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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Expert Panel

Annemarie CookeAnnemarie Cooke
Vice President for Adminstration and Sales
DeWitt & Associates
Midland Park, NJ

DeWitt & Associates, a New Jersey-based assistive technology training and support company, produces and internationally markets a variety of Trainingware™ modules to teach blind and visually impaired computer users in an array of Microsoft applications using JAWS and ZoomText. Previously, Annemarie worked in external relations for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB). Among many other responsibilities, she represented RFB to its various constituencies; organized grass-roots support for funding; and built strategic alliances with state, national and international disability and governmental organizations. Before working for RFB, Ms. Cooke was Senior Police Reporter, The Home News, New Brunswick, NJ, for 17 years, during which she took a sabbatical leave as Visiting Professional Lecturer and Research Associate in the Environmental Risk Reporting Project of Rutgers University. She has a Bachelor's degree in American Studies from Douglass College of Rutgers University; and has earned credits towards a Master's degree in Management from Thomas Edison College. She has served on the board of numerous organizations serving the blind and visually impaired.

"I gradually lost just about all of my central vision as a young adult. I have continued to watch videos, TV and movies. But it wasn't until I saw my first audio-described movie that I realized how much I was missing regarding the visual elements on screen. I am delighted that kids who are blind and visually impaired will now be able to get the maximum educational benefit—not to mention, enjoyment—out of moving images shown in the classroom. No longer will they have to poke a friend and ask what's happening on the screen. It was an honor to be part of the team that designed the standards and protocols for this great new step forward in the education of students with vision loss!"

David DawsonDavid Dawson
Executive Director
Audio Information Network of Colorado
Radio Reading Service of the Rockies Boulder, CO

David Dawson is the Executive Director and Founder of the Audio Information Network of Colorado (AINC) (formerly Radio Reading Service of the Rockies). Prior to organizing AINC in 1990, Dawson taught school, worked in vocational rehabilitation with the blind, and served with the Federal Government as a civil rights compliance officer. He earned his B.A. in Business and Mass Communication and his M.A. in Special Education and Public School Administration from the University of Iowa.

"Quality descriptive video makes pictorial information available to the blind and visually impaired children who need audio information to fill in and complete the learning process. Quality video description opens avenues to learning that have previously been denied to children in an academic environment."

Joy EfronJoy R. Efron, Ed.D.
Los Angeles, CA

Dr. Joy Efron retired in 2004 after 42 years of service as a teacher, administrator, university professor and advocate in the field of blindness and visual impairments, including work with persons who are deaf-blind and those who have multiple disabilities. Throughout her career, she has been a staunch defender of the need for a full continuum of services and access to information for people with vision and hearing disabilities. From 1982 to 2004 she served as Coordinating Principal, Frances Blend School and Visually Impaired Program, Los Angeles Unified School District, having also taught at the Michigan School for the Blind and a special day school in Chicago. During her tenure there, she was a teacher trainer and developed training courses for students who are deaf-blind and those who have multiple disabilities. Dr. Efron has a Bachelor's degree from Michigan State University in the area of blindness, a Master's degree from California State University, Los Angeles, in the area of deafness, and a Doctorate in Education from Brigham Young University in educational administration. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Irvin Schloss Advocacy from the American Foundation for the Blind and the Humanitarian Award from the California Council of the Blind.

"If anyone questions the importance and value of media description for people who are blind or visually impaired, I request you to simply do the following: turn on a TV movie and listen to it from another room. You may be amazed as to the level of your confusion. This project has been very exciting and long overdue, as children with visual impairments desperately need and deserve access to information and education."

Kay Alicyn FerrellKay Alicyn Ferrell, Ph.D.
Executive Director
National Center for Severe and Sensory Disabilities at UNC
Greeley, CO

Kay Alicyn Ferrell, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the National Center for Severe and Sensory Disabilities at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), and also coordinates the doctoral program and is a professor at UNC's School of Special Education. She worked with AFB's Public Policy Research department for two years. She supported AFB in the development of a policy research agenda, which strengthened the link between sound research and sensible public policy that meets the most critical needs of people who are blind or experiencing vision loss.

