November 3 – 6, 2019 at the Georgian Terrace in Atlanta, GA 

St. Louis, Missouri – September 3, 2019 – Over 220 national leaders will convene in Atlanta, Georgia this fall for discussions on the future of providing services to people who are blind or have low vision. With more than 26.9 million[1] American adults in the US and 226 million[2] more around the world living with blindness and low vision, and  thousands more projected to join these ranks, this is an important national issue.

Event organizer VisionServe Alliance, an association for leaders of nonprofit agencies across the country and Canada, holds its conferences in various U.S. cities twice a year. This year’s Executive Leadership Conference in Atlanta will use some pretty amazing technological adaptions as part of its meeting to ensure the content is accessible to ALL attendees, regardless of their level of sight.

With an average of 15% of its meeting attendees themselves being blind or having low vision, VisionServe Alliance is used to employing standard accommodations to make its meetings accessible, like offering its materials digitally or in Braille, and offering tips and training on-site hospitality staff and featured speakers. But this year’s conference presents additional accessibility challenges because the meeting will employ a format called Open Space Technology, which allows participants to set their own discussion topics and attend multiple break out sessions throughout the day. While it’s exciting for the attendees to have control over the agenda, a flexible format presents challenges for visually impaired attendees to fully participate in the activities.

VSA plans to provide conference attendees access to additional resources from companies on the forefront of vision technology: OrCam’s MyEye, a tiny camera device that fits on the of a pair of eyeglasses and can read aloud any printed material; Aira’s  Horizon Kit including their Smart Glasses that transmit the wearer’s images to a representative who then offers assistance in real time to navigate buildings, streets, airports, stores, etc.; and Vispero’s popular screen reading software called JAWS that allows blind and visually impaired users to navigate the world wide web using audible descriptions of menus and images. Many other companies will be on hand exhibiting and demonstrating the latest tools for accessibility to people who are blind and visually impaired. Volunteers from local vision rehabilitation agency, the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta will also be on-site to provide assistance.

“We want this year’s conference to provide learning exchanges to engage a wider array of current and emerging leaders across sectors, disciplines, demographics, and industry segments including education, rehabilitation, employment, medical, technology and social services for people of all ages,” says President and CEO of VisionServe Alliance, Lee Nasehi. “We are also proud to have the support of other national organizations in the field behind this year’s event.” Co-Hosts of the VisionServe Alliance Executive Leadership Conference include ACB (American Council of the Blind)ACVREP (Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals)COSB (Council of Schools and Services for the Blind) NAEPB (National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind) and NOAH (National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation).

Kathleen Zeider, President/CEO of ACVREP notes that, “VisionServe Alliance is uniquely positioned to convene this important summit in our field. We are excited that it will refine the collective focus and strengthen the collaboration in our field resulting in a greater impact for those we serve.”

Mike McGowan, Executive Director of NOAH, said his organization, “enthusiastically supports the efforts of VisionServe Alliance to gather the field together to discover ways to build a better world for people who are blind or have low vision. There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together.”

Participants at the VSA Executive Leadership Conference will ask, discuss, and suggest solutions to the biggest challenges in the field of blindness & low vision such as:

  • What can be done to assure access to all digital information including government websites, applications and voting processes?
  • Are public and private education resources meeting the needs of students?
  • What are the emerging challenges and solutions in employment?
  • How can we significantly enhance the resources for training and support for seniors?
  • How can we improve care for our veterans through partnerships with the private sector?

Co-facilitators include David Morgan, President & CEO of Future In Sight, Lee Nasehi, President & CEO of VisionServe Alliance, and John Mitchell, President/CEO of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Board Chair of VisionServe Alliance.

