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for the Blind

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Nearly $4 Million Awarded to Western Michigan University for Personnel Preparation

Date: 1/8/2015

Western Michigan University's Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies recently received four grants totaling $3.7 million from the U.S. Department of Education for the purpose of filling the severe shortage of specialists trained to assist people with visual impairments. The five-year personnel training grants will help prepare orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists, vision rehabilitation therapists, rehabilitation counselors, and teachers of children who are visually impaired. The principal investigators for the grants are as follows: Dae Shik Kim received $746,971 for the preparation of O&M specialists; Helen Lee was awarded $697,140 to prepare personnel in vision rehabilitation therapy; JVIB Consulting Editor for Research Robert Wall Emerson was granted $1,248,723 for his work with teachers of children with visual impairments and O&M instructors of children; and Jennipher Wiebold received $999,782 for the preparation of rehabilitation counselors whose studies will emphasize employment and employer relations.

"This [funding] creates a strong foundation for our five departmental programs over the next five years," said James Leja, department chair. "We've historically seen, in all the years that we've been around, that many individuals with visual impairments have unmet needs in part because of the challenges of producing enough qualified graduates. . . . There's a huge shortage of professionals in all of these areas. . . . Each one of our graduates affects a whole lot of people." For more information, contact: Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008; phone: 269-387-3455; website: http://wmich.edu/visionstudies. [Information for this piece was taken from the November 10, 2014, WMU News article "WMU awarded $3.7 million for programs in blindness and low vision," by Mark Schwerin.]

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