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Blind and Low Vision Advocates Produce Inclusive Community Event Promoting Healthy Vision for a Health Future

LOS ANGELES, CA, September 29, 2022 /24-7PressRelease/ — Fox Family Foundation and RespectAbility, a national nonprofit creating systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, have announced a free community Vision Fair taking place October 15, 2022, at Cal State Los Angeles, Lot 5, from 9 am – 5 pm.

“What sets this Vision Fair apart from all other eye health fairs is that it is being produced by disability advocates, six of whom are blind and and/or have low vision who came through the RespectAbility National Leadership Program and are completing their externship with our organization,” stated Akira Nakano, Program Officer at Fox Family Foundation and Vision Fair Producer.

Sponsored in part by Council Member Kevin de León, representing City Council District 14, and with representatives from more than 20 other organizations, the Vision Fair will feature free vision screenings, pediatric [starting at age 3] through adult; dispense glasses on site (or mail them home/give gift certificates for follow up care/glasses); introduce community members to careers with workforce gaps that directly serve people with low vision; and provide free resources to the blind and low vision community. Additionally, free COVID-19 boosters will also be available.

Although 80% of visual impairments are preventable, low vision is the leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting a broad diversity of all communities. Regular eye check-ups are key to eye health.

Rostom Dadian, a Civic Engagement Apprentice at RespectAbility and Co-Producer of the Vision Fair, has had low vision since birth. “People think vision loss is associated with aging, but in truth, one-in-four Americans under the age of 40 are living with vision disability,” said Dadian. “Even though blind or visually impaired individuals are effective employees, we are overlooked as a workforce.”

Elizabeth Pezone was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 11 and had standard vision until age 18. She is a Workforce Development and Policy Apprentice at RespectAbility and serves as the Accessibility and Outreach Coordinator for the Vision Fair. “I had hoped to work in early education but could not easily find employment. I was told by teachers, employers, colleagues, and even friends that because of my disability I was not going to be able to do certain tasks or programs,” Pezone said. “By having constant persistence and drive to overcome those struggles and negative attitudes, I had the strength to prove them all wrong.”

“We have to shift our education and workforce systems to ensure inclusion,” added Alex Hilke, a Workforce Development and Policy Apprentice at RespectAbility and a coordinator for the Vision Fair. “People with disabilities are America’s largest minority group. In fact, it is the only one that anyone — due to an accident, aging, or illness — can join at any time.” Hilke was born with cerebral palsy and lost peripheral vision in his right eye.

Roy Payan, a Policy and Civic Engagement Apprentice at Respectability and the Vision Fair Exhibition Lead, added, “Equal opportunity and equal access, a right guaranteed under federal law, is not always available to those of us who are disabled.” Payan was in his forties when an eye infection overseas left him blind.

“In my experience, being disabled and different means there is a stigma that you have to face every minute of every day. There is a lot of injustice, inaccessibility and inequity to resources and opportunities,” added Dennis Tran, an Entertainment and News Media Apprentice at RespectAbility and the Social Media and Publicity Coordinator for the Vision Fair. Tran was diagnosed with glaucoma, causing partial blindness at age 17, and ten years later received a late diagnosis of having autism and ADHD.

“The world is all abuzz with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, but employers seem to prioritize race and gender over disability,” said Corey Evans, an Entertainment and News Media apprentice at RespectAbility and also the Vision Fair’s Media Lead. “When you don’t include us, you push us further into poverty.” Evans, who is African American, was born with cataracts and low vision, but his career in TV production temporarily stalled after he developed advanced glaucoma and surgery left him legally blind.

For interviews or additional information, please contact Joy St. Juste, Communications Director for RespectAbility: [email protected].

Fox Family Foundation supports programs, policies, and investments that protect vision and eye health, provide care and services to those in need and develop workforce readiness programs that enable diversity and inclusion. Our mission is to break the link between poverty and vision loss. Learn more www.foxgiving.org.

RespectAbility is a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, and that advances policies and practices that empower people with disabilities to have a better future. Our mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. www.RespectAbility.org.


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