October 17, 2013, ALEXANDRIA, VA – National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the nation’s largest employment resource for people who are blind, announced its second class of Advocates for Leadership and Employment. Nine employees who are blind from NIB associated agencies were selected to help raise awareness among elected officials and educate employers about the capabilities of people who are blind.
The advocates will work with NIB’s Public Policy team to advance national issues affecting employment in the blindness community, including the impact of budget uncertainty on NIB associated agencies and the employment of people who are blind. This is important because 70% of working-age Americans who are blind are not employed.
“The Advocates for Leadership and Employment program is a very important part of getting our message out to elected officials across the nation,” said Kevin Lynch, president and CEO of NIB. “Over the next two years, the advocates will learn the tools they need to develop relationships with their legislators and to become experts on employment issues affecting the blindness community.”
NIB trains the advocates on the public policy process and how to effectively engage legislators on issues affecting the blind community. This group of advocates will build on the success of the inaugural class of advocates, who routinely met with elected officials during the past two years.
The advocates are employees who are blind, and are currently working at one of NIB’s 91 associated nonprofit agencies. The employees’ agencies benefit by having a trained advocate working on their behalf and directly participating in the advocacy strategy with NIB’s Public Policy team. The program is a win-win for the employee, the agency, and their community at large.
Employees in the second class of the Advocates for Leadership and Employment program are:
• Deborah Ambro-Crandell, customer service representative, Virginia Industries for the Blind, Charlottesville, VA
• Emma Conilogue, business planning and marketing specialist, Lighthouse Works (division of Lighthouse Central Florida), Orlando, FL
• Stephanie Davis, optical customer service representative, Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind, Winston-Salem, NC
• Sean Dobbs, director of public relations and fund development, Inland Northwest Lighthouse (satellite of The Lighthouse for the Blind Inc. – Seattle), Spokane, WA
• Michael Guajardo, assistive technology specialist, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind, San Antonio, TX
• Markita Cooper Lane, regional manager, East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, Tyler, TX
• Steven Ogletree, general production employee, Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Cincinnati, OH
• Cody Steinfeld, warehouse employee, Alphapointe, Kansas City, MO
• Pamela Wright, community access specialist and low vision clinic marketer, NewView Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, OK
This year marks the 75th anniversary of NIB and the Wagner-O’Day Act, the legislation that established a federal government initiative that creates employment opportunities for people who are blind. The program, known today as the AbilityOne® Program, requires federal government agencies to purchase certain products made by people who are blind or have severe disabilities.
About National Industries for the Blind
For 75 years, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has been focused on enhancing the opportunities for economic and personal independence of people who are blind, primarily through creating, sustaining and improving employment. NIB and its network of 91 associated nonprofit agencies nationwide serve as the largest employer for people who are blind by the sale of SKILCRAFT® and other products and services through the AbilityOne® Program, established by the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act. For more information about NIB, visit www.NIB.org.
Vice President, Communications