[nfbmi-talk] Questions Concerning Advocacy in Michigan

Elizabeth Mohnke lizmohnke at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 1 19:49:16 UTC 2015

Hello All,

I came across the following story for a Go Fund Me campaign. For those of
you who are not familiar with this website, it is a place where individuals
and groups can raise money by soliciting to people online. Anyway, the
following Go Fund Me campaign really makes me wonder what leaders within the
National Federation of the Blind are doing to help advocate blind people
within the state of Michigan to live the lives they want. 

It seems to me as we focus on whether or not it was right for state police
to restrict the grounds on which an ADA celebration protest took place, or
the huge never ending battle against the Bureau of Services to Blind People
that we are failing to address the needs of individuals who are truly doing
everything they can to live the life they want as a blind person living in
the state of Michigan. So I am wondering, what exactly is the state
affiliate doing to help these individuals? What is the state affiliate doing
in terms of reaching out to these individuals? What is the state affiliate
doing in terms of helping these individuals advocate for themselves as blind
people living in Michigan? 

As I look through our state convention agenda, it does not appear as though
equipping individuals with the skills they need to advocate for themselves
is a priority for our state affiliate. I find this to be rather sad because
I was always taught that the main purpose of the National Federation of the
Blind was to empower blind people to live the lives they want and become
productive members of society. However, there does not appear to be anything
on the state convention agenda about advocacy, philosophy, membership, or
mentoring the leaders of tomorrow.

So I am posting this Go Fund Me campaign story as a way for us to stop and
reflect on what we are doing as an organization. Please note that I am
simply posting this story as it appears on the Go Fund Me website.

Warm regards,


Help India achieve her diploma by India West

Hi, my name is India. I am 16, in the 10th grade. Since losing my vision due
to a brian  tumor at the age of 4, my mom has worked hard as a single parent
to advocate for me within public school systems. I am hoping to finish my
diploma in the next two years, so I can go to college and eventually begin
my own career. My mom has helped me so much, making sure schools have
provided me with access to things at school that are adapted for my
blindness. It has been very hard; most schools give you a hard time and
won't provide what you need due to cost. I love school, love to learn and
know I am smart; but last year, the high school I went to said I should
consider switching from a diploma track, to a "certificate of completion".
They treated me as if I was cognitively impaired, and gave up on me. Being
blind doesn't have to stop me from pursuing my dreams. But when I'm being
asked to work with printed material and need Braille, it makes it very hard
to succeed or do well. They said I should focus on gaining life skills, and
not to worry about college or a career. The only person that believed in me
and my abilities was my family. My mom reminded me we shouldn't give up when
I had never been  provided a real opportunity to succeed, and that I have to
believe in myself no matter what other's expectations of me might be.

It is important to note that there are 200,000 blind citizens in the state
of Michigan alone, and over 6 million nationwide. Amongst them, 26%  never
graduate from high school, and over 34% live at or below poverty level due
to underemployment. These numbers are based upon data available via the CDC
as of 2014. 

The problem is, most public schools are not willing to exert their time or
resources to meet the unique needs of effectively teaching the blind pupil.
They are often stigmatized, and held to extremely low expectations because
of that stigma. As a result, most of us don't graduate, can't get a decent
job, live in isolation and often at poverty level. I am striving for
something better.

At the end of my freshman year in high school, an oppportunity came my way.
A small, private academy, Clonlara, in Ann Arbor Michigan, sent mom an email
about a scholarship opportunity. We checked into it before, but couldn't
afford it. They offered a diploma track program for kids of ALL abilities,
K-12, and would use a students strengths and passions to tailor curriculum
to their learning style. They were offering a  tuition reduction of 50% for
two years,  to six families. What they asked in return is that the family
commit 30 hours/semester to helping them actualize their goal of becoming a
truly global campus. They sought to diversify their population, and asked
that students and their families being granted the scholarship submit a
proposal outlining what they would be able to contribute to the curriculum
to enhance diversity awareness. If granted the scholarship, I would complete
her last three years of high school, and recieve my  diploma. Our proposal
was selected, and I was among the six granted the scholarship. I was told
later there were 326 applicants. I was so grateful to my mom.

As of now, we need your help so i can continue enrollment. I have been there
for two months, and my whole life has changed. I'm not depressed anymore. I
feel celebrated, not just tolerated. I feel valued. I hsve friends now.
People don't  make fun of me here, and I am treated like an equal.

We need help for books and tuition. My mom has been able to get most of my
technology through rental equipment, and the purchase of used equipment.
Please know that there is no donation too small. I greatly appreciate
anything you may be able to do to help. In addition, please circulate my
GoFundMe link to anyone you feel can help.

Thank you so very much for taking time to read, and hopefully share, our
story. We will keep you posted on our progres toward our goal! 

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