Writing Our Own Histories: Arron Faxon's Federation Story
By Arron Faxon and Cricket Bidleman
Arron Faxon is one of our 2023 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship winners. The scholarship is dedicated to providing funding for people to attend their first National Federation of the Blind National Convention in-person. I had the pleasure of interviewing him and am publishing this with his consent.
“I love what NFB does,” Arron Faxon says with reverence. “I feel like right now, there’s nobody better, who does what NFB does. There’s no organization better that is really, in a multifaceted way, opening up the world for people who are blind.… The speeches during General Session were the best evidence of that. The NFB is the best organization out there in terms of allowing people to live the lives they want.”
Arron Faxon was born legally blind, from a condition called optic nerve hypoplasia. He lived in Virginia for most of his life, and like many other blind people, sometimes felt isolated during public school. “I was the only blind person in my district,” he said.
Arron, 30, was also the only blind person in his family. “My father’s side of the family was very small and close-knit, but my mother was the second youngest out of eleven children,” he said. “I’m the only one who’s visually impaired. When I was in Virginia, I was around family all the time.… You would think that your family, being around so often, would be better trained in dealing with someone who’s blind. My nuclear family was able to accommodate for and make me feel like I was included. With my extended family, that wasn’t always the case…”
Arron is familiar with some of the medical and academic struggles that some blind and disabled people face. “My first stint in college, for my bachelor’s didn’t go very well. I had to have emergency surgery on my first day of classes. Nobody tells you that you can withdraw from classes because of medical issues.”
Although the 2023 National Convention was Arron’s first in-person Convention, he has been involved with us for the last several years. “I’ve been involved for three or four years now,” he said. “I spent maybe two years working with the Virginia [affiliate], and then I moved to Florida. I was the president of the Prince William County chapter [in Virginia] for about a year before I moved to Florida, which is why Tracy Soforenko and I know each other so well. He was my affiliate president when I was there.”
Arron had no mentors from our organization growing up. He referred to his teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) as his mentor. “She was my best mentor, the best part of public school for me,” he said. “Her daughter Mariam and I became very good friends. [Mariam] had multiple disabilities. My former vision teacher was exploring careers that people with multiple disabilities could do, and that’s how she became a TBVI. She really showed me a lot– staying positive, including people, demonstrating your values. she She was like a second mom to me.”
That being said, Arron recognizes the power of mentorship from blind people, and expressed a desire to have had one. “I would’ve loved to have had a blind friend or mentor who navigated the waters with me,” he said.
Each summer, Arron attended Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind for a week, participating in events and getting to know blind people. “Those times were invaluable to me,” he said. “But the NFB didn’t really come up during those discussions. That’s where I met most of my blind mentors. Do I wish I had some of those during the school year? Absolutely I do, but I don’t think I would’ve developed my adaptability if I hadn’t had to do everything on my own.”
Arron’s father’s side of the family is “heavily German." “There’s a strait named after us, and they’ve owned a restaurant since 1910,” he says.
That’s not the only legacy of his father’s side of the family, which has also been in the military since the American Revolution. His father, who was in the National Guard, was not at home for many of Arron’s younger years. “If not for me being born, my father would have ended up in Desert Storm,” he said.
Even though his father was absent, Arron still felt his presence. “One of my coolest memories: My father was stationed in Germany for a year or two. I remember [him] sending us gifts. These are illegal to import now. He used to send us what are called kinder eggs.” (Kinder eggs are hollow chocolate eggs with small toys or puzzles inside them.)
When asked if he contemplated going into the military, Arron said, “I did, mainly out of respect for what it stands for, and out of respect for my family.”
When Arron found out that he wasn’t allowed to join the military, he described the moment as “bittersweet.” “I find other ways to honor that history,” he said. “That’s another thing that I think NFB is helping me with. Or maybe I’ll start new history? Who knows?”
Arron’s national convention experience has solidified where he sees himself in our organization. “As far as NFB is concerned, the sky is the limit. I’ll go as far as time will allow me.”