Dr. Ferrell has taught all ages of children and adults with visual and multiple disabilities in both public and specialized schools and has worked extensively with families as National Consultant in Early Childhood for the American Foundation for the Blind (1982-86). From 1986-1992, she was a faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University, and joined UNC's faculty in 1992. At both institutions, she coordinated teacher training programs in blindness and visual impairment and in early childhood special education. She has over 100 publications on education and development of children with visual impairments, distance education, cross-modal abilities, second language learners, and visual development. She was appointed by Colorado Governor Bill Owens as a Trustee of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind in 2005.

Dr. Ferrell is the recipient of the Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Research in Special Education from the Center for Opportunities & Outcomes for People with Disabilities at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Berthold Lowenfeld Award for Outstanding Contributions to Literature, from Division VIII (Infant and Preschool) of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired. She has also received the 2001 Best Practice Award for the Innovative Use of Technology from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and the 2001 Program of Excellence Award from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. She was UNC's University Scholar in 2002.

Dr. Ferrell earned an undergraduate degree in Russian Language and Literature from George Washington University; a Master of Arts in Special Education for Blind and Visually Impaired Learners from Teachers College, Columbia University; and a Doctorate in Special Education with a minor in educational research from the University of Pittsburgh.

"Perhaps more than any other project I've been involved with, DCMP promises to realize my dream of a barrier-free curriculum for students with visual impairments. Thank you, NAD and AFB, for coming together. A special thank you to the expert panelists, whose vivid, vivacious, and voluminous discussion made sure that these guidelines will serve all students, all the time. You did good!"

Megan FinnertyMegan Finnerty
Graduate Research Assistant
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, CO

Ms. Finnerty is currently a doctoral student with the goal of facilitating quality educational experiences for students with low-incidence disabilities. As a university supervisor at Johns Hopkins University, she supervised graduate students during their teacher preparation internship and has taught at private and public schools in self-contained and inclusive classrooms. She has also worked as an early intervention special educator in home and center-based programs. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Special Education with a concentration in severe disabilities from the State University of New York at Geneseo and a Master's from Boston College in the specialty area of multiple disabilities and deaf-blindness.

"Described educational media expands inclusive learning opportunities for youth who are blind or have low vision. This web site provides resources that are key for ensuring access to quality described media."

Jeremy FisherJeremy M. Fisher
Audio Description Supervisor
Minneapolis, MN

Mr. Fisher has spent his professional career making media accessible for underserved communities. After graduating cum laude from Concordia College in Moorehead, Minnesota, in 1999, he joined the CaptionMax, Inc. team as a caption editor in their Minneapolis office. He transitioned to their audio description department upon its creation in 2002, training with an experienced describer, voice coaches, and an outside consultant. Jeremy drew on his knowledge from the world of closed captioning to develop technical procedures and stylistic guidelines for the new department. Guided by suggestions from blind and visually impaired consumer advisory board members, he and his colleagues continue to improve upon the original system, keeping CaptionMax's audio description service responsive to the demands of blind and visually impaired users.

In October of 2006, Mr. Fisher took on a supervisory role in the ever-growing audio description department and continues to write, edit, and voice audio description while training new employees. He serves as project manager for several U.S. Department of Education grants to provide audio description for children's educational programming.

"Description can have a huge impact on a blind or low vision student's understanding of a media presentation. Description can help clarify important images, shift a student's focus from one subject to another, and fill in any number of details the sighted audience takes for granted. If the media is described, providing this service in the classroom is as simple as pressing a button."

Kelly GorskiKelly Gorski
Communications Editor
Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP)
Spartanburg, SC

Kelly Gorski has a B.S. in English education. She has experience teaching learning-disabled students, including blind and deaf students, in public schools, as well as developing a standardized curriculum for these students to achieve proficiency in reading comprehension and writing skills. She has developed lesson guides for accessible media (distributed nationally), and she is currently coordinating a project to identify educational media commonly used by the nation's districts and schools and the extent to which all of it is accessible. As the communications editor for the DCMP, she also proofs and edits all captioned products, participates in the development of captioning guidelines and standards, and sits on the panel to evaluate captioning agencies applying for inclusion on the U.S. Department of Education approved vendors listing. She will perform a similar role for DCMP description.