For more information and to register, go to www.visionserveallinace.org/conferences/

About VisionServe Alliance:

VisionServe Alliance is a consortium of Executive Directors/CEOs of 501(c)(3) nonprofits throughout the United States that provide unique and specialized services to people who are blind or with severe vision loss. We bring together the full diversity of services for one conversation with the ultimate goal of unifying the many issues and organizations operating independently of one another in the field. Members include organizations focusing on national advocacy and/or service issues, employment and manufacturing, adult vision rehabilitation, K-12 residential and on-line schools, early intervention and pre-school, dog guides, low vision clinics, and Braille production. Collaborative projects, national trends, stronger management and leadership, and advocacy issues have been born from these conversations and activities including the formation of the Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition, a consortium of leaders comprised from 19 national, state, local, private and public agencies with the goal of advocating for equal access and quality of life for older Americans with vision loss.

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[1] According to the American Foundation for the Blind. See https://www.afb.org/research-and-initiatives/statistics/adults

[2] According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. See https://www.iapb.org/advocacy/world-sight-day/

St. Louis, Missouri – August 7, 2019 – VisionServe Alliance announces it is spearheading the new Aging & Vision Loss National Coalition to tackle critical issues related to older people experiencing impaired sight as the result of age-related eye diseases. The coalition is comprised of 15 national, state, local, private and public agencies representing broad constituencies who will advocate for equal access and quality of life for older Americans with vision loss.

Age-related vision loss is reaching epidemic proportions as baby boomers attain advanced age. Currently, there are 25.5 million adults experiencing age-related diseases impairing vision (National Health Interview Survey, 2016). From 2015 to 2050, the number of adults ages 40+ who are blind is expected to double (Varma, et al, 2016).

Informed by nationwide structured conversations with older people with vision loss and the expertise of the Coalition members, many with over 40 years of experience in the field, the Aging & Vision Loss National Coalition will begin their work by focusing on three key priorities:

  1. Awareness: Increasing awareness among the general public, professionals and especially seniors themselves and their families of the issues faced by older people with vision loss and the significant impact of professional vision rehabilitation services on sustaining their independence and dignity. 
  2. Funding: Enhancing funding for vision rehabilitation services including education, training, assistive devices, and technologies for older people with vision loss.
  3. Expanding Personnel: Expanding the pool of qualified professional vision impairment specialists, through support for university programs and incentives for healthcare students to consider this specialtyand providing broad training for allied health personnel.

The Coalition believes that improving public understanding of low vision and blindness is crucial, starting with older individuals themselves and including policy makers, family members, and service providers. Only through taking this fundamental step can we ensure equal access and promote the highest possible quality of life for older people with vision loss.

Among the Coalition members is the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), which is handing off the 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss to the Coalition. The Coalition will steward this important work initiated by AFB, created to raise awareness, facilitate increased and improved services, and protect and promote the rights of seniors with vision loss to lives of enjoyment, inclusion, and independence.

With appropriate vision rehabilitation services and specific supports, older people with vision loss can age in place in their communities rather than moving into an institution. Vision rehabilitation reduces the hours needed of in-home care; reduces or prevents falls, accidents, and burns; improves communication reducing social isolation; and teaches safe navigation, increasing physical movement and mobility. Yet, less than 3% of older people with vision loss are receiving the services that promote independent living in their home or living option, community and family engagement, and improved quality of life.

The Coalition is issuing a Call to Action and invites interested individuals and organizations to join the work. Make the year 2020 the turning point for access to services older Americans with vision loss require to live independently and be active members of their community and families.

