AFB Direct Mail Campaign 2012 & 2013

The following letter by Carl R. Augusto, CEO of The American Foundation for the Blind was distributed to over 120,000 recipients across the U.S. in 2012 & 2013.  It serves as an overview of JD Lewis’s art career and the mission of AFB.

Dear Friend,

You might say the wildlife art you see on the greeting cards I’ve enclosed for you is a very different kind of “limited edition.”

Because these JD Lewis wildlife prints are from a precious moment in time – a moment in which the artist was blessed with just enough vision to paint these timeless treasures.

Ever since John was very young, he dreamed of a career as an artist.  Drawing pictures was something he always loved to do.  And because he also loved wildlife and the outdoors, it was only natural that he would combine his two passions.  

John would spend countless hours in the Pennsylvania woodlands, photographing animals and scenery to use as reference material for his wildlife paintings and illustrations.

But there was also something else that made John see the world in a different light.

Retinitis pigmentosa.

From his earliest memories, John’s vision was filled with lots of bright, fluorescent colored floaters.  He had trouble seeing at night or in dim light.  At the age of 16, when he began losing peripheral vision, he was finally diagnosed with the disease – a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness.

Over time, it would slowly rob John of 95% of his vision.

And John would face his greatest creative challenge ever: the creation of an independent and fulfilling life.

And that is the reason I am writing to you today to tell you about AFB – the American Foundation for the Blind.

The American Foundation for the Blind removes barriers, creates solutions and expands possibilities so people with vision loss – like John – can achieve their full potential.

Since 1921, AFB has been a leader in expanding possibilities for the 25 million Americans living with vision loss.  We champion access and equality, and stand at the forefront of new technologies.  Our award-winning programs directly address the most pressing needs of people with vision loss and their families.

Like Helen Keller, AFB’s most famous ambassador, we are committed to creating a more equitable world for people with disabilities by striving to:

  • Promote independent and healthy living for individuals with vision loss;
  • Broaden access to technology;
  • Improve the information and tools available to the professionals who work with blind or visually impaired individuals; and
  • Advocate on behalf of the rights and interests of Americans with vision loss.

 

One of the biggest fears for a person like John, who is facing a gradual loss of vision, is that they’re going to be a different person than prior to the visual impairment.

But that’s not exactly true.

I know, because I myself am blind.

And I learned – just like John – that you can do all the things that you did before you lost your sight with some modification.  A few small adjustments can make a huge difference.

Today, technology has revolutionized daily life for all of us, but particularly for people who are blind or visually impaired.  The power of computers with specialized hardware or software can now translate the written word into Braille or even a human voice.

And, AFB is busy tackling the challenges presented by emerging technologies so that everyone can fully benefit from these important advances.

The visually impaired and manufacturers alike turn to AFB for our expertise in testing and evaluate assistive devices and technologies.  From kid-sized canes that beep to laptops that talk, from cell phones to medical testing devices that talk, AFB provides objective analyses of products that help people with vision loss succeed at school, at work, and play.

But the opportunity to live independently, today and into the future depends on finding viable employment.  So AFB is dedicated to helping capable candidates who are visually impaired find rewarding careers.

John certainly had the discipline and patience to re-invent himself after his art career – afterall, he willingly invested 400-500 hours into the average painting, as depicted in the enclosed images.

But he would need special training to find a job that offered autonomy, a steady income, but most importantly, security regardless of his impending visual deterioration.  And once he had the proper training, he would need assistance finding the right employer.

To help overcome this enormous challenge, AFB has broken important new ground with our CareerConnectTM website that helps link up successful blind professionals to mentor visually impaired job seekers.

CareerConnectTM offers employment information, career exploration tools, and extensive job seeking guidance for students and adults with vision loss and the professionals who work with them.  CareerConnectTM:

  • Provides employment and job search information developed specifically for the visually impaired job-seeker;
  • Helps new job seekers and students who are blind or visually impaired explore careers and find mentors;
  • Assists experienced professionals and new job seekers with vision loss who seek advice about interviewing skills, resume building, disability disclosure, or any number of other topics related to a successful job search;
  • Is a resource for professionals working with clients who have vision loss and are new to the job search process, or need to brush up on employment skills; and
  • Provides information to anyone interested in the wide variety and interesting array of jobs performed by adults who are blind or visually impaired.

 

John’s career path was as interesting as his artwork.

His first stop was in food service, where he was responsible for nearly every aspect of management, such as supervising four full- and part-time employees, planning weekly menus, ordering supplies, and so forth.

After more than a decade of work in the food service industry, he began investing a significant amount of time in learning braille, typing, and basic computer and assistive technology skills with the goal of a job in the customer service arena.

He landed his first clerical job performing data entry within a company that provides support services for insurance companies, such as telephone interviews, paralegal exams, medical records requests and DNA testing.  This opportunity gave him important experience working in an office environment using adaptive technology.

Through the use of JAWS, OpenBook, Braille, and a small hand-held recorder, he was able to perform all job duties with great ease.

Today, John serves as an AFB CareerConnectTM Mentor.

And, in a strange way, his art career has come full circle.

Because today, John is working on establishing his own home-based “art print business” that features affordable, high-quality matted prints of his original wildlife art!

That’s the reason I’m including the four cards you find enclosed that feature John’s artwork.
(over, please)

And John admirably represents the reason I am asking for your support of the American Foundation for the Blind.

Today, millions of blind and visually impaired Americans who want to follow their dreams and maintain their dignity have greater independence and opportunity in their lives because of the work AFB does.

That is the difference AFB has made, and it is a potent, timely reminder of our undiminished capacity to conquer hardship with creativity... and a belief in possibilities.
           
So please, enjoy the cards.  Use them.  Share them with others.

And then take the time, right now, to join with caring people like yourself and send a generous contribution to support AFB’s important work. 

Your gift of $25, $35, $50 or more, if possible, allows AFB to continue our fight to light the way for John and others who struggle with vision loss.

By supporting AFB, you’re touching the lives of millions of Americans who are determined to learn, grow, get jobs, raise families and become independent, productive members of society.

            The need is great.  Today the demands for AFB’s unique services are rapidly growing.  The moment is urgent.

And your support would never be more welcome.  Please give as generously as you possibly can.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

 

Carl R. Augusto

President & CEO
                                                
P.S.     Every day we meet people like John Lewis – or Helen Keller, who worked with AFB for four decades – who are creative, talented and determined to overcome challenges of living with blindness or visual impairment and achieve their dreams.  You can help them succeed by offering your support to AFB by writing the most generous check possible, and by sending that check today.  Thank you.

 To learn more about The American Foundation for the Blind, (AFB), Go to,
http://www.afb.org/default.aspx

 

 

 


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