In the first of two columns, last week I featured Chris Danielson of Baltimore, Md., director of public relations for the 50,000-member National Federal of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization led by blind people.
If you remember, 44-year-old Danielson had been blind from birth, eventually graduated from law school, and for a time was a law clerk for the South Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee. He then became a practicing lawyer. In September 2003, the National Federation of the Blind hired him.
In a telephone interview, Danielson said, “What I like best about NFB is it raises expectations for blind people and raised my expectations for myself. Part of being the only blind kid in public school and later one of only two at Furman University was that whatever I did seemed amazing to people. In the world, (people who are blind) are often given a pass because societal expectations are so low and you don’t have to do much to exceed them. No one ever pushed me to become more well-rounded and do things for myself until the Federation began doing it.”
Once joining NFB, for example, he went through Federation training that taught him how to cook for himself and maintain his own living space.
As director of public relations, Danielson said NFB had three major issues arise at its recent 75th anniversary convention. “The first was technology accessibility,” he said. “The second was that of protecting the rights of blind parents. For example, just last week we heard of a case where a blind couple showed up at a hospital to have their baby and a social worker immediately assumed the couple couldn’t take care of the baby. So the family didn’t get to go home with their child. Our (NFB) president, Mark Riccobono, and his wife, are blind and have three children. It is a personal issue for him. Lastly, at the convention, we talked about people with disabilities being paid less than the federal minimum wage and how the provision of law that allows that needs abolishing.”
The recent NFB National Convention in Tampa, Fla., drew more than 2,700 people.
To blind people, Danielson said, “Join the Federation. I say that not just because we want more members, but because you will be helped by acquiring a network of relationships and mentorship from other blind people in the Federation.”