My Story tied in to Give to Lincoln Day

I frequently talk about the fact that I am involved with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and the Nebraska Association of Blind Students (NABS.) However, I don’t often talk about why I give so much of my time to this organization.

Most of you know that I grew up blind. I was lucky. My mom was blind, and I don’t think my dad treated me any differently than he would have treated a sighted kid. I had a chance to learn things like how to cook as a blind person, and whether I liked it or not I was expected to do chores just like the rest of my friends. More importantly, I had a role model who proved to me that blind people could be successful, that they could have jobs they enjoyed and families they loved. I had teachers who taught me to read Braille, and who held me to similar expectations as my sighted peers.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality for lots of blind kids in the United States today. Some statistics say that only 1 out of every 10 blind kids in America is being taught Braille. The others are told that audio textbooks and synthetic speech will be good enough to get them by. Many blind people grow up believing that the best job they can expect to get after high school is at a sheltered workshop, where they can legally be paid less than minimum wage. During my summers working with blind youth I have met teenagers who didn’t know how to tie their shoes, who had never been to the restroom unaccompanied, and who believed that they would spend their lives after high school in a nursing home simply because they were blind. And I have seen these students’ opinions about themselves and blindness in general change after spending a summer surrounded by other blind people, many of whom are in college or looking for jobs having graduated with advanced degrees.

I’ve been involved with the NFB for around 7 years now, and I’ve seen us do incredible things. We’ve worked with parents to ensure their children are taught to read. We’ve provided programs in over fifteen states to expose blind children to the joy of reading through Braille. We have fought against discriminatory employment practices and seen qualified blind employees excel in careers from lawyers to teachers to doctors. We have worked with organizations like Apple and Blackboard to ensure blind students like me have access to the same educational technology as our classmates. And, we have secured the right of blind parents to continue raising their children when social services have removed them solely because the parent was blind (and we have done this more than once).

None of the things I’ve described would be possible without financial contributions, and every little bit helps. Today, May 16th, is the Lincoln Community Foundation’s Give to Lincoln Day. A day in which all received donations are proportionally matched from a $200,000 grant. I ask that if you have a little disposable income that you consider contributing to the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska’s campaign.
The funds raised today will go toward programs in the Lincoln, Nebraska area. This year, one of those programs will be a joint seminar being conducted by NABS and the Nebraska Commission for the Blind. A seminar where we will give blind college students tools to help them succeed.
More importantly though, we will expose them to positive blind role models, and the attitude that they can be successful and go far in life.
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