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News

VSA to Offer Pre-Conference Seminar and Training Sessions at this Year’s NIB/NAEPB Training Conference Oct. 3 – 7, 2023

VisionServe Alliance is excited to announce that we are collaborating with National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and the National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind (NAEPB) to offer a seminar for leaders and an additional learning track of sessions on pertinent topics during the 2022 NIB/NAEPB Training Conference and Expo. This in-person event is scheduled for Monday, October 3 to Friday, October 7, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.

Here are the featured sessions VSA will facilitate at the conference:

Monday, October 3

8:30 am – 4:30 pm: Humanize Your Leadership

How To Build Trust, Inspire Accountability, and Lead With Purpose—in 2022 (And Beyond)

Mary Pat Knight headshot

Leadership Seminar with Mary Pat Knight

The Mary Pat Knight Leadership Seminar is open to all leaders and their leadership team members.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the Four Frameworks of The Humanized Leader and why this Approach to Leadership is More Important than Ever
  • Strengthen Needed and Desired Emotional Intelligence Abilities
  • Learn and Practice Humanized Communication, created a growth mindset around listening and feedback
  • Create a Plan to Cultivate a Culture of Accountability and Undeniable Team Performance
  • Work from a Place of Purpose and Support Your Teams to do the Same.

The cost of this workshop is $250. When registering, select the box, “Humanize Your Leadership – Leadership Seminar with Mary Pat Knight”

5:30 – 7:00 pm ET: Networking Reception for VSA and NIB CEOs and Executive Team Leaders (by invitation)

Tuesday, October 4

8:30 – 11:30 am: Open Space Technology Sessions

If you attended the 2019 VSA Conference, you know the drill. For newcomers to Open Space Technology, participants are invited to come prepared to suggest discussion topics for breakouts sessions; to suggest a topic means you are also prepared to facilitate the discussion. Topic suggestions will be organized into choices and break-out areas and participants will join the discussion group that interests them. This is an opportunity to gather a few colleagues to discuss more intensely issues that are important to you, share innovative ideas and get feedback or identify potential partners – and more!

Wednesday, October 5

8:15 – 9:15 am ET: 2022 VSA/NIB Compensation & Benefits Survey: Highlights & Implications – jointly presented by NIB and VSA Staff – presented by Lakesha Larry and Wendy Hymes

Description: Presentation of the most interesting data points from the only compensation & benefits survey specific to organizations serving people who are Blind and Visually Impaired, including salaries, work environment, and current DEI practices and metrics. This session will help you understand the salaries and benefits that are most attractive to today’s workforce.

9:30 – 10:30 am ET: Cracking the Code for Funding and Promoting Low Vision and Other Vision Rehabilitation Services for Older Adults – presented by two or more Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition Steering Committee Members

Description: a presentation & discussion on the status of Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition work towards the goal of serving more than only 3% of those in need.

Learn about current and coming strategic initiatives and how you can get involved and employ these in your community.

10:45 – 11:45 am ET: Fueling Advocacy through Data and Research – presented jointly by Dr John Crews and Lee Nasehi 

Description: Help build the agenda for VisionServe Alliance’s Five-Year Data & Research Plan that will become the foundation of strategic planning and advocacy efforts for vision rehabilitation services, employment, and the education of children with blindness and low vision.

This year’s NIB Conference will also include:

  • Recognition of the 2022 Employees of the Year from NIB associated agencies
  • Keynote speeches by government and military leaders
  • Extensive training sessions on timely and relevant topics
  • Product expo with nearly 100 exhibitors on Wednesday afternoon
  • And much more!

To view the full conference agenda, book your hotel, and register, visit the NIB conference registration site here

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News

The Big Data Project

VisionServe Alliance and The Ohio State University College of Optometry provide groundbreaking data on the rate of blindness and low vision among people over 65 in eight states.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 1, 2022 – VisionServe Alliance (VSA) and The Ohio State University College of Optometry have partnered, embarking on a project to analyze standardized statewide data and national reports of people who are blind or have low vision. Its initial findings will be released to the public on April 4 at VisionServe Alliance’s Executive Leadership Conference.

The Big Data Project provides state-level data on the rate of blindness and low vision among people aged 65 years and older for eight states: Pennsylvania, New York, California, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Illinois. These briefings also describe the rate of chronic conditions, quality of life, and disability indicators among older people with and without blindness and low vision. 

“We really have limited resources to address public health initiatives when thinking of things like vision—so determining where the most immediate needs are turns out to be really helpful so you can start to direct scarce resources to groups that could benefit the most,” said Dean VanNasdale, OD, Ph.D., Associate Professor, The Ohio State University College of Optometry.

