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American Foundation for the Blind Announces Centennial Conversations 'Inclusion, Intersectionality, and the Future of Work,' and

American Foundation for the Blind Announces Centennial Conversations 'Inclusion, Intersectionality, and the Future of Work,' and 'Making Money Work: Including Disability in the Financial Equation'

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) announced today its next two "Centennial Conversations"—curated webinars focused on the pressing issues and topics affecting people who are blind or have low vision. Inclusion, Intersectionality, and the Future of Work is scheduled for June 24 at 2 p.m. EDT, and Making Money Work: Including Disability in the Financial Equation is scheduled for July 22 at 2 p.m. EDT.

Inclusion, Intersectionality, and the Future of Work will gather a diverse group of leaders to explore what the future of work will look like, particularly for people who are blind or have low vision. Moderated by Katie Kelley, SVP, talent development solutions director at LHH, the panelists are:

  • Jennison Asuncion, Co-Founder, Global Accessibility Awareness Day & Vice-chair, GAAD Foundation
  • Keri Gray, DEI Educator and Consultant on Race and Disability
  • Sachin Pavithran, Ph.D., Executive Director at U.S. Access Board
  • Sara Minkara, Founder and CEO of Sara Minkara, LLC, and Founder and Board Member of Empowerment Through Integration

The group will seek to address how we can strengthen workplace inclusion and reduce inequalities of race, disability, and gender; how we ensure that new workplace technologies are accessible and inclusive; and how we share our understanding of a changing occupational landscape to inform, prepare, and train workers who are blind or have low vision. The live session will be followed by an audience Q&A.

Making Money Work: Including Disability in the Financial Equation will be a panel discussion on the importance of including disability when tackling diversity, equity, and financial inclusion. The session will include a live Q&A after the panel's conversation, moderated by Denise Steele, community engagement manager, JPMorgan Chase. The panelists are:

  • Rodney E. Hood, Board Member and Former Chairman, National Credit Union Administration
  • Tom Foley, Executive Director, National Disability Institute
  • Lauren Oplinger, Vice President, JPMorgan Chase

These conversations are being held in celebration of AFB's 100 years of creating a more inclusive world for people who are blind or visually impaired. Both events are free to attend, and live captions, American Sign Language, audio description, and transcripts will be available. Centennial events are made possible through the generous sponsorship of partners like Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Horizon Therapeutics, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Oncor, American Printing House for the Blind, Exelon, Facebook,, LHH, Northrop Grumman, Pepco, U.S. Bank, Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Walmart, Microsoft, and Verizon. Special support for 'The Future of Work' provided by CTIA and The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. For those interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Amanda Kolling, senior engagement and brand manager, at

About the Speakers

Inclusion, Intersectionality, and the Future of Work

Katie Kelley serves as the senior vice president of talent development solutions for the U.S. Western Region at Lee Hecht Harrison. Katie successfully brought the 5050 Women on Boards campaign to Oregon in 2019 as chair and served as a core member of the campaign's statewide leadership committee in 2020 in an effort to drive education and advocacy for gender balance and diversity on corporate boards. Kelley earned a B.A. in Psychology at Boston College and a master's in Clinical Social Work at Smith College. She went on to complete her postgraduate work as a psychotherapist at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Katie's first book, Career Courage, was published by HarperCollins in 2016.

Jennison Asuncion is a digital accessibility leader who has worked in the field since 2006. In 2012, he co-founded Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), an annual, grassroots effort inviting the broader, high-tech community around the world to participate in in-person and virtual activities intended to raise awareness of digital accessibility issues that people with different disabilities encounter. On the occasion of GAAD's 10th anniversary this year, the GAAD Foundation was launched, with Jennison named as Vice-chair. The foundation's mission is to disrupt the culture of technology and digital product development to include accessibility as a core requirement. In addition to being a member of Knowbility's Board of Directors, Jennison serves on the Boards of the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired San Francisco as well as Accessible Media Inc.

Keri Gray is a disability, equity, and inclusion educator and consultant on race and disability. Her work centers on exploring the intersections of race, gender, and disability across the workplace. As a consultant, speaker, and facilitator, she works with companies and organizations to leverage intersectionality as an organizational practice. Through the National Alliance of Multicultural Disabled Advocates, Graycollaborates with organizers across the country to invest in the livelihood and leadership of Black and Brown people with disabilities. Gray has recruited approximately 4,000 professionals for over 100 organizations and Fortune 500 companies. She has also designed and managed programs for over 1,000 professionals that have helped participants secure competitive employment, identify transferable skills, build an influential network, and gain notable opportunities.

