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RDPFS Resources for Partners February 17, 2023

Internships for 2023

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

As the winter progresses, the time is coming for young people to consider options for the spring and summer. Internships are a great way to strengthen work experience credentials, network, and develop foundational skills in a real work environment. Following is a list of some internships geared specifically to interests in the blindness field:

- The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Talent Lab Internship, a technology-focused program, “provides current students with opportunities to participate in hands-on client projects, build real-world experience, and interact with potential employers. In addition to working with instructors and mentors, interns work collaboratively with participants who have visual impairments to learn how to run usability testing with greater empathy, insight, and relevance.” To apply for this paid internship, the student must be a rising sophomore, junior, or senior in a full-time college program studying computer science or a related field. The internship includes nine program terms over three years, and interns can participate in one or all of these. More information can be found in the link above.

- The National Eye Institute (NEI)’s Summer Intern Program provides rising high school seniors, undergraduates, graduate students, and professional students the opportunity to work on research involving a wide variety of diseases related to vision loss. Interns are paid and work in Maryland for eight to twelve weeks during the summer.

- The Carroll Center for the Blind has several internship programs for teens and undergraduates and graduate students studying in the vision loss field. Teens can benefit from the Summer Work Experience Program, which exposes them to jobs in a variety of fields while giving ample time for socialization. The EyeWork program serves a similar purpose for undergraduates. In addition, the Carroll Interns Program is meant for graduate students seeking to become teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs), certified orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists, or vision rehabilitation teachers (VRTs).

-Finally, the Envision Internship Program “combines business-focused, on-the-job experience with professional development activities. Visually impaired or legally blind individuals who have a high school diploma or higher, work experience, and a passion for career development are invited to apply for this program.” Interns may have the opportunity to advance within Envision or the business community. The internship lasts from June 1 to July 31, 2023 and takes place in Wichita, Kansas.

These are just a few internship programs that may interest those looking for experience in the blindness and low vision field.  Note, of course, that there are many accessible internships in a variety of other disciplines not related to careers in vision loss, and it is important to consider all options and decide on a program that will be most beneficial.

More on Black History Month 2023

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

As we continue our commemoration of this year’s Black History Month, many observances acknowledge the importance of its themes throughout the year. Some notable offerings from organizations in the blind and visually impaired (BVI) community focus on different perspectives of Black history and disability. First, this blog post from Paths to Literacy brings together a variety of educational resources, including selected books available from the National Braille Press; a post from the New England Consortium on Deafblindness and Perkins School for the Blind honoring prominent African American historical figures with blindness and hearing loss; a biography of the month’s founder, Dr. Carter G. Woodson; and selections from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH)’s extensive Black History Month Archives. In addition, this post by Roxann Griffith, a Black, disabled veteran and senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), discusses how her previous career within the U.S. government, Black disabled military history, and her own intersecting identities help to shape her mission and her work with ODEP. An additional post by Freddie Peaco of the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), is a detailed summation of the impact of people who are blind and visually impaired on African American history and culture. Finally, Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), addresses Black History Month among other things in an episode of his Presidential Release podcast. These are just a few of the ways in which diverse organizations throughout the community continue to respect and honor this all-important month.

“Bioptic Driving — What Is It? Could it Work for You?”: Background and a Webinar

If you, or someone you know, have low vision and are thinking about whether driving could be possible with bioptic lenses, check with an eyecare professional and state driver’s license agency. Individuals who are eligible can then make their own decisions about driving. To get some familiarity with the topic, VisionAware, a program of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), provides some background information and will offer a live webinar later this month. A bioptic lens uses miniature telescopes attached to eyeglasses that can be prescribed by optometrists or ophthalmologists who specialize in low vision. The prescription lenses can accommodate people who have central vision loss. Most of the time the driver will continue to use the main eyeglass lens, switching to the bioptic lens to check details or hazards on the road. Driving with these lenses requires skills in distance viewing and object awareness as well as “basic bioptic usage skills.” Most states require some training prior to issuing a license to drive with bioptic lenses. For drivers with low vision, additional concerns are glare and contrast sensitivity. The ability to differentiate between an object and its background, contrast sensitivity difficulties can affect driving activities by making it harder to see curbs and faded road surface markings, for example. For more information, including specific qualifications needed for driving with low vision, read the VisionAware article on "Bioptic Driving--What Is It? Could It Work for You?".

Learn About “The Basics of Bioptics and Bioptic Driving” During Webinar on February 28, 2023

Presenters at this program, via Zoom, will provide an overview of available bioptic lens systems as well as requirements for driver readiness, “misconceptions about bionic driving,” state laws, advocacy efforts, and more. Speakers are Chuck Huss, COMS, Driver Rehabilitation Specialist and former coordinator, Low Vision Driver Services, West Virginia Rehabilitation Center, and Steve Kelley, CVRT, CATIS. Register here for "The Basics of Bioptics and Bioptic Driving."

Public Feedback Requested for Three Draft Compliance Policies

The U.S. AbilityOne Commission is requesting public feedback by March 15, 2023 for three draft Compliance policies related to the AbilityOne® Program, one of the largest providers of training and jobs for people who are blind or “have significant disabilities.” This Commission, an independent Federal agency, administers the career program and has “designated National Industries for the Blind and Source America® as central nonprofit agencies to manage its operations across the nation.