"The Description Key is a milestone, an essential piece of the accessibility puzzle as it relates to education. In order to provide equal access to students who are blind or visually impaired, description offers an unmatched gateway to help all educational professionals meet the need for and recognize the right of equality. Our students deserve the best, and description helps us provide that."

Bryan GouldBryan Gould, M.A.
Project Manager/Describer
Boston, MA

Mr. Gould is the Project Manager of National Center for Accessible Media's (NCAM) Effective Practices for Describing Science Content within the Digital Talking Books project. Mr. Gould has been with WGBH's Descriptive Video Service (DVS) for ten years. He has created audio descriptions for hundreds of TV shows, films, and other projects. He edited the current DVS style guidelines and served as DVS's Operations Manger. He continues to participate in focus groups with blind and visually impaired consumers and to train new describers. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Syracuse University and a Master's from the University of Massachusetts, both in American History.

"Video description is essential to making educational multimedia accessible to students who have trouble seeing the screen. When high-quality descriptions are available, blind and visually impaired students are able to study and review material independently, providing access on par with their sighted classmates."

Laurel HudsonLaurel J. Hudson, Ph.D.
Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
Adjunct Professor
Decatur, GA

Since 2004, Dr. Hudson has served as a teacher of students who are visually impaired, a certified orientation & mobility specialist, and an adjunct faculty member in the DeKalb County Schools. For 14 years previously she held the same positions at the Perkins School for the Blind, where, among other accomplishments, she was lead teacher in a three year Hilton/Perkins project developing six model preschools for blind preschoolers in China. She has continued her international work in Georgia, creating and implementing a five year program to train master teachers and administrators at schools for the blind in China (co-funded by the Chinese government (Beijing) and the Hilton/Perkins International Program (Watertown, MA)). She also has taught at Hogan State School, Protestant Guild for the Blind, and Boston Center for Blind Children.

Laurie Hudson has been giving verbal descriptions to blind people for years. She began to formalize her viewpoints when she presented "Saying What You See" at a literacy conference in San Francisco in the late 1980's. She further pursued it when she published "Classroom Collaboration" in 1990. This handbook provides guidelines for sighted peers and adults as they give verbal descriptions within public school settings. Dr. Hudson's interest in verbal description led to her involvement in a WGBH grant to develop verbal descriptions of a science video for middle school students with visual impairments.

She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Special Education and a Master's degree in Education from Boston College and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of New Hampshire.

"Providing access to educational media is not only mandated by law; it's the right thing to do! This project will guide us to do it well."

Terry MaggoireTerry Maggoire, M.Ed.
Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
Parent of a Child with a Visual Impairment
Boston, MA

Terry Maggiore teaches students who are visually impaired, ages 3 to 21, for the Boston Public Schools. Terry has a Master's in Education and is a Massachusetts licensed teacher of students with visual impairments. She also holds a MA license in teaching biology at the middle school and high school levels. She works closely with the Boston Public Schools Science Department to ensure accessibility of curriculum materials. As project coordinator, Terry was part of the research associated with the eDescription project with the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH. She was co-author on an article on eDescription in the Journal of Special Education Technology, Summer 2006.

"Having guidelines for the description of visual media in education is an important piece of accessing the curriculum for students with visual impairments. Only with true access to the curriculum can our students succeed on equal ground. This is one more step toward equal access."

Betsy McGinnityBetsy L. McGinnity, M.Ed.
Coordinator of Information Services
Perkins School for the Blind
Boston, MA

Ms. McGinnity has been with the DB-LINK project since it began. She has a 30+ year background in classroom teaching and employment and transition issues for youth who are deaf-blind. She has administered several federally funded model projects in these areas and worked at as technical assistance provider nationally and internationally through the Hilton/Perkins Program. She coordinated the 1997 Hilton/Perkins National Conference on Deaf-blindness and the Perkins 175th Anniversary History Museum Project. Ms. McGinnity oversees the Samuel P. Hayes Research Library and Archives, the History Museum and the Hilton/Perkins DB-LINK project. She has also served on the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Access Advisory Committee for the past eight years.

"This was a very exciting project in which to participate. When classroom teachers incorporate more media into their courses, learning can become more exciting and concepts can be more readily comprehended. There is a real danger, however, that students who are blind or visually impaired experience less access to the materials rather than enhanced access. I think the video examples make the guidelines much easier to understand and apply. If the media is described appropriately, it gives these students a level 'learning' field, and that is a very exciting outcome."

Cyral MillerCyral Miller, M.P.A.
Director of Outreach
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Austin, TX

Ms. Miller began her career at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in 1987 as executive assistant to the Superintendent. In 1990 she took on her current position, for which she supervises a staff of 22 professionals who provide statewide technical assistance and support to regional service centers, local districts, families and related agencies on issues relating to blindness and deaf-blindness. She is a teacher of visually impaired students, trained at the University of Texas at Austin. She taught in San Antonio and Austin, Texas, prior to going back to school for a Master's in Public Affairs.

"Recently, a teacher of students with visual impairments told me how the paraprofessional in a third grade class sits with her student who is blind during movies so she can describe the action. 'He always wants to know why people are laughing...there's so much that goes on other than what he can hear.' To get the description, this student now sits apart from the class, with an adult assistant. How much more normal and educational that child's experiences will be when he can get media that is described by a quality process following these new guidelines. He'll be able to participate with his peers and get accurate and unobtrusive description that is thought-over and appropriate. I'm really excited at the potential!"

Martin MonsonMartin Monson
Graduate Assistant
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, CO

After more than 15 years of teaching and school administration serving students who are blind or visually impaired, Mr. Monson is now pursuing a Doctorate in Vision Impairment through a highly selective fellowship from the National Center for Leadership in Vision Impairment. Prior to his doctoral program, he was the principal of the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped, a part of the Wisconsin Center for the Visually Handicapped and subsequently, Director of the Center. He began his career as a dormitory assistant at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and later taught in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in Eugene, Oregon. He holds a Certificate in School Administration from the University of Oregon and a Master's in Special Education from the University of Minnesota.

"This was an amazing project to work on. The knowledge and experience of the expert panel on this topic is unparalleled. As more and more curriculum information is presented to school-age students in a visual-only medium, the guidelines and recommendations produced by this panel will be of the utmost value to those providing audio description."

Mary Ann SillerMary Ann Siller, M.Ed.
National Project Manager
Professional Development and CareerConnect
American Foundation for the Blind
Dallas, TX

Ms. Siller is, first and foremost, an educator of children who are blind or visually impaired, ages birth through twenty-one. Prior to joining the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in 1990, Siller taught students who are visually impaired and then managed federal and state initiatives for the blind or visually impaired at the Texas Education Agency. Currently, she works with AFB's Professional Development and Career Connect Department at AFB. Siller develops national project initiatives; designs curricula for professional and family audiences; and assists in coordinating state and national coalitions. She has held a leadership role in the establishment and the continuing work of numerous national education projects, including the National Instructional Materials Accessibly Standard (NIMAS), the AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum, descriptive video guidelines grant with the National Association of the Deaf, U.S. Department of State's Outreach in Turkey for Young Children, the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, and the AFB and Verizon National Campaign for Literacy, Textbooks, Transcribers and Technology. She received a Bachelor's degree with honors from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master's degree in Education from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, Texas, and Aministrative Certification from Texas State University at San Marcos, Texas. She is the 2007 recipient of the Phil Hatlen Award for Excellence in Leadership and Innovative Changes in the field of visual impairment, from the Texas Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

"Without equal access to instructional materials, students who are blind or visually impaired will be left out. Finally there is a resource for media producers and media describers. Media producers will have a guide with examples to help them understand how to make their curriculum accessible, and describers will have a manual to follow to improve their products. Children who are blind or visually impaired will now enjoy the same curricular information as their sighted peers. AFB is proud to have been part of this national project with the NAD and DCMP."

