By Kaitlin Mayhew
The National Federation for the Blind (NFB) is “changing what it means to be blind.”
In an effort to raise community awareness for their cause and raise funds, Michael Kasey is heading its annual Fredericksburg chapter walkathon.
“Blindness is just a characteristic of a person and not a tragedy,” said Kasey, NFB Fredericksburg chapter president.
While proceeds from the walkathon, to be held April 19 at City Dock, will fund scholarships for blind students attending college such as UMW alumnus Katrilla Martin, and training for blind youth at NFB centers, NFB’s significance to the Fredericksburg blind community reaches far past financial support.
“We are mentors for all people in the area that are blind. We believe that we can give the encouragement to anyone who wants it, to live an independent life,” Kasey said.
The NFB provides a voice for the blind in issues of legislature in the General Assembly and Congress. Within the community, they promote the use of Braille, including several programs working to provide Braille menus, bus schedules, and church bulletins in an effort to make these simple necessary materials usable for the blind.
With over 50,000 members worldwide, the NFB is the largest group of the organized blind.
Its influence on the blind community and aid for blind individuals attempting to assimilate into society is unparalleled.
According to Kasey, there are no necessary qualifications for being a member of the NFB.
“We have two infants that are blind, several older blind and ages in between,” he said.
The organization’s Newsline telephone program is a newspaper reading service for those unable to read print, and Fredericksburg’s own The Free Lance-Star is among the over 200 newspapers that are involved.
Members are provided with rides to NFB meetings, and to social and fundraising events.
“When a person that is blind first attends an NFB convention it most often is a life changing event,” said Kasey, “It has been a positive force in my life that allows me to use my ability to reach out to others and help them live a full life with high expectations.”
All of these amenities provided by the NFB would be impossible without their annual walkathon. Anyone who is interested is welcome to participate.
“Our walk is open to the public and we welcome all to just show up and walk with us. It is a fundraiser but also a community awareness event,” Kasey said.
It is important to Kasey that the Fredericksburg community becomes more aware and accommodating of the blind.
The NFB works hard to provide the opportunity for the blind to gain independence, but it can be a struggle
“I believe the NFB has high expectations of blind people which help them to achieve a full independent life,” said Kasey.