New fund will devote resources to career pathways, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for jobseekers who are blind or have low vision
WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 31, 2021)—In honor of the American Foundation for the Blind’s (AFB) bold centennial goal to ensure greater equity in the workplace for people who are blind, AFB has established the Llura Gund Workforce Inclusion Fund through a generous challenge grant from philanthropist Gordon Gund in honor of his beloved wife, the late Llura “Lulie” Gund. This new fund will support AFB programs that expand pathways to leadership, inclusive technology, and well-paying career opportunities for people who are blind.
“As our society focuses on driving greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, AFB is working hard to ensure the millions of Americans with visual impairments have equal access to technology, career-development programs, and leadership training,” said Kirk Adams, Ph.D., AFB president and CEO. “We are immensely grateful to Mr. Gund for his contribution, and honored to name this new fund after his dear wife, affectionately known as Lulie, who leaves a legacy of leadership, optimism, and commitment to creating a better world.”
As AFB celebrates its 100th year, a primary initiative for the organization is to improve the dismal employment rates for working-age individuals who are blind or have low vision: Only 34% of this population is employed, compared to 67% of those without disabilities. The Llura Gund Workforce Inclusion Fund will expand opportunities for AFB to meet these challenges by accelerating its investment in several innovative employment-focused programs.
• The Blind Leaders Development Program, launched in 2020, is designed to increase upward mobility and create meaningful leadership experiences for individuals who are blind or low vision and in the beginning stages of their careers. While in the program, the BLDP fellows receive extensive training in leadership, networking, communication, and other key skills as they achieve higher levels of authority and influence in their careers. Other facets of the program include following the Leadership Challenge curriculum, attending a series of webinars, and being paired with a successful blind or low vision mentor who offers advice and feedback about what it takes to succeed in the workforce.
• A forthcoming program focusing on apprenticeships will enhance the equity and inclusion of these proven workforce development initiatives. The program will identify, apply, and share the most effective practices that enhance the accessibility and inclusiveness of apprenticeship programs across a variety of in-demand occupations, so that everyone — including and especially jobseekers with visual impairments — can benefit from these pathways to careers.
• A groundbreaking new curriculum for both future software engineers and people who use assistive technology will develop their understanding of accessibility standards and inclusive design through immersive, hands-on, and authentic experiences. Inclusive technology, systems, and software are integral to successful personal and professional outcomes for individuals who are blind or have low vision. Unfortunately, digital accessibility knowledge is fundamentally lacking in today’s workforce. Too often software developers, designers, and program managers lack formal and experiential knowledge of accessibility best practices. This program seeks to course-correct these shortcomings in current computer science work-study opportunities.
Gordon Gund, himself visually impaired, supported the creation of the fund by personally donating $2 million. Additionally, in the form of a challenge grant via The Gordon and Llura Gund Foundation, he made an additional $1 million pledge, subject to AFB raising another $2 million for the organization’s employment programs. AFB supporters can contribute by visiting AFB.org/InclusionFund.
“It is paramount that we create new solutions to the longstanding problems of inequity and injustice for those with disabilities, including visual impairments,” Gund said. “With AFB’s suite of employment-focused initiatives, AFB is on the right path to leveling the playing field for blind or visually impaired jobseekers.”
AFB is also creating the Llura Gund Leadership Award, which will recognize annually an outstanding leader who has benefitted from one of AFB’s employment initiatives. This individual will be given $5,000 to support their leadership development beyond AFB’s training programs; the award will be presented at AFB’s annual Leadership Conference.
Visit AFB.org/employment to learn more about AFB’s employment-related initiatives.
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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