Joel SnyderJoel Snyder
President and CEO
Audio Description Associates
Tacoma Park, MD

As well as being Director of Described Media for the National Captioning Institute, Mr. Snyder is President and Founder of Audio Description Associates. One of the first audio describers, Joel Snyder began describing theater events and media in 1981. Each year, his abilities as a describer make hundreds of performing arts events accessible to visually impaired audience members. He creates audio described tours for major museums throughout the United States through his own company, Audio Description Associates.

His staff produces description for dozens of nationally broadcast films and network series including "Sesame Street" broadcasts and DVDs. Recent movies described by Mr. Snyder and his staff include "World Trade Center," "Dreamgirls," "Shrek the Third," and "Transformers."

He has introduced description techniques in Japan, Israel, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark, Norway and Finland; conducted audio description workshops in London, Prague, and St. Petersburg, Russia; and trained describers for a first-ever audio description program in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1998. Most recently, he put together a team of describers for the second annual Moscow International Disability Film Festival as the result of intensive seminars conducted in Russia. In August 2008, he will present a workshop on media description for the International Federation of Translators conference in Shanghai, China.

Mr. Snyder is the Founding Chair of the Steering Committee and a current board member of the US-based service organization Audio Description International.

"Audio describers use words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative to convey the visual image that is not fully accessible to a segment of the population—and not fully realized by the rest: sighted folks who see but who may not observe. So it can be an important communication tool for everyone. Audio description makes picture books and videos accessible to children who have low vision or are blind and helps develop more sophisticated language skills for all kids. A picture is worth 1000 words? Maybe. But the audio describer might say that a few well-chosen words can conjure vivid and lasting images."

Bill StarkBill Stark
Project Director
Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP)
Spartanburg, SC

Bill Stark has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Education and Information Technology, a decade of college teaching experience, and twenty-five years' experience as an administrator in residential schools for the deaf and blind. He also has directed numerous federal projects to develop accessible media and curricular materials for national distribution.

Personal favorite professional highlights include directing the writing and illustrating of the first-ever deaf hero comic book for international distribution, and being taught by Dr. Malcolm Norwood ("the father of closed captioning") on how to caption and direct national accessible media awareness campaigns in partnership with such organizations as the National Education Association, Scholastic, and the Public Broadcasting System.

Further, he has been the director of the DCMP (formerly the Captioned Media Program) since 1991. In 1992, his government-funded feasibility study recommended that parallel free-loan descriptive video services for visually impaired students be made available. In 2006 this service became a reality, and the DCMP was born.

"The mission that drives DCMP is one of inclusiveness for all students and assurance that they have an equal opportunity for success. Along with the Captioning Key, the Description Key exists as a vital 'how to' guide for those charged with making media accessible."

Dean StenehjemDean O. Stenehjem, Ed.D.
Washington State School for the Blind
Vancouver, WA

Dr. Stenehjem has been superintendent at the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, Washington, since 1990. During his tenure, he has served under four different Governors as an agency director and has been instrumental in major program development resulting in a growth rate of over 600 percent. Under Dr. Stenehjem's leadership, the school has received numerous state quality recognition awards, and national recognition. Dr. Stenehjem shares a strong belief that the most effective way to implement change is through effective leadership and the development of strong partnerships.

"Helen Keller's quote, 'Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,' is perfect to describe the work done by the panel on establishing guidelines for description. These guidelines will be a huge benefit to improving not only described media, but also for assisting in important factors when it comes to accessible/usable online learning, transcription, etc. I don't know if we truly realize the tremendous positive impact that these guidelines will have on future services."

Description Key Design and Coding

Thom LohmanThom Lohman
Communications Services Specialist
Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP)
Spartanburg, SC

Thom Lohman is the communication services specialist for DCMP. A former social worker and advocate for children with special needs (and a big fan of the English language), Thom is involved with the development of an evaluation for description agencies interested in being included in the U.S. Department of Education's approved vendors listing and has worked closely—in a quality-assurance role—with agencies performing description work for the DCMP. In addition to developing the Description Key Web site, he is also involved in marketing and outreach for DCMP.

"This Key is an important step toward the ultimate goal of providing truly equal access to educational media. As DCMP's primary description contact, I look forward to working with agencies and others on continuing the work that started with this landmark project."

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