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History of VRATE
Vision Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Expo (VRATE) is a merger of two events that had been held separately from 1997 to 2000. National Vision Rehabilitation Day was originally sponsored by a collaboration of ten agencies and businesses that service the visually impaired community. This event featured informational exhibits presented by service providers and product vendors. In addition to exhibits, NVR Day included several speakers each year, most notably a retinal specialist.
The TEE Conference focused on technology for the blind and visually impaired, and featured demonstrations of the newest technology available. This event was sponsored by the Governor's Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment and the Foundation for Blind Children. Both events grew in popularity and were usually held within just a few weeks of each other.
After the two events were held in 2000, organizers from both events decided to approach the other about combining their efforts in the future. Each felt that a joint event would ultimately be more beneficial to the visually impaired community and that it was time to move to a facility that was more centrally located and offered better accessibility.
The first VRATE event was held at Phoenix Civic Plaza in early November 2001. More than 500 people attended including volunteers from the Telephone Pioneers and Pride of Scottsdale Lions Club. The event featured 40 exhibitors from eight states, and speakers scheduled throughout the day.
To accomodate the needs of the visually impaired community in the valley, VRATE tries to alternate locations on a yearly basis to the east and west side of the Valley. The November 2000 venue location was the Mesa Convention Center.