The Circular Hotel – Blind Conventions 2

detriothotelEverywhere you walk, you “get caned”—hit by several canes from all different directions. There are just so many people navigating[1] their way around that it’s impossible to avoid. From the moment you emerge from your room to the time you reenter it, you get caned. There are dogs everywhere too. They are also getting caned at every turn, and surrounded by so many other dogs. I think they are more overwhelmed than the people. The hotel has set aside a place outside for people to relieve their guide dogs but I keep hearing that some of them, especially the ones that have never been to a convention before, are having some bladder issues.

One night I’m on a lower level, about to head upstairs when I see a guy yanking his guide dog around. “Find the escalator!” he’s screaming angrily at his dog. He’s actually standing right next to the escalator and the dog pulls him in its direction. He yanks it again. “Damn it, find the escalator!” he yells again, not realizing the dog is doing exactly what he’s asking. This goes on several times and then a hotel worker gently tries to direct him. He starts getting irate and my elevator arrives so I don’t know if he finds the escalator. I feel so bad for these dogs.

[1] The hotel is set up in a huge circle, which only complicates blind navigation. There are no gridlike features, no differently sized hallways, no real landmarks, just this huge circle with too many similar hallways originating at its center. People are placed strategically at different locations trying to marshal conference attendees in the right direction for each event. To this day, whenever I mention that my only national convention thus far was Detroit, the response always starts with, “Oh, the circular hotel…” I’ve since been to other blind conventions at more conventional hotels and the caning and dog trouble was not even in league with that at the circular hotel.


Here’s another excerpt from an essay called “Blind Conventions” (find the first excerpt here). This was written for a writing class, and we had just read the essays “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away From it All” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never do Again” by David Foster Wallace, and the assignment was to describe an experience in detail and try to adopt a bit of DFW’s style. This was especially agreeable to me as I couldn’t get enough DFW.

Check out the Samples Page, as well as Published and Early Work, to read more of my writing.

~Emilia J

4 thoughts on “The Circular Hotel – Blind Conventions 2

  1. I’ve thought about this recently. I got my guide dog three months ago and when I have gone in the past, I was more sighted and I could see all the canes going everywhere. Thinking about that now, I am a bit nervous to bring my guide to a convention for the blind.

    • Hi Jessica! Don’t be too nervous. This hotel that I was describing was really poorly laid out and caused a lot of stress because there were no real landmarks (which probably made it harder for the dogs too). I’ve been to two other conventions, one in Dallas and one in Orlando, and the dogs and people seemed to have an easier time. That said, some people do choose to leave their dogs at home and use a cane during a convention instead. Sometimes I think just being around so many other dogs at once can be stressful for guide dogs, but if that is your preferred travel tool, there are so many ways to make it work. I definitely don’t want to be discouraging in any way because conventions are soooo worth it.


  2. Speaking as one who is not blind, ladies, i can tell you my first visit to that stupidly designed hotel did not give up visual landmarks to me either. Even the signs were little help. At least when i ran into Starbucks on the bottom level, I knew which side of the circle i was on. Also, the first time we were in the Renaissance Center Hotel, the celings were too low in the spoke-like hallways from the central circle of elevators. One of our members is seven foot and ahd to bend way over to walk them. out to the rooms .

    • Wow, great details! I didn’t even remember about the low ceilings. Also good to know it was challenging to navigate even for the sighted attendees. That circular hotel was my first exposure to the NFB on a national level, and I want to say I did have a really great time at the convention, but there seemed to be a lot more confusion and stress than in Dallas or Orlando.

      As always, thanks so much for reading :)


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