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USABA Names Molly Quinn as New Chief Executive Officer

COLORADO SPRINGS (July 28, 2020) – The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is pleased to announce the addition of Molly Quinn as the association’s new Chief Executive Officer. Quinn comes to USABA with over 20 years of progressive experience in sales, sports marketing, and philanthropy. 

Prodigy Search, a national executive search firm, conducted the broad-scale recruitment process for the new hire.

In her new role at USABA, Quinn will work with the board, staff, members, and other stakeholders to develop, implement, and achieve a new strategic plan to increase membership, expand programs, and develop new revenue streams among other goals. She will ensure a continued collaborative relationship with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), the International Blind Sports Federation and other NGBs, and will support the men and women’s goalball teams that have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Mark Lucas, USABA Executive Director, will report to the CEO.

Speaking on behalf of the USABA board, Dr. Michael Bina, Chair, said, “We are delighted that Molly will be joining the USABA team. We look forward to her leading the expansion of our mission to involve more children and adults in life-changing physical activity. Under the leadership of Executive Director Mark Lucas, we are grateful that USABA established the USABA Goalball Center of Excellence in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and has earned a well-respected reputation within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement, the International Blind Sports Federation, and national blindness organizations.”  

Quinn stated, “I am honored to serve as the first USABA CEO. This role aligns with my personal passion and purpose around sports and fundraising. My career has been focused on creating life changing experiences and partnerships that drive new revenue through events, services, and sponsorships, which I will continue at the USABA. I look forward to leading an incredible organization focused on providing opportunities for blind and visually impaired athletes to participate and compete. Through inclusion and diversity, I want to be a bigger part of empowering people to live and grow through sport; leading the USABA’s mission will allow me to do just that.”

Throughout her expansive career, Quinn has established executive level contacts and relationships across sports agencies, brands, national governing bodies, and non-profits.  Prior to joining USABA, Quinn most recently served as Vice President, Fitness and Endurance Partnerships with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

At St. Jude, she identified and partnered with key global brands to diversify revenue streams. One of her major accomplishments was re-inventing the charity’s largest fundraising event, where she elevated the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend from 16k participants raising $9.5M to 26k raising $13M. Quinn’s strong leadership resulted in St. Jude’s endurance and walk campaigns making the Top 30 Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum Fundraising List for the first time.

Quinn served on two boards – Achieve Kids Tri and Triathlon Business International.

In her personal time, Quinn is a master swimmer who competes in open water swim competitions. She is an avid cyclist and practices yoga daily. She believes in giving back to the communities in which she lives and works and mentors young professionals on leadership skills. 

Matt Simpson, USABA board athlete’s representative, stated, “Speaking for all of our goalball athletes and members, I am extremely excited to welcome Molly. Her experience and abilities will be a great asset seeking opportunities for athletes of all ability levels. We are all incredibly grateful for the staff leadership that has brought USABA to where it is today and are optimistic about the future of sport opportunities for people who are blind in the United States, as well as our future successes on the international stage at Tokyo 2020 and beyond.”


The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), established in 1976, is a Colorado-chartered 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt membership organization with 842 registered members. The membership is comprised of elite and developmental athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers. The association has an operating budget and reserves of approximately $1.8 million. USABA is governed by a 10-member Board of Directors. Twenty percent of the Board members must be athletes with the remaining trustees being independent directors. 

The mission of USABA is to empower Americans who are blind or visually impaired to experience life-changing opportunities in sports, recreation, and physical activities, thereby educating and inspiring the nation.

About Prodigy Search

Founded in 2007, Prodigy Search, located in the New York City suburb of Freehold, NJ, boasts over 80 years of experience in the sports and entertainment business. As a renowned nationwide leader in senior-level executive search, Prodigy Search has honed its business principles and expertise, establishing itself as the largest boutique recruiting agency in North America. Simply, Prodigy Search is Where the Best Brands Come for the Best Talent.


The US Senate and House may complete negotiations this week, or early next week, on a COVID-related relief measure, likely the last one this year. Nonprofit advocates are asking the community to act immediately to request support for issues important to our sector.


HEALS Act: Health, Economics Assistance, liability protection, schools

On July 27, Senate Republicans introduced a package of proposals dubbed the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools Act (HEALS Act), which differs markedly from the House legislation, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), which passed the House on May 15. Neither bill is expected to be enacted in its original form. The major cost difference, $1 trillion in HEALS and $3 trillion in HEROES, has been widely reported. But there are many other differences that are important. The National Council of Nonprofits has a comparison of the bills.


ADA Compliance logo

One important concern to the disability community involves liability protections in the Senate legislation. According to one advocacy alert, “it specifically shields employers and people who own, lease, or operate public accommodations from violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” The liability language in Section 181 of the SAFE TO WORK Act, S. 4317 would eliminate critical protections established in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This language must be eliminated

More info is at

Please urge your members of Congress to ensure that people with disabilities do not lose civil rights in the final legislation.

The National Council of Nonprofits has circulated a revised letter with detailed recommendations to include in the final legislation. These include specific relief measures such as expanding and extending the Paycheck Protection Program, Increasing the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement for self-insured (reimbursing) nonprofits, and increasing charitable tax deductions.

The letter and recommendations is available at: The letter has useful language to include in your advocacy messages to Congress.

Specific Senate Action:

If you have operations in one of the states represented by any of the thirty bipartisan Senators that signed a letter circulated by Senators Lankford and King please urge them immediately to support that request to Senate leaders. The letter calls upon Congress to include nonprofit provisions in the COVID relief bill to “ensure that charitable nonprofits are fully supported in their service on the front lines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis.”


Reach out to these Senators and urge them to stress to their leaders – McConnell and Schumer – that the nonprofit priorities must be included in the final bill.


AK – Sullivan; AZ – McSally & Sinema; AR – Boozman; CA – Harris; CT – Blumenthal; CO – Gardner; DE – Coons; GA – Loeffler; HI – Schatz; KS – Moran; ME – King; MI – Peters; MN – Klobuchar & Smith; MS – Hyde-Smith; MT – Daines & Tester; NJ – Booker; NM – Heinrich & Udall; NC – Burr & Tillis; ND – Hoeven & Cramer; OK – Lankford; OR – Merkley; SC – Scott; SD – Rounds; and VA – Kaine.

Now Thats Good News August 12th at 3 pm ET

Live Virtual Celebration Event

Thank you to those that shared your good news and accomplishments over the last few months with us. Join us on August 12th at 3 pm ET/ 12 pm PT for our live event: Now That’s Good News as we highlight good news from our members. This event will be MC’d by Mike Gilliam (CEO of Lighthouse San Antonio) with videos, prizes, lighthearted humor, and fun! Come to celebrate the good work of our members. Join us to share in the good news and the fun. All are welcome to attend.

Save the date!


