About Pam Allen
Nonprofit Agency Administrator, Advocate, and Community Leader
Pam Dubel was born in 1970 and grew up in Lancaster, New York. She became blind
when she was approximately two years old as a result of retinal blastoma, a type
of cancer. Although her parents were shocked by her loss of sight, they fortunately
realized that she was still the same child except that she could no longer see.
Through love and high expectations, they instilled in Pam a sense of pride and confidence
in her ability to succeed. Growing up as the youngest of six children also helped
her learn to be independent. Since she was the youngest, nobody, especially the
brother a year older than she, let her get away with anything. Pam attended a private
Catholic school, where she was the only blind student. Her itinerant teacher provided
a sound foundation in Braille, which helped her excel in academics. Her parents
expected her to do her best and to engage in activities that would make her a well-rounded
person. She participated in horseback riding, skiing, and cheerleading during elementary
school. During high school her interests shifted to performing in chorus, doing
community service, and having fun with her friends.
While growing up, Pam had limited contact with other blind people her age. In general
she had no desire to associate with other blind people. She understood that every
high school senior experiences some trepidation about the transition to adulthood
and independence. However, as high school graduation approached, she began to grapple
with questions that her sighted peers couldn't answer. She planned to attend college,
and she hoped that she would eventually find a job, but she secretly wondered if
she would truly be able to obtain employment. After all, she had had difficulty
finding part-time work during high school. She had also never lived on her own,
and she wondered how successful she would be at that.
Although she entered college with some apprehension, she was determined to achieve
her best. Her small liberal arts college provided an exciting environment in which
to learn and grow. But those unanswered questions continued to nag at her. If people
were amazed that she could accomplish the most insignificant tasks, would they ever
treat her as an equal? She realized that she had to meet other blind people with
more experience than she who could serve as role models.
Her search exposed her to a wide variety of groups and organizations of and for
the blind. However, not until she attended a student seminar hosted by the National
Federation of the Blind of Ohio did she begin to find the answers for which she
had been searching. Although she didn't realize it at the time, the seminar marked
the beginning of a new chapter of her life. At the seminar she met Barbara Pierce,
president of the NFB of Ohio, who told Pam about the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
More than that, she spoke with Joanne Wilson, the director, and arranged for Pam
to complete an internship at the center the following May. As soon as that was completed,
Joanne invited her to work as a counselor in the children's summer program that
Pam was a 1991 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner when she was
a senior at Denison University, where she majored in psychology and minored in women's
studies. She served as vice president of the Ohio Association of Blind Students
and a board member of the National Association of Blind Students, and throughout
college she worked summers for Joanne Wilson at the Louisiana Center for the Blind
with the Children's Program.
After graduation from college Pam decided to become a student at the Louisiana Center
for the Blind. She recognized that she still needed to gain some confidence in her
skills and in her ability to be a successful blind person.
Today Pam Allen is the director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind after having
been the director of youth services there for many years. In that position she worked
with blind infants and toddlers and their parents and also supervised the training
of classroom aides to teach Braille throughout Louisiana. She coordinated summer
camps and developed programs for blind children and teenagers.
People often ask her what makes the Louisiana Center for the Blind such a special
place. She responds, "What sets our alumni apart from those of other kinds of rehabilitation
facilities? The answer is that, by attending our center and the other centers conducted
by Federationists, students are exposed to the National Federation of the Blind
and its philosophy. The NFB is more than an organization; it is a loving family.
Regardless of where you are, you can find members of the NFB who can give you support
and encouragement when you need it. The NFB also provides a constant supply of role
models who challenge you to set goals for yourself."
Allen recalls that she used to believe that she did not need other blind people.
She thought that being independent meant succeeding without the help of others.
Her involvement with the National Federation of the Blind has taught her that this
is not true. She has learned that she needs reinforcement from her blind colleagues
Pam lives in Ruston, Louisiana, with her husband Roland Allen, an orientation and
mobility instructor at Louisiana Tech University, whom she met at the Louisiana
Center for the Blind. She is currently the president of the NFB of Louisiana and
secretary of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals. In
July of 2002 she was elected to the National Federation of the Blind board of directors.
Four years later, in 2006, she was elected to serve as treasurer of the National
Federation of the Blind. Allen is also involved in a variety of community and professional
organizations. She says, "Being elected to the national board has allowed me to
give back and to spread the message of our movement."