Joining Blindness Organizations
A Step Forward in Professional Development
by Jessica Minneci
Young students and professionals are often on the fence about whether or not they should join a blindness organization such as The American Council of the Blind (ACB) or The National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Whether or not you choose to join one or both of them, it is crucial that you understand how they can benefit you as you progress through academia and into a full-time career. As a member of ACB, I have firsthand experience I’d like to share to help you make a decision.
|A group of young adults leaving a brick building|
Upon winning a college scholarship in 2015, I flew to Texas for the ACB annual conference and convention. There, I not only received my award, but I also became a member of the affiliate ACB Students. Since then, I have served on the board, first as treasurer and currently as first vice president. Aside from providing scholarships, ACB Students hosts a number of professional development events at convention. Previous sessions included an informational discussion about the social network LinkedIn, which connects employers and job candidates, and speed networking, where college students met one another as well as other experienced professionals who are blind. Attending convention and serving on the board taught me valuable skills, such as collaborating with others, participating in committees, and planning events.
At each convention, other opportunities present themselves. I have introduced myself to other writers, people with similar career goals as myself. More groups in ACB exist for people who aspire to be attorneys, entrepreneurs, government workers, IT specialists, vendors, and teachers. One committee assists prospective employees get their foot in the door by holding workshops and job fairs at convention. This committee, known as the employment committee, also produces training materials and does advocacy work for employees and employers who are blind or visually impaired. Similarly, in one of their events at convention, the ACB leadership institute training committee helps new and developing leaders. As a result, employers are given the chance to recruit future staff.
You may also want to join a blindness organization just to take part in special-interest groups. These affiliates allow people with similar backgrounds to connect and support one another. For example, I am involved in GDUI, Guide Dog Users Inc., where I continue to learn about different guide dog handling techniques and new policies that can effect guide dogs and their handlers. Likewise, outreach groups give people a chance to assist in advocating for social issues including Braille literacy, legislation for the deaf-blind, the importance of talking glucometers for diabetics who are blind, healthcare access, and the needs of students who are blind or visually impaired. In this way, people from many different careers work together to meet the needs of the blind community.
For all of these reasons, I am proud to be a member of ACB and I plan to continue participating with this organization in some capacity after I graduate from college. I hope my experience will encourage you to consider getting involved.