The new draft policies address the:
- AbilityOne Compliance Program: This statement establishes the approach for compliance of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission for nonprofit organizations participating in the AbilityOne Program.
- Documentation of Initial Evaluation Eligibility on the Basis of Blindness or Significant Disability: This component sets forth requirements for the nonprofit organization's “direct hour ratio of people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the workforce” in order to quality in the AbilityOne Program. It also outlines requirements for documentation, evaluation, and oversight of activities.
- Job Customizations, Person-Centered Employment Plans, and Career Advancement Programs: This section explains expectations on procedures for developing employees and applies to the Commission and the nonprofit organizations involved.

For more details, check the AbilityOne webpage on the Draft Compliance Policies. Feedback on the draft policies should be submitted to [email protected].

Notable Upcoming Conferences in the Vision Loss Community

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

Over the next several months, organizations in the vision impairment community will be holding conferences in various locations across the country, and some will be virtual. In the following list, registration links will be provided where available.

This Spring:

- VisionServe Alliance’s CEO Summit will take place from March 26 to 29, 2023 in Austin, Texas. “The VSA CEO Summit is specifically geared for CEOs and Executive Directors of organizations serving people who are blind and visually impaired.” This year’s theme is “Celebrating Innovation.” The conference features two half-day workshops with leadership experts, including Jamie Notter on “Creating a Culture of Innovation” and Kelli Vrla on “Hit the Reset Button – Innovate Through Today’s Challenges with Creative Ways to Engage You and Your Teams.” Register for the Vision Serve Alliance CEO Summit here.

- The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Leadership Conference will take place from April 19 to 21, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia. “The 2023 AFBLC will focus on Empowering Digital Inclusion," discussing "innovative ways to create true inclusion and create a world of no limits for people who are blind.” Registration for the AFBLC is here, and early bird pricing ends on February 28, 2023.

This Summer:

- The American Council of the Blind (ACB) Convention will take place from June 30 to July 7, 2023 in Schaumburg, Illinois. This will be a hybrid conference and convention, with sessions that are exclusively in-person only or solely virtual, as well as others that are both virtual and in-person.

- The 2023 National Federation of the Blind (NFB) convention is the annual gathering where NFB organizational policies and priorities are decided. It also presents many training opportunities in advocacy for the community. The convention will take place from July 1 to 6, 2023 in Houston, Texas.

- The Ush Connections Conference (2023 date and location to be announced) is “the largest annual gathering of the global Usher syndrome community. It provides an invaluable opportunity to learn the latest on developing treatments from leading USH researchers while connecting with hundreds of individuals living with Usher syndrome, their families, and professionals serving the deafblind community.”

In the Fall:

- The American Printing House for the Blind (APH)’s Annual Meeting will take place from October 4 to 6, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky, with pre-conference sessions on October 3rd and 4th. There are four themes this year, which APH calls “strands”: 1) Tactile instruction and/or technology; 2) Low vision instruction and/or technology; 3) Educating learners with complex needs; and 4) Advocacy and partnerships. APH is calling for presentations, with proposals due March 22, 2023, and accessible materials due September 1, 2023. Here is the form to submit a proposal for review.

- The American Academy of Optometry’s 2023 conference goes from October 11 to 14, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. “Academy 2023 New Orleans promises the continuing education, networking, and special events you have come to expect, along with opportunities to meet with our exhibitors and learn about their latest innovations in the optometric industry.”

- The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2023 convention will be in San Francisco, California from November 3 to 6, 2023. Ophthalmologists from across the country will come together at this annual meeting.

- National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has two conferences, the Public Policy Forum and the Training Conference and  Expo. Dates have not been announced for either of these, although their conferences are traditionally held in the fall.

News for Professionals Serving Individuals Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

Reviewers Needed for Accreditation Programs for Educational Institutions and Direct Service Provider Agencies

The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) is seeking professionals to serve as accreditation reviewers. AER Accreditation Program reviewers are called upon to evaluate programs in terms of how they meet “a set of quality standards.” Programs can include higher education, schools, or agencies that provide direct services to people who are blind and visually impaired. Reviewers will serve with two to four colleagues to go over and evaluate materials “provided by an organization, school, or higher education personnel preparation program that is seeking accreditation.” AER provides study materials and evaluation criteria for those serving as reviewers. For additional information, visit the AER webpage that explains how to Become a Reviewer. Read more here about The Accreditation Council.

New Journal of Practice Launched for Professionals and People with Visual Impairments

AER has launched a new journal focused on practitioners serving people who are blind or have low vision. The New RE:view (TNR) “offers a forum for professionals who provide education and rehabilitation services in this specialized field.” TNR aims to provide new opportunities to share practice-focused promising teaching techniques, insights, and research findings. AER encourages authors to communicate specific information that will allow their work to be applied by other professionals, thereby helping practitioners to strengthen their services to individuals who are blind or have low vision. The current, first issue includes articles on such topics as the “Least Restrictive Adaptation Model: Anything You Need You Can Find in the Kitchen Drawer,” a ”Survey on Orientation and Mobility Contracting,” and “Understanding the Difference Between Practice Articles and Applied Research Articles,” to name a few. Read Volume 1, Issue 1 of TNR here. The first two issues will be available free of charge and are open to everyone. Subsequent issues will be free of charge to AER members, with subscriptions available for non-members. For information about membership and to subscribe, visit the AER website. Authors can submit manuscripts electronically the TRN Editorial Manager portal. To learn more about the launch, read the press release from Business Wire entitled "AER Launches The New RE:view--A Journal of Practice."

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