New initiative will enhance and empower career trajectories of emerging blind or visually impaired leaders in the workforce, thanks to support from American Express

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 21, 2019)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has received a $100,000 grant from American Express to launch the Blind Leaders Development Program, specifically targeted at blind and low vision people who are already employed and in the beginning stages of their careers.

Studies suggest that the benefits of hiring people with disabilities include improvements in profitability (profits and cost-effectiveness, turnover and retention, reliability and punctuality, employee loyalty, company image), competitive advantage (diverse customers, customer loyalty and satisfaction, innovation, productivity, work ethic, safety), and inclusive work culture, to name just a few. Yet, few blind and visually impaired Americans are in top levels of leadership in the workforce. The Blind Leaders Development Program is designed to increase upward mobility and create meaningful leadership experiences for these individuals.

Over the course of a year, 16 blind and low vision people will have the opportunity to receive extensive training in leadership, networking, communication, and other key skills for advancing in their careers and improving their effectiveness as leaders. Participants will follow the Leadership Challenge curriculum, attend a two-day leadership seminar, attend bi-monthly webinars, and be matched with a successful blind or low vision mentor who will provide them with honest advice and feedback about what it takes to succeed in the workforce.

The launch of the Blind Leaders Development Program was made possible with a generous $100,000 grant from American Express, an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The grant will be used to support emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector.

“The Blind Leaders Development program will increase participants’ effectiveness at higher levels of leadership, influence, and responsibility,” said Kirk Adams, president and CEO of AFB. “It will also expand participants’ networks across sectors, creating opportunities to engage in leadership roles. As participants rise to greater levels of influence, they will be able to hire and mentor other blind individuals, creating a positive, upward trend.”

“For over a decade, American Express has devoted significant resources to creating and funding programs that strengthen leaders within nonprofit and social purpose organizations,” said Timothy J. McClimon, President, American Express Foundation. “We are proud to support the American Foundation for the Blind, its Blind Leaders Development Program, and the good work they are doing to support blind and low vision people.”

Applications for both program participants and mentors are currently open through September 19. An advisory panel of nine established blind leaders from across the corporate, nonprofit, and government sectors have determined the program selection criteria, and will review applications and select finalists. The advisory panel will also determine topics covered in a series of webinar presentations scheduled throughout the year-long program. Some participants may be eligible for an independently funded travel stipend for the in-person events in Arlington. Individuals interested in applying as either a program participant or mentor can learn more at:


About The American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit:

About American Express’ Leadership Initiatives
One of American Express’ three philanthropic platforms is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit and social purpose sectors, American Express makes grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. More than 100,000 emerging nonprofit and social sector leaders worldwide have benefitted from American Express leadership programs, including the American Express Leadership Academy among others. For leadership journey stories and additional resources, visit