“Not he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emily Gindlesperger is a fighter and especially for those unable to fight for themselves.
Although born with congenital glaucoma and Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome, Emily’s upbringing didn’t focus on her condition. “I wasn’t raised as visually impaired.”
However after the birth of her daughter who was born with Peters Anomaly which caused vision loss; for Emily, the fight was on. It began with something as simple as finding an educational environment for her daughter, where she would not only thrive but where she was also valued and respected.
So Emily began digging and found the Pennsylvania affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). She contacted then-president Jim Antonacci about her frustration. In 2008, Jim arranged for Emily and her family including her then three-year-old daughter to attend their first national convention.
“Most resonating factor was to stand in a room with a thousand people who society was telling them they weren’t valuable and didn’t need to work, but these people were fighting against that. That’s when I knew this is where we needed to be.”
Emily and her family were convention guests of the Parent’s Division which helps equip parents and guardians of visually impaired children to be strong advocates for their children. The Parents Division also provides a safe space for blind parents to affirm their parental rights regardless of their blindness.
The convention allows for a rare time of face to face meetings with division members from across the state and across the country. As it did for Emily’s family, the Parents Division continues to help families offset expenses to attend the national and affiliate conventions.
Emily was nominated as Pennsylvania’s President of the Parents Division shortly after 2008, a position she still holds today in addition to her role as the affiliate’s Second Vice President.
In both roles, Emily is passionate about empowerment. She is a veteran participant at Washington Seminar. The seminar is an NFB initiative, but affiliates send teams to meet directly with their congressmen and help to affect legislative issues that impact the daily lives of the blind. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate the power and engagement of the blind community which is often underserved. “I would love to see us create stronger relationships with state agencies and other private organizations that serve our community.” The seminar is just one vehicle that helps promote that goal. Emily is also committed to changing mindsets that stifle advancement. “I want to help parents realize the importance of having high expectations of themselves and their children. They need to know that they are stronger than they think.” This explains why the Emerson quote has stuck with Emily since her high school days. “I strive to be the person who can influence others through actions and conversations to change their minds. And I think I view people who can change my mind as someone great. But preconceived notions are harder to change then the physical world around us. And those who can change other peoples minds are truly powerful.” Emily also serves as the statewide coordinator of the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning, or BELL program. which means she handles all outreach opportunities and is the central point of contact for participants.
She recently earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Business Public Administration and is planning to pursue a Master’s in Public Policy and Law. “I am very committed to legislative involvement.” Emily and her husband Matt live in western Pennsylvania with their two teenaged children, both of whom are active in the music arts.
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Written by Lisa Andrews