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Norma’s Favorite Speeches
Norma Crosby is a business-minded, self-taught entrepreneur who has worked at every level of the state affiliate to improve the lives of blind Texans. She has served as state treasurer, president of both the Houston and Lone Star (at-large) Chapters, and managed the affiliate’s office.
Norma grew up in Wells, Texas, a small town of 600 people, with four siblings. Her father worked in the logging business, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Norma’s mother contracted rubella while pregnant, which caused Norma’s blindness. Since she had partial vision, professionals did not teach her cane travel, and only provided cursory instruction in braille.
“I would’ve rather been identified as blind,” Norma said. “I grew up being told by agency folks and others, ‘Basically, you shouldn’t ask for cane travel or braille, because you’re keeping us from serving a real blind person.’”
Teachers who specialized in working with blind students were not available in her home community in the 1960s and 1970s, so Norma’s general education teachers provided adaptations without excluding her from the rest of the class. Norma excelled academically despite a lack of training in the skills of blindness. She learned important office skills in high school. These included typing and accounting, and she has used the lessons she learned then throughout her entire working life. After high school, Norma realized that her small hometown did not offer the resources she needed to be a successful, independent blind person.
“I knew that if I wanted to have a life where I didn’t stay at home with my parents, I had to be bold,” Norma said. “I moved to Austin not knowing what I was going to do.”
Norma’s first job in Austin was working at a sheltered workshop, which only lasted a few months. While there, she met other blind people living independent and productive lives. Norma would not become involved with the National Federation of the Blind, however, until the 1980s after a divorce.
“Honestly, I didn’t join the Federation for the reasons that one might hope,” Norma said. “I was newly divorced, and needed the social interaction. Then, about two months after I joined, I went to the national convention. That is what converted me to true Federationism.”
Norma became an active member of the Federation after her first national convention in Minneapolis in 1982. She even met her husband, Glenn, then president of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, at that convention. She read [*The Braille Monitor*](https://nfb.org//braille-monitor) and Dr. Jernigan’s speeches to develop a solid blindness philosophy. Norma learned non-visual skills from other likeminded Federationists, too.
“I heard from people who had the same ideas that I had,” Norma said. “I had the idea that I could do what I set out to do, but I didn’t have the confidence to do it. I started meeting people and said, well, if they can live the life they want, so can I
Norma has served the Federation at a state level in many capacities. She managed the affiliate’s office in Houston from 1985 until Glenn stepped down from his presidency in 1993. There, she answered questions about blindness, advocacy, and obtaining services from schools and agencies. Norma was an active member when the Texas “braille bill”—which mandated that the default learning medium for blind students would be braille, unless the IEP teams determined another medium to be more appropriate—was passed; when legislation preventing insurance agencies from charging the blind more simply for being blind was passed in 1983; and when a law passed that required libraries in cities of more than 50,000 to provide access to Kurzweil reading machines for the blind.
“I was close enough to the leadership of Texas that I was doing a whole lot of work,” Norma said. “I was involved in everything from helping with treasury stuff to working with legislative issues, and anything that needed to be done in the affiliate. I usually had a hand in it, sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a big way.”
Norma served as President of the Houston Chapter (1989-1995) and as the affiliate Treasurer before moving out of the state in 2001. When she and her husband returned to Texas in order to be closer to family, she served as the founding President of the, At-Large, Lone Star Chapter from 2012 until early 2015. Most recently, the state convention elected Norma to serve as the affiliate’s President in November of 2014.
Since her election, the affiliate has been working hard to change the direction of rehabilitation services in the state, and in May 2015, the legislature adopted SB208, which is a critical piece of the Federation’s effort to enhance programs for the blind throughout Texas. Now that the legislative session is done, Norma plans to work hard at growing her organization’s membership, while strengthening the chapters that currently exist. She also plans to host a summit for parents of blind children in an effort to determine how the Texas affiliate can offer more and better support to parents.
NFB-NEWSLINE plays a critical role in the services that the Federation is able to provide. When the affiliate’s former president, [Kimberly Flores](#), asked Norma to assist in determining what NFB-NEWSLINE in Texas would look like for the next four years, she worked with other leaders to establish new programs that promise to increase the visibility of NFB-NEWSLINE around the state. Programs like Silver Bells Senior Training, and [NFB-NEWSLINE @ School & Work]() will allow new opportunities for both seniors and young people to learn more about accessing newsmagazines on-the-go, while providing additional information about how they can become more independent at home, in school, and on the job. Through these training programs, open houses, and other general outreach efforts NFB-NEWSLINE allows Norma and the other leaders of the Texas affiliate to share the positive philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind every day.
“Every day we are working to raise expectations for blind Texans,” Norma said. “Sometimes, it is the public we must educate, but often is the blind themselves.”
“We aren’t looking for perfect blind people,” she continued. “We are looking for blind people who know they can do more to be independent and who are willing to challenge themselves to do better.”
There is a gospel song that sums up Norma’s perspective about blindness and how she and others can live the lives they want. It says, “You don’t have to move that mountain. Just teach me, Lord, to climb it. You don’t have to move that stumbling block. Just show me the way around it.”
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