In conjunction with this good news event, we are kicking off our summer fundraising campaign. Your good news has shown how vital it is to keep the mission strong now more than ever. Every personal contribution of $50 will receive a chance to win a free registration to our fall conference. Each increment of $50 will receive an additional entry to win. i.e $150 = 3 entries to win. Donations made between now and August 18th will be eligible for the drawing.

Questions? Email Ben Leigh, Digital Operations & Communications Manager at

John McInerney recently retired as the Interim CEO of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind where he held this position since April, 2018.   As the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation, he was accountable to the Corporation’s Board of Directors. As such, he was responsible for overall planning, integration of effort, fiscal accounting, supervision of operations and staff, and evaluation of programs toward attainment of the PAB’s mission, and work, as expressed in approved grants, contracts and work plans. 

John McInerny headshot

Prior to accepting this position, John served on a Board of Directors for the non-profit organization, Blind and vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh.  John retired from the Westinghouse Electric Company as VP of Engineering in 2015 after a 40 year engineering and management career in the commercial nuclear power industry.  John consulted in the nuclear industry until accepting the interim CEO position at PAB.

After stepping away from the day-to-day corporate environment, I wanted to give back by pursuing a second career in the non-profit sector with a focus on visual impairment/blindness.   Specifically, having lost my functional vision in my early 40’s because of Retinitis Pigmantosa (RP), I clearly understood the needs and challenges that visually impaired individuals are faced with as they move through different phases of their lives.  Whether it is being a student trying to learn without vision, a young adult struggling to enter the workforce, or a mature adult trying to cope with a degenerative eye condition, I can relate first hand to their struggles and challenges, both from a physical and psychological perspective.  Consequently, my personal and corporate management experience provided me with the opportunity to work in a nonprofit in order to help improve the lives of those dealing with vision loss.

There is an urgent issue brought to our attention by the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) for the American people to respond to BEFORE July 4th to help pass legislation that supports independence for our nation’s veterans.

Visit the BVA website and Click here to take action.

“Blinded Veterans Association requests that Congressional leadership place H.R. 3504, S. 3587, and H.R. 4920 on the calendar prior to July 4 to honor our nation’s blinded veterans in their pursuit to regain independence. These bipartisan bills will dramatically improve the lives of our visually impaired veterans and BVA urges Congress to act swiftly in pushing these bills on to the White House. This legislation will:

  1. Allow blinded veterans to regain their independence by granting access to VA’s Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) program. H.R. 3504 would ensure that service-connected blinded veterans are eligible to adapt their homes with the technology needed for independent living.
  2. Allow blinded veterans and blinded employees to access critical information within Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) systems. S. 3587 (which amended H.R. 1199) will compel VA’s compliance with the Rehabilitation Act, as well as require reporting on progress, ensuring that disabled veterans are able to utilize these websites independently.
  3. Allows blinded veterans the freedom to secure meaningful employment opportunities with H.R. 4920 and the AbilityOne contracting program. AbilityOne companies employ blinded and visually impaired veterans, a population with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Ensuring that VA continues to contract these companies will safeguard crucial employment opportunities for this vulnerable population.”

“Each one of these bipartisan measures has already cleared every hurdle in the House and Senate. The next step, and the final one, is to place it on the House calendar so that representatives can unanimously consent. We urge Congress to take the final step and add these vital pieces of legislation to the calendar today. Together, we can truly celebrate Independence Day!”

5 minute summary of data

This session is a panel discussion of the preliminary findings of the Flatten Inaccessibility study, which investigated the impact of COVID-19 on US adults who are blind or have low vision. The survey was completed by 1,921 individuals and covered technology, healthcare, transportation, employment, education, social experiences, voting, and access to meals, food and supplies.

The researchers highlight some of the study findings and discuss how we can use data from this study to chart a road map to ensure those with vision loss are fully included in the response to COVID-19 and future challenging situations.

To learn more about the study, visit

ITEM logo

The Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (ITEM) Coalition was formed to raise awareness and build support for policies that will enhance access to assistive devices, technologies, and related services for people with disabilities and chronic conditions. The coalition is broad-based including disability and aging organizations as well as health and provider associations. VSA recently joined the coalition to support its advocacy for Medicare coverage of low vision aids and devices. ITEM is developing strategies to convince the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to rescind its existing “low vision aid exclusion which is based on the exemption of coverage for eyeglasses.” Because of this restrictive interpretation of the “eyeglass exemption” in the Medicare statute, Medicare beneficiaries are often unable to access critical assistive technologies that have lenses such as high-power magnifiers and other visual aids. Yet, these tools are often essential for individuals with low vision to read prescriptions, financial documents, mail, recipes, and other important health-related materials. We’ll keep you posted on this important effort. Information about the ITEM Coalition.
VSA has also endorsed the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act, H.R.4129. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Maloney (D-NY) and Bilirakis (R-FL), would evaluate the feasibility and cost of providing Medicare coverage for low vision technologies. The project would last for five years and a prescription from an ophthalmologist or optometrist would be required.

Today is Monday, April 27, 2020, which would have been our first full day together in Albuquerque, New Mexico for our CEO-Focused Summit. I was feeling sentimental over the weekend – grieving for what might have been.

View the photos from the Atlanta conference

But I awoke today in Winter Park, FL to what I consider to be THE perfect morning. Low 60’s, sunny blue skies, low humidity, a gentle breeze and birds singing. Beautiful and peaceful. I drank my Nespresso coffee while sitting on my back patio, watched the squirrels eating a few seeds that fell from the birdfeeder in the backyard and gave thanks for the opportunity to slow down and breathe. Inhale – exhale. I can hear my Pilates instructor’s voice in my head: breathe in through your nose . . . and out through your mouth. . .  (I miss her too.) 

There has not been enough of these moments during work hours over the last few weeks – we have been busier than ever. But the mornings and evenings – and the weekends – have been lovely. Lovelier than usual. Until recently, some of that was lost on me because I was preoccupied with worrying about things that have not yet happened. 

I have always been a purpose-filled person and for me that meant being fixed on the future – what comes next. What do I need to be doing to assure that next thing happens? I like to be in control – or feel like I was. And anxiety for me came primarily from feeling I had lost that control. So admittedly, I have been anxious for months. 

This pandemic experience has removed much of that control I used to think I had. I am reminded that the only thing I really have control over are my thoughts, words and actions. And it is much more difficult to predict the future in the current economy.  So, what can I do?  

First, I can breathe; express and feel grateful for the many things that are genuinely good in my life.  Secondly, I can trade fear for curiosity and get excited about doing things differently. Many of the things we are doing now out of necessity are ideas we explored and discussed over many years but may never have moved forward – until we had no other choice. I actually like change – there are so many opportunities for that right now. Thirdly, I can choose to remain positive and help my colleagues, friends and family do the same.  We will survive. We have the ability to figure all of this out. I know we will. 

