Return to Who We Are
Emily Gibbs is a passionate teacher of blind students serving the National Federation of the Blind of Texas as its Treasurer, NFB-BELL® Program coordinator and by overseeing the mentoring program. She believes that the blind need access to literacy through quality braille instruction, should learn non-visual skills and gain confidence from successful blind role models.
Emily has been involved with the National Federation of the Blind since the age of 12 when she and her childhood friend attended the Federation’s convention in Michigan convention. There, she saw first-hand many of the same struggles blind people face to this day.
“We really didn’t like her teachers who specialized in working with students who had visual impairments,” she said. “They never gave her anything she needed. I told myself that I was not going to be one of them.”
Emily had aspirations of becoming a teacher, but that dream was halted when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a type of cancer that develops in the white blood cells. Emily had to drop out of college during her fight with cancer. She worked at a summer camp for blind youth and saw the desperate need for high-quality braille instruction.
“I’ve always been passionate about reading,” Emily said. “I was going to college to learn about teaching kids to read. When I was working at Camp Tuhsmeheta, there was this huge need for braille, and I realized that teaching braille is about teaching blind kids to read. The majority of blind kids aren’t getting the braille instruction that they need.”
Emily attended Louisiana Tech University to become a certified teacher of blind students. She has been in a remission from her cancer for about 10 years now and has been cured for four of them. Emily said that the blindness field has not changed much since she was in eighth grade with her childhood friend.
“Even now, I think there is a disconnect in the field of teaching blind students between braille and reading,” Emily said. “There still isn’t enough focus on braille. I see the same struggles that I saw my friend go through like not reading fast enough, using larger and larger print, and her work taking hours to complete. i know that the Federation is still fighting the same battles that we’ve been fighting for the last 20 years, and we still have a way to go.”
Emily stressed the importance of both professionals and the blind viewing other successful blind people as role models. Texas’ mentoring program exposes people struggling with vision loss to independent blind people who are living the lives they want. Mentees can learn from their Federation mentors for years to come, and indeed this program has introduced countless people to a positive view of blindness.
“I’m still friends with people that I met when I was 12 at the Michigan convention,” Emily said. “My life has been enriched so many times over by the people that I’ve met in the Federation. It really is a family.”
Return to Who We Are