The Big Data Project briefings are the only studies providing comprehensive descriptions of older people with vision impairment at the state and county levels in one document. The current eight states’ reports have been posted on the VSA website as publicly available downloadable PDFs.

“These are factual reports,” said John E. Crews, D.P.A., the former Lead Scientist with the Disability and Health Team in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “We can apply the content to funding, services, and advocacy efforts in any venue.”

The data sets included in the project are the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the American Community Survey (ACS).

Policymakers and advocates can use the Big Data Project briefings to develop programs to improve the lives and independence of older people with vision loss. President and CEO of NewView Oklahoma, Lauren Branch, said one of the biggest challenges in providing services to the low vision community is a lack of funding, which ties to a lack of data. 

“We’ve been talking about needing data for years,” Lauren said. “Those of us who have been serving in this field anecdotally know how large this population is, but we’ve never had this specific data to back up what we are saying.” 

This data will now give agencies like NewView Oklahoma a boost in talking with their community and policyholders. Lauren said this would genuinely express the needs and impacts their services do and can have on their population without being siloed.

According to the report, 7.3% of elderly individuals report blindness or vision loss. This is not distributed equally across racial or ethnic groups or by state or county lines. According to Crews, the BRFSS survey handles 440,000 individuals. In this report, a breakdown of national visual impairment goes as follows:

  • White non-Hispanic: 6.1%,
  • Black non-Hispanic: 10.5%,
  • Native American: 14.2%,
  • Hispanic: 13.9%.

Respectfully, showing a significant impact on individuals with a visual impairment in minority populations. Additionally, the data reports 5.8% in Illinois, while in Louisiana, 12.4%.  “Even within this country, the prevalence of visual impairment varies from state to state,” Crews said. “We found even more variability from county to county.”

Looking at the state of Missouri, the overall prevalence of visual impairment is 7.3%. The counties’ prevalence ranges from 2.6% to 21.1% within the state. Crews said the higher prevalence is typically in rural areas.

“Those areas tend to be under-resourced,” Crews said. “People are poorer in those areas. They don’t have access to healthcare, eye care, and have virtually no access to anything that looks like vision rehabilitation.”    

With the groundbreaking insight of the findings of the first eight states, VSA is determined and dedicated to completing the project for the rest of the country, starting by recruiting an additional ten states for the next phase.

“The Big Data Project is VisionServe’s most ambitious undertaking to date,” said Lee Nasehi, President and CEO of VSA. “It is an honor to work with the distinguished Ohio State University College of Optometry to bring this project to fruition.” 

To learn more about VSA and the Big Data Project, contact Lee Nasehi at leen@visionservealliance.org

VisionServe Alliance: VisionServe Alliance is a leadership collective of organizations and individuals in the US and Canada engaged in building a better world with and for people with vision loss through education, advocacy, research, products, and services. We provide education and opportunities for dialogue and collaboration to strengthen leadership skills, the quality of services, and the positive impact of our field on people of all ages living with blindness, low vision, and other vision impairment. 

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News

Education Department Launches Historic Real Pay for Real Jobs Initiative for People with Disabilities

The following is a press release sent on behalf of the United States Department of Education.

States eligible to compete for Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment Grants totaling $167 million

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 18, 2022

Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) released the notice inviting applications for the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) demonstration project, aimed at increasing access for people with disabilities to jobs that pay good wages.

The SWTCIE project is the largest discretionary grant administered by RSA, with $167 million available to State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners.

“Economic security should be available to all Americans,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Providing individuals with disabilities with a high-quality education and the services that they need to thrive will result in real pay for real jobs, empowering them and leading to greater social and economic inclusion.”

SWTCIE is a step toward ending practices that have allowed some employers to pay less than the federal minimum wage to people with disabilities. The new grant program will sponsor innovative approaches that allow people with disabilities to successfully secure jobs working alongside their non-disabled peers while earning the same pay.

“More than 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, far too many people with disabilities continue to be denied equal opportunity,” said U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. “The subminimum wage for workers with disabilities is a relic of a time when people with disabilities were viewed as unable to work and lacked federal protections. It is long past time that we help phase out the subminimum wage for people with disabilities and expand access to fulfilling employment and economic self-sufficiency. We must continue working to ensure every American can succeed and earn a fair wage.”

To help eliminate subminimum wage employment, this competition will award grants to as many as 18 State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners that will create employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The jobs will be in critical need areas, including home and community-based services, the arts, or transportation and related industries. In addition, applicants may submit proposals in other areas that will transition individuals from subminimum wage employment to competitive integrated employment.