Breathe in through your nose – long and deep – and out through your mouth. And next year, in Albuquerque! 

VisionServe Alliance LINKS Newsletter (Text Only) SPRING 2020 – Issue 1   Links – Learning, Innovation, Networking, Knowledge, Sharing

Editor’s Note: We realize many changes have occurred in the last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jane was originally scheduled to present one of our keynote sessions at the cancelled CEO Summit this April, so this cover article was to help us prepare for her session. But we felt there is still useful information here, so we decided to go ahead and share it with you. Watch for additional sharing of content from our featured CEO Summit presenters in the coming months.   Keynote Speaker Spotlight with Jane Wei-Skillern Q: Why is collaboration an important business strategy for nonprofits today? A: Collaboration has always been important for organizations of all types.  Virtually every significant advance that has ever been achieved by humankind has required trust-based collaboration among individuals and organizations. Today, collaborations have become even more important as the social and environmental challenges that humanity faces continue to increase in scale and complexity. No matter how well established or how well resourced, all organizations are dwarfed by the scale of the mission they seek to serve. At the same time, the proliferation of social impact organizations and shifts in traditional funding sources for nonprofits has dramatically increased competition in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits need to do more with less and must more clearly demonstrate their ability to deliver on mission impact. From what I have learned in my research, collaborative approaches are the most effective way to build community, increase productivity/problem solving capacity, and develop leveraged and scalable programs and services to serve community needs. I have become so convinced of the power of collaborative networks that I have made it my own life’s work to focus on promoting and supporting this approach in the social sector. Q: In your opinion what are the biggest impediments for creating successful collaborations in the nonprofit sector? A: By far, the biggest challenges lie in the culture and the mindset of the philanthropic sector. While there are countless well intended, dedicated, and talented leaders working tirelessly to make a difference in the world, it is a fallacy to think that any single organization, institution, or even sector, can successfully go it alone. Yet, to collaborate effectively requires a different mindset and set of norms that in turn influence behavior. Currently, there is a tendency in the field to focus on organization success as the primary means for achieving mission impact above all else. Consequently, building collaborations and networks are not always integral to organizational strategy. Furthermore, top down controls and narrowly defined performance metrics are often linear, when the nature of the work and the mission is complex and requires flexible and collaborative solutions. There are countless passionate leaders who are not given the opportunity and support for learning and collaborating. This requires deep trust and investment in relationships not only among grantees, but also between funders and their grantees. Finally, the highly competitive environment that nonprofits operate in pushes leaders to focus more on self-promotion rather than the humility required to listen, learn, and build community with others. As long as the norms that dominate in the social sector continue to emphasize organization level success, top down controls, and competition and self-promotion above mission impact, trust, and humility, respectively, transformational collaborative approaches will likely still be the exception rather than the norm in the social sector.  My hope is that we can change the world by raising awareness of the tremendous opportunity for impact through networks and supporting all leaders, whether funders, board members, or nonprofit leaders directly in the field to work through networks. Q: How can our attendees best prepare to absorb your session on Network Leadership at the CEO Summit? A: I would say that attendees should come with an open mind and be ready to engage openly and authentically with colleagues. Consider not only what you might ask for help and collaboration on, but also what you might offer to support others to advance a shared mission. My session will introduce concrete tools for building networks successfully and include interactive exercises to practice applying these tools to current challenges.   Because collaborative approaches require a shift in culture and a different mindset, I would strongly recommend that attendees bring a colleague to join them. It is helpful to learn and practice this approach with a trusted colleague and then bring these ideas back to the organization as a team.

Chairman’s Message John Mitchell, President/CEO of Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Things are changing daily as we were going to press with this issue, so forgive me if this is out of date by the time you read it. I can only imagine the kinds of challenges you and your agency are currently facing. I know my own are quite daunting, but I want you to know we haven’t forgotten about you. Although our 5th Annual CEO Summit has been cancelled for this year, the themes that were on the agenda are more important than ever. Our Summit’s overall theme was to be Collaboration with our keynote speaker, Jane Wei-Skillern author and co-author of dozens of Harvard Business School and Haas UC Berkeley case studies and journal articles. She is the lead author of the casebook Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector. It’s still important for us to share examples of successful collaboration models that VSA members have put into place. As we all know, collaboration is a must in today’s world, and we will need each other’s support to get through these challenging times.  Diversity in the workplace was the other key issue that we were going to deal with at the Summit. It’s still important for the organizations that we lead to champion this with both our Boards and employees. At CABVI (the agency I lead), we have implemented several initiatives in this area in recent years to have an intentional on-going focus as we strive to increase our diversity. We’ve also implemented required Diversity Training for all our employees as we work to improve CABVI’s culture and strengthen our active inclusion of everyone. Stay safe everyone. Hope you enjoy this issue of LINKS and find the information that Lee and Wendy have put together for us helpful. Thank you for being a member of VisionServe Alliance .

CEO Corner Lee Nasehi, President & CEO, VisionServe Alliance, St. Louis, MO. Dear Friends, As of this writing, we are facing significant unknowns that could impact us all. Leadership demands that we remain calm, make the best plans possible under the circumstances and be prepared to pivot as we learn more. The theme of the conference we cancelled, Collaboration and Soar, remains relevant, in fact it is VSA’s primary strategy for the next few years. We believe everything we do throughout our field can be more successful, more impactful, more sustainable when we work together focused on the mission rather than individual goals and objectives and organizational roles. While every step towards real collaboration is valuable, it is more than combining events, sharing staff or occasional joint planning. It can take root among healthy teams described by VSA’s core value of exceptional leadership. It will be built upon a foundation of equity, diversity and inclusion. And it will thrive in cultures of trust, transparency and investment in a common mission. What can we accomplish together once we all embrace the principles and practices of “networking leadership”? I invite you to join your fellow leaders in VisionServe Alliance and find out . . .

2020 Board of Directors Chair: John Mitchell, Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired          Vice Chair: Bernadette Kappen, New York Institute for Special Education    Secretary: Mike McGowan, NOAH Treasurer: Lauren Branch, NewView Oklahoma         Immediate Past Chair: Miki Jordan, Wayfinder Family Services           Joe Bogart, Blinded Veterans Association Lee Nasehi, VisionServe Alliance David Morgan, Future In Sight Libby Murphy, Louisiana Association for the Blind Courtney Plotner, Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired, Charleston Erika Petach, Blind and Vision Rehab Services of Pittsburgh Shari Roeseler, Society for the Blind-Sacramento Dennis Steiner, VisionCorps Renee Vidrine, Lighthouse Louisiana Ken Warkentin, Valley Center for the Blind Welcome to new Board Member, Courtney Plotner, CEO, Assoc. f/t Blind and Visually Impaired, South Carolina.

