by Kathleen Zeider, President/CEO, Success Beyond Sight
To address foundational issues in the blindness field, nonprofit organization Success Beyond Sight (SBS) was launched in 2020 by ACVREP (the Academy for Certification of Vision and Education Professionals), the organization that establishes quality standards and certifies the professionals providing services to individuals who are blind or have low vision. Some issues addressed by SBS are the shortage of highly qualified professionals, insufficient service funding to meet the needs of the aging population with vision loss, and the need for evidence-based practice outcomes. The SBS mission is to empower individuals who are blind or have low vision to advance professionally and fully engage in community life by eliminating barriers to their equal opportunity for success.
The organization achieves its goals through four areas of focus:
Raise the Bar: Educate key decision makers about the critical need to ensure high service delivery standards. SBS serves as part of the National Policy Collaborative led by VisionServe Alliance and is partnering in the National Coalition on Aging and Vision Loss, which includes organizations from both the vision and aging fields.
Team Up! Collaborate and partner with other organizations to overcome foundational barriers so that individuals who are blind or low vision are fully included in community and professional life. SBS’ initial project was the creation of the National Registry for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairment (NRTSVIs), collaborating with university personnel preparation program leaders, to facilitate communication with TSVIs nationally. In its first year more than 600 TSVIs registered.
Build Capacity: Engage high school and college students to raise awareness of the profession of providing services to those with vision loss and the variety of specialties available in this field. SBS is positioned to take a leadership role in the recruitment of professionals to enter the vision loss field and is developing strategies and funding for these projects.
Elevate: Make access to affordable continuing education easier and create evidence-based practice guidelines for professionals. In the near future, SBS, collaborating with the American Council of the Blind (ACB), will host ACB’s assessment-based training program for Audio Describers on its education platform.
To find out more, visit the website for Success Beyond Sight.
Music School Open House for Students, Families, and Caregivers: August 22, 2022
The Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenberg Music School (The Fil or FMDG Music School) is holding a virtual open house for prospective students, parents, caregivers, and anyone who is interested on August 22, 2022 from 7 to 8 pm Eastern Time (ET). An in-person open house will take place on September 6, 2022 from 6 to 7pm ET at 92NY in New York City. As the fall semester approaches, learn about classes and lessons, which are available in person and virtually, and ensemble offerings as well as special events occurring between September and December 2022. The FMDG Music School helps people of all ages pursue the study of music while addressing the challenges posed by vision impairment. For more information and to RSVP to this online event, please email [email protected].
Webinar on the Importance of Braille: August 31, 2022
The New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) has issued an invitation to its upcoming webinar to learn about braille. This program will cover such topics as what braille is and is not, its history, everyday uses, common terminology, an introduction to braille letters, and more. Presenters are Maureen Strainge and Madison Near from the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB), with an introduction from Maria Dibble, Executive Director of the Southern Tier Independence Center (STIC). For additional details and to sign up go to the listing to Register for NYAIL's August Webinar.
Chair Yoga Series Beginning on September 11, 2022
Lighthouse Guild’s Remote Care Network is launching a free, virtual yoga series for adults ages 18 and older who are blind or visually impaired. Sessions will be held on three Sundays in September, beginning on September 11, 2022 and continuing the following two Sundays, from 11 am to 12 noon Eastern Time (ET). Through detailed description, participants will learn about the benefits of seated yoga and positions, stretching techniques, and guided meditation in the comfort of their home or other venue of their choice. Those who attend all three sessions will be entered into a raffle giveaway. All levels of experience are welcome to attend. The registration deadline is September 2, 2022. For more information and to register, visit the Lighthouse Guild website event listing for Free Virtual Chair Yoga for Adults (ages 18+) Who are Blind or Visually Impaired.
