Anil Lewis, Board MemberNFB - Anil Lewis BioNFB Logo and tagline - Voice of the Nation's Blind
...Anil Lewis, Board MemberCounselor, Advocate, and Father
...Anil LewisAnil Lewis was born in 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia.He
is the third of four children.Both his
older brother and older sister became legally blind at an early age from retinitis pigmentosa.Lewis was originally labeled educably mentally retarded but eventually became the first member of his family to attend a four-year college.He
has excelled academically, received many awards, participated as a leader in many extracurricular activities, and received several college scholarships.Although he
was finally diagnosed at age nine with retinitis pigmentosa, his
vision was fairly unaffected until age twenty-five.
As a sighted man he
fairly easily found respectable employment with wages high above the minimum wage.Then in 1989, while pursuing his bachelor's of business administration in computer information systems at Georgia State University (GSU), he became blind from retinitis pigmentosa.
"All of a sudden doors that had been open to me slammed shut."At that point, although he
had always considered himself socially aware, he
became personally acquainted with actual social injustice and discrimination."I am ashamed that only personal experience brought this awakening and decision to take action.But I am proud that I did take action and remain committed today to making a difference in the lives of others."Lewis
received blindness skills training while completing his
course requirements for his
degree at GSU
quickly learned the alternative skills of blindness, including Braille, activities of daily living, assistive technology, and use of the white cane.He
capitalized on them to graduate from Georgia State
in 1993."It was a struggle to regain the life that blindness had appeared to take from me.Almost everyone who had once respected me now pitied me, but I was determined not to be redefined by my blindness."Armed with these new skills and this new determination, he
quickly became committed to ensuring that others in similar situations could get appropriate training and unlimited opportunities.Lewis
got a job as a Braille and assistive technology instructor.Within a year he
was given the greater responsibility of job development/placement specialist, helping clients develop employment skills and get jobs."I had had no experience helping anyone other than myself get a job.I certainly did not have expertise in job placement for blind people."It was during this time that he
first became aware of the National Federation of the Blind
.A friend referred him to the NFB
had questions about Social Security work incentives and needed information about tools and strategies to help blind people obtain employment.As a result he
first NFB convention in Chicago, Illinois, in 1995 and became aware of the empowering philosophy and tremendous resource of the National Federation of the Blind
.The technical assistance materials produced by the NFB's
Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program and the NFB's Social Security and technical assistance information provided resources enabling him to motivate, educate, and encourage other blind people to achieve successful gainful employment."My success as a job placement specialist was a direct result of my ability to infuse NFB philosophy into the clients I worked with." Lewis went on to develop and manage a job placement program for people with disabilities as the manager of the Disability Employment Initiative with Randstad Staffing, one of the largest employment staffing companies in the world, during the Atlanta Olympic and Para-Olympic Games in 1996.
From then until early 2006 he
was employed by the law offices of Martin and Jones as the Georgia Client Assistance Program (CAP) counselor/advocate, representing people with disabilities every day.He is currently a disability consultant working with companies in Georgia.He became president of the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter of the NFB of Georgia in 2000 and was elected president of the NFB of Georgia in 2002.
In that year he
also received the Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship, the NFB's
most prestigious award presented to a blind student, which he
used to obtain his
master's degree in public administration with emphasis in policy analysis and program evaluation from GSU
in 2003.That year he was also elected as a member of the National Federation of the Blind board of directors.He
received an Outstanding Alumnus award from GSU
and was also a 2003 GSU Torch Bearer of Peace Award recipient.In 2006 Lewis
was named alumnus of the year by Leadership Dekalb
, a community leadership development organization in Dekalb County, Georgia.Lewis
has dedicated his
leadership skills to the development and growth of disability rights organizations that promote independence and improved quality of life.He was appointed by the governor as a board member and is the current president of the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) of Georgia, an organization promoting independent living for those with severe disabilities.He also serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Disability Law and Policy Center (DLPC) of Georgia, which uses a variety of methods to influence and enforce disability policy.
All of these organizations recognize that people with disabilities are integral, necessary members of society and reflect the world's normal diversity.Further, each works to ensure that the policies and programs developed for people with disabilities are created and implemented by people with disabilities.By helping to develop and strengthen such institutions to serve as a cornerstone in protecting the rights of people with disabilities, he hopes to secure the commitment and support of others.He
also hopes to reduce the barriers disabled people face by encouraging the implementation of public policy securing the rights and promoting the responsible participation of people with disabilities as productive citizens.
Lewis volunteers as a teacher and mentor for blind kids, working with promising blind students who, because of limited resources and lack of trained professionals to teach them, are inappropriately encouraged to pursue special education diplomas.He
wants blind students to set higher goals for themselves and to receive the training and tools they need to acquire the skills to reach their full potential.
Speaking of his
personal life, Anil Lewis
says that his
proudest accomplishment is his
bright, ambitious son Amari, born in 1997.Balancing his
many civic responsibilities with his
personal life as a father is undoubtedly his
greatest success, he
thinks, has been overcoming the temptation to subside into becoming an unmotivated, self-pitying person with a disability.He
greatest contribution so far has been to encourage other people with disabilities to believe in themselves and to understand that they can make a difference.Lewis
says that lack of awareness of individuals with traits outside society's accepted norms promotes extreme ignorance, which in turn results in unjustified fear, negative stereotypes, and discrimination.In an effort to combat that ignorance, he
aggressively recruits, refers, and supports other like-minded people to become active in the National Federation
of the Blind and other organizations in the disability rights movement.He
hopes to promote social change by fostering the active participation of more people with disabilities in every facet of society, thereby replacing ignorance with understanding, fear with awareness, and negative stereotypes with mutual understanding.In the process he
believes that we will eliminate discrimination.