What’s New at VSA Voices of Vision Leaders Podcast Launched! Tune in to Lee Nasehi as she speaks with leaders in the field of blindness and visual impairment on a range of topics affecting the field such as networking and collaboration, public policy, accessibility technology, leadership development, and much more. She is joined by executives from around the country to hear what they are doing to improve the lives of people living with blindness and low vision. To Listen to the VVL Podcasts,Visit: 
Or Search “Voices of Vision Leaders” available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Anchor, and many more.   VSA 2020 Academic Scholarship Application Open VisionServe Alliance offers an Academic Scholarship each year to assist members and staff in the field to continue their education to better serve their local population. This scholarship is for members and staff seeking a degree or certification that serves people who are blind and visually impaired. Scholarships will be awarded to an applicant who meets all requirements and is deemed most deserving. Applications for the 2020 year are now begin accepted and will be reviewed month by month until all funds have been awarded so get your application in now. For details on how to apply, visit our website at    Compensation & Benefits Survey Now Open  In partnership with NIB and NAEPB, the 2020 Compensation & Benefits Survey is ready for you to complete. By participating, you will contribute to the comprehensive survey results that will help you to make key hiring and employment decisions during these difficult economic times and have access to information that can be used to save money on salary and benefits costs. Also, by participating in this survey, you are helping to establish important trend data that over time will show changes in salaries, staffing levels, benefits costs, and more. Your online response will be submitted directly to our survey and all data is held in strictest confidence and is reviewed only by the survey consultant. Results will be reported in the aggregate so that no survey information can be traced to any specific organization. The deadline to submit your data has been extended to Friday, May 8th. Submit your data by the deadline and you will receive a copy of the final report FREE. If you choose not to answer the survey, but wish for an individualized report later, members of VisionServe Alliance, NIB and NAEPB can purchase a reduced rate copy for $275 as a member benefit. Since organizations from across the country will be participating in this survey, the data published in your copy of the final report will be customized to labor statistics for your geographic location. VSA suggests forwarding the survey link to an HR manager to fill out due to the length of the survey and details required. To learn more and get your copy of the survey, see your inbox for the latest Compensation Benefits Survey email (latest sent 3/7/20). Here is the link to the survey:
  EOS Consulting Offered to Members VisionServe Alliance is embracing EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System). Not only has VSA implemented EOS internally, Lee has continued to offer member organizations EOS implementation services. Lee offers these services exclusively to VSA members at a discounted rate.  Lee’s professional experience as the chief executive of a comprehensive Lighthouse for 20 years that implemented EOS distinguishes her expertise from other EOS Implementors and makes it incredibly valuable for VSA members. NewView Oklahoma recently completed the EOS implementation journey and continues to use this valuable operating system as its organizational backbone. ABVI South Carolina is nearing the end of their implementation journey and has made tremendous progress towards their organizational goals using the system. VIA, formerly Olmsted Center for Sight in Buffalo, is the newest member of the EOS family having begun implementation in February. ACB will begin its journey in April. And three additional members are considering implementation this year.  Get a grip on your business and gain real traction! As Lee can only work with a limited number of organizations each year, there are very spots left. If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Lee to schedule a no obligation 90-Minute Exploratory Meeting. We realize it may be even more challenging to consider taking on something like this in the midst of the COVID-19 Crisis. However, having an operating system can bring order in chaos and provide some stabilization to an ever-changing situation. If you are interested, VSA may be able to offer special pricing, payment plans or defer session invoices. PHOTO: Lee Nasehi implementing EOS with the executive team at VIA in Buffalo, NY

CEO Summit Postponed until Spring 2021 Dear CEO Summit Attendees, Given the increasing concerns about COVID-19, along with the recent news from the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak officially a pandemic, to help protect the health and safety of our members, speakers, partners, VisionServe Alliance’s Board of Directors has agreed to cancel the 2020 CEO Summit. The good news is we were able to rebook the CEO Summit in Albuquerque, NM at Hotel Chaco in Spring 2021. We have tentatively booked April 27 – May 1, 2021 with Hotel Chaco, so please mark your calendar. This was a difficult decision for our organization, but ultimately the VSA Board of Directors is taking this extraordinary step to help protect the safety and well-being of our attendees, exhibitors and all participants from the coronavirus. We know many of you were looking forward to the great networking opportunities provided by our CEO Summit, so we are planning some online opportunities for you to connect and share information with our community of members in the coming weeks. We are currently discussing with our speakers and presenters whether they can share their presentations through a webinar in the coming weeks. We have also started a digital forum through for you to share resources and questions with each other. The link was shared with you via email on 3/17. Thank you to all our members and partners for their support, open discussions and encouragement during this time. We know you are all busy dealing with this crisis at your own organizations too. Thomas Panek of Guiding Eyes has shared on important document detailing resources for guide dog users affected by COVID-19. If any of you are interested in crisis plans, let us know as several other member CEO’s have already shared theirs with us. As everyone has been reminding us, great things happen when the community comes together. We understand there will be a lot of questions and concerns following this announcement. We are taking the following immediate actions: • There are three choices as to how you can direct us to treat your registration fee: 1.) Donate your CEO Summit registration fees. If you like, we will gladly provide a letter stating the amount of your donation for IRS purposes. 2.) Let us transfer your registration towards our upcoming Executive Leadership Conference in Tampa, FL Nov. 1 – 4. When you do this, you save money for your organization too by avoiding paying the Eventbrite processing fees a second time or 3.) request a refund. Please email to let us know your preference by April 3rd • For Sponsors, we would like to transfer your sponsorship to our fall Executive Leadership Conference in Tampa. If you have any concerns with this, please contact Wendy Hymes at For questions and concerns, please contact and visit  We are aiming to answer your queries within 48 hours but due to a high volume of emails, please expect a slight delay in reply. We thank you in advance for your patience.

Thank you for your continued support as we all navigate this unprecedented situation and we look forward to seeing you at a future conference. Best Regards, Lee Nasehi

Remote Learning Opportunities will continue – Watch for upcoming webinars to share some of our CEO Summit presenters in the coming month. Also details of our rescheduled CEO Summit will be posted on our conference page:

