In the summer of 1969 the famed New York City underground newspaper, The Village Voice, published a feature story headlined, “Rallying of the Blinks in a (Short-) Sighted City.” Its subject was a group of blind youths who’d banded together to launch a Blind Power Movement to protest job discrimination and unjust stereotyping of the visually impaired. (“Blinks” was their self-referential slang term for blind persons.)
The article described one of the leaders of the Blinks as “Lynne,” a “diminutive seventeen-year-old high-schooler” who “began axing private conversation by calling it ‘irrelevant,’” in order to get a meeting on track.
Forty-seven years later, Lynne Koral laughs at the reporter’s characterization of her teenaged self, while conceding its accuracy. “That was me all right,” she says.
Koral, a Leadership Anchorage graduate (LA 7) and founding member of the Leadership Anchorage Alumni Council, never lost her youthful passion for activism. “I’m still an idealist, still a dreamer,” says Koral. “Even at 64 years old, I don’t get stuck in how things are. I believe in how things can be.”
Blind since birth, Koral endured prejudice throughout her formative years. Her seventh grade teacher told her there was little point in her planning for college, because, as a blind person, she’d never have a job that required a degree. Koral went on to obtain two Master’s Degrees: one in Social Work, the other in Public Administration. She also raised a son.
“Disability is a diversity issue,” Koral says. “When you’re blind, people judge you without knowing you. They only see the blindness. They don’t see you. I grew up being told I was stupid because I was blind, and I simply refused to accept that judgment.”
Twenty-five years ago, Koral moved to Anchorage, where she worked in the equal opportunity division of the federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs and served as president of the Alaska Independent Blind, a non-profit group.
Koral and her late husband, Allen “Sandy” Sanderson, who passed away this summer, advocated together for disabled Alaskans on a host of issues, such as voting rights, equal employment, and service dog access. In 2002, for example, they helped lead a successful campaign to pass a state law requiring the availability of voting machines for visually impaired Alaskans to exercise their constitutional right to cast ballots in private. It was the first law of its kind in the United States.
After a quarter-century in Anchorage, Koral plans to move to Sarasota, Florida in late October. “My father lives there, and I’m just ready for a change,” she says. “It’s time.” Despite the impending move, however, she plans to attend LA Alumni Council meetings by computer in order to stay involved with the program at least through its upcoming 20th anniversary year.
“Most of my leadership experience has been as a volunteer, a mentor, and a peer counselor,” Koral says. “There are a lot of different kinds of leadership, and the Leadership Anchorage program does a good job of recognizing that most people have leadership qualities of one kind or another; we just need to find them and bring them out. It’s not just about making contacts to climb the ladder. It’s about recognizing we’re all works in progress.”