Alicia Howerton: Advocacy Provides a Platform to Confront Stereotypes and Break Down Barriers

A head and shoulders photo of Alicia Howerton

Alicia Howerton was advocating for members of the blind or visually impaired community even before her involvement with NIB as an Advocate for Leadership and Employment.

Her professional advocacy journey began years earlier, in the Ohio statehouse, where she and others from the Cleveland Sight Center (CSC) worked diligently with legislators advocating for insurance coverage of the cost of white canes. Alicia took a leadership role in championing this initiative and educating state lawmakers, which was instrumental in Ohio becoming the first state in the country to provide Medicaid coverage for the white cane as durable medical equipment.

CSC played a critical role in Alicia’s personal and professional journey as someone living with vision loss. 

“I have been losing my vision for over 40 years,” she says, “[a condition] which went undiagnosed for about 20 years. Giving it a diagnosis did not help me to learn to accept my vision loss, but after being introduced to Cleveland Sight Center and another person who was living life with blindness, I finally started to become confident enough to live life more fully.”

Alicia joined CSC in 2010, working as a customer service representative. She’s held multiple positions during her tenure there, including volunteer coordinator, switchboard operator, community relations specialist, and strategic partnership manager. She currently serves as the manager of external and government relations, working directly with the CEO to spearhead various initiatives.

Over the years, much of her work at CSC has involved helping her clients advocate for themselves, so when the opportunity to participate in the NIB Advocates for Leadership and Employment program was presented, it seemed like a natural fit.

Being an NIB Advocate “provides a platform and opportunity to elevate the narrative for the community of people who are blind or visually impaired,” says Alicia, “in addition to breaking down barriers such as human bias, misconceptions, and the ignorance that seems to be so systemic in our culture.”

Alicia’s professional journey as someone living with vision loss did not come without its hardships. Like many others, she’s had to confront stereotypes and battle false assumptions along the way. But it has turned her into a fierce and unapologetic advocate for those in her community.

“Never apologize for your blindness,” says Alicia, “and always speak your truth. I always remember what my grandmother said: ‘You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ Never stop learning and growing, and most of all, have an ‘I can do it’ attitude.”

For employers, she offers this advice: “Do not be afraid to hire those with disabilities. Until you do, you will never know the positive impact it can have.”