VisionServe Alliance is an association of chief executives (and their leadership teams) of 501(c)(3) nonprofits throughout the United States that provide unique and specialized services to people who are blind or have low vision. We bring together the full diversity of services for one conversation with the ultimate goal of unifying the many issues and organizations operating independently of one another in the field. Members include organizations focusing on national advocacy and/or service issues, employment and manufacturing, adult vision rehabilitation, K-12 residential and on-line schools, early intervention and pre-school, dog guides, low vision clinics, and Braille production. We focus on collaborative projects, national trends, stronger management and leadership, and advocacy issues important to the field. For information visit our website at: www.visionservealliance.org or email us at info@visionservealliance.org

AVLNC Represented Organizations:

  • Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP)
  • American Council of the Blind (ACB)
  • American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
  • Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
  • Florida Agencies Serving the Blind
  • Helen Keller National Center
  • The Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute
  • Mississippi State University OIB-TAC
  • National Council of State Agencies for the Blind
  • National Council on Aging (NCOA)
  • NewView Oklahoma
  • Prevent Blindness
  • VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • VisionServe Alliance
  • Independent Advocates

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Date: July 17, 2019

Location: National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, July 17th, 2019, Prevent Blindness will host the 8th Annual Focus on Eye Health National Summit at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Register by clicking here.

REGISTER NOW

For those who can’t attend the Focus On Eye Health National Summit in person, the event will also be streamed live.

REGISTER FOR THE LIVE WEBCAST

#MemberSpotlightMonday features the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind, who was recently featured in a news story by KENS 5 on a new art exhibit at the Witte Museum called, “My Heart is Not Blind” by Michael Nye, comprised of 47 photos and associated 3-5 minute audio clips of blind individuals from across the U.S.

#MemberSpotlightMonday features Society for the Blind in Sacramento, who was selected to receive the 2018 Medical Community Service Award. Congrats Society for the Blind Sacramento! Read more about their banner year: https://societyfortheblind.org/2019-building-for-the-future/

Today’s #MemberSpotlightMonday is IFB Solutions in Winston Salem, NC, who won the 2018 Employment Growth Award for hiring 63 new employees who are blind. Watch this video featuring the story of one great employee, Anastasia:

Today’s #MemberSpotlightMonday is the Valley Center for the Blind, serving folks who are blind and visually impaired in Fresno, California. We’re also thrilled to have their Executive Director, Ken Warkentin, join VisionServe’s board of directors this year. Welcome Ken!

https://www.valleycenterfortheblind.org/

Celebrating 14 years as the premiere low vision rehabilitation and research conference in America.

Pomona, CA

Oct. 5-6, 2019

Each year since 1879, Ex Officio Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind have journeyed to Louisville, Kentucky for the APH Annual Meeting. At first by steam locomotive, steamboat, and buggy, later by car and airplane, Trustees have traveled to Louisville to share their knowledge and experience with APH and with each other.

Louisville, KY

Oct 10-12, 2019

VisionServe Alliance Executive Leadership Conference

Atlanta, GA

Nov. 3-6, 2019

Crossword PuzzleIn today’s #MemberSpotlightMonday we’d like to thank our member American Printing House for the Blind for supporting our #VSAFallConf in Portland, OR. Known as “the world’s largest nonprofit organization creating educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are visually impaired,” check out their new free online crossword game:

https://crossword.aphtech.org/

Colorful Mural in Boward County FloridaIn today’s #MemberSpotlightMonday post, we showcase Lighthouse of Broward County who has created a multi-sensory mural honoring Florida’s state bird, the mockingbird, utilizing boxy sensors installed above the art that produce sounds of the singing mockingbirds, and scents of orange citrus groves and fresh pine trees. The artwork also includes raised textures for touching.

Man walking with a white cane across the street.October 15th is National White Cane Safety Day, so we thought we’d share the White Cane Law: “A totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a predominately white cane (with or without a red tip), or using a guide dog, shall have the right-of-way. The driver of any vehicle approaching this pedestrian, who fails to yield the right-of-way, or to take all responsibility necessary precautions to avoid injury to this blind pedestrian, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) no more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both. This section shall not preclude prosecution under any other applicable provision of law.” – Vehicle Code #21963 #NationalWhiteCaneSafetyDay

