by Sandra Sermons
For more than 60 years, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) has been the premiere organization for people who are blind or have low vision. Founded on democratic principles, we believe in giving our members as much information as possible, allowing for informed decisions. It is about hearing from many voices and building a consensus. In many ways, I grew up in ACB. The organization has helped me become the individual that I am. But how about looking at the organization through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion? How does ACB hold up under that scrutiny?
To me, ACB should be a microcosm of our society. That means, we come in all different races and ethnicities. While I believe we are getting there, we are clearly not there yet. Far too many of our affiliates and committees do not have leadership that is representative of African-Americans. When I visit the exhibit hall at convention, very few of the booths are staffed by people of color. I reside in the state of Maryland. This is 2023, and while Prince George’s County has the largest number of college-educated African-Americans, there has never been an African-American who has served as an officer or board member in our affiliate.
I believe that we must be intentional about membership recruitment and retention. The mentoring program is a huge step in the right direction, but we must still do more. We have to develop strategies of attracting new people of different races and ethnicities to our activities, and ultimately to our organization. We can no longer depend on the fallback of “no one will come,” or “no one will step up.” We cannot just sit back and hope for the best. Rather, it’s about employing innovative strategies of finding out what the need is and then meeting it and finding our niche. It is about tapping into additional resources so that every member’s talents are equally valued, thereby transforming ACB into a “More Perfect Union.”