Dr. Susan J. Spungin Announces Retirement from the American Foundation for the Blind
New York, NY (May 19, 2008)—Today the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) announced that Dr. Susan J. Spungin, Vice President, International Programs and Special Projects, and Treasurer of the World Blind Union (WBU), will retire on December 31, 2008, after 44 years of distinguished work on the education and rehabilitation of blind people in the national and international arenas.
"Susan's contributions to the blindness field in the U.S. and abroad are almost too vast to number," said Carl R. Augusto, President & CEO of AFB. "Her influence can be seen through the record of her many publications and the workshops, lectures, and keynote speeches she's presented around the world, as well as the awards and honors she has received and the enormous respect and reverence that greet her wherever she goes."
An internationally renowned expert on the education and rehabilitation of individuals who are blind or visually impaired, Dr. Spungin joined AFB in 1972 as a national specialist in education. In this capacity, she identified nationwide issues affecting blind, deaf-blind, and severely visually impaired children and youth, and worked in partnership with schools, agencies, state departments of education, universities, the federal government, and other organizations to resolve those issues. In addition to her education work, she was instrumental in shaping AFB's research and policy work, and its national programs in the areas of early childhood development, aging, employment, rehabilitation teaching, low vision, orientation and mobility, career education, and more. Dr. Spungin currently coordinates AFB's international activities.
Shortly after joining AFB, Dr. Spungin was tapped to run in-service teacher training workshops in Argentina, establishing her as a major figure in the international blindness field. Her teacher training, literacy (especially regarding braille), and education work in the United States frequently served as models for the international community, and her presentations, expertise, and consultative services have been sought out in Europe, the Eastern Block countries, Australia, Asia, East Pacific Asia, the Middle East, and beyond.
Dr. Spungin's work internationally is bolstered by her active involvement in several blindness organizations. In addition to her current role with WBU, she is a board member, former international vice president, and regional president of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI), as well as past vice president of the North America/Caribbean region of WBU. She also helped to found the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI), an international membership organization serving families in the U.S. and in 55 countries, and has chaired and held leadership roles with the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) and the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). In addition, she has authored numerous books and articles for national and international journals.
Dr. Spungin has also been honored with several prestigious awards, including the NAPVI Founders Award, the 2003 Wings of Freedom Award from the American Printing House for the Blind, the 2002 Mary K. Bauman Award from AER, the Mary E. Switzer Scholars award, the 2001 Council on Exceptional Children (CEC) Distinguished Service Award, the AFB 1993 Equality of Access & Opportunity Award for her work in braille literacy, and the Josephine L. Taylor Award from the University Division of AER. In 1991, Dr. Spungin also became the first sighted women to receive the Russian Medal from the Byelorussian Association of the Blind.
Perhaps Dr. Spungin's greatest professional contribution is the development of standards that have brought the blindness field together in the areas of competency-based curriculum for universities in the United States; training teachers to work with blind and low vision children; guidelines for public schools after the passage of the mainstreaming legislation of 1975; and the formalization of national organizations in education that include state vision consultants, instructional material centers for the blind, preschool programs for early childhood education for the blind, and guidelines for public school psychologists. This work, as with everything else she has undertaken, reflects Dr. Spungin's priority to always consider the role of the blind consumer, and her early realization that program development and implementation must be guided by the consumers for whom the programs are intended. She will remain in her home in New York City, where she will consult in the field from time to time as needed.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. Headquartered in New York, AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than forty years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB.