National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Ron Brown was born in Gary, Indiana, the first male child of eight children, to Marzette and Myra Brown on May 15, 1956. When he was a senior in high school, he became blind after he was shot on his way home from a basketball game. At the time he knew nothing about blindness and was overwhelmed by the feeling that his entire life had been radically changed in an instant. One of the first painful lessons he learned was that many of his friends could not deal with his blindness and stayed away from him. Luckily he began to make new friends, members of the National Federation of the Blind. They became inspiring role models for Ron, teaching him that it was respectable to be blind and that he could continue to strive for the goals he had set himself.
Armed with this newfound freedom, Ron graduated from Ball State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in health science. He then went to work at Tradewinds Rehabilitation Center in Indiana, where he met his wife Jean, who was on the staff. Eventually he was offered a job in the Business Enterprise Program. He had always wanted to own his own business, and this gave him the opportunity to do so. He has now been in business for himself for over twenty five years. Recently Ron returned to school and earned a master's degree in educational psychology with a certification in orientation and mobility from Louisiana Tech University. He now owns a second business, teaching cane travel to blind people in the state of Indiana.
As Ron Brown developed and matured in his personal life, his commitment to and service in the National Federation of the Blind deepened as well. In the early years he was a chapter president and was then elected to the NFB of Indiana's board of directors. He was first elected president of the affiliate in 1996 and has been reelected every two years since. In 2001 he was elected to serve on the NFB board of directors. In 2008 Ron was elected second Vice President of the NFB and has served to the present.
Looking back, Ron Brown says, "Becoming a member of the national board is the fulfillment of a life dream. I have been an advocate for blind people for more than twenty-five years, and with every passing year my commitment to serving the blind of this nation increases. My life indeed changed the night I became blind, but with the perspective I now have, I must say that it was for the better."
As a teenager, Michael Gandy was fortunate to be in a position to assist his grandfather, who lost his sight in 1957 from an infection following cataract surgery. This interaction would have a direct influence on Gandy’s later career choice to work with people who are blind.
Gandy began his career in 1979 as a Rehabilitation Counselor for the Blind for the then-Mississippi Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind. After four years, he was promoted to the state office as Director of Program Support. He subsequently earned a Doctor of Education degree in Counselor Education (Public Administration minor) at Mississippi State University. During this time, he also won a national contest for naming, along with a co-winner from Texas, the national professional organizationthe Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER).
In 1988, Gandy left rehabilitation services to work for the Mississippi State Department of Health for six years, returning as the Director of the Addie McBryde Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in Jackson. One year later, he was promoted to the position of Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind (OVRB) for the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. In 1997, he became a Program Coordinator for the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, but returned as Director of OVRB in 2001, the position he still holds.
Michael Gandy is the author or co-author of over 25 articles in refereed journals as well as a book chapter and glossary in two standard rehabilitation texts. He holds a number of professional affiliations but is proudest of the fact that he is the first Director of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind Services for Mississippi, an organization in existence in some form in Mississippi since 1928, to ever join both major consumer organizations for the blind—the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)—and to participate regularly in their activities.
In terms of community involvement, Dr. Gandy was named the 2006 Alumni Fellow for the Mississippi State University College of Education. He continues to serve as an advisor to that institution and is in his 15th year as a member of the Mississippi State Mental Health Planning Council and 27th year as an active member of Lions International. He also received the 2010 Louis Vieceli Award from the AER Rehabilitation Counseling, BEP & Employment Services Division.
National Industries for the Blind
Angela Hartley has served in several leadership roles at National Industries for the Blind (NIB) since joining the organization in 2002. In her current position as executive vice president and chief program officer, she leads initiatives in the areas of government relations, corporate communications, strategic planning and direction, and human resources. Hartley graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and is a member of the Maryland Bar. She holds an M.B.A. degree, a nonprofit management executive certificate, and is a Certified Association Executive (CAE). Hartley is a member of the World Blind Union’s Employment Working Group and serves on the board of directors of the Washington, D.C., Bilingual Public Charter School. Hartley also serves on the advisory council for the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment Outcomes for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired, an initiative of the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University.
Raymond Hopkins is presently the Commissioner of the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired. He was initially appointed to this position effective July 1, 2008, by Governor Timothy Kaine. This also marked the beginning of his employment with the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was reappointed to the position in 2010 by Governor Robert McDonnell and again in 2014 by Governor Terry McAuliffe.
