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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Winter 2017 eNews

AFB Leadership Conference

This year’s Joint AFB Leadership and Virginia Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) Conference (March 2–4 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA) is sure to be another inspiring and successful event. The conference features a wonderful line-up of speakers on topics ranging from autism to aging, technology to transition, and leadership to legislation.

Our keynote speaker is Patricia Walsh, the author of Blind Ambition: How to Envision Your Limitless Potential and Achieve the Success You Want. She is also an award-winning engineer, champion paratriathlete, and IRONMAN world record holder. Ms. Walsh will share her path to achieving her goals and living a personally enriching and professionally rewarding life.

Register online today and ensure your spot at this year’s conference.

AFB Awards

At the AFB Leadership Conference, AFB holds several important awards events. Kicking things off will be the presentation of the Stephen Garff Marriott Award on Thursday, March 2, to Bob Vetere, senior workplace accommodation specialist with Northrop Grumman’s Global Corporate Responsibility organization. On Friday, March 3, we will present Access Awards to Bridge Multimedia, Computers for the Blind, and United Airlines. We will also honor Bernadette MKappen, Ph.D., executive director of the New York Institute for Special Education with the Irving P. Schloss Advocacy Award.

Last, but certainly not least, we will be honoring our very own Carl Augusto, along with Rebecca Coakley, director of outreach at West Virginia University Eye Institute and director of the Children’s Vision Rehabilitation Program, with the 2017 Migel Medals, the highest honor in the blindness field.

2017 Delta Gamma Fellows Announced

Each year, through generous support from the Delta Gamma Foundation, up to 12 graduate students receive free registration, a hotel room, and a stipend to cover the cost of attending the AFB Leadership Conference. Each award also provides an additional stipend toward the expenses for an accompanying faculty member to attend.

Participating in the Joint AFB Leadership and Virginia AER Conference opens the door to networking and learning opportunities for young leaders in the field.  Fellows will have the opportunity to choose their individual agenda at the conference, selecting from summits on education, transition and technology; sessions on leadership in the field, the intersection of autism and visual impairment and many more presentations and workshops that address the breadth of issues facing the blindness field. 

Each fellow is currently enrolled in a graduate-level program ranging from graduate certificates to doctoral degrees that will prepare them for careers as teachers of the visually impaired, rehabilitation professionals or researchers and faculty members in university personnel preparation programs. Students were nominated by their professors for their high level of achievement in their course work, their commitment to research or the students they teach and their potential as future leaders in their chosen profession. Learn more about this year’s Fellows on our Delta Gamma page.

Google Training at the AFB Center on Vision Loss

In December, AFB collaborated with Google on a successful training event at our Dallas Center on Vision Loss. Twenty access technology trainers from across the country spent three days at our Texas location, learning about cutting-edge accessibility features in Google products. The training was led by Google engineers and facilitated by AFB staff. Participants received hands-on experience using the inclusive features and functionalities built into Chromebooks, Android devices, and Google Apps, such as Google Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Play.

Equipped with this new information, trainers left the event excited about the possibilities these technologies offer their clients for work, education, and recreation. Bill Boules, a rehabilitation specialist for people who are blind and host of the A T Junkie podcast, said, “A huge thank you to Google and AFBfor putting together an amazing training opportunity. You guys are awesome.”

Partnering with Aira

Inspired by a shared commitment to providing individuals with vision loss with innovative ways of experiencing the world and mastering their environments, AFB is partnering with the emerging technology startup, Aira, to mainstream a revolutionary visual descriptor service.

Essentially, the system allows those who are blind or visually impaired to access at will another set of eyes via direct access to live descriptors, which allows users to take in the surrounding environment, making everyday tasks easier.

The system, developed by San Diego-based Aira, utilizes a small camera and a series of sensors that are mounted on a pair of smart eyeglasses. Once activated, the device streams images directly to a trained staff of remote human agents who then describe for the user what the camera lens sees in real time.

Backed by venture capital financing and technical partners like AT&T, Google, Uber, and others, Aira was founded by entrepreneur Suman Kanuganti in 2015. Kanuganti was inspired to start the service after his conversations with blind professionals around how wearable technology could be used to enhance information access to help people who are blind or visually impaired becomemore mobile and independent. Today, their first 200 users (called Aira Explorers) utilize agents via smart devices to navigate city streets, transportation, and shopping; ease social interactions; participate in new adventures such as sports and entertainment; and travel the world.

