Content Warning: the following information addresses sensitive topics regarding abuse, sexual violence, and misconduct.
As the leading civil rights organization of the blind in the United States, every day we work to bring equality, love, and hope to our community. The blind community, like the rest of society, is not immune to violence and sexual misconduct. We thank the brave survivors for sharing their stories during a recent movement under the hashtag #MarchingTogether. We are committed to and welcome an ongoing process of learning how to heal from past trauma, to prevent future instances, and to protect victims and survivors.
Regarding this initiative, a survivor is someone—a Federation member or non-member within the blind community— who has experienced pain through violence, abuse, or misconduct of any kind (including, but not limited to, physical/sexual/psychological abuse, harassment, or assault) and may continue to live with trauma as a result.
Please find updates and important details regarding this critical matter:
Introducing Our Survivor Task Force
As part of our efforts to implement a sustainable positive culture change, we are eager to announce our entirely survivor-led task force, will serve as an intermediate advisory team to the National Federation of the Blind leaders, members, and third-party partners until a long-term solution is identified. In representing the voice of survivors, these task-force members will focus on addressing and preventing abuse and sexual misconduct within the Federation. Objectives include:
- Collect feedback and information from survivors and allies;
- Share resources/information and updates with the blindness community;
- Brainstorm action plans and develop recommendations for leadership;
- Recommend ways to provide ongoing support to survivors who have been harmed at Federation events or NFB-branded centers;
- Contribute to creating a culture of accountability, transparency, and safety for everyone who attends Federation events or programs; and
- Identify a long-term sustainable structure to focus on support and healing of survivors and prevention of future incidents across the Federation.
The initial areas of exploration and action include procedures and policies, training development and delivery, communication, oversight, and creating a meaningful organizational culture shift.
How can you contact us?
We currently have two methods of communication and will share updates via nfb.org/survivors. To share concerns, ask questions, or voice an interest in helping with our efforts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-659-9314 extension 2238. Note that all task force members have access to these communication channels. The Survivor Task Force is not responsible for receiving and resolving grievances, but will be supportive and helpful as individuals navigate their experiences and healing. The Survivor Task Force stands with all survivors who have been harmed and are invested in this much-needed change.
Who Are We?
We are a group of six blind diverse leaders and members of the Federation, who are invested in positive change and justice for all survivors. We are made up of:
- Marci Carpenter has been a proud member of the Federation since joining in 1981 as a student. Currently, she serves as president of the Washington affiliate. Marci is blind with hearing loss and other medical conditions. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the state school for the blind and has helped blind youth and adults learn self-advocacy. She lives life with intentionality and sincerity and cares deeply about creating space for people to heal and grow.
- Kathryn Webster lives in Alexandria, Virginia, where she works at Deloitte Consulting implementing strategic transformation for federal agencies, notably rolling out improvements to the sexual assault/harassment process within the military space. As the coordinator of Virginia’s employment readiness program for blind youth ages 14-21 and treasurer of BLIND, Inc., she has a deep passion for optimizing lived experiences as individuals reach their full potential. Kathryn prioritizes advocacy for others, leading with her heart, and living with purpose above all else.
- Sarah Meyer is a Federation member in our Indiana affiliate, lives with other mental and physical health conditions, and attended the Colorado Center for the Blind. As the lead call handler for a crisis and suicide hotline, she strives to lead with compassion, empathy, integrity, authenticity, inclusion, and wholeheartedness. Sarah is passionate about mental health/recovery as a part of cultivating a culture of consent. Experiencing sexual misconduct within the blindness community and being familiar with the harm of not having had sound procedures to address this trauma have compelled Sarah to participate in efforts to make the NFB a safer environment that allows them to live the lives they want.
- Cheryl Fields of Cleveland, Ohio, is an encourager who approaches life with enthusiasm and empathy. She loves laughing and playing games with her four grandchildren, reading, crafting (especially crocheting,) and is currently editing her first novel. Cheryl is an affiliate board member and chair of the Ohio Community Service Committee. Cheryl is a thriving survivor of domestic violence and received peer support training through the Cleveland Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, facilitating a peer support group at Cleveland sight Center where she is also an executive committee member of the board of trustees.
- Daphne Mitchell manages vocational rehabilitation field services for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and serves as secretary for the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Ethical principles, equity, integrity, and justice guide Daphne’s decisions, as she strives to help others overcome challenges by advocating for individuals while respecting autonomy; being an active listener; meeting the individual where they are and help them become or reclaim self-empowerment; and honor the responsibility the individual entrusts in her guidance.
- Briley O’Connor has professional experience in both the blindness rehabilitation and accessibility fields, and serves as the secretary of the Minnesota affiliate. In her personal and professional life, she strives to be a strong advocate for changing structures and systems that devalue and harm marginalized people, and is particularly passionate about issues that impact blind children, women, and LGBTQIA+ people. Having been a part of the NFB for over fifteen years, she is honored to be a part of shifting the culture so all blind people feel safe, heard, and represented.
We will provide additional updates and efforts as they are available. Below are more communications regarding this initiative: