IDEAL Committee

VisionServe Alliance IDEAL Committee

VisionServe Alliance established the IDEAL Committee for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Leadership

VisionServe Alliance took the first steps to establish a DEIA Committee in February 2021 by soliciting volunteers from our member organizations to serve on this new committee being formed. The committee was established with volunteers from 16 VSA member organizations and committee meetings began in March 2021, continuing monthly for the rest of 2021.

The committee drafted the following charter language and updated its name to the IDEAL Committee standing for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Leadership.

To gather, develop, share, promote, adopt and measure best and promising practices and resources for advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and cultural competency throughout the field of blindness and within organizations serving people of all ages with blindness, low vision and other visual impairment. Develop methods, best practices and ultimately standards that move our field towards greater IDEAL and accountability. The goal of our work is creating belongingness in the field of blindness and low vision.

Here is a list of the key initiatives to date of the IDEAL Committee:

The first committee chair, VSA board member Bryan Bashin, introduced the committee during a session at the VSA Executive Leadership Conference which was held virtually on April 29, 2021. Feedback from participant discussions in breakout rooms was used to guide the committee’s goals and objectives for the year.

Based on the feedback collected, the committee formed task forces with the following three focus areas: 1) develop a national employment recruitment pipeline, 2) gather DEIA training resources and develop a toolkit, and 3) decide on methods to collect DEIA metrics for organizations in our field. The IDEAL committee also set an objective to have at least one DEIA presentation/offering at every VSA conference for the next few years and collected speaker recommendations for presentations at next year’s conference held in Tampa in 2022. The task force worked with our Comp and Benefits Survey administrator to add 16 additional DEIA-related questions to the 2022 Comp and Benefits Survey which was launched in April 2022. Such data had not been previously collected and would be instrumental in establishing a baseline on DEIA statistics for VisionServe’s member organizations.

VSA contracted the following speakers/presentations on DEIA topics at the VSA Executive Leadership Conference in Tampa, Florida:

“The Importance of Envisioning a Clear Mission” with Sherry Walker-Cowart, Senior Consultant with the Ramerman Leadership Group

– “Planning and Embedding a Culture of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: an organizational journey” by Allison Burdett, Associate VP of Visual Impairment and Developmental Disabilities Services at Wayfinder Family Services, and Laura Campana, Director of Early Intervention Services at Wayfinder Family Services

– “Inclusion in the Workplace: Progress and Needed Actions for Organizational Policy and Practice,” Sylvia Stinson-Perez, Chief Programs Officer at AFB

– “The Idea of Belonging in a Diverse World” by John Samuel, Cofounder and CEO at Ablr 360

– “Power Moves: Transforming Leadership by Centering Marginalized Communities” by Justice Shorter, National Facilitator.

We added a database of DEIA resources to VSA’s Member Portal including, “How to Write an Organizational DEI Plan” and the “Diversity Recruitment Spreadsheet.” The Diversity Recruiting Spreadsheet provides guidelines for getting started in increasing the diversity of your candidate pools, as well as links to websites and job boards targeting diverse communities. Developed by Kyna Kirkland and Lakesha Larry, employees at NIB and members of the IDEAL committee, the Diversity Recruiting Spreadsheet is useful in sourcing qualified diverse candidates for open positions including specific resources to find candidates qualified as: Asian-Pacific Islander, African American, Disability, General Diversity, Indigenous, Latino, LGBTQIA+, Seniors, and Veterans. Click here to use the Diversity Recruiting Spreadsheet:

The 2022 Comp and Benefits Survey concluded in July and collected data the demographics of leadership, organizational policies, and practices, key reflections of the state of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility among organizations serving people who are blind and visually impaired. This was the first collective look taken by VisionServe Alliance and the data showed that we have significant work ahead of us to enhance DEIA culture among VSA member organizations. A presentation on the Compensation and Benefits Survey data was given at the NIB Training Conference in Alexandria, VA on 10/5/22.

The committee piloted a 3-part DEIA training internally with our IDEAL Committee members and drafted a DEIA survey for members in order to get input from member leaders on how VSA could best serve their DEIA needs.

The link to take the DEIA survey along with a background explanation about the DEIA data gathered in the 2022 Compensation and Benefits Survey was emailed to all members and personnel who completed the Comp and Benefits Survey. A list of areas of interest and interested volunteers were collected based on survey responses.

We presented a webinar, “Tools to Help Advance DEIA in Your Agency” on 9/21/23 featuring presentations by six leaders in our field to share how they have implemented DEIA initiatives to embed the values and practices of inclusion into the daily work at their agencies. Links to additional resources were also provided to continue learning beyond this webinar. Here is the link to watch the webinar:

The IDEAL committee is meeting quarterly and continues its work to provide DEIA resources organizations in our field. Additional webinars on DEIA topics are planned for later in the year.

If you are employed at a VisionServe Alliance member organization and would like to serve as a volunteer on the VSA IDEAL Committee, please reach out to Wendy Hymes