Prior to joining the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, Mr. Hopkins was involved in administration and delivery of rehabilitation services at the national and state levels. He was employed by the US Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration, from 2004 through 2008 where he oversaw the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program. During his tenure, this program included nearly $700,000,000 in annual sales and 3,100 businesses located on federal and other property which were operated by approximately 2,600 licensed managers who are blind.
Prior to joining the federal government, Ray was Division Administrator of Oklahoma Visual Services, Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. He also served as a rehabilitation teacher, a vocational rehabilitation counselor, and a field services representative within that program. Mr. Hopkins believes that his varied experiences as a consumer of rehabilitation services, as a provider of direct services, and as a manager allow him to view services from different perspectives and have prepared him well to administer a comprehensive rehabilitation services agency.
Roxann Mayros is the Chief Executive Officer of VisionServe Alliance, a national consortium of 100+ nonprofit organizations serving people with severe vision loss, including adult rehabilitation, low vision clinics, employers of people who are blind, dog guide schools, Braille producers, schools for the blind, early intervention programs and advocacy groups. Roxann has been the Executive Director/CEO of two major vision rehabilitation agencies and has served on several national boards of directors and advisory councils that focus on vision loss. In her current position, she has created a knowledge network and support system for leaders in vision rehabilitation, integrated best practices nationwide, created a leadership training program for up-and-coming leaders in vision rehabilitation, and galvanized individuals and groups around issues of national relevance such as the Low Vision Rehabilitation Demonstration Project. Roxann holds a Bachelor’s degree in business and a Master’s degree in nonprofit management, and she is an avid traveler, reader, and fan of the St. Louis Cardinals!
H.S. "Butch" McMillan
Ex-Officio (Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services)
H. S. “Butch” McMillan assumed the duties of Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services in 1997 and has served in that capacity to the present time. He is a graduate of Mississippi State University and a Certified Public Accountant. Mr. McMillan served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1980-1992.
Mr. McMillan is involved in many philanthropic organizations that offer assistance to people with disabilities and many programs that promote employment and independence for people with disabilities. On a national level, he has served as past president of both the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA) and the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR). He is an active member of many statewide organizations and councils that serve individuals with disabilities including the State Workforce Investment Board and the Interagency Coordinating Council for Children and Youth.
As Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Mr. McMillan has successfully gained legislative support to expand services to citizens with disabilities. Under his direction, the Offices of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, and the Office of Special Disability Programs have expanded available services and doubled the number of consumers served by the agency.
Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults
Nancy has worked for the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) for nearly 35 years in a variety of capacities - teacher, supervisor, coordinator of direct services, consultant and administrator. She has been a special advisor to the National Family Association for Deaf-Blind since its inception in 1994. Through her work with parents, she became involved in research on late onset manifestations of congenital rubella syndrome, a major cause of deaf-blindness in the 1960s. She has published and presented internationally on this topic, and was chair of Deafblind International's Rubella Network from 2006 to 2013.
Nancy oversees services to senior citizens who have combined vision and hearing loss, the HKNC National Registry, and all information services at the Center. Currently, her department has been working to re-vamp HKNC's professional training program. HKNC recently completed needs assessments in four states, and, in partnership with Mississippi State University's RRTC, is conducting national surveys on mental health services and the needs of senior citizens with combined vision and hearing loss. The results of this research will determine priorities for future professional training topics and content.
Nancy is a graduate of San Francisco State University and Hofstra University.
American Council of the Blind
Mitchell Pomerantz is the Immediate Past President of the American Council of the Blind. In this capacity, Mr. Pomerantz oversaw a 16-member Board of Directors and the activities of 25 committees and taskforces charged with carrying out the work of the organization.
From February 1975 through December 2008, Mr. Pomerantz was employed by the City of Los Angeles in a variety of human resource and disability-related positions. He was the first totally blind person to be hired in a professional capacity by the City. In August 1995, Mr. Pomerantz became the City’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliance Officer. His responsibilities included overseeing and coordinating City-wide compliance with the ADA, as well as conducting training and providing technical assistance to City departments.
Now retired, Mr. Pomerantz works as a private consultant specializing in the areas of disability awareness and reasonable accommodation in the workplace. He has been a trainer for the internationally recognized “Windmills” attitudinal awareness program.
Mr. Pomerantz holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Southern California. He resides with his wife, Donna, in Pasadena, California.