New Collaborations Establishment of a New Public Policy Committee Attendees at the VisionServe Alliance 2019 Fall Executive Leadership Conference gave VSA a strong mandate for the organization to take a leadership role in public policy on the national level.  Thus, the creation of the VSA Public Policy Committee. This is an extraordinary opportunity to bring together the many organizations that serve people who are visually impaired to create a national public policy platform. VisionServe is uniquely positioned to help that platform coalesce, given the many different voices represented in our membership. Moving forward, YOUR help is essential as we establish a collective vision for public policies that will improve education, training, employment, and life opportunities for people of all ages who are visually impaired. Stay tuned for developments as they occur!   PHOTO: Pictured here are Libby Murphy, chair of the newly formed Public Policy Committee with Lee Nashi, President/CEO of VisionServe Alliance.   Future Conferences & Collaborations We are exploring the feasibility and benefits of combining future (2021 and beyond) fall Executive Leadership Conferences with the conferences of other national organization members. We are also collecting examples of successful collaboration from our members, so email us. Here’s a great example of the kind of model collaborations we’d love to hear about from our very own “Queen of Collaboration” Sharon Giovinazzo:   World Services for the Blind (WSB) and Computers for the Blind (CFTB) have joined forces to support each other’s missions. WSB is utilizing trainees from their Assistive Technology Instructor (ATI) program to deliver computer training to the clients of CFTB. This is truly a synergistic collaboration between two organizations. As a VisionServe Alliance member agency, WSB’s CEO Sharon Giovinazzo states: “Collaboration is in the very DNA of the VSA agencies and working together makes us all stronger”. The mission of Computers for the Blind is to open the world of information technology to persons who are blind or visually impaired by providing computer equipment, software and training; and they do this for a cost to the client of only $130 for a desktop, and $185 for a laptop, with all the adaptive technology software included. For more information, contact Christy Householter at     PHOTO: Pictured here is a WSB computer technician.   MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Libby Murphy, LAB (Louisiana Association for the Blind) 1. What do you do in your down time? Read or spend time wandering through woods and pastures. 2. What are you reading, watching and/or listening to? I am fascinated by our planet as an ever-evolving geological entity, so currently I’m reading “Cascadia’s Fault”, by Jerry Thompson. 3. What is your best guilty pleasure? Piling up on the couch with my dogs on a Saturday or Sunday for hours to watch ridiculous “no brain cells required” shows while playing Words with Friends. 4. Tell us about one item on your bucket list. Ha. A bucket list is not for me … just live a no-regrets life. 5. The best advice I ever got… Anything my grandmother ever said.  Also, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later” (Richard Branson). 6. My best childhood memory is… So many to choose from. But I think it is the hours of total freedom wandering through the woods and pastures of Bienville Parish. 7. What do you want to be when you grow up? Now and when I grow up, I want to be the person my dogs think I am.   FUTURE CONFERENCES – SAVE THE DATES!

Postponed ‘till 2021:
Tentative dates are April 27 – May 1, 2021. 5th Annual CEO Summit | Albuquerque, NM | April 26 – 29, 2020 Venue: Hotel Chaco
[photo of Albuquerque’s Sandia Mountains at sunset; photo credit: Kip Malone]   32nd Annual Executive Leadership Conference | Tampa, FL Nov. 1 – 4, 2020 | Venue: Westin Tampa Waterside Hotel [photo overlooking the bay; photo credit: Visit Tampa Bay] For conference details, visit our conference page online:   Follow us online:  Facebook: Twitter Linkedln:

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Author: Paul Schroeder, April 8, 2020

Across the US, businesses, and agencies, and the communities and individuals they serve are struggling in countless ways to maintain well-being – physical, mental and economic. And, our political leaders are also struggling, with limited resources and levers to provide assistance and guidance. Recently enacted legislation has certainly helped and most agree that more action will be needed. In light of these unprecedented times, making our voices heard, on behalf of those we serve, those we employ and those we care for is more challenging than ever. Over the next several issues of Enews, we will try to keep you informed of developments and action needed regarding policy advocacy and provide resources here and on the website. Read on to see current threats to education, accessibility, and voting rights.

Threats to Education

As many are now aware, the recently enacted CARES Act included language directing the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, to report to Congress within 30 days to recommend any proposed waivers of rights and requirements outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. It is obvious that flexibility may be needed concerning direct services and even materials production and distribution during this period of closures. However, the strength of IDEA is its individualized planning and services which allows parents and schools TO WORK TOGETHER.

Congress would likely have to approve any requested waiver of requirements and rights under IDEA or 504, but Congress needs to hear from those of us who have the responsibility to defend opportunities and uphold the rights of individuals we serve and support. To follow this issue, we recommend that you check with the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA). In addition, VSA members ACB, AER, and AFB are also carefully monitoring this evolving situation and will doubtless have up-to-date information.

Protecting the Right to Vote

Likely many of you live in states that have delayed the political primary. As I write this, Wisconsin is going ahead with its primary election, despite serious concerns about the health of voters and staff at physical polling sites. Many states have increased mail-in or absentee voting for upcoming primaries (and other special elections). By next November, we may be again facing social distancing. Calls for increased mail-in voting will increase, and many in Congress have attempted to push legislation to provide support to states for this purpose. Without commenting on the politics of absentee voting, it is imperative that we make clear that individuals who are blind or low vision have the right to cast an independent and secure vote. ACB, and other advocacy organizations, are leading efforts to push Congress to ensure support for accessible absentee voting measures.

Let us know the policy issues on which you would like VSA or your colleagues to take action. And, we’ll be on the lookout for new legislative or regulatory efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to contact your elected members of Congress:

Contact Info for Your Senators is here:

Contact Info for Your House Member is here:

And, contact Info for Your Governor is here:

Lou present with the Lifetime Achievement Award by lee Nasehi and John Mitchell during the Atlanta conferences
Lou present with the Lifetime Achievement Award by lee Nasehi and John Mitchell during the Atlanta conferences

Lou was present with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the VisionServe 2019 conference in Atlanta

Lou Moneymaker, former President of BOSMA Enterprises

Lou Moneymaker has dedicated his life to service. For 50 years, Lou has worked to create equal opportunities and independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. His passion is evidenced by his work and service to many organizations to empower people experiencing vision loss.

His career began at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) where he was a teacher and a coach. Over his tenure, he also served in several leadership positions. As a track and field and wrestling coach, he fostered students’ abilities and their confidence until they believed they could accomplish anything they put their minds to. After 33 years, Lou retired from education.

In 2001, a career change was presented to Lou. He left ISBVI but did not leave his service to people who are blind or visually impaired. He became the president and CEO of Bosma Enterprises. Under his leadership, Bosma has undergone explosive growth from a $2 million to a $70 million company. To date, Bosma is Indiana’s largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired. Under Lou’s direction, the company positioned itself as a national leader in the field of employment of people with vision loss by becoming the first not-for-profit in the country to build a fully-integrated, end-to-end business system on the Salesforce platform that is accessible to a person with vision loss. The new system allows a person who is blind to work in any position throughout the company and opens opportunities that may not have been available before.

Improving the Workplace

Additionally, under Lou’s leadership, Bosma Enterprises moved into a brand-new state-of-the-art headquarters that was designed to be accessible. His leadership has also allowed for the growth of Bosma’s programs and the development of the Center of Visionary Solutions for the Blind, a new facility that increases space for programs and expands training of people who are blind. His entrepreneurial spirit has permeated the organization which has challenged every employee to look for new ways to grow the business and to further Bosma’s mission to create opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired.

