Since 2015, Annika Konrad has been a force for positive change on the Council’s board. She served as First Vice President, and on the Executive and Nominating committees. She completed her PhD in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is leaving the state to teach at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Annika’s relationship with the Council goes back much farther than 2015. She first found out about the Council while in college, when she and a friend wandered into the Sharper Vision store and purchased products. The Council was later recommended as a resource to Annika as she continued to lose her vision. As a communications rhetoric student, she approached the Council about partnering to create a blog. The goal of the blog was to empower people who are blind and visually impaired to share their stories, and it became “The Outlook from Here”.
“Wisconsin has a strong BVI community,” Annika says. “For me, it has been wonderful to meet people who all have the shared experience of vision loss. When people share their diversity of experience and what they have done to overcome the challenges in their lives, it is a benefit to everyone.”
Annika’s motivation to share lived experiences helped the Council transform its publications to include first-person stories in publications and on social media – this is an ongoing project.
Another way in which Annika impacted the Council was Facilitating a word change in its mission in July of 2017. The board voted to replace the word “independence” with “empowerment.” Annika brought this idea to the board’s attention because, through her research on the identities of people who are blind and visually impaired, as well as ideas drawn out in stories from “The Outlook from Here,” Annika noticed that interdependence is the true goal for which all people strive, regardless of visual impairment.
“The word ‘empowerment’ was chosen because it communicates the Council’s commitment to respecting the diverse experiences, ideas, and opinions among people who are blind and visually impaired,” says Annika. “On a broad scale, it communicates that we aim to empower people who are blind and visually impaired to make their own decisions and attempt to change our culture in a way that promotes interdependence for all.”
Annika says being involved with the Council has given her the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. She says coming from a university did not give her many chances to work with people who were different than herself in demographics such as age or economic background. She relished being able to get to know and work closely with people who had such varying experiences, talents and skills. She hopes to continue to build connections within the BVI community when she moves to New Hampshire in June to begin the next chapter of her life and career. She looks forward to teaching college writing courses, doing additional research, and plans to turn her dissertation about lived communications experiences of people who are blind or visually impaired into a book.
“I would like to thank all the board members for inviting me into their community,” Annika says. “You have taught me so much about what it means to work together toward the common goal of improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired in Wisconsin.”