Survey on Accessibility in the Workplace Seeks Input
“Whether you’re currently working, or looking for your next opportunity, researchers from the School of Optometry at the Université de Montreal in collaboration with the CNIB Foundation want to hear from you!” Individuals who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision are invited to share experiences with accessibility in the workplace via an online research survey from these two organizations. Those responding need to have been employed within the past ten years, be at least 18 years old, and have a vision impairment. This survey takes up to 30 minutes to complete. Participants will have a chance to enter a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card. The deadline for completing the survey is September 30, 2022. For more information and a survey link, visit the Paths to Literacy webpage on Accessibility in the Workplace: A Research Survey.
Scholarships Available for Job Candidates to Take Career-Building Courses
The availability of Google Certificates scholarships “that allow job candidates the opportunity to take career-building courses at no cost” has been announced by NSITE, a nonprofit organization that provides employment services for job seekers who are blind or have low vision. A wide range of Google Certificates are offered. These include professional specialties such as IT Support for entry level positions; IT Automation with Python, covering Python, Git, and IT automation; Data Analytics to use data to “drive informed decision-making;” Project Management; and more. These scholarships are available to those who have signed up for NSITE Connect, NSITE’s job board matches individuals who are blind or have low vision with employers who are seeking to hire for positions from entry to senior levels. To learn more, read the press release entitled NSITE Connect Now Offers Google Certificates for Blind and Low Vision Job Talent. To find out about NSITE’s job board and how to access, check out NSITE Connect.
As students, parents, educators, and others gear up for the new school year, this can be an opportune time to review general information and pointers regarding the development and/or continued implementation of the Individualized Education Program (IEP). For a student with an existing IEP, “it can be challenging to transition (the) child’s IEP services from year to year—and especially from school to school,” due to issues like turnover in faculty and staff, schedule changes, and shifts in procedures, to name a few. Following is some background information, along with input from educators, parents, and government sources, that could be helpful as a refresher or in planning for the academic year:
Children with disabilities and their families are eligible for special services in public schools free of charge, as outlined in their IEPs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) includes parents of children of disabilities as members of the child’s educational team. The development of the IEP involves meetings where the parent, the child (at times), and school staff members work together to determine an educational program for the student and the subsequent IEP document that puts the results of that meeting in writing. Schools are required to hold an IEP meeting once a year. However, parents can request a meeting at any time to discuss issues of concern.
For the child who is blind or visually impaired, the school district must incorporate the following elements in the IEP, as explained by WonderBaby.org:
Compensatory or Functional Skills: These are required to access the curriculum and can include learning spatial awareness, Braille or large print, tactile symbols, and other proficiencies.
Orientation and Mobility Skills: Students need to learn from a certified O&M (Orientation and Mobility) instructor how to get around in their environment safely.
Social skills: Children most often learn about social interactions by watching others. Blind children “may not learn social behavior without direct instruction.”
Independent Living Skills: These are the skills needed for everyday activities like dressing, managing money, and other aptitudes that foster independence.
Recreation and Leisure Skills: Many games and sports played in physical education classes can be readily adapted for children with vision loss, through some may need extra time or alternative activities.
Career Education: This refers to teaching about what work is, expected behavior, and vocational training.
Use of Assistive Technology: Instruction in the expanding world of technology and what is available to blind students is very important.
Sensory Efficiency Skills: This involves children learning how to use the vision they have or learning how best to use other senses, like hearing or smell.
Self-Determination: It is important to teach children from an early age about taking care of themselves, including learning when to ask for help and how to set long-term goals.
Accommodations, such as paraprofessionals, extra time, seating, and other modifications, are part of the IEP for students with vision impairment.
A great deal of information is available about the IEP, what it entails, how to prepare for and participate in meetings, and other suggestions. The U.S. Department of Education website’s IDEA section guidance for IEPs in light of the challenges of COVID provides extensive background regarding the Return to School Roadmap: Development and Implementation of Individualized Education Programs. Parents may want to check out an article from Understood.org addressing How Do I Get My Child's IEP Going at the Beginning of the School Year? The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) offers guidance on Developing Your Child’s IEP, while Friendship Circle’s Special Needs Blog offers 9 steps to write an effective IEP for your child. For more information specific to the needs of students with vision loss, read the post from WonderBaby.org on IEP's for Parents of Blind or Visually Impaired Children.
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