“Some workers with disabilities spend decades earning a subminimum wage without the opportunity to gain new skills or move to a job that pays a higher wage. Today, the Department of Education took an important step to end this discriminatory practice,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. “I applaud Secretary Cardona for his leadership and I will keep fighting to ensure all workers with disabilities are paid at least minimum wage and have the opportunity to succeed in the workplace.”

The SWTCIE project advances a key Biden-Harris Administration goal – strengthening the economic security of Americans with disabilities. This funding opportunity aligns existing and emerging employment opportunities with the needs of employers and the public infrastructure. Most notably, activities will ensure people with disabilities are earning real pay for real jobs.

The Department’s Rehabilitation Services Administration web page provides additional information about vocational rehabilitation opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Notice Inviting Applications is available for public inspection at the Federal Register. The Federal Register will publish the official version of the notice on Monday, March 21. The deadline for submissions is June 21, 2022.

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News

VSAELC 2022 Registration Opens

The Power of Leading Together Registration Now Open

VSAELC 2022

Join us in person in beautiful Tampa April 3-6 at VSA’s 2022 Executive Leadership Conference! Industry professionals and leaders involved in the provision of service to or with people who are blind or have low vision are invited to reflect on the impact our industry has on society and share ideas for a transformative future. The 4-day event will offer opportunities to attend exceptional learning and networking sessions on topical issues, including specific learning sessions for CEOs, Program, and Administrative staff. Attend the #1 conference to advance your professional development, organizational effectiveness, and more.

Book your room at the Westin Tampa Waterside Hotel now!

Spealer Highlight

Mary Pat Knight

Mary Pat Knight is the CEO and Founder of Leaders Inspired, a global training and development firm dedicated to personal and leadership transformation, and a speaker, author, coach, and consultant who is an expert in leadership and emotional intelligence.

Session: The Humanized Leader

Justice Shorter

Justice Shorter is a Disability Justice advocate and Black Disabled Lives Matter amplifier. She is a national expert on disability inclusive disaster protections, emergency management and humanitarian crises/conflicts. Justice served as a Disability Integration Advisor with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, deploying frequently to disaster areas across America and its territories.

Session: Power Moves: Transforming Leadership By Centering Marginalized Communities

View the full agenda and speakers

Sponsors

Interested in being a Sponsor or Exhibitor at the ELC? View Sponsor benefits now. Contact Wendy Hymes for more information.

View the sponsors and partners at this year’s VSAELC

VSAELC sponsor logo block
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News

Big Data Project Phase One Will Shed New Light on Aging and Vision Loss in America

The Big Data Project

VisionServe Alliance (VSA) and the Ohio State University College of Optometry have partnered, embarking on a project to analyze standardized statewide data and national reports of people who are blind or have low vision.

“The Big Data Project is VisionServe’s most ambitious undertaking to date.  It is an honor to work with the distinguished Ohio State University College of Optometry to bring this project to fruition,” said Lee Nasehi, President and CEO of VisionServe Alliance.

Aptly named the “Big Data Project,” the venture will generate state-level standalone reports showing the prevalence of vision impairment, as well as the demographic, social, and health characteristics of older people with vision impairment in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. In addition, an aggregate document will be prepared to report the nation-wide prevalence of vision impairment and characteristics of older people with vision impairment. Each report will be posted on the VisionServe website as publicly-available downloadable PDFs.

“Each report will be a briefing paper to provide evidence from the data sets describing the prevalence of vision impairment, and will provide some insight into that population based on the available variables,” said John Crews, DPA, nationally recognized for his lifelong body of work in the fields of vision rehabilitation and disability research. “These are factual reports.  We can apply the content to funding, services, and advocacy efforts in any venue.”

The data sets included in the project are the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), https://www.cdc.gov/brfss/index.html, and the American Community Survey (ACS), https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs.

The Pilot Project

The Big Data Project started in Fall 2021 with a pilot project, to which multiple organizations committed their support and participation.  Those agencies, representing Pennsylvania, Louisiana, California, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Florida, contributed or helped raise funds necessary to launch the fledgling project. In addition, a number of national organizations recognize the value of and need for the Big Data Project by providing financial support.  VisionServe thanks these organizations for their financial support of and/or participation in the Big Data Project:

Affiliated Blind of Louisiana Training Center

AlphaPointe

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)

BENNY – Blind Employment Network of NY

Braille Institute of America

Chicago Lighthouse

Earle Baum Center of the Blind

Florida Agencies Serving the Blind and its participating member agencies

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired San Francisco

Lighthouse for the Blind St. Louis

Lighthouse