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From the Field

Signed Report

Task Force on Competencies: A key step toward alleviating the critical shortage of access technology trainers in the United States

A critical shortage exists of professionals who are qualified to provide specialized computer-skills training to visually impaired people (those who are blind or have low vision), and this shortage of 'access technology trainers' significantly affects visually impaired people's viability in today's job market. Today, most jobs held by people with visual impairments require computer-based tools. Without adequate and timely training, employment inequities will persist. These inequities, so serious in scope that visually impaired people face an unemployment rate 15 times higher than the general population, are exacerbated by long waiting lists for technology training, truncated training regimens, and continued fostering of dependency on an already strained service delivery system. A significant impediment to the growth of the access technology profession is the failure of the field not only to organize and codify its body of knowledge, but to standardize the competencies required by access technology specialists who work with visually impaired youths and adults.

Although the importance of increased numbers of qualified access technology trainers cannot be overemphasized, methods to increase efficient use of our present resources are also badly needed. As a result of direct input from large numbers of consumers, professionals, and the leaders in the blindness field, including an American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) survey of state and private agencies for the blind, AFB prepared a technical brief, in March 2001, describing the personnel needs of many of the blindness agencies around the country, many of the train-the-trainer initiatives underway, and the findings and recommendations of several professional meetings devoted to discussion of the access technology trainer shortage. (The brief is available on the AFB web site,, by searching for the phrase 'technical brief.')

At the 2001 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute (JLTLI), members of the AFB Employment and Technology teams hosted a work group devoted to action planning on access technology trainer competencies. Previous discussions among a wide variety of stakeholders had elucidated the connection between the current shortage of access technology specialists and the difficulty new specialists have in acquiring and maintaining necessary skills. Also, current specialists require continuing education and skills-building to maintain quality service delivery and access technology trainers face difficulties in obtaining this training.

A vital prerequisite to creating effective train-the-trainer programs is a complete list of the competencies needed by access technology trainers (working in a wide variety of settings). The competencies relate to a multitude of job functions, ranging from consumer assessment to on-site systems interface. Competency categories include hardware and software knowledge (mainstream and adaptive); teaching skills (e.g., consumer knowledge and skills assessment, analysis of consumer learning style, adjustment of teaching approach, lesson planning, curriculum development); and professional skills (e.g., oral and written report writing, advocacy, public relations, problem-solving).

Thus, the work group at the 2001 JLTLI recommended the formation of the Access Technology Trainer Competencies Task Force. The goals of the task force, to be completed in time for the 2002 JLTLI, include compiling the above-mentioned list of competencies; recommending train-the-trainer curricula, based on the competencies; and establishing a methodology by which to evaluate individual access technology trainers on any or all of the competencies. Task force members include access technology trainers, consumers, and other vision rehabilitation professionals and educators.

As this notice goes to press, the task force plans to meet, face-to-face, three times over the next nine months: in August 2001 at the AFB/AER '2001: A Technology Odyssey' conference, Pittsburgh, PA; in October 2001 at the 'Closing the Gap' conference, Minneapolis, MN; and in January 2002 at the Assistive Technology Industries Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando, FL.

The recommendations of the task force will be made available to everyone interested in access technology trainer preparation, continuing education, and professional development. AFB will continue its work to alleviate the shortage of access technology specialists by promoting adoption of the competencies as part of professional standards; formation of regional training centers and other train-the-trainer modalities (such as distance learning courses and short-term in-service training certificate courses); and continued unification of the profession through establishing a national organization of access technology trainers and, (possibly, as was suggested in a focus group of access technology center supervisors), establishing an association of access technology centers.

As new developments take place, they will be reported in JVIB. For further information, contact: Anthony R. Candela, national program associate in employment, AFB West, 111 Pine Street, Suite 725, San Francisco, CA 94111; phone: 415-392-4845; e-mail:

International news

China and the Philippines

In summer 2001, China and the Philippines organized computer camps for students who are blind or visually impaired. The computer camp in China was held at the School for the Blind in Quing Dao with support from IBM, the Hong Kong Society for the Blind, and the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI). The camp enrolled blind teenagers from throughout China and was launched on July 29, 2001. The Philippine Computer Camp was organized by Resource for the Blind and the Philippine Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports with support from the Overbrook-Nippon Network on Educational Technology and from IBM-Philippines. Twenty blind or visually impaired secondary school students from the Philippines participated in what is hoped will be an annual event.

