Learning and Leading in the D.C. Council of the Blind

by Cheryl Cumings

Freddie Peaco is an African-American woman who was born in Wadesboro, N.C., when separate but equal was the law. After losing her vision, Ms. Peaco attended the school for the blind in Raleigh, N.C., graduated with a double major in sociology and psychology from Howard University, and earned her master’s degree in public relations and journalism from American University. Ms. Peaco was married to James Peaco for 49 years, and has one son.

Ms. Peaco says, “I think it was my master’s degree that helped me to get a job at the Library of Congress. I began in the Division of Blind Services, and over the years I was promoted and retired after 49 years.”

It was as a result of her work at the Library of Congress that Freddie first became acquainted with the American Council of the Blind. Ms. Peaco explained that as part of her work she was an exhibitor at ACB’s national convention. “I checked out both blindness organizations and felt that ACB better matched my temperament.”

Freddie Peaco joined the D.C. Council of the Blind in the 1980s. She joined because her membership gave her opportunities to meet other blind people and to exchange ideas for living and thriving as a blind person. She joined because she firmly believes that as a group together, blind people have the power and voice needed to advocate for their needs and rights.

Even as Ms. Peaco works to increase membership in her local chapter, she has been a fierce advocate in her local community. As an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister, Freddie participates in a variety of activities, including recently joining her sisters in a program to read bedtime stories to children over the telephone. As the first blind person to join her church, Ms. Peaco worked on several committees. “My husband and I joined separate committees so that people had to deal directly with me, and they couldn’t say, ‘Your husband can tell you about that.’”

Today, as the president of the D.C. Council of the Blind, Ms. Peaco is working to recruit diverse members to her chapter. “Even though I’ve been told that blind people don’t feel the need to be part of an organization like D.C. Council of the Blind, the benefits are there. As a member you get to know what legislation is being passed that affects the visually impaired; you get to know about what types of social programs and events for the visually impaired are there that we can either participate in or produce. At the conventions you get to know what is available, and you can talk with others about how you do certain things.”

Ms. Peaco is a staunch believer in the power of blind people coming together to advocate and to learn from each other. She hopes that DCCB and ACB will continue to work to increase membership and to recruit diverse members.

This article was featured in the April Edition of the ACB Braille Forum.

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