Many leaders would be content to have a dramatic impact on one organization. Lee Nasehi, however, has a broader vision. She’s on a mission to expand public awareness and understanding of the capabilities of people who are blind.
Currently the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of VisionServe Alliance (VSA), a St. Louis-based consortium of nonprofits located throughout North America that provide vision rehabilitation services, Nasehi previously was CEO of NIB associated nonprofit agency Lighthouse Central Florida. There, she helped launch a subsidiary organization that creates employment opportunities and promising careers for people who are blind.
Nasehi earned her bachelor’s degree as well as a Master of Social Work from Florida State University. The birth of her son Joe – who was born premature and is blind with cerebral palsy and cognitive impairments – was a pivot point in her life and career.
Joe, now 40, received vision-specific early intervention services at Lighthouse Central Florida. Just as important, Nasehi says, the Lighthouse gave her family hope that Joe would lead a rich and fulfilling life, which he has!
Nasehi began working in vision rehabilitation at the Lighthouse, including in the areas of job readiness, development, and placement. After a decade she, along with then-Lighthouse vice president Donna Esbensen, realized just how difficult it was for people who are blind to get a good job, even after completing rehabilitation and developing great independent living skills.
“We wanted to change that by establishing Lighthouse Works! which offers sustainable entry-level opportunities and serves as a launching pad for careers.”
Setting up Lighthouse Works! was challenging, but Nasehi says the results are well worth it.
“Central Florida now has a sustainable community-based organization dedicated to comprehensive state-of-the-art vison-specific education, vision rehabilitation, and employment services for people of all ages with all types of visual impairments,” she explains. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the state turned to Lighthouse Works! for support in fielding calls from Floridians who had lost their jobs due to the lockdown.
After a two-decade run as CEO at the Lighthouse, with a formidable leadership team and succession plan in place, Nasehi was open to other opportunities. When the CEO position became available at VisionServe Alliance, she decided to apply.
As VSA’s new CEO, Nasehi says her daily tasks run the gamut from administrative to strategic. “I want to establish a sustainable revenue model for vision rehabilitation services nationally, so no one living with blindness, low vison, or other visual impairment has to rely on their community’s ability to fundraise in order to receive good quality and easily accessible services.”
Nasehi maintains that the greatest challenge facing people who are blind is a lack of awareness among the general public. “Let’s change that and expand awareness and understanding because all things are possible once we begin there,” she says.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion begin with us — let’s be the change we all want to happen!”