The East Asia region of ICEVI held its regional conference in Shanghai, China in July 2001. The conference attracted educators and administrators from throughout the region. Participants attended workshops on topics such as preschool education, technology, teacher training, research, vocational education, inclusive education, low vision, and education of children with multiple disabilities. The regional meeting was organized by ICEVI East Asia, the Hong Kong Society for the Blind, and the Shanghai Education Commission. For more information, contact: Grace Chan, ICEVI East Asia Regional Chairperson, Director, Hong Kong Society for the Blind, 248 Nam Cheong Street, Kowloon, HK, China; phone: 011-852-2778-8332, extension 301; fax: 011-852-2788-0040; e-mail:; web site:


The International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) and the Foundation Dark and Light Blind Care, The Netherlands, have recently collaborated to develop an upgrading course for educators of the blind in Malawi, East Africa. The training course was organized by Gladys Nyaga, Deputy Regional Chairperson for Africa, ICEVI. For more information, contact: Gladys Nyaga, Sight Savers International, P.O. Box 34690, Nairobi, Kenya; phone: 011-254-2-503-931; fax: 011-254-2-505-548; e-mail:; web site:

Eastern Europe

'Yes, They Can!', a new technology publication for parents and educators of people who are blind or visually impaired in Eastern Europe, is available in seven languages, including English. The publication is produced by the Eastern European Network on Access Technology, which was launched in 1996 by the International Program of the Overbrook School for the Blind and the Open Society Institute. For more information, contact: Lawrence Campbell, president, ICEVI, Overbrook School for the Blind, 6333 Malvern Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19151-2597; phone: 215-877-0313, extension 341; fax: 215-878-8886; e-mail:; web site:


Film festivals on disability culture

The Picture This Festival, Canada's first film festival celebrating people with disabilities, will take place October 19-21, 2001, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Initiated by the Calgary Scope Society, a nonprofit organization, the festival will feature English-language films and videos produced, directed, and written by people with disabilities. Participation is invited. According to an article in the May-June 2001 issue of Disability World, festival organizers plan to screen an audio-described version of the film Dissonance, a Canadian film that won an award at the 2001 California-based Superfest International Disability Film Festival. Dissonance is a 20-minute drama about a musician who is blind and is looking for love through a voice-based personals service. For more information, contact: Vern Reynolds-Braun, director, Picture This Festival, Calgary Scope Society, 2323 32nd Avenue NE, Suite 211, Calgary, AB, Canada, T2E 6Z3; phone: 403-717-5610; fax: 403-291-4087; e-mail:; web site:

The Third International Short Film Festival of Arbeitsgemeinschaft Behinderung und Medien [the German Society for Disability and the Media], 'The Way We Live,' will take place November 15-18, 2001 at the Munich Film Museum. Films that were produced after January 1, 1997 may be submitted for possible inclusion in the festival, and cash prizes will be awarded to three winners. For more information, contact: Karl Heinz Gruber, director, Arbeitsgemeinschaft Behinderung und Medien, Bonner Platz 1, 5th Floor, D-80803, M√ľnchen, Germany; phone: 011-49-89-307-992-20; fax: 011-49-89-307-992-22; e-mail:; web site:

Dog guides on cable television

Dog guides were featured on the television show Pet Story, which airs on the cable network Animal Planet. The half-hour documentary featured J. Gary Mudd, vice president of public affairs for the American Printing House for the Blind, his dog guide Denver, and his retired 13-year-old dog guide, Heathcliff. The show, which originally aired in July 2001, will rerun on September 10, 2001. For more information, contact: Viewer Relations, Animal Planet; phone: 888-404-5969; e-mail:; web site:


Blind athletes association hosts camp

In August 2001, the United States Association of Blind Athletes hosted the 2001 Disabled Cycling Team Developmental Rider Camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Athletes aged 15 and older honed their road racing and track racing skills in handcycling, tandem bicycling for people with visual impairments, and cycling on specially adapted bikes for people with other disabilities. During the training, camp organizers took the opportunity to observe and identify potential U.S. athletes for the 2002 International Paralympic Committee World Disabled Cycling Championships. The camp director was Peter Paulding, the Disabled Cycling Team leader for the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. For more information, contact: United States Association of Blind Athletes, 33 North Institute, Colorado Springs, CO 80903; phone: 719-630-0422; fax: 719-630-0616; web site:


Computer courses for people who are visually impaired

The Computer Center for Visually Impaired People (CCVIP), Division of Continuing Studies, Baruch College, City University of New York, will offer computer courses designed for people with visual impairments with varying degrees of computer competency in fall 2001. Courses and seminars will include: introductions to Windows 98, Excel, and Access; Power Seminars on PowerPoint and Word 2000; and courses on surfing the Internet, keyboarding, getting free e-mail on the Web, and intermediate features of JAWS for Windows 3.7. CCVIP also has a certificate program. The cost of the courses and seminars ranges from $50 to $900. For more information, contact: Judith Gerber, CCVIP, Division of Continuing Studies, Baruch College, CUNY, 17 Lexington Avenue, Box H-648, New York, NY 10010; phone: 212-802-2140; fax: 212-802-2143; e-mail:; web site:

Technology camps

Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB), in cooperation with Northern Virginia Regional Partnership (NVRP), and Unisys Corporation, conducted a series of camps in July 2001 for Northern Virginia middle school students with visual impairments. Two separate two-week CLB Technology Camps were held in conjunction with NVRP's Summer Technology Program, which offered hands-on training in information technology. The camps focused on web page development and fundamentals of computer hardware. For information, contact: Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, 1120 20th Street NW, Suite 750 South, Washington, DC 20036; phone: 877-324-5252 or 202-454-6400; fax: 202-454-6401; e-mail:; web site:

