Shawn Callaway was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. When he was a sophomore at South Carolina State University, a classmate was playing with a gun and accidentally shot Shawn in the temple. The accident resulted in the detachment of his optic nerves, which caused total blindness. Shawn returned to the DC area and received blindness training at the Workforce Technology Center in Baltimore. He credits a blind man named Lou Smith with providing his training and being an early mentor. He also credits his parents for encouraging him throughout his transition to life as a successful blind person.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the NFB Board of Directors, both to give back to the organization as a whole and because so many past and present board members like Fred Schroeder, Anil Lewis, Dr. Joanne Wilson, Sam Gleese, Pam Allen, and Ever Lee Hairston have inspired and mentored me. I will strive to fill the same role for other leaders and members of our great movement, and devote every ounce of my energy to building the Federation and advocating for all blind citizens.
After his rehabilitation training, Shawn earned his associate’s degree in psychology from Essex Community College in 1995, his bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland in 1997, and then his master's in social work from Catholic University of America in 2000. He began his professional career working with the homeless at Catholic Charities, and then went on to counsel children in the Washington, DC public schools system for the city's Department of Behavioral Health. He now works as a program specialist for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, specifically in programs of the Administration on Community Living and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. In 2005, he married Latonya Rollins of Cleveland, Ohio.
Shawn had heard of the National Federation of the Blind in the mid-1990s but was initially convinced by a friend that the organization was too radical for him. In retrospect, he believes he was given bad information and wishes that he had become a Federationist earlier. After being invited to a chapter meeting by Linda Black-White, Shawn finally joined in the spring of 2009. He found himself leading the Washington, DC affiliate when longtime leader Don Galloway died in 2011.
Shawn already had confidence in most of his blindness skills when he joined the National Federation of the Blind, but he says that he was still apprehensive about becoming a parent. The opportunity to observe and talk to blind parents like Mark and Melissa Riccobono and Tracy Soforenco, as well as a DC Federationist named Vicky Smith, gave him confidence that he could be a successful blind parent. He is now the proud father of his daughter Camille who was born in 2014.
Shawn also credits participation in the NFB with opening up other leadership and community involvement opportunities for him. He has served on the boards of the DC Center for Independent Living and the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and has chaired the DC rehabilitation council. He currently co-hosts a community radio program called Open Our Eyes on two local stations. In addition, Shawn serves as the President of the DC Friends of the Talking Book and Braille Library and is a member of the DC Blind Bowlers Association. Shawn says, "I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the NFB Board of Directors, both to give back to the organization as a whole and because so many past and present board members like Fred Schroeder, Anil Lewis, Dr. Joanne Wilson, Sam Gleese, Pam Allen, and Ever Lee Hairston have inspired and mentored me. I will strive to fill the same role for other leaders and members of our great movement, and devote every ounce of my energy to building the Federation and advocating for all blind citizens."