His commitment to serving others does not stop at his work. In 1976, Lou, along with three other leaders saw an opportunity to create more opportunities for athletes who were blind. During the 1976 Olympics for the Disabled (renamed the Paralympics in 1988), the first to include athletes who were blind, this small group noticed nearly every other participating country had an organization for the development of athletes with vision loss. This group went on to found the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). Lou was named the first vice president of the USABA and continues to serve and support the organization in many ways.

Lou Moneymaker’s devotion to students, athletes and employees have been critical to dispel the stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities. Lou has brought an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to creating opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired.

David Ekin

David Ekin shaking hands with John Mitchell as he receives the Lifetime Achievement Award
David Ekin shaking hands with John Mitchell as he receives the Lifetime Achievement Award

Dave was the President of the Board of the National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCPABVI) from 2001-2004 . 

Back then NCPABVI was a loosy-goosy volunteer led organization, so whoever was President of the Board also was a full-time Executive Director of a blindness organization.  At the first meeting he presided over, he told us that he believed NCPABVI’s members could be the leaders of the field because together we held the power and knowledge to influence policy, improve services, and communicate with the public.  Dave recommended that the members participate in a strategic planning process, which they agreed to.  It took place at the next 2 or 3 NCPABVI meetings.  Dave was absolutely phenomenal during the process as it was important to him that every single member was given a voice. 

Dave made sure that those who could afford to come to meetings weren’t the only voices heard and the only opinions considered.  He spent considerable time connecting and talking to everyone – small and large organizational leaders – those at meetings and those who had never attended a meeting.  The overwhelming outcome of the planning process was that members knew that NCPABVI needed to professionalize – to apply for 501(c)(3) status, hire an executive director, and set up an office.  Dues back then were $150 (give or take a few bucks) for every member no matter the size of the organization.  $150 from 50 members wasn’t going to pay for staff or an office, so Dave was very thoughtful and inclusive (once again) in trying to figure out how much dues should be.  After much discussion by a committee and with members, Dave proposed raising dues big time and that dues be paid upon budget size.  Every member was going to see a dues increase, but the middle and large sized agencies were going to see the biggest increase – from $150/annually to upwards of $2,000/annually. Not one member dropped their membership!   In addition, Dave asked every member to consider contributing to a start-up fund so the administrative person could be hired right away.  He started the fund with $1,000, and 35 (plus or minus) additional members contributed $1,000!  With money in hand to hire someone, Dave then offered to host NCPABVI’s office at his agency’s building in St. Louis, donating furniture, computer, telephone, and access to the copier, FAX machine and his staff.  Dave is the reason NCPAB

David Ekin delivering a speech after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award
David Ekin delivering a speech after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award

VI professionalized and grew, and became the VisionServe Alliance we know today!  And his in-kind donation of office space is why VisionServe Alliance is headquartered in St. Louis.  As they say .. And the rest is history.  

Dave’s national influence at AER, creating ACVREP, and professionalizing NCPABVI into VisionServe Alliance are all important reasons why David is so deserving of VisionServe’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  And also, how he took his agency the St. Louis Society for the Blind from a small little thing to a multi-million-dollar budget and one of the leading Low Vision Clinics in the country! 

AER- As the Treasurer Dave, negotiated with AFB to make JVIB an AER member benefit.

It was the AER Board that “invented” ACVREP – at the time, AER had a “certification” process that was so simple that it didn’t really verify expertise or knowledge. 

Dave was a big part of knowing that to make the World aware of our vision professionals and the services we provide, that there had to be a way to assure that World that vision rehabilitation therapists, O&Mers, and low vision therapists were deserving of respect and that was to test their knowledge.  ACREP was invented. 

Successes at the St. Louis Society for the Blind. 

. David has served on the Boards of MacMurray College, the National Vision Rehabilitation Network, the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Association for Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and as President of the VisionServe Alliance.

For 25 years, David Ekin led for this Society and for the blind and visually impaired individuals it serves. From 1994, when he originally was recruited, to the present, the Society has increased its services to its clients from $400,000 per year to over $2,000,000 per year. The Society now serves more than 1500 individuals with low-vision assistance through the Drews Low Vision Clinic, rehabilitation, mobility, technology, and other training that clients can access.

David’s commitment to the visually challenged began almost as soon as he left The Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in 1984. He immediately began his career at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired while serving as an instructor in Social Work at MacMurray College. After briefly moving to Los Angeles to work for the Foundation for the Junior Blind, he was recruited back to St Louis to become the CEO of the Delta Gamma Center where he was able to improve the fiscal health of the organization and to incorporate community members into the governance structure.

In 1994, our Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired lured him away from Delta Gamma to become the tenth CEO of our organization and has now become our longest-serving director. In the past quarter-century, he has implemented school-age services to area school districts, developed a relationship with the university of Missouri St Louis School of Optometry to expand Low Vision Clinic services, overseen development and implantation of the first and subsequent Strategic Plans, implemented outcome measures for programs and services, hired the first Development Director to address the need for more diverse funding sources, assisted in implementation of a more robust grant writing program that has garnered increased funding for Society services, worked with the Board of Directors to implement a term limits policy, improved Board recruitment, and reduced the dollar amount used from investments for annual operating costs by finding other funding sources.

But it will be his relationships with all levels of partners in this enterprise that will be hard to duplicate. He has established rapport with clients, staff, Board, and donors – a difficult, if not impossible feat. His responsiveness to multiple challenges, from leaking rooves to unexpected bequests, from downturns in the market and reduction in the endowment to loss of personnel has been upbeat, friendly, and optimistic with solutions found. All for the sake of helping those with visual impairments!

Rod Haneline receiving the Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award from John Mitchell, Sue Daniels , and Lee Nasehi at the 2019 Atlanta conference.d
Rod Haneline receiving the Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award from John Mitchell, Sue Daniels , and Lee Nasehi at the 2019 Atlanta conference.

Nominated by Sue Daniels, Leader Dogs for the Blind

“It is with great pleasure that we, the chief executive officers of Leader Dogs for the Blind and Guiding Eyes for the Blind, recommend Rod M. Haneline, vice president and chief programs and services officer, of Leader Dogs for the Blind for a 2019 VisionServe Alliance Excellence in Leadership Award. Mr. Haneline’s four decade career at Leader Dog is marked with accomplishment at every level – including service to the local, state, national, and international community of practitioners and organizations working on behalf of people who are blind or visually impaired. He has proven to be an excellent teacher, mentor, and thought leader for the community of service providers working on behalf of those with visual and/or hearing impairments.