Agency news

Technology research competition

The Organizacion de Ciegos Espanoles [Spanish Organization of the Blind] (ONCE) invites submissions by December 31, 2001, for its second ONCE International Prize in Research and Development for New Technologies for the Blind. The prize recognizes innovative research and its practical application for computers, telecommunications, and biotechnology that results in improved quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired. One winner will receive $160,419 and two runners-up will receive $53,473. Prizes will be awarded by the end of June 2002. Submissions will be accepted in English or Spanish. For more information, contact: ONCE, 18 Calle Jose Ortega y Gasset, 28006 Madrid, Spain; phone: 011-34-91-577-3756; fax: 011-34-91-436-5353; web site:


The International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in July 2002 at its 11th international conference in The Netherlands. ICEVI invites participation in the conference. The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2001. For more information, contact: ICEVI; web site:; e-mail:

Call for nominations

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) invites nominations for its 2002 Access Awards. AFB Access Awards honor individuals, corporations, and organizations that strive to eliminate or substantially reduce inequities faced by people who are blind or visually impaired. Nominations should illustrate an exceptional and innovative effort that has improved the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired by enhancing access to information, the environment, technology, education, or employment, including making mainstream products and services accessible. The effort should be one that has a national impact or can be a model for replication nationally. Recipients of the 2000 Access Award were: Cakewalk, California Council of the Blind, FutureForms, Jeopardy Sony Studios, Margaret R. and Cody Pfanstiehl, and Sun Microsystems.

A letter of nomination (an electronic format is preferred) or an e-mail should be sent before October 1, 2001, to: Anthony Candela, AFB 2002 Access Awards Committee, 111 Pine Street, Suite 725, San Francisco, CA 94111; e-mail: The AFB Access Awards will be presented in March 2002 at AFB's Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in Washington, DC.


AFB's web site won the 2001 Grand Award from APEX (Awards for Publication Excellence), which honors excellence in graphic design, editorial content, and overall communications effectiveness and excellence. AFB's site was named the outstanding site in the nonprofit web and intranet site category. APEX awarded 75 Grand Awards in 11 categories out of 5,100 entries. For more information, contact: APEX Awards for Writing Excellence, Communication Concepts, 7481 Huntsman Boulevard, Suite 720, Springfield, VA 22153; phone: 703-643-2200; fax: 703-643-2329; e-mail:; web site:

AFB essay contest winners

L'Occitane and AFB will send three visually impaired American students to L'Occitane's perfume school, Provence dans tous les sens [Provence in every sense], in France. The students will participate in L'Occitane's three-day summer institute for visually impaired and hearing impaired students. Cassie R. Lucarelli (Madison, WI), Sarah Skyes (North Platte, NE), and Carla Valpeoz, (Blanco, TX), wrote winning 100-word essays on a quote by Helen Keller, 'The nose is as complex as the eye or the ear and as well equipped for the acquisition of knowledge.' The winning essays are posted on AFB's web site: For more information, contact: Jennifer Saul, American Foundation for the Blind, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, NY 10001; phone: 212-502-7600; e-mail:



Michael Bina began his new position as president of the Hadley School for the Blind in July 2001. Before replacing Dr. Robert J. Winn-who retired in 2001 from his position as president of Hadley-Dr. Bina was superintendent for the Indiana School for the Blind. For more information, contact: The Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093-0299; phone: 800-526-9909 or 847-446-8111; fax: 847-446-0855; e-mail:; web site:

In July 2001, Dr. Mary J. Ford was named bureau administrator and director of special education for the Division of Instruction, New Hampshire Department of Education. For more information, contact: the Division of Instruction, New Hampshire Department of Education, 101 Pleasant Street, Concord, NH 03301; phone: 800-339-9900 or 603-271-6051; web site:

Also in July 2001, Corinne Harmon was appointed director of the Missouri School for the Blind, replacing Yvonne Howze. Before joining the school, Dr. Harmon was superintendent of the St. Louis County Special School District; she has also taught at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and Webster University. Dr. Harmon has a master's degree in Special Education and Educational Administration and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Administration from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. For more information, contact: Missouri School for the Blind, 3815 Magnolia Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110; phone: 800-622-5672 or 314-776-4320; web site:

Laurel Leigh, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, is the new co-director of the Orientation and Mobility Program for Graduate Studies in Vision Impairment, Institute for the Visually Impaired at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. Ms. Leigh, who was previously employed by St. Joseph's School for the Blind in New Jersey, was also named assistant professor. For more information, contact: Kathleen Huebner, associate dean, Graduate Studies in Vision Impairment, Pennsylvania College of Optometry, 8360 Old York Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027; phone: 215-780-1360; fax: 215-780-1357; e-mail:


In June 2001, Betty Nobel was awarded the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Education, Training, and Development for her work as an educator of blind students and her volunteer activities in Canada. Ms. Nobel is an instructor in the Program for Visually Impaired Adults at the Vancouver Community College, British Columbia, Canada.

Also in June 2001, Vince Tomasetti, an assistive technology coordinator for the Adult Services Program, Special Education Technology, British Columbia, Canada, was presented the Student Leadership Award by the Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-Secondary Education.

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The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB)--the international, interdisciplinary journal of record on blindness and visual impairment that publishes research and practice
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