Braille Monitor               April 2023

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Lessons from my Federation Family

by Cassie McNabb McKinney

Cassie McNabb McKinneyFrom the Editor: This article is taken from Future Reflections, Spring 2023. Many of us know the message we send about being blind, but the Federation is so much more as it shapes our view of life and the respect we have for every human being. Cassie is the mother of two, and here is a moving and interesting story she relates about being a mom:

The lessons that we are taught in life come from those who are the closest to us, those in the inner circle with which we surround ourselves. My parents and grandparents served as examples for me. They taught me to be respectful of all people and to show love rather than hastening to anger. Above all they taught me to believe in myself and the dreams and goals I had for my life.

During the summer of 2003, I extended my circle when I met the National Federation of the Blind. Leaders in this organization reinforced the lessons I had learned from my family. They set an example by living full and productive lives as blind people.

Throughout the years I have had many opportunities to serve our organization in positions of leadership. Each time one of these situations has arisen, I have learned even greater lessons about myself. All of the roads I have journeyed within my Federation family have prepared me for one of the most challenging and rewarding opportunities in life: parenthood.

On January 13, 2016, Robert Dennis McKinney came into this world. He was a healthy baby boy with a lot to say and the lungs to make sure that everyone heard him. As he grew it became evident that he had inherited not only my nose and my sass; he also inherited my eye condition. This knowledge was not the stress to me that it might have been without my growth through the Federation. My Federation family had empowered me to be the very best advocate for Robert that I can be.

At seven years old Robert is now quite the self-advocate. He has no trouble voicing his needs to his teachers and instructors. He tells them exactly what he needs to be able to learn alongside his peers. His immersion in the Federation from a young age has put all of this into motion.

Now, fast forward two years. On May 19, 2018, Timothy Otis McKinney made his grand entrance into the world. His brother had been more vocal, but Timothy was simply a force to be reckoned with. We soon learned that Timothy has autism. The day we received his formal diagnosis, I froze in my seat. I was utterly speechless.

Where had all my courage gone? I had had the courage to fight for my oldest son, to get him what he needed. Was it not the same for Timothy? Of course it was!

The Federation is a movement of the blind, for the blind, but it is so much more. At its core the Federation supports individuals who struggle with so much more than blindness. It is an organization that builds and empowers. It is an organization whose core belief is that we are a family. A family does what it has to do to help where help is needed.

I have had wonderful support from my family and friends throughout my life. My Federation family has taught me invaluable lessons about advocacy and self-advocacy. It takes real courage to stand strong when the rights of our children are on the line and it is our duty to protect them. Not only must we defend the rights of our own children; we must fight for the rights of the children of our nation.

Years from now, when Robert and Timothy are older, they may reflect on their lives and the people who have shaped who they are. No doubt there will be a circle of people who have surrounded them, a circle of people they have learned from. I know in my heart that when they think of those important people in their lives, they will think of the National Federation of the Blind.

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