Orcams MyEye productToday’s #MemberSpotlightMonday features our member Blinded Veterans Association and our corporate partner OrCam who were both spotlighted on today’s episode of Dr. Phil. US Veteran Scotty Smiley, blinded in Iraq in 2005, demonstrates how the OrCam MyEye 2 has changed his life, allowing him to read text, recognize faces, identify products and more. OrCam is offering a discount on their MyEye device through Wednesday. Click to learn more at: http://bit.ly/2IISwNT

LightHosue workers sitting around a table in discussionToday’s #MemberSportlightMonday is about Lighthouse Center for Vision Loss in Duluth, Minnesota. They offer many great programs serving clients across the state, including a Transition Program open to youth 14 to 21 years of age who have visual impairment or blindness and are still in school. The photos below show some of the many activities participants enjoy: free use of a computer and technology training, cooking class, rock climbing and a city-wide scavenger hunt.
https://www.lcfvl.org/transition

Joe Bogart with his sonThis #MemberSpotlightMonday we’d like to spotlight Joe Bogart, Executive Director of the Blinded Veterans Association. Joe retired from the U.S. Army as a Major after serving 28 years as a Combat Engineer. While serving in Iraq in 2006, he was wounded and left legally blind. In 2008, he again deployed to Iraq as the first Blind Service member to return to ground combat since the Civil War. After his retirement in 2018, he took over as the Executive Director for the Blinded Veterans Association. Joe also serves on the Board of Directors for the Missouri based Veteran Support Organization called Camp Hope. [photo below is Joe with his son] Find out more at their website, www.bva.org

Sharon Giovinazzo and her dog Watson
Sharon Giovinazzo and her dog Watson

For today’s #MemberSpotlightMonday, we’re sharing a the inspirational story of the Executive Director of World Services for the Blind, Sharon Giovinazzo, and her guidedog Watson: https://www.thv11.com/…/from-2020-to-00-in-month…/615166549…

Here are the documents for the meeting:

Agenda:

10-28-18 Board Agenda   (58 KB)

Minutes:

BOARD MINUTES – 9.19.18  (58 KB)

BOARD MINUTES – 10.16.18   (59 KB)

Financials:

SEPT 2018 BS  (41 KB)

Sept 2018 PL  (50 KB)

Treasurer’s Report:

VisionServe Investment Report 09-30-18   (51 KB)

DRAFT 2019 Budget  (74 KB)

CEO Update:

Vision Bill Initial Themes  (14KB)

Committee Reports:
Old Business:

MOU/Prevent Blindness   (58 KB)

Roxann Mayros headshotby Roxann Mayros, President and CEO, VisionServe Alliance

In partnership with the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and the National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind (NAEPB), VisionServe Alliance has sponsored a Compensation and Benefits Survey biennially since 2010.  This is the only survey in the field of blindness and low vision that provides data on executive and vision rehabilitation specific professions.

There are several nonprofit compensation surveys available these days, so why does VisionServe Alliance’s Board of Directors believe this survey is necessary and important?  For a couple of reasons.  First, there is a national shortage of vision rehabilitation professionals that provide rehabilitation training, travel skills, jobs, and educational services to people with vision loss, and no other organization is surveying this class of employees.  In a limited market, it is important that VisionServe members have good salary/benefit information to help attract and retain the talent needed to reach their mission. Sometimes salary alone isn’t enough, and leaders need to know about the benefits other organizations are providing.

Second, because the IRS considers compensation to include the total of all income received by the CEO/Executive Director, including not only salary, but also contributions to retirement accounts, housing and car allowances, insurance premiums paid by the nonprofit to benefit the executive director only, and even club memberships if the membership primarily benefits the individual rather than the nonprofit (www.nonprofitcenter.org). This explains what sets VisionServe Alliance’s survey apart – we inquire about compensation AND benefits.  Attracting top leaders to our member organizations is competitive and can be complicated, especially when the IRS Form 990 requires reporting about the “comparable” data used by an organization to justify salaries paid to an organization’s top compensated employees.

