D.C.
In October, I had the opportunity to travel to Baltimore for the annual National Industries for the Blind/ National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind (NIB/NAEPB) conference. I really looked forward to this trip because as the Development and Public Relations Director at Inland Northwest Lighthouse (INL) I would have the opportunity to learn more about NIB, celebrate the accomplishments of the employees of the year, network, and most exciting of all, visit with staff of our elected officials in Washington D.C. My primary objective in traveling to our nation’s capital was to share the exciting news of the upcoming expansion at INL. I was equally looking forward to experiencing a small taste of life in our nation’s capital.
I arrived in Baltimore the evening of Tuesday, October 23rd. My first order of business was to figure out how to take the train from Baltimore to D.C. early the next morning. Growing up in Indiana, I had never had the occasion to take a commuter train, so my trip to Washington was truly going to be a grand adventure. The manager at my Baltimore hotel, looking at the website for the commuter train, informed me that when I arrived at the train station I would need to find an attendant wearing a red cap and that this person would assist me. I began laughing as I imagined myself, a person who is totally blind, running up to people and asking them if they were wearing a hat and if they were, by chance was it red? Fortunately, the hotel manager requested that my cab driver help me locate the person in the “red cap” at the train station, who would then assist me in catching my train.
Early the next morning I located my cab driver in the hotel lobby and we were off to the train station. We located a “red cap” and 15 minutes later I was on my way to D.C. As the train lurched along I took in the various conversations that were taking place around me. This gave me a good feel of who I was on the train with. There was a businessman who set up his own Wi-Fi hot spot, some kids apparently skipping school, and other people just on their way to work.
Arriving in D.C. I met Paula Hoffman, Vice President of Government Affairs and my colleague from Seattle Lighthouse. As we walked from the train station to the capital I marveled at how quiet it was, peaceful and rather park-like. Soon we reached the Russell Senate Office Building, went through security, and made our way down a cavernous hallway to the elevators. Once we got off I noticed that everything seemed extremely large as the slightest sound echoed throughout the massive corridor.
We entered an office to meet with a member of Congresswoman Murray’s staff. We had a great conversation and I realized that there is no reason to feel disconnected from our elected officials. They are people just like us and this was a good reminder for me with elections coming up in early November. I enjoyed sharing the goals surrounding our upcoming expansion. Once our conversation concluded we walked back across the capital to the Rayburne House Office Building for another meeting.
Half an hour later we were on our way to the train station and in less than an hour I would be back in Baltimore. As I boarded the train to leave D.C., I could not help but feel a strong sense of pride. It was truly a privilege to experience, though briefly, life in our nation’s capital and to share with those whom we have elected how their hard work is positively impacting the citizens back in Washington State. I could have enjoyed spending the entire day visiting historical sites in and around Washington D.C. and my trip motivated me to visit the Capitol again soon. I take pride in the fact that our elected officials are able to work together and create opportunities for everyone including people who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with other disabilities.