Grants:Project/Rapid/DrMel/wikiBlind outreach at NFB/Report

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Report accepted
This report for a Rapid Grant approved in FY 2018-19 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • To read the approved grant submission describing the plan for this project, please visit Grants:Project/Rapid/DrMel/wikiBlind outreach at NFB.
  • You may still comment on this report on its discussion page, or visit the discussion page to read the discussion about this report.
  • You are welcome to Email rapidgrants at wikimedia dot org at any time if you have questions or concerns about this report.


Did you meet your goals? Are you happy with how the project went?

Our goals were:

  1. Expand network of potential partners
  2. Increase awareness of Wikimedia projects, and
  3. Recruit new blind and sighted volunteers

We are very happy with how things went before and during the National Federation of the Blind convention, the largest convention worldwide for the blind and visually impaired (with over 3,200 attendees this year). While we first created wikiBlind as a facebook group in April of this year, on July 11, 2019, wikiBlind was officially publicly launched by the head of the American Foundation for the Blind!

The incredible human resources within the blind, visually impaired and across all disability communities are massive, worldwide. We've met people ready to be wikiTranslators, editors, advisors, researchers, audio engineers, community organizers and so many more who want to help however they can. The missing piece is inclusivity, which starts with personal invitations, then people and processes for welcoming, training and supporting new members within the various projects to choose from. We can see the potential to engage thousands of new volunteers and professionals in the incredible and meaningful wikiwork that needs to be done. We have strategic plans for how to scale up from where we are now.

But... except for this small grant (which we are very grateful for, and which made it possible for us to launch wikiBlind at the convention), our other requests for advice or support to anyone within the staff of WMF have been responded to with disinterest, and we have not yet seen anyone within leadership of Wikimedia Foundation showing any interest in moving forward with these possibilities. It is confusing to hear so much about the mission and work to improve inclusivity but to see so little support for it. While we are ready to scale up and had plans for doing so, the lack of engagement and now the recent changes in the Rapid Grants criteria have stopped us in our tracks. We hope to find new paths forward again soon but cannot continue to allocate our time or own funds to this project without engagement from anyone within the WMF.


Please report on your original project targets.

Project Impact Target Outcomes:

  1. Number of new direct contacts: 300
  2. Number of new potential organizational partners: 20
  3. Number of outreach activity participants: 20
  4. Number of new wikiBlind volunteers: 100
  5. Number of articles created or improved: 10+ (to be determined dependent on barriers we face)

Project Impact Current Outcomes:

  1. Number of new direct contacts: 300+ (more than 3,200 attendees, and 5 of us talking with as many as possible, handing out the wikiBlind invitation card.
  2. Number of new potential organizational partners: 20+ (largest organizations at the NFB convention included the World Blind Union (international), the National Federation of the Blind (national and beyond), the American Foundation for the Blind (national and beyond), the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, the American Printing House, and San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind. We were able to meet with the Presidents or directors of most of these.
  3. Number of outreach activity participants: 80+ (attendees at AFB reception Thursday night in which Dr Kirk Adams, president of American Foundation for the Blind, formally announced the launch of wikiBlind and invited everyone to sign up).
  4. Number of new wikiBlind volunteers: 1000s available worldwide and interested (but we cannot invite them until we have the capacity to welcome, train and support them when they arrive. Additional funding is essential in order to continue).
  5. Number of articles created or improved: 0 (many barriers)


Projects do not always go according to plan. Sharing what you learned can help you and others plan similar projects in the future. Help the movement learn from your experience by answering the following questions:

  • What worked well?
    1. This first grant from the Wikimedia Foundation made the trip and public launch of wikiBlind possible (Thank You for seeing the possibilities!)
    2. While the grant funded only the costs for Dr Mel Our team included more than just Dr Mel & Courtney Mazzola, we were joined in our outreach efforts by three additional wikiBlind members:
      1. Dr Skylar Covich (User:Academic Challenger) (Wikipedia admin, blind since birth, co-organizer for wikiBlind) who was also attending the convention at his own expense and made wikiBlind outreach his top priority.
      2. Dr Kirk Adams (head of American Foundation for the blind and co-creator of wikiBlind concepts in 2016 when first proposed to the WMF)
      3. Amir Rahimi (long time supporter, now also working for American Foundation for the Blind).
    3. Almost every person we spoke with valued wikipedia, and had never been invited to contribute before
  • What did not work so well?
    1. While it is clear that the blind community has thousands of people available and interested in joining the free knowledge movement, supporting an international group of volunteers is not something any of us can do fulltime without support. $2,000 for expenses was helpful, and we all donated more than a week of of our time pro bono, which cost all of us a week's worth of income. We cannot donate that much time on an ongoing basis, and need a plan for ongoing funding and how to scale up.
    2. We did not have enough structure and step-by-step guides (online and tactile) ready to get people signed up and started as we met them. There are many barriers to getting started, even for those most interested.
  • What would you do differently next time?
    1. Beyond our short script for starting conversations, we want to be able to get people who are interested quickly signed up while we are talking, and have a clear process for how we can followup to engage them in the wiki learning experiences.
    2. Beyond impromptu conversations with leaders in the blind communities, we would like to pre-schedule face-to-face meetings with senior leadership in potential partners, and bring proposals for how we could work together on shared missions and collaborative projects.
    3. We want to have a clear and supported plan for scaling up with a small professional leadership and a small team who can reliably coordinate logistics, training and support of the incoming and ongoing wikiBlind members and partners.


Grant funds spent[edit]

Please describe how much grant money you spent for approved expenses, and tell us what you spent it on.

                      Budget          Actual

Travel costs 250 560.18

Hotel 770 944.10

Registration 190 190.00

Print materials 400 300.72

SurveyMonkey 260 0

Contingency 110 0

                      1980              1995

Receipts are ready to submit.

Remaining funds[edit]

Do you have any remaining grant funds?

No. We paid for our own additional expenses beyond the $1980 from this grant and donated all our time (before, during and after), now over 300 hours between us. Skylar Covich paid for all his own expenses, as did Kirk Adams and Amir Rahimi.

Anything else[edit]

Anything else you want to share about your project?

We wonder if there are any systems in Wikimedia for tracking volunteered and pro bono time, in kind donations and expenses not covered by grant funds.