Blind Leaders Development Program participants have a unique opportunity to develop their leadership effectiveness, improve their interpersonal soft skills, expand their networks, learn from proven blind leader mentors, and receive one-on-one professional coaching.

Participant Application Form

What’s Included

  • 360-degree feedback from the Leadership Practices Inventory
  • Two-day Leadership Challenge Workshop training delivered by a certified Leadership Challenge Trainer
  • Meals and hotel-stay during the Leadership Challenge Workshop
  • Program kick-off dinner event with AFB senior leadership, board members, mentors, and other influencers in the blindness field
  • AFB Leadership Conference registration
  • Hotel-stay during the Leadership Conference
  • Six hours of mentoring from established blind leaders
  • Access to six professionally delivered webinar training sessions geared to develop soft skills
  • Six hours of professional coaching from a certified Leadership Challenge Trainer
  • 360-degree feedback from post-program Leadership Practices Inventory, including feedback from your mentor
  • Access to an exclusive LinkedIn group for program alumni and mentors

Participant Selection Criteria

Our hope is to select a diverse and driven group of emerging leaders with vision loss to participate in this program. Ideal candidates for the program will demonstrate the following:

Leadership Potential During and After the Program

Ideal candidates can benefit and grow from participating in this program. These individuals will apply the knowledge and concepts discussed in The Leadership Challenge, webinar series, mentoring meetings, and coaching sessions. After the program, ideal candidates will achieve higher levels of leadership in their local communities, workplaces, and the blindness community. Ultimately, these candidates will reach levels of influence from which they can create opportunities for future generations of blind and visually impaired leaders to develop and achieve.

Openness to New Ideas and Willingness to Learn

Ideal candidates can consider and learn from a variety of ideas and incorporate these into new ways of thinking. These individuals bring their unique perspectives and willingness to learn to the program. This combination ensures that all participants of the Blind Leaders Development Program benefit from a diversity of experiences and ideas.

Potential and Commitment to Be a Productive Participant

Ideal candidates use mainstream office software with a medium-to-strong level of skill (such as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications). These individuals are proficient in the assistive technology of their choice. Effectiveness with these tools will enable participants to easily access all program materials and events. These candidates will commit to the time, effort, and resources required to fully engage in the program.

Financial Commitment

The Blind Leaders Development program was created with the intention to accelerate the career trajectory of blind and visually impaired professionals and emerging leaders. We ask participants to invest in their professional development by arranging for their travel to and from the in-person program events in Arlington, Virginia. However, we understand that not everyone applying to participate in the program will have the flexibility to make this kind of monetary commitment.

Please do not let financial barriers keep you from applying to the program. The American Foundation for the Blind is firmly committed to providing equal opportunity for program applicants. Our goal is to seek and secure funding to make participation in this program affordable for all prospective applicants. We believe that AFB, our work, and the individuals we serve benefit greatly when we bring people with different backgrounds, skills, physical abilities, and perspectives together.

All applicants to the program will be personally notified by AFB staff of selection results. If you are selected to participate in the program, and you or your organization cannot cover your transportation costs for the in-person events in Virginia, please discuss this with AFB staff when you are contacted. We are actively seeking funds to offset participant costs and a limited number of stipends will be available to cover travel costs.

Participant Commitments

Blind Leaders Development Program participants commit to:

  • Arrange for air and ground travel to and from the two-day Leadership Challenge Workshop, program kick-off dinner, and AFB Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA, in March 2020 (AFB will arrange for all other aspects of these program elements)
  • Read The Leadership Challenge book (provided by AFB) and put into practice at least four of the behaviors suggested by the authors
  • Attend and participate in all six webinar sessions
  • Complete all Leadership Challenge and webinar discussion assignments
  • Schedule and attend all mentoring and coaching sessions
  • Prepare an agenda, advance materials, and questions for each mentoring and coaching session
  • Participate in all follow-up surveys for at least three years (representing no more than one hour per year)

Participant Application Tips

In addition to the recommendations below, we encourage you to review the Participant Applicant Scoring Rubric (downloadable Word file) to familiarize yourself with how applications will be evaluated.

You will be asked to provide a resume, professional letter of recommendation, and answer four essay questions (one of these essays is optional).


Please be sure your resume reflects any leadership roles and/or level of responsibility you have attained so far in your career. Please be sure to include any other personal or professional development programs you have completed.

Letter of Recommendation

We encourage you to share the questions listed below as prompts to the individual writing your professional letter of recommendation:

  • Why do you think the applicant has the potential to be a productive participant? Please provide concrete examples if possible.
  • What qualities do you think make the applicant a good candidate for this program, for example openness to new ideas, willingness to learn, and/or a unique perspective?
  • Please describe how the applicant has demonstrated leadership in the past.

Essay Questions

We recommend drafting your responses to the following essay questions in a word processing program, then copying your answers into the online application. Please note, as is reflected in the scoring rubric linked above, your essay responses will be evaluated on completeness and quality of writing.

  1. Why do you want to participate in this program? How do you think you will use what you learn?
  2. Describe an experience in which your opinion was challenged and how you reacted to the differing perspective(s).
  3. What unique quality or perspective would you bring to this program? How do you think this can enrich the experience for your fellow participants?
  4. (Optional) Is there anything else we should know about you?