With AFB’s assistance, Aira hopes to expand its service to people who are blind or visually impaired across the United States. It is currently accepting new signups for its Pioneer program and more information can be found at

FamilyConnect Updates Eye Condition Information

FamilyConnect, AFB’s web program for parents, has made a significant improvement in the information it provides about eye conditions. Families can now find not only basic medical descriptions, but also the functional implications of each eye condition, such as sensitivity to glare or the need for specific types of lighting. Entries also explain the types of evaluations and services that should be provided and finish with links to all of the applicable websites that are relevant to that particular eye condition. All of the eye condition entries are also available in Spanish.

AFB Announces New Board Members

AFB is pleased to announce the election of three new members to its national Board of Trustees: Benjamin R. Adams, Connie F. Campbell, and Katie Frederick.

Benjamin R. Adams, CFA, has served as a non-Board member of AFB’s investment committee since 2015. His career in asset management includes the New York firms SunAmerica (acquired by AIG) and Scudder (acquired by Deutsche Bank), and boutique money manager Tower Capital. He was chosen in 2011 to launch and lead Wells Fargo Portfolio Risk Advisors, a division of Wells Fargo & Co. as its chief investment officer. Adams holds an MBA in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan.

Katie Frederick is Executive Director of the American Council of the Blind of Ohio. She’s proud to serve on the Columbus Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, the Ohio Olmstead Taskforce, the Home Choice Consumer Advisory Council, and other committees, ensuring the needs of Ohioans who are blind or visually impaired are well represented and addressed. In 2014, she was elected to serve on the American Council of the Blind’s national Board of Directors, where she is chair of the Public Relations Committee. Frederick earned her BA in Communications at Wright State University.

Connie F. Campbell brings vast experience in management, finance, accounting, law, and operations. She has practiced both as a CPA and an attorney. In the banking, hotel construction, health care, and hospitality industries, she served in key executive roles for private and non-profit organizations. At Bosma Enterprises—which empowers people who are blind or visually impaired—she held the positions of executive vice president, chief operating officer, and chief financial officer. Campbell possesses a JD and a BS in Accounting from the University of Kentucky.

From the AFB Blogs

Helen Keller on Trying to Make the World 'A Little More As I Want It'
by Helen Selsdon, posted on the “AFB Blog”

Looking Forward: Join Us in Expanding Possibilities for People with Vision Loss
by Kirk Adams, posted on the “AFB Blog”

Entertainment Technology Accessibility Status: The Good, the Bad, and the Delayed
by AFB Staff, posted on the “AFB Blog”

Pre-Employment Lesson Plans for Consumers with Multiple Disabilities
by Shannon Carollo, posted on “CareerConnect Blog”

Pre-Employment Skills and Activities for Consumers with Multiple Disabilities
by Shannon Carollo, posted on “CareerConnect Blog”

Make No Mistake, Reduced Vision Is Not Equivalent to Reduced Quality of Life
by Shannon Carollo, posted on “CareerConnect Blog”

Common Job Accommodation Questions and Their Answers for Employees with Visual Impairments and Their Employers
by Shannon Carollo, posted on “CareerConnect Blog”

Happy Valentine's Day: Activities for Your Child or Teen Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired
by AFB Staff, posted on “FamilyConnect: A Parent’s Voice”

Preparing Your Blind Teen for a Valentine’s Date (Insert Nail-Biting!)
by Shannon Caroll, posted on “FamilyConnect: A Parent’s Voice”

Should My Child with Low Vision Be Receiving Vision-Related Services?
by Shannon Carollo, posted on “FamilyConnect: A Parent’s Voice”

New Macular Degeneration Research: Will My AMD Affect Both Eyes? If So, How Soon Will That Happen? 
by Maureen Duffy, posted on the “VisionAware Blog”

New Glaucoma Research: Will Patients and Family Members Pay for a Glaucoma-Specific App? Not Likely, Results Say
by Maureen Duffy, posted on the “VisionAware Blog”

Clinical Trial Update: Squalamine Eye Drops for Wet Macular Degeneration
by Maureen Duffy, posted on the “VisionAware Blog”

A Poem on Retinitis Pigmentosa to Shine On Valentine's Day
by Maribel Steel, posted on the “Visually Impaired: Now What? Blog”

Six Tips for Your Out-of-the-Box Museum Visit
by Lynda Lambert, posted on the “Visually Impaired: Now What? Blog”

The 1Touch Project™: Personal Safety for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, posted on the “Visually Impaired: Now What? Blog”

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