Paying tribute to trailblazing advocates in the blindness field

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 25, 2020)—At the 2020 AFB Leadership Conference, the annual gathering of leadership personnel hosted by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), individuals who have made superb contributions to improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired will be recognized for their stellar achievements with the presentations of the Migel Medal, the Stephen Garff Marriott Award, and the Corinne Kirchner Research Award.

The Migel Medal was established in 1937 by the late M.C. Migel, AFB's first chairman, to honor professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Rod Haneline is the 2020 recipient in the professional category and Dr. Michael Schermer is the 2020 recipient in the volunteer category.

Rod Haneline is a greatly respected and sought-after expert in dog guide programs both nationally and internationally, speaking at numerous conferences and publishing in journals and textbooks. As the chief programs and services officer at Leader Dogs, Haneline has worked to empower clients at Leader Dogs for more than four decades through his expertise and groundbreaking approach to training. As a certified orientation and mobility specialist and guide dog mobility instructor, he has been credited with supporting the development and modification of curricula and training to improve access to dog guides for individuals who are deafblind and multiply disabled. Haneline and his team also developed the Accelerated Mobility Program, in which prospective dog guide recipients were paired with Orientation and Mobility interns from various university programs for immediate skills evaluation and training. Haneline’s work has touched the lives of nearly half of Leader Dog’s more than 15,000 clients worldwide.

Dr. Michael Schermer is an ophthalmologist with over 40 years of experience who has been lauded for his people-first approach to his profession. He served the Sacramento Society for the Blind for more than four decades as a board member, volunteer, and donor. In 1989, he established “A Party for the Senses” at the California State Fair for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to enjoy a day rich in socialization and sensory stimulation. In 2009, he became involved in the United States Association for Blind Athletes and assisted in developing a division for blind runners in the Sacramento Marathon. Dr. Schermer’s leadership, advocacy, and determination led the University of California at Davis to raise over $45 million in just four years for construction of a new vision care center on campus. His philanthropy at the Sacramento Society for the Blind, the United States Association for Blind Athletes, and The Maryland School for the Blind has had a transformative effect and touched the lives of thousands, as has his ophthalmological volunteer work in Mexico, the Philippines, China, and Vietnam through SEE International and the World Eye Foundation.

The Migel Medals will be presented to the recipients during a ceremonial luncheon on Friday, March 27.

The Stephen Garff Marriott Award honors a blind or visually impaired individual who has served as an extraordinary mentor or who has attained remarkable professional success. Anthony R. Candela is the 2020 recipient.

For more than 40 years, Anthony R. Candela has dedicated himself to improving the lives of individuals who are blind or have low vision. He was the founding director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Blind Rehabilitation Center in Long Beach, CA; director of the Specialized Services Division of the California Department of Rehabilitation; a national program associate in employment for AFB; director of Employment Services for Lighthouse International; and for 17 years, he served as a rehabilitation counselor, supervisor, and district manager for the New York State Commission for the Blind. Now in retirement, Candela serves on the advisory board of the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University and as an outreach coordinator and independent consultant for Benetech/Bookshare. He remains involved in blind leadership development and assisting individuals with vision loss interested in coding classes to overcome accessibility barriers, having published an article in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, “Blind Coding Academies” in the July-August 2019 issue. He also recently published two books, a memoir, and a science fiction novella.

The Marriott Award was established in honor of Stephen Garff Marriott, who lost his vision later in life and served as an exemplary role model to others with vision loss. Marriott rose to the upper ranks at Marriott International through hard work and tenacity, and was known for being a talented executive, sales manager, and ambassador of the Marriott brand.

The Marriott Award will be presented during the afternoon closing session on Friday, March 27.

The Corinne Kirchner Research Award honors those whose leadership and dedication illuminate the most pressing needs of people with vision loss through timely, innovative, and authoritative research. The 2020 recipients are the four members comprising the Institute of Movement Studies for Individuals with Visual Impairments (IMSVI) research team: Dr. Lauren Lieberman, Distinguished Service Professor at The College at Brockport, SUNY; Dr. Pamela Haibach-Beach, Professor at The College at Brockport, SUNY; Dr. Ali Brian, Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina; and Dr. Melanie E. Perreault, Associate Professor at The College at Brockport.

In 2018-2019, the team’s research resulted in 17 vision-related scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals. Two IMSVI team members helped co-author a book, Universal Design for Learning in Physical Education: Getting it Right From the Start, and contributed chapters to The Routledge Handbook of Visual Impairments. The IMSVI team also devised an innovative method to provide afterschool coaches with tips on how to coach students with visual impairments, leading a team to write, direct, film, edit, and publish online videos on how to teach youths with visual impairments to play afterschool sports. The IMSVI team has reached across the globe and embraced cultures through learning and teaching movement studies, having founded the International Society for Physical Activity for Individuals with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness. The IMSVI team provides opportunities for scholars to attend sports camps across the United States and in many countries, where they can conduct single and multi-year research. The team’s plethora of published scholarly work, educational curricula, and programming related to motor development—with a focus on people with visual impairments—demonstrates that they are an invaluable asset to individuals with visual impairments, their families, and the professionals of the field of visual impairment and blindness.

The Kirchner Award will be presented during the morning general session on Friday, March 27.


About the American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit:

About the AFB Leadership Conference
The 2020 AFB Leadership Conference provides a forum in which leadership personnel in the blindness field can increase their awareness of student and client needs, expand their knowledge, refine leadership skills, and share concerns and strategies. The event is sponsored by J.P. Morgan Chase, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Google, Horizon Therapeutics, Lee Hecht Harrison, the American Printing House for the Blind, and Delta Gamma, among others.