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Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss  

January 2012 • Volume 106 Number 1

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From the Field

Print edition page number(s) 48-54

Personnel Preparation

New international masters program in visual impairment opens

Several years ago, the European branch of the International Council for Education and Rehabilitation of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI-Europe) recognized the need for professional training in the areas of ocular and cerebral visual impairment. In 2010, a number of entities in the Netherlands began planning to create an international masters program; stakeholders include Royal Dutch Visio; Centre of Expertise for Blind and Partially Sighted People, the University of Groningen; and the Department of Special Needs Education & Youth Care, and the Research Centre on Profound and Multiple Disabilities, Leonardo European Vision Rehabilitation and Education Training Association (LEVRETA). As a result, a new International Masters program in visual impairment founded at Groningen University in the Netherlands will start holding classes in September 2012. Additional details about the program and application forms can be found online at: <http://www.rug.nl/prospectiveStudents/degreeprogrammes/mastersprogrammes/
>. For more information, contact: University of Groningen, P.O. Box 72, 9700 AB Groningen, the Netherlands; phone: +31-(0)50-363-91-11; e-mail: <commnicatie@rug.nl>; web site: <www.rug.nl>.


Call for papers for international conference

The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) invites participation in its 2012 international conference, which will take place July 18-22, 2012, in Bellevue, Washington. Presentations are invited on topics related to the 13 interest-specific AER Divisions or other topics relevant to the field of visual impairment and blindness, including administration; rehabilitation counseling and employment; students with multiple disabilities, including those with and deaf-blindness; psychosocial services; information and technology; low vision rehabilitation; infant and preschool students; orientation and mobility; education curriculum; vision rehabilitation therapy; aging; itinerant personnel; and personnel preparation. To facilitate submissions, AER recently launched its electronic abstract submission program; available online at: <https://cmt.research.microsoft.com/AER2012/Default.aspx>. The submission form should include a full description of the proposed presentation, including major areas (practices and techniques, for example) that will be discussed, conclusions drawn, recommendations made, and the like. Information on research methodology and any formal or informal outcomes obtained should also be included, if applicable. For more information, contact: AER, 1703 North Beauregard Street, Suite 440, Alexandria, VA 22311; phone: 703-671-4500; web site: <http://aerbvi.org/2012international>.


Program on leadership and advocacy seeks students

The National Federation of the Blind invites students with visual impairments aged 12 to 16 to apply for its springtime Leadership and Advocacy in Washington, DC (LAW) Program. The four-day workshop will take place April 13-18, 2012, and is designed to provide blind students with the unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of the government of the United States, its history, and its culture. In addition to learning about the history of the organized blindness civil rights movement, how resolutions are passed, and how blindness legislation is created, participants will learn more about advocacy work for blind individuals and available resources for blind students and adults. Twenty-four students will be accepted to attend the LAW program. Individuals are invited to apply by February 1, 2012; applications are available online at: <www.nfb.org/LAWProgram>. For more information, contact: Natalie Shaheen, LAW Program, National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street, at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230; phone: 410-659-9314, extension 2312; e-mail: <nshaheen@nfb.org>; web site: <www.nfb.org/LAWProgram>.



