Meet Kyle Robidoux, the new Director of Volunteer and Support Group Services at the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Prior to joining MABVI, Kyle worked for fourteen years in advocacy and community organizing, most recently as the Director of Community Planning and Leadership Development at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation. Kyle says he’s “looking forward to trying to figure out what the 21st century looks like for the volunteer and peer support group programs.”
Kyle says of the MABVI volunteer program, “we currently do have a waiting list of consumers waiting for to be matched with a volunteer, so the immediate need is to recruit more volunteers to deplete that waiting list and to ensure that there’s a quick and efficient turn around for folks looking for a volunteer.” Interested in volunteering for a blind or visually impaired person or know someone who is? Learn more.
MABVI coordinates and runs 34 support groups throughout the state of Massachusetts. “Our support groups are opportunities for people who are experiencing low or no vision to come to a meeting, a very supportive environment, that is led by a peer who is experiencing some sort of vison loss or who is blind,” Kyle says. “They’re a sort of mix of social and supportive environment, as well as an opportunity to share concrete resources, programs and opportunities for folks who are experiencing vision loss.”
Kyle’s past professional career as a community organizer lends itself to his new role. He says he aims to build the sense of a community within volunteers, and further strengthen support group programming. “I think the peer-led model is organizing 101: you’re working with folks who are directly experiencing some kind of issue. In this instance it’s vison loss, and having folks run meetings and facilitate meetings who are experiencing that is a very powerful thing, and something that as organizers we want to do in every setting.”
Prior to starting at MABVI, Kyle had very little interaction with the blindness community, he says. “I am legally blind, and have a kind of degenerative eye disease, but even with that I have had very little interaction, if any, with the blindness community prior to starting here.”
Since coming here, “I’ve learned a hundredfold more than what I ever knew,” he says. “I’ve interacted with more people who are experiencing vision loss than I ever have, I am more aware about the subtleties of folks who are experiencing blindness. I am much more aware of the workplace, and the great work that people do while experiencing vision loss. I am much more aware of the resources, both available to me on a personal level, but also resources and programs available to people that we work with. I am learning very quickly that the blindness community is a very strong community and a very supportive one, very rich in services and partnerships as well.”
Kyle says that in addition to providing low vision services, MABVI aims to raise consciousness and the awareness of who blind individuals are, what they’re able to do. “[We want] to let people know what it’s like to interact with blind folks, and how much ability there is regardless of vision loss. And to raise that consciousness of what folks who are experiencing vision loss are going through, but also the unlimited capacity and ability to do what we all want to do, and to continue to live full and rich lives.”