WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 29, 2020)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the first ever cohort of the Blind Leaders Development Program. Launched in 2019, the program is designed to increase upward mobility and create meaningful leadership experiences for individuals who are blind or low vision, who are already employed and in the beginning stages of their careers.

Through 2020 and 2021, these 16 blind and low vision individuals will receive extensive training in leadership, networking, communication, and other key skills for advancing in their careers and improving their effectiveness as they achieve higher levels of authority and influence. They 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 2021 Blind Leaders Development Program fellows and mentors include:


  • Alexandra Brown
  • Andrew Worley
  • Caitlin Mongillo
  • Francesco Magisano
  • Greg Young
  • Gregory Aikens
  • Henry Allen
  • Irwin Ramirez
  • Montreece Hardy
  • Rachel Longan
  • Rebecca Arrowood
  • Serina Nicole Gilbert
  • Sherry Pablo
  • Stephanie L Rood
  • Travis Smith
  • Vivian Fridas


  • Brian Petraits
  • Daniel Frye, J.D.
  • Elizabeth Sammons
  • Gay (Virginia) Young
  • Gena Harper
  • Jeff Wissel
  • Joseph Danowsky, J.D.
  • Lisa Johnson, Ph. D.
  • Matthew Janusauskas
  • Meagan McComic
  • Neva Fairchild
  • Owen McCaul, J.D.
  • Phillip Maso
  • Rebecca Colagreco
  • Tanner Gers
  • Todd Falstrom

The Blind Leaders Development Program Class of 2021 includes seven male and nine female professionals, in employment areas that span corporate, government, and non-profit sectors.

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 talented blind individuals.

“People who are blind have so many capabilities, but we’re just not seeing them in positions of leadership within their workplace or the community at large in the numbers we’d like to see,” said Megan Aragon, AFB’s director of knowledge advancement programs. “The purpose of the program is to make sure we’re creating a future generation of individuals who are blind or visually impaired who have the capacity and opportunity to succeed in higher levels of leadership and influence. We could not be more excited about the potential and enthusiasm of this first-ever class of fellows and mentors.”

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, being used to support emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector. Learn more at: www.afb.org/blind-leaders-development-program

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 steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org