Sachin Dev Pavithran, Ph.D., is the executive director of the U.S. Access Board. He was appointed to the Access Board as a public member in 2012 and reappointed to a second term four years later. During his tenure, he has served terms as chair and as vice chair. In addition, Dr. Pavithran has served as program director of the Utah Assistive Technology Program and as the director of policy for the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University since 2011. He has over 20 years' experience developing and testing assistive technology and has lectured and trained extensively on the subject. He is the former president of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities' national board and is a member of the National Federation of the Blind, where he chairs the Committee on Autonomous Vehicles and Innovations in Transportation. He was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Utah Advisory Committee and has represented the Access Board on the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission's Board of Advisors.

Sara Minkara is the founder and CEO of Sara Minkara, LLC, a founder and board member of Empowerment Through Integration, and a pioneer and creator of the Discovery in the Dark series. Leveraging all aspects of her identity—as a Blind, Muslim, Arab-American woman—Minkara promotes "authentic inclusion" to create genuine empowerment—for herself and everyone she meets. Through virtual or in-person Inspired Speaking engagements, her flagship Discovery In The Dark workshops, customized courses, and one-on-one coaching sessions, Minkara facilitates a self-transformative journey to create authentic inclusion that helps clients achieve their goals as an individual and in their organization. Her areas of expertise are: Inclusion and Representation, Women Empowerment, Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship. Minkara has received multiple awards for her passionate advocacy, including Forbes 30 Under 30, the Echoing Green Fellowship, and the Clinton Global Initiative Outstanding Commitment Award. She holds her BA in Math and Economics from Wellesley University and master's in Public Policy from Harvard University. 

Making Money Work: Including Disability in the Financial Equation

Denise Steele serves as a Community Engagement Manager for JPMorgan Chase, supporting the Central Region and is based in Michigan.  As part of the company's Corporate Responsibility team, she focuses on building enduring relationships with community stakeholders in support of the firm's efforts to drive positive, lasting community-centered impact. Steele's 30+ year career includes 17 years of community lending and development experience. She is a proven leader in the community, and has developed a reputation as a champion for change.  Steele co-chairs two county-wide Community Reinvestment Act Associations in Michigan, and is a member of Center for Disability Inclusive Community Development national workgroup, managed by the National Disability Institute. 

Rodney E. Hood was sworn in as the eleventh National Credit Union Association Chairman on April 8, 2019, and served in that role until January 25, 2021, and he continues to serve on its Board. Hood was previously nominated to the NCUA Board by President George W. Bush; during his first term on the board, he was appointed vice chairman. As a board member, Hood serves as the NCUA's representative on the Board of Directors of NeighborWorks America, one of the nation's leading affordable housing and community development organizations. Hood previously served as a corporate responsibility manager for JPMorgan Chase, managing national partnerships with nonprofit organizations, financial regulators, and community stakeholders to promote financial inclusion and shared prosperity in underserved communities. Hood also served as a member of the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill Board of Visitors and as a member of the UNC School of Arts Board of Trustees. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Museum of Art and as a member of the Board of Governors for the UNCCollege System. Hood holds a bachelor's degree in business, communications, and political science from UNC Chapel Hill.

Tom Foley is trained as a tax lawyer and financial planner with over 30 years' experience serving the disability community. Blind himself, Foley has dedicated his career to partnering with other thought leaders to address the complex drivers of economic inequality and to create pathways to employment and financial security for vulnerable communities. He is currently the executive director of the National Disability Institute and the author of EQUITY, the first asset-building book for people with disabilities. Foley has partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury to design programs and provide technical assistance to better reach the disability community.

Lauren Oplinger is a vice president with JPMorgan's Public Finance Sales Group, covering bond funds, asset managers, and money market funds for tax-exempt and taxable municipal bond products. She joined the firm in 2008 as a summer analyst, having graduated from College of the Holy Cross with degrees in math and economics. At JPMorgan, she served as a member of the Global Leadership Team for the Access Ability Business Resource Group and co-founded the Blind and Low-Vision Working Group. In 2018, the firm recognized Oplinger as one of its Disability Champions, an award reserved for those who go above and beyond to create an inclusive environment for people with disabilities. In 2019, Careers and the DisABLED magazine recognized Lauren as one of 10 "Employees of the Year" for being a role model for people with disabilities.

About the American Foundation for the Blind

Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit:

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SOURCE American Foundation for the Blind

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