- October 8, 2016
According to the dictionary, the definition of a trail blazer is a person who makes a new track through wild country, a pioneer, an innovator, a groundbreaker, a trendsetter. According to Star Trek, a trail blazer is a person who “boldly goes where no man has gone before.”
The Trail Blazer Award is given to a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Montana who has taken the road less traveled, who has raised the expectations of society, or perhaps those of his or her own professional colleagues or supervisors, regarding the abilities of a blind person, or has endured prejudice or has overcome numerous obstacles in order to live the life he or she wants to live. The recipient of this awarde may also be a person who, member of the NFB of Montana or not, has cleared such a path of obstacles or barriers, be they physical or attitudinal, or has leveled the playing field for someone who is blind or has low vision. It is not necessarily meant to be given annually, but only when a worthy recipient presents him or herself.
The recipient of the inaugural NFB Trail Blazer Award is a professional who has worked with people who have faced vision loss, and have had to learn alternative techniques of blindness. Upon first meeting the recipient of this award, some individuals have said, “I’m not going anywhere with him. He’s totally blind.” After working with him, some of these same individuals who were too frightened to leave their homes are confident, capable travelers who aren’t afraid to get out there and live the lives they want, day or night, and blaze their own trails, having learned from his example that blindness is not what holds them back. Some have said, “Since he is blind, he knows what I am going through and what I need to know to navigate safely when I can’t trust my eyes. After working with him, I wouldn’t trust anyone else.” Rather than guarantee their safety, which no one can do, he has taught them techniques that they can use in any situation in which they find themselves in order to guarantee their own safety as much as possible. He has said that what he teaches is ten percent technique and ninety percent attitude adjustment.
Although he is not the only blind person in his profession in the United States, he is one of the few in Montana, and one of the few in his field who works with a dog guide. He has worked for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services of the Department of Public Health and Human Services for the past ten years as a certified orientation and mobility instructor, and is also a certified rehabilitation therapist and the regional manager of the Great Falls office.
And so, on October 8, 2016, at our fourth annual statewide convention, in recognition of his perseverance and tenacity in the face of adversity, and his determination to raise the expectations of people who are blind as well as those who work with them, it is my pleasure and privilege to present the first ever Trail Blazer Award to Bruce Breslauer.