Mr. Haneline came to Leader Dog after service in the United States Air Force (USAF) as a canine handler with
Military Working Dogs (MWD). He worked diligently to obtain both his Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) credentials. It was his unique dual-training and understanding of the skills required to be a successful guide dog user that helped him design, develop, and implement an accelerated orientation and mobility (O&M) program at Leader Dog in 2002. Combining O&M with guide dog training in the cadre of programs and services available set Leader Dog apart on an international stage and earned industry recognition with the 2012 Access Award from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). His ability to connect the essential orientation and mobility skills with guide dog work has allowed him to simultaneously navigate both arenas for the past two decades, where he has also connected research and practice. A highly adept presenter and collaborator, even colleagues like Steve La Grow, Professor in the School of Health and Social Services at Massey University take notice, “One of the truly unique things about Rod is that he is one of the very few senior administrators from the blindness field who regularly attends O&M and guide dog conferences, and when doing so, directly challenges those working in professional preparation programs to ensure that their programs are up to date and relevant to those who are actively conducting research to answer the questions of practical importance to those who are delivering services.”

Through Mr. Haneline’s leadership, and because of his visionary contributions to our organization, Leader Dog addresses both diverse and traditionally underserved clients. We were the first provider of services to clients who are Deaf-Blind in the Western Hemisphere and remain one of only two U.S.-based guide dog organizations offering GPS-aided wayfinding because of his vision. Leader Dog has advanced the spectrum of services available to people who are blind or visually impaired by utilizing Haneline’s passion and continuous exploration of emerging technologies. As noted by Dr. William M. Penrod, Associate Professor of Special Education at Northern Illinois University, bridging the gap between service needs and service delivery has always been Mr. Haneline’s strength, “One very important accomplishment that has always struck me as perhaps his most important contribution to the field. Historically, the most prominent dog guide schools did not adequately address the needs of those persons who are blind and multiply disabled, those that were Deaf-Blind and those persons who were adult, interested in acquiring a dog guide, but had not been taught the necessary requisite skills in orientation and mobility to make them eligible for a dog guide.”

Mr. Haneline greatly expanded his leadership role by developing and increasing opportunities for aspiring professionals in orientation and mobility and veterinary care. His vision for a fully funded internship was realized in 2011 when the Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Orientation and Mobility Internship Academy was endowed. Since then, 22 students have completed a 14-week paid internship, inclusive of room and board. Seventeen of the former interns are now professionals accredited and working at VisionServe Alliance members or partners, including Miguel Reyes, an orientation and mobility specialist, with the Blind & Vision
Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, who participated in the Dryer Internship and learned directly from Rod Haneline and his team during the delivery of accelerated orientation and mobility services. As a cosigner, he supports the innovative approaches led by Haneline and dedication to client-centered service delivery.

Mr. Haneline also led the redesign of the apprenticeship program at Leader Dog, now in its fourth update, which will collaborate with Guide Dogs for the Blind to fill a critical human resource need in the field. Utilizing E-learning modules, accessible anywhere in the world by apprentices, it will set a new industry standard. Mr. Haneline also observed that GDMIs leave the industry because upward mobility and leadership roles are not readily available, so he created Senior-level and Master-level instructor opportunities. Senior and Master distinctions, along with a financial incentive upon completion, have helped increase retention of these team members and ensure 100% of apprentice instructors, and 98% of GDMIs are satisfied with employment at Leader Dog. Through his guidance, Leader Dog continues to operate one of the most respected veterinary externships hosting 10-15 externs annually during a three-week rotation. Externs have gone on to work at service dog organizations, with military and police dogs, at the USDA, and are in private practice.

Our nomination of Rod Haneline rests on the legacy of contributions he’s made, which demonstrate local, national, and international impact. Mr. Haneline will retire from Leader Dogs for the Blind effective July 2020, and his contributions are nothing short of remarkable. Resting at the heart of our industry is the ability to meet the client where they are. No leader in our field perhaps better understands this than Rod Haneline. We are humbled by his ability to sync and view individually O&M and guide dog programming, so that all clients may travel, and live, more independently. His efforts to innovatively program for new, and developing client needs, like using GPS, envisioning a devoted Deaf-Blind guide dog training, and emerging groups – like older clients, urban travelers, and college-bound students, have provided a roadmap for the industry. However, when we look forward, it is his leadership across a variety of fields, among the next generation of professionals, that sets him apart from his peers. “

Sue Daniels

President and CEO

Leader Dogs for the Blind

Mike Gilliam accepting the Excellence in Leadership Award from Lee Nasehi, Erika Petach,and John Mitchell at the 2019 Atlanta conference.
Mike Gilliam accepting the Excellence in Leadership Award from Lee Nasehi, Erika Petach,and John Mitchell at the 2019 Atlanta conference.

Presented by Erika Petach, BVRS- Pittsburgh

“Not only has Mike achieved tremendous success for the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind (SALB) during his tenure as CEO. He has also been a significant contributor to the field and a mentor for new leadership.
In the 14 years that Mike has served as CEO of SALB he has created an environment where individuals with vision loss love to work. His organization has won the “best places to work” award seven times from several different local and state-wide journals and magazines. He creates an environment where all employees feel valued and equal. He regularly throws parties for his employees, holds contests, and brings in meals to show his appreciation.

Additionally, the Lighthouse has grown significantly during his tenure, winning the “Fastest growing Lighthouse in the Nation” award from National Industries for the Blind. When Mike first came to SALB they were serving just over 1 ,000 people per year and now they are serving over 9,500 individuals with vision loss per year. He has also hired over 500 individuals with vision impairments in his tenure at SALB.
Mike has also contributed significantly to the field through his involvement on the boards of National Industries for the Blind, the National Association for the Employment of People Who are Blind, and on SALB’s board prior to becoming its Chief Executive Officer. Mike has chaired numerous committees and is always willing to help on a sub-committee when a problem arises. He has led a committee to work on reciprocal purchasing between National Industries for the Blind and Source America. His focus is to increase internal purchasing that will create additional jobs for people who are blind and to show outsiders that organizations “practice what they preach” by purchasing from each other.
Additionally, he created a group of nonprofit organizations in San Antonio that work together to address issues in Texas using a “strength in numbers” approach.

Improve the lives of persons with vision loss and related disabilities by teaching independence and self-advocacy
Mike is friendly to everyone and is always willing to help someone who is new to learn the ropes. He is always sharing practices from his organization that can help other agencies to create new opportunities for those they serve. He is passionate about his work and this is evidenced in everything he does.
It is our pleasure to nominate Mike Gilliam for the Excellence in Leadership award.”

Sharon Giovinazzo accepting the Roxann Mayros Champions Award  from Lee Nasehi and Roxann Mayros at the 2019 Atlanta Conference
Sharon Giovinazzo accepting the Roxann Mayros Champions Award from Lee Nasehi and Roxann Mayros at the 2019 Atlanta Conference

Presented by Lauren Branch, NewView Oklahoma

“I respectfully nominate Sharon Giovinazzo for this year’s Roxanne Mayros Champion Award.  I believe Sharon embodies the spirit of this award.  I have known Sharon since her days as an employee of Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Utica, New York and have watched the significant impact she has made across our field over the years.  There is no greater evidence of this than what she has accomplished in her current position as CEO of World Services for the Blind.