Donna Smith is the director of training for Easter Seals Project ACTION. Donna has over thirty years experience as a professional in the field of disability advocacy with most of those years as a training and technical assistance specialist on disability-related laws and issues. Since 2002, she has focused specifically on transportation issues. Her areas of knowledge pertinent to accessible transportation include community approaches to implement systems change needed to improve accessible transportation, ADA rights and responsibilities, coalition building, the transit experience from the customer’s perspective, the increasing role of technology in transportation access, and the accessible pedestrian environment. Her strongest skills are the ability to communicate clearly and to help diverse groups find common ground from which to seek and create solutions. Donna understands firsthand the essential role of accessible, affordable transportation in the lives of people with disabilities, and it is both her job and her passion to help find solutions to transportation needs.
Donna is a graduate of Mississippi State University and has a daughter who lives in Jackson, MS. Donna has a Seeing Eye dog and lives in Arlington, VA. She enjoys books, music, audio described movies and travel.
Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
Dr. Jennipher Wiebold is an Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies and Department of Counselor Education & Counseling Psychology at Western Michigan University. She is the Coordinator of the Rehabilitation Counseling (CERM) and Rehabilitation Counseling/Teaching Specializing in Blindness or Low Vision (RCTM) programs. Dr. Wiebold’s research interests include use of social networking in job seeking skills training; immersion in blindness curriculum development in rehabilitation counselor personnel preparation; burnout, compassion fatigue, and compassion satisfaction among rehabilitation service providers; and sports education (Goalball emphasis) in community settings. She is/has served as the principal investigator for state and federal research and training grants in excess of two million dollars. Dr. Wiebold authored a chapter on case management for persons with blindness and low vision. Jennipher’s professional citizenship includes currently serving on the ARCA Board of Directors as the Chair for the Council on Organization Administration, and Management. She is also the Past Chair for AER’s Division 2: Rehabilitation Counseling & Employment Services; and, she is a Fellow with the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (NRCA). She has experience in a variety of general and specialized state and private non-profit rehabilitation settings.
Ex-Officio (Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services)
Ms. Dorothy Young is a graduate of Alcorn State University (B.S.); The University of South Alabama (M.S. in Counselor Education and Minor in Rehabilitation Counseling); and Belhaven University (Master in Management). Her case study at Belhaven presented a historical overview of the kinds of relationships that should exist between vocational rehabilitation counselors and individuals with disabilities.
In 2000, Ms. Young began work as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind. In this position, she was responsible for working with blind or visually impaired clients to regain or maintain employment. It was during this time that she experienced the many challenges one would face because of their physical or mental limitations. One of the biggest hurdles with successful job placement was the attitudes of other people that created barriers. Ms. Young began to coordinate and connect with different businesses around the state in order to change the tendency not to hire a person with a disability. In 2005, she was promoted to the Director of the Mississippi Technology Act Program, Project START. In this capacity, she was able to bring along her skills and experience as rehabilitation counselor that involved working predominately in the community with people with disabilities. She wrote Mississippi first Technology Act State Plan. The Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services applied and received the first Model Demonstration Grant from RSA for recycling assistive technology during her tenure as the Director of Project START. The Mississippi Re-Use saves the state well over $200,000.00 each year. Ms. Young started the agency’s first computer recycling program that targets the fourteen poverty counties in Mississippi. In 2013, Ms. Young was promoted to the Director position for the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind Services.
Blinded Veterans Association
Thomas Zampieri served three years on active duty as Army medic from 1972 to 1975, and retired as Army Major from National Guard after 22 years of service in August 2000, having served as military flight surgeon for 13 years. He graduated from Hahnemann Medical University Physician Assistant Program (June 1978). He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from State University of New York and graduated with a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, May 2003. Dr. Zampieri completed his Political Science Ph.D. at Lacrosse University December 2005. For 25 years he worked in variety of clinical settings as physician assistant both in private practice, university medical centers, and for Department Veterans Affairs in three different VA medical centers. He has co-authored published medical journal research articles, presented medical lectures nationally, including three medical teleconferences and held academic clinical instructor appointments at two medical colleges. He was employed from April 23, 2005 to November 22, 2013, as the Director of Government Relations for the Blinded Veterans Association founded in 1945, and has provided testimony before the House VA Committee on variety of issues and submitted over 32 congressional testimonies.