Finding Community: Embracing Blindness and Making a Difference

A Message from Penny Forward Founder and CEO, Chris Peterson

Hey everyone,

Today I’m diving deep into a personal journey—one that’s taken me from isolation to integration, from denial to acceptance. I’m totally blind, but for the longest time, I tried hard not to be. Sounds strange, right? Let me explain.

For years, I lived my life with a singular goal: to not be seen as blind. I cringed whenever friends or family spotted another blind person in public and suggested we introduce ourselves. Organizations like the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind? Not for me, I decided. I went on to get married, buy a house, and snag a well-paying job. I convinced myself that any blind person who didn’t aim for this “normal” life was simply lazy or unmotivated.

But here’s the kicker—I was miserable. As I climbed the so-called ladder of success, I felt increasingly alienated from my sighted colleagues and friends. I was lonely, frustrated, and unhappy.

Turns out, I’m not alone in feeling this way. Over the last decade, as I’ve gradually embraced the blind community, I’ve met countless blind professionals who’ve shared similar stories. Many of us have found our place within the community after years of struggle and loneliness, and now, we’re committed to making a difference.

Despite our efforts, there’s a glaring issue that can’t be ignored. According to VisionServe Alliance, organizations dedicated to helping blind people gain the skills needed for successful, independent lives are reaching only about three percent of blind people in the U.S. That’s a shockingly small number, especially considering that over seven million Americans are legally blind or have low vision—more than the population of Minnesota, where I live!

Employment is another area where the struggle is real. The American Foundation for the Blind notes that although 44 percent of blind people are employed, many only work part-time and earn less than their nondisabled peers with equivalent education and experience. Clearly, our community needs more support.

So, what can we do? A lot, actually. According to AFB, families, advisors, and peers are crucial in sustaining effective employment and independent living for blind people. Parents can offer emotional support, act as advocates, and promote independence. When it comes to finding jobs, many people, especially young ones, rely on family and friends. This is just one reason why being part of the blind community is so vital.

This is also where Penny Forward comes in. We’re a community focused on financial independence. We’re stronger together and, whether you’re involved in the Council or the Federation, you’re welcome here. Together, we’re building a library of courses and workshops designed to help blind people learn to make, manage, and grow their money and feel the freedom to live the lives they want. Sound like something you want to be a part of? Join Penny Forward and help to shape the financial future of the blind community.

Finally, here’s a question for all of us: Where do we find the other 97 percent of the blind and low vision population? How do we connect them with the support and community they need?

This is where you come in. In the comments below, I’d love to hear how you first connected with the blind community. What experiences have you had? What would you tell the other 97 percent of blind and low vision people about getting involved?

Embracing my blindness has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding changes of my life. It’s not just about accepting help; it’s about giving back, sharing experiences, and building a supportive network. If you’re feeling isolated or unsure about joining the blind community, take it from me—it’s a game-changer.

Let’s start the conversation and help each other grow. Your story could be the one that inspires someone to reach out, to connect, and to thrive.

Chris Peterson, AFC®
Founder and CEO, Penny Forward

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