Mandalay Bay Goes the Extra Mile to Welcome National Federation of the Blind

July 25, 2019

Event groups searching for the right venue that can accommodate and welcome special-needs attendees need look no further than MGM Resorts International. The resort company, which maintains a culture and mission of inclusion, recently hosted the National Federation of the Blind’s annual convention July 7 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The property team underwent extensive preparation and training to ensure the event’s 3,284 attendees had an unforgettable experience.

As the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind people, NFB had never taken its convention to Las Vegas before. The experience was also a first for Mandalay Bay, which collaborated extensively with NFB to make sure all visually challenged attendees were able to easily navigate and enjoy the expansive property. 

“Servicing and executing a program of this nature not only brought a tremendous amount of collaboration amongst the Mandalay Bay team and NFB leaders, but we also witnessed multiple interactions between sited guests on vacation stepping in to assist visually impaired attendees,” said Kathy Springstead, general manager of convention center operations for Mandalay Bay.

According to NFB spokesperson Chris Danielsen, the resort was able to meet the event’s rate and space requirements and its staff members were enthusiastic about learning how to interact with blind attendees.


The NFB of Nevada affiliate provided several on-site training sessions to discuss the courtesy rules of blindness and answer any questions the staff had.

“We encouraged Mandalay Bay staff to treat our attendees as they would any other guests at the resort, emphasizing that our members are not defined by their blindness and are essentially no different than the average convention goer,” said Springstead. ​​​​​​

Pre-convention training for Mandalay Bay managers included meeting with all department heads, exploring real-life situations and engaging in mock scenarios such as hotel check-ins. This helped create an organized training protocol and seamless experience for the group, Springstead said.

Special arrangements for the group included:

  • Nearly 50 separate braille menus for all food and beverage outlets and meals made available throughout the resort
  • Cane-detectable modifications that correlated with a text-based map of Mandalay Bay
  • Collaboration between MGM Resorts and Nevada Gaming Board to ensure attendees had access to the AIRA app, which connects blind and low-vision people with highly trained, remotely located support agents who provide assistance while gaming
  • Installation of two service animal relief stations 
  • Guided tours of Shark Reef 
  • A narration service for Cirque du Soleil’s MJ ONE during performances

“Attendees of NFB wanted to be treated equally, a message they stressed throughout the entire process of this conference,” said Ernest Stovall, Mandalay Bay vice president of sales. “The overall NFB program and objectives tied right into MGM Resorts International’s core values of teamwork, integrity, excellence and inclusion.”

The convention itself, which spanned just under 156,000 net square feet, featured topics such as self-driving technology, which has the potential to bring unprecedented freedom and independence to blind Americans.

According to Danielsen, NFB’s first Las Vegas convention turned out to be an overwhelming success, with attendees taking advantage of many of the resort’s amenities outside of the convention agenda.

“For many of our members, this was their first visit to Las Vegas, and we believe that the excitement of visiting the city was a factor in the large number of first-time convention attendees this year,” Danielsen said. “The feedback we have received has included high praise for the staff’s friendliness, helpfulness and professionalism. For the right deal, we’d certainly consider returning to Las Vegas in future years.”


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