Sharon was hired as the CEO at a time when the viability of the organization was in question due to both financial issues and lack of stable leadership.  Sharon was the 5th CEO in a period of 4 years and took the position knowing that she was going to need to dig in and turn the organization around quickly or the organization would not survive.  Sharon recognized that failure was not an option and has worked to build a solid team, rebuilding WSB’s name and reputation as a leader in blindness services. She has developed national relationships that have allowed WSB to develop and adapt programs to better meet the needs of their clients, customers, and community. 

Today, 3 years later, WSB is growing and thriving under Sharon’s leadership.  Not only have they revamped their programs, developed new revenue streams, and increased services for people who are blind, they are also embarking on a capital campaign to renovate their facilities and are well on their way to meeting their goal.

In addition, Sharon has proactively worked to bring their programs to other areas of the country via collaborative relationships with other agencies such as NewView.  She has been willing to share their expertise and programming so that we can build and enhance our programs here in Oklahoma.  She is creative and innovative and continues to focus her efforts on doing everything in her power to improve the lives of all people who are blind one person at a time.”

Lauren Branch, President/CEO

NewView Oklahoma

Present by Sassy Outwater-Wright, MAB Community Services

(Left) Lee Nasehi, Bryan Bashin, Sassy Outwater-Wright, and John Mitchell (right) posing with Bryans award at the Atlanta conference
(Left) Lee Nasehi, Bryan Bashin, Sassy Outwater-Wright, and John Mitchell (right) presenting Bryan Bashin with the Excellence in Leadership Award at the Atlanta conference 2019.

“The leaders who effect the most transformative change are those who, by their example, support the work of those around them, encourage exploration, and invite in diverse voices and topics of inclusion before, not after, decisions are made.

I am a woman. I am a blind woman who is neurodivergent. I am an LGBTQ person. I grew up in an Arab-American household as a Muslim-American. I am a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault. I wear all these labels concurrently and many others. I sit in a position of executive leadership at my organization. I am there because my board and my superiors believed in me and believed that lived experience and intersectionality are powerful leadership qualities for better serving our constituents. I got to my position because I watched and learned from another blind leader and drew strength and courage from watching his organization in action.

How often do we get to look up to the corner offices and see those like us, with all their identifiers, reflecting who we are and the barriers we face, living intersectionality alongside us every day? I spent a long time fearing that my lived experience as many intersecting things would keep me from leadership or wouldn’t make me into a good leader. I’d been through too much, I’d tell myself, intersectionality wasn’t a required skill on a cover letter or job application. Then I read about the programs and services at the lighthouse for the Blind of San Francisco, and I changed my mind, and saw myself as a leader, because someone far away who didn’t know me put in the work necessary to ensure people like me were included in their programs.

Bryan Bashin has led the Lighthouse for the blind of San Francisco California for the past nine years. Those VSA members who attended the New Orleans conference two years ago may remember pausing as a group to grieve with the absent Mr. Bashin as he led his organization through a tragic time: Enchanted Hills Camp, an iconic place in the blind community, burned in the California wildfires. The Lighthouse, under Bryan’s leadership,  has since begun to rebuild Enchanted Hills, ensuring that the new camp buildings are accessible to and inclusive of as many people as possible who need a beautiful, natural place to learn and retreat. In addition to this, Bryan has worked to ensure inclusion at every level of the lighthouse:

  • ind leadership  at lighthouse over  his  tenure has increased measurably.  Not only half the Board of Directors, but half of the c-suite are blind.  There are blind people working in nontraditional jobs, such as HR, janitor, and Development.
  • Largest-ever contingent of more than 100 in San Francisco’s Pride Parade
  • Camp counselors went from 17 sighted and 3 blind to 17 blind and 3 sighted.
  • No NIB employee earns less than $16.50 per hour to start.
  • Lighthouse serves  undocumented blind people with no questions asked.
  • The Holman Prize has been awarded to blind people on four continents of all backgrounds.

In the past 25 years, it is safe to say that if you are a blind person on this planet, you have been affected by Bryan’s work, commitment to this community, and leadership within it. Bryan’s is a quiet leadership committed to the civil and human rights of blind and visually impaired people all over the globe. He works most often behind the scenes in a style of leadership that supports those working alongside him; he brings people forward who do not otherwise have a voice in public policy, and brings organizations and people together to break down barriers and confront stigmas that have kept minority groups within the blindness community away from services they need.

I did not know Bryan personally when I interviewed to become the executive director of my organization. I only knew that Bryan’s org was one of the few–if not the only organization at that time in our community–creating programs and services to include sexual assault survivors, LGBTQ+ individuals,  and many others. I didn’t receive services from the Lighthouse, but knowing the work was being done was enough to give me hope. The Lighthouse’s programming gave me the courage to believe I had a place and a voice in the blindness community, that I had value and intrinsic worth to this community, and that I could do a lot to change things, and build the inclusive world I want to be a part of in my daily life as a director and as a person with disabilities. Knowing an organization had committed to serving people like me was enough to push me to step forward, say loudly to my company that I was qualified and could do this job, and they chose me to lead.

A good leader inspires by example and nothing else. Bryan’s commitment to letting his programs and the services of his organization speak for themselves sets a loud and clear directive to all of us leaders: we need to commit to this community as a whole, see more lived experience and intersectionality in leadership, and see more inclusive programming and services wherever we look. My hope is that Bryan’s work reminds all of us to ask who is not at our table and may that goad us each into building the programs and policies necessary to put them there and let them lead.”

Early referral to vision rehabilitation for low vision patients is now the American Academy of Ophthalmology standard of care. This short video, introduced by David W. Parke II, M.D., AAO CEO, features prominent academia ophthalmologists and experts on vision rehabilitation. The video helps ophthalmologists to better understand the impact of vision loss and refer patients to trained professionals who can help maximize their quality of life and make the most of their residual vision.

Copyright Community Services for Vision Rehabilitation. All Rights Reserved

More information will be coming soon. Check back in with us for more details.

Tampa Bay

Hotel Information:

Westin Tampa Waterside Hotel
(813) 229-5000

November 1-4

Tampa, FL

BVA will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and hosting the 2020 National Convention in Washington, D.C. Stay tuned on their website, Bulletin, and Newsletter for more information in the coming months.

August 17 – 21

Washington, DC

The National Federation of the Blind National Convention is the largest gathering of blind people in the world.

Mom, two daughters, and dad of the Awa family pose for a photo during the carnival celebration at the 2019 National Convention in Las Vegas.

It is the premier event for training, support, and information for the blind community. It also serves as a governing body, democratically electing their leadership and establishing each year’s organizational priorities.

Although the convention is open to all, our constitution states that only members of the NFB have the right to participate in decision making when it comes to organizational policy.

July 14 – 19

Houston, TX