Philadelphia, PA (PressExposure) May 25, 2009 -- Blair Douglass (20, Pittsburgh), a graduate of Upper St. Clair High School, who just finished his sophomore year as an International Studies/Political Science major at the University of Pittsburgh, has won a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). He is one of only 30 blind winners nationally out of over four hundred applicants. Each winner will receive a minimum of $3,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to the NFB's annual convention, taking place this July in Detroit. Some will receive up to $12,000.
Blair, who enjoys reading, sports and board games, has been a fan of the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins since he was five years old. He is looking forward to attending his first NFB convention.
"He is an outstanding young man," says Jim Antonacci (61), President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania (NFB of PA, 42 S. 15th St., Philadelphia), "We have two winners from Pennsylvania this year. The other is Andrew Wai, a senior at North Penn High in Harleysville."
Antonacci was one of the thirty judges â all handpicked by NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer â who chose this years recipients.
"At the convention, each recipient will be paired with the judge whose own experiences most closely match their goals," continues Antonacci, a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania retiree with thirty-three years experience as a math teacher and rehabilitation counselor, who lost his sight in an accident while he was in high school.
Antonacci is dedicated to increasing educational and employment opportunities for blind people. In addition to his work on the scholarship committee, he is responsible for bringing the NFB's "Braille Readers are Leaders" program, a k-12 Braille reading contest, to Pennsylvania.
Congress acknowledged the Braille literacy crisis by authorizing the minting of the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar, released March 26, 2009. Antonacci (Willow Grove) and other leaders from the NFB of PA, including Vice President Lynn Heitz (Levittown), convinced all nineteen of Pennsylvania's representatives and both senators to co-sponsor the bill. NFB's "Braille Readers are Leaders" campaign will receive matching funds of $10 from each coin sold up to $4 million. When the space shuttle Atlantis was launched on its final mission to fix the Hubble telescope on May 11, two of the Braille coins were onboard.
*** About the National Federation of the Blind: With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind peopleâs lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.