With 5 surveys under our belt – 2018 survey results were recently delivered to members and associates – we have observed a few important trends:

  • Despite political and economic turbulence throughout 2017, survey participants continue to experience and to reflect the strong demand for the services offered by nonprofits in the field of vision rehabilitation, education and employment.
  • Over 5 surveys (2010 – 2018), we continue to see a difference in pay between men and women, as well as a pattern of women relatively more often found as President/CEO/Executive Director of small organizations and men more often at large organizations. This appears to account for much of the overall difference in pay.
  • We were surprised to see that women made gains in 2018. When we grouped similarly sized organizations together, we found no pattern of pay differences between the men and women in each group. In fact, in some groups the average pay for women in the President/CEO/Executive Director is higher than the pay for men.
  • The great majority (83%) of survey participants expect to give regular pay increases over the next twelve months. The median overall annual pay increase reported is 3%. These numbers are almost identical to the results reported in previous surveys.
  • Around two-thirds (66%) of survey participants expect increased competition from other employers to attract and retain qualified employees during the next twelve months. Just over half (54%) plan to increase their regular, full-time workforce in the year ahead.

Our Compensation and Benefits Survey reflects both optimism and the challenges of finding, hiring, and staffing VisionServe Alliance member organizations, especially with shortages of teachers of the visually impaired and vision rehabilitation professionals.

If you did not participate in the survey and are a member of VisionServe Alliance or NAEPB, you may purchase a copy that is calibrated to your community’s local labor statistics for $250 by e-mailing wendy@visionservealliance.org.  If you are not a member, you may purchase a copy for $500.

VSA Blog head

Roxann Mayros headshotby Roxann Mayros, President and CEO, VisionServe Alliance

With most of the news focused on immigration issues, I was interested when a message from Independent Sector appeared in my in-box talking about a new series of articles and a Podcast focused on the Civil Society.  I clicked in expecting to read about how the United States was founded and enhanced by people coming to these shores to participate in a democracy that is the envy of the entire world.  I expected to read about diversity and immigration issues.  What I did not expect to read was a new name to describe the work done by nonprofits.  In my years of study – I have a Master’s and two certificates in Nonprofit Management/Leadership – I have heard the nonprofit world called the third sector, charitable sector, impact sector, voluntary sector, and nonprofit sector, but never the Civil Society, which Independent Sector describes as  “private action in service of the public good—as opposed to public action for public good (which is government), or private action for private good (which is business).”

No matter what we call what we do, Independent Sector says that it all adds up to “1.5 million organizations that employ more than 11 million professionals, mobilize more than 63 million volunteers each year, and take in more than $390 billion in philanthropic donations annually, plus many hundreds of billions in government grants and contracts.”   So, whatever we call ourselves, the nonprofit organizations in America touch every aspect of our daily lives in profound—though often unnoticed—ways.

Even so, we are in an era when, as a sector, we are facing challenges to the way we do business.  Last year’s tax law disincentivizes the everyday donor from making charitable contributions. The tax law also made changes to the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) that could significantly increase nonprofits’ tax burden. And the potential repeal of the Johnson Amendment would open charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations to the demands for political endorsements, contributions, and other partisan electioneering activities. Dan Cardinelli, CEO of Independent Sector also identifies in his Blog posting about Civil Societies – https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_adaptive_challenge_of_restoring_trust_in_civil_society – other challenges, including the concentration of wealth in the top 1%, how we define community, and sharp increases in political and cultural polarization.

If you are reading this, and you are a nonprofit leader, I encourage you to follow these issues by reading VisionServe’s regular updates, looking at our website for news, and searching Google.  Once you are up-to-date, contact your legislators to tell them NOT to repeal the Johnson Amendment, and then contact the IRS and ask them to clarify how the law should be interpreted because nonprofits are already expected to make payments on things like parking or transit passes and other fringe benefits. And finally, think about how you interact with your donor base – you must give them a reason to want to continue to donate to your organization even though most will no longer be able to itemize it on their income taxes.