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Kimberly Aguillard is a dedicated community activist working to improve the lives of blind people and disadvantaged populations throughout the country. Kimberly has served the National Federation of the Blind of Texas in many capacities, including as the affiliate’s President, local chapter president, Texas Association of Blind Students (TABS) President and other positions. Currently, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas.
Kimberly grew up in Nederland, Texas, the second-oldest of five children. She underwent multiple eye surgeries as a child, starting when she was three years old, to reattach the retina in her better eye. A detachment caused her to go completely blind at the age of 10. Kimberly attended public school, where she received braille services and materials in class alongside her sighted peers. She participated in some summer programs at the School for the Blind, but she said that these did more harm than good.
“I picked up bad habits there instead of learning any good blindness skills,” Kimberly said. “I saw children rocking or poking their eyes, and often that behavior was not corrected. I started to think that I was supposed to do that, too. Since I had some vision when I went there, I was encouraged to lead the totally blind students as their sighted guide. So, I was empowered because I had a little bit of vision and other students did not. This was a very mixed message for staff to send eight-year-olds, and, obviously, very misguided.”
Kimberly discovered the positive philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind when she attended the 1993 National Convention in Dallas.
“It was a baptism by fire,” Kimberly said. “I was the only blind student in my public school district for many years, so to be plopped into a hotel with thousands of blind people was quite a shock.”
At the age of 12, Kimberly was exposed to empowering, non-visual blindness skills for the first time at the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) Buddy Program. She later attended the Louisiana Center’s nine-month adult training program after graduating high school.
“I got different training from the Federation, and I understood for the first time that I had some real improvements to make,” Kimberly said. “There were people who read braille much faster than me, who traveled with confidence and independence, who cooked and fixed things around their homes, and who could do anything with technology. I had work to do, and I’ve been working ever since.”
Kimberly earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Psychology from Texas A&M University in 2004 followed by a master’s degree in Organization Development from Saint Edward’s University in 2008. She worked for a United States Senator in Washington, DC as a research assistant, but she could not stay away from Texas for long. Kimberly also gained valuable work experience as a Project Specialist for AmeriCorps with the March of Dimes in addition to her role as an Administrative Coordinator for a collaborative of nonprofit organizations, based out of Caritas of Austin.
She currently works as a research associate for the Institute for Health Policy with the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.
As the affiliate’s president from 2010 to 2014, she led the affiliate in welcoming the Federation family to the Lone-Star state for the 2010 and 2012 national conventions in Dallas. Her presidency was capped off by the record-breaking 2014 National Federation of the Blind of Texas State Convention in San Antonio.
“The Federation has impacted my life significantly,” Kimberly said. “I have made lasting friendships, and the training I received through the LCB gave me the confidence essential to navigate through all of life’s unpredictable courses. What I did not anticipate was the leadership training I would gain. I have managed employees, organized conventions, given countless presentations for hundreds of people and problem-solved last-minute details. I’ve learned to advocate for myself and to help other’s find their own voice and speak up, often for the first time.”
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