Celebrating Staff Member, Charis Austin

Meet Client Advocate Charis Austin.  Charis recently celebrated her 40th anniversary with the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI)!  

Over the years Charis has passionately advocated for services on behalf of individuals with visual impairments. Among Charis’s many advocacy efforts:

  • Charis was instrumental getting legislation passed that led to the creation of The Michigan Commission for the Blind, the predecessor to Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP), which helps people who are legally blind become employed.  
  • Early in her career with ABVI, upon hearing that the Transit Authority was considering ending GO!Bus service due to budget constraints, Charis went to the public hearing and read a statement (in braille) explaining that, if the GO!Bus was ended,  she would have to quit her job as the cost of a cab was too great. Realizing that there would be many others who would be similarly impacted, The Transit Authority decided to keep the service. Today Charis sits on the board of The Rapid, continuing to be a strong advocate for those with visual impairments.
  • Locally Charis is also on the Kent County Disaster Mental Health & Human Services Committee to ensure that Emergency Preparedness training is inclusive to the blind and low vision community.
  • Throughout her years at ABVI, Charis has helped countless individuals with visual impairments find the services they require, from how to find financial assistance for obtaining needed equipment to adapting into the community.  Her connections locally and throughout the state are extensive and if she cannot give someone a direct answer, she will know someone who can. Her passion is contagious, and she is excited when other people join advocacy efforts.

Ask about her work and she will say, “It’s a matter of survival. It goes with anything you are passionate about.  You advocate for what you need or what you will lose. And it will also benefit the community.”

Charis, we are so fortunate you are a part of our ABVI family! If you have a question for Charis, reach her at caustin@abvimichigan.org.