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for the Blind

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Speaker's Corner

Introduced to JVIB readers in October 2002, Speaker's Corner is an invited platform for leaders in the blindness field who are experts on a particular topic of concern. On this page you will find an archive of Speaker's Corner columns published in the journal.

December 2008

It's the Journey, Stupid!

Susan Jay Spungin

Susan Jay Spungin, vice president for International Programs and Special Projects at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and treasurer of the World Blind Union (WBU), formally retired on December 31, 2008, after 36 years at AFB. Known worldwide as an expert of depth and authority on the education and rehabilitation of persons who are blind or visually impaired as well as a specialist on braille literacy, Dr. Spungin was invited to reflect on her 44-year career in the Speaker's Corner featured in the December 2008 issue of JVIB.

February 2008

A Commentary on the Medicare Low Vision Rehabilitation Demonstration Project

Lylas Mogk, Gale R. Watson, and Michael Williams

Written by three of the country's experts on low vision rehabilitation—Lylas Mogk, Gale Watson, and Michael Williams—this Speaker's Corner offers an overview of and a substantive challenge to the Medicare Low Vision Rehabilitation Demonstration Project, questioning whether it should proceed as written. The authors raise the alarm when they say "...there are intrinsic flaws in scope and design of the project that preclude its successful implementation and may even undermine the services that have been extended by Medicare to beneficiaries with visual impairments in the last decade."

December 2007

Identifying the Primary Disability: Are We Speaking the Same Language?

Jane N. Erin

Dr. Erin—a professor for the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and School Psychology at the University of Arizona—writes about the conundrum of having to identify the "primary disability" of a child with multiple disabilities for U.S. federal child-count data. She points out that that not only does the term "primary disability" have the potential to influence perceptions of a child's abilities, it also creates "artificial categories that restrict as well as enable" educators and administrators, especially those who work with children with multiple disabilities.

April 2007

Use It or Lose It: The Medicare Low Vision Demonstration Project

Bryan Gerritsen

Bryan Gerritsen—a certified low vision therapist who works at 16 physicians' offices in Utah and Idaho—discusses the Low Vision Demonstration Project of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Medicare, which will reimburse vision rehabilitation services provided by physician-supervised certified vision rehabilitation professionals, such as low vision therapists, occupational therapists, orientation and mobility specialists, and vision rehabilitation therapists. The project is expected to provide additional evidence for the effectiveness of vision rehabilitation services and related vision rehabilitation therapies, and to provide policy makers some basic indication of service utilization and the mechanics of reimbursement in this area. However, as Mr. Gerritsen points out, if the project fails due to lack of participation, "it could represent another nail in the coffin of specialized services." In his Speaker's Corner, Mr. Gerritsen poses the question of whether professionals in the field of visual impairment and blindness will "step up to the plate to ensure that this project is successful."

October 2006

A Call to Action: Are We Ready for Related Services? Do We Want To Be?

Kay Alicyn Ferrell and Sharon Zell Sacks

November 2004

Is Social Isolation a Predictable Outcome of Inclusive Education?

Phil Hatlen

In the second Speaker's Corner column he has written for JVIB, Phil Hatlen—superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired—urges professionals in blindness and visual impairment to actively address the problem of social isolation among students who are blind or visually impaired who are being educated in inclusive education settings. Dr. Hatlen sympathizes with itinerant teachers striving to incorporate the teaching of social interaction skills along with the rest of the expanded core curriculum into the education of the students in their large caseloads. But, he bluntly observes, that "The current system is just not working, and we have no obvious solutions." Dr. Hatlen's Speaker's Corner calls on members of the field to offer feedback on social isolation, social interaction, and the impact of inclusive education. To do so, readers are encouraged to read Dr. Hatlen's article then join the debate on the JVIB message board,

October 2004

A Half Century Later: Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?

Natalie C. Barraga

Natalie C. Barraga—professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin's Department of Education and eminent figure in the field of visual impairment and blindness for her groundbreaking work in low vision and visual efficiency—asks JVIB readers to consider, "Have we deluded ourselves into thinking that special attention to low vision is no longer needed?" Dr. Barraga discusses the fact that children with low vision in the United States often do not receive low vision assessments for the functional use of their vision and are not taught to use their vision efficiently. Part of the Special Issue on Low Vision (October 2004), Dr. Barraga's Speaker's Corner urges educators, parents, and eye care professionals to focus on children with low vision as a distinct population with specific needs.

October 2003

The Future of Intelligent Technology and Its Impact on Disabilities

Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil—the founder, chair, and CEO of Kurzweil Technologies—predicts the future of intelligent technology and its impact on people with disabilities. An inventor since age 5, Kurzweil has had his fingers on the pulse of emerging and assistive technology for the past three decades. He observes "the progress in the 21st century will be about 1,000 times greater than in the 20th century, which was no slouch in terms of change." In terms of the benefit visually impaired people will experience from the acceleration of technological development, Kurzweil says, "We will have reading machines within a few years that are not just sitting on a desk, but are tiny devices you put in your pocket. . . . We encounter text everywhere . . . and these pocket-sized reading machines will enable a blind person to read this material."

September 2003

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Past and Present

Susan LaVenture

Susan LaVenture, the executive director of the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, protests the threats to the education of children with disabilities as a result of the reauthorization process for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Says LaVenture, "Basic principles that are the foundation of IDEA and that have provided entitlements for students and parents for over 25 years are being threatened by individual and government agencies whose philosophy and goals differ from . . . those that have prevailed in the past." IDEA is the special education law in the United States that entitles students with disabilities to a free and appropriate public education.

February 2003

Cannibalism is Alive and Well in the Blindness Field

Susan Jay Spungin

Dr. Susan Jay Spungin suggests that the blindness field is "biting off its nose to spite its face" when it comes to a number of important issues and service delivery models: itinerant teaching, paraprofessionals, residential schools, university programs, the braille code, and relationships between professional and consumer groups.

October 2002

The Most Difficult Decision: How to Share Responsibility Between Local Schools and Schools for the Blind

Phil Hatlen

"I fear we have been settling for something less than excellence," says Dr. Phil Hatlen in the inaugural Speaker's Corner. Dr. Hatlen argues that the expanded core curriculum, including instruction in social skills and skills for independent living, is not being taught, even though it "has the potential to increase equality by releasing blind and visually impaired students from a state of dependence to a level of independence," the same way that women's suffrage and the civil rights movement increased independence for women and African Americans. His provocative piece ends with a hopeful model for collaboration.

Dr. Phil Hatlen is superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He is a member of the American Foundation for the Blind's Board of Trustees, is co-chair of the National Agenda for the Education of Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities, and has authored numerous professional publications in the field.

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