Berdell "Pete" Wurzburger, a leader in the field of orientation and mobility (O&M), died in December 2011. Under his guidance, in 1966, San Francisco State University established the nation's first program to teach instructors in O&M for children as well as adults. In the early 1980s, under Mr. Wurzburger's leadership, San Francisco State University broke with tradition by accepting the first blind student into the graduate program, demonstrating his strong belief in the capabilities of people who are blind. His pioneering work over 40 years has improved the lives of thousands of children and adults throughout the United States. Mr. Wurzburger was born August 2, 1924, in Illinois. In 1942, as soon as he was of age, he joined the Navy. Like most servicemen, Mr. Wurzburger took advantage of the GI Bill and attended college. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1949 with a degree in corrective physical education. Mr. Wurzburger continued his education at the University of Illinois, but left in 1951 when he took a job as a corrective therapist at the Department of Physical Medicine at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois. The Hines Blind Center, early pioneers in the field of O&M helped in the transition of the field from a military-based program to the Veterans Blind Center at Hines, Illinois. In 1958, Mr. Wurzburger took a position at the Orientation Center for the Blind in Oakland. In the early 1960s, he became a supervisor of the Orientation and Mobility Program for the Alameda County Schools. It was during this time he started lecturing at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Mr. Wurzburger accepted an invitation to join the SFSU faculty full-time in 1966, where he helped establish the fourth graduate program in the country for the preparation of O&M instructors. SFSU was the first program in O&M to be funded by education, not rehabilitation, and therefore had a deep commitment to the preparation of instructors for children. Among the contributions that can be directly attributed to Mr. Wurzburger are the recommendations for the frequency and duration of mobility lessons, the effects of instruction on self-esteem, and concept development. He was among the first leaders in his profession to recognize the potential for blind and visually impaired persons to be O&M instructors. Very few modern O&M instructors have not been influenced by Mr. Wurzburger. He invented the marshmallow cane tip. He pioneered work with visually impaired children with multiple disabilities. He quietly and effectively set about proving that preschool children benefit from early cane travel instruction. Mr. Wurzburger retired in 1984, but he continued to give, learn, and grow. He revolutionized O&M for persons with severe multiple disabilities while at the Sonoma Development Center. He continued his work in the area of preschool introduction to the cane by working with young children. Mr. Wurzburger received the highest honor in the blindness field in 2007 when he was presented the 2007 Professional Award Migel Medal by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Established in 1937 by the late M.C. Migel, the first chairperson of AFB, to honor professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements have improved the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. For more information, contact: American Foundation for the Blind, 2 Penn Plaza, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10121; web site: <www.afb.net>.


The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) recently honored Joseph Sullivan, president of Duxbury Systems, with its Braille Excellence Award at the opening session of the December 2011 Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Created in honor of Louis Braille's 200th birthday, the award recognizes people or organizations that have developed or contributed to a code, have developed code materials or software that supports codes, and who represent the highest standards of braille production. As the chief architect of the original Duxbury Braille Translator, Mr. Sullivan has made a remarkable and lasting contribution to the production and availability of braille. Through his decades of professional work and volunteer service, he has not only increased worldwide access to braille and expanded the ability to produce braille, but he has consistently focused on expanding individuals' capacity to produce quality, accurate braille. Mr. Sullivan's efforts for the past 30 years have focused on aligning braille codes more directly with print while retaining readability and on enabling more efficient, accurate braille production. A mathematician by schooling, Mr. Sullivan has a master's degree in mathematics from Northeastern University. He worked at the U.S. Navy's David Taylor Model Basin, at Bunker-Ramo Corporation, and at MITRE Corporation before helping found Duxbury Systems. At MITRE, Mr. Sullivan was part of the team that developed DOTSYS III, the first braille translator written in a portable programming language. For more information, contact: Judy Dixon, chairperson, BANA, 1805 North Oakland Street, Arlington, VA 22207; e-mail: <jdix@loc.gov>; web site: <www.brailleauthority.org>.


The Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) recently appointed Patricia Zilliox as its chief drug development officer, effective as of January 2012. In this position, Dr. Zilliox will oversee the planning and execution of clinical trials through the foundation's National Eye and Evaluation Research (NEER) Network, as well as partner with institutions and companies around the world to advance promising treatments to patients affected with blinding diseases. Prior to working with FFB, Dr. Zilliox served as senior director of Clinical Development Pharma at Alcon Laboratories, a division of Novartis, where she had global accountability for planning, development, execution, and management of all pharmaceutical clinical programs for various eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other retinal degenerative conditions. Under Dr. Zilliox's strategic leadership, her team implemented the Natural History of Geographic Atrophy Progression (GAP) study, which influenced FDA policy of endpoint measurement in a clinical setting. Dr. Zilliox received a PharmD degree from the Pharmacie School of the University Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, a Ph.D. from the Department of Microbiology, and a DESS special degree in pharmaceutical technologies. Hailing Dr. Zilliox's appointment, William T. Schmidt, FFB's chief executive officer expressed: "Her passion and impressive experience in facilitating all aspects of human studies for eye diseases will greatly benefit the Foundation as we strive to add multiple clinical trials to our translational research portfolio in the next few years." For more information, contact: Foundation Fighting Blindness, 7168 Columbia Gateway Drive, Suite 100, Columbia, MD 21046; e-mail: <info@fightblindness.org>; web site: <www.fightblindness.org>.


Nearly $4 million goes to fund employment

The U.S. Labor Department recently announced $3.8 million in continued funding to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The continued funding is for organizations managing consortia that develop models, provide technical assistance, and share best practices to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. "Many employers know that incorporating the talents of all employees and potential employees, including those with disabilities, is a key to success," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. The National Technical Assistance, Policy and Research Center for Employers on Employment of People with Disabilities at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, is receiving $1,520,000; a continuance of moneys awarded in September 2009 to manage a consortium charged with conducting research, assisting the department in developing and promoting employer-focused policies, disseminating information, and providing technical assistance to employers and employer organizations. The National Technical Assistance and Research Center to Promote Leadership for Employment and Economic Independence for Adults with Disabilities (NTARC) is being awarded $1,092,500. Housed at Rutgers University's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, the NTARC was established in September 2007 when the Labor Department competitively awarded a 24-month cooperative agreement for $2,350,000 with three option years. The NTARC manages a consortium to develop effective practices and policies to enhance employment for adults with disabilities. The Institute for Educational Leadership in the District of Columbia is receiving $950,000 for the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, a continuance of funds originally awarded in September 2007 to manage a consortium to develop effective practices and policies to enhance employment opportunities for youth with disabilities. The consortium also provides technical assistance to state and local workforce development systems. Finally, $104,500 is being awarded to Workplace Inc. in Bridgeport, Connecticuit, and $120,000 to the SkillSource Group in Vienna, Virginia for both organizations to lead consortia that develop innovative models of providing inclusive registered apprenticeship training to youth and young adults with disabilities. For more information, contact: Office of Disability Employment Policy, United States Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20210; web site: <www.dol.gov/odep> or <www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/odep/odep20111400.htm>.

Entrepeneurship center opens at school

The Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship at the Hadley School for the Blind recently opened for enrollment. The goal of this new business, entrepreneurship, and technology program is to provide individuals who are visually impaired with the knowledge, resources, and networking opportunities designed to enable them to advance in their careers or to successfully launch and grow their own businesses.

Ten courses are open for enrollment:

  • Self-Employment with a Minimal Investment
  • Business Fundamentals
  • Business Communications
  • Business Law 1
  • Business Law 2
  • Business Writing
  • Using Excel
  • Screen Readers: Listening Skills
  • Screen Readers: Web Browsing
  • Screen Readers: Formatting Word Documents

In addition, six modules are also open for enrollment:

  • Market Research
  • The Financial Plan
  • The Marketing Plan
  • The Business Plan
  • Business Insurance
  • Forms of Ownership

The Hadley school chose to offer this program, in part, to address the low employment rate among people who are visually impaired. The program is designed to be practical, relevant, and interactive. Courses are open to anyone who is blind or visually impaired over age 14. Coursework is offered free of charge and is mostly online. For more information, contact: Tom Babinszki, Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship, Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093; phone: 800-323-4238; e-mail: <fce@hadley.edu>; web site: <www.hadley.edu/fce>.

JVIB invites readers to submit information for possible publication in a future edition of From the Field to Rebecca Burrichter, senior editor, JVIB, AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind, 2 Penn Plaza, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10121; fax: 917-210-3979; e-mail: <rebeccab@afb.net>. For additional details on how to submit information for this From the Field column, as well as News, Calendar, Comments, Letters to the Editor, in addition to articles for peer review, please visit: <www.afb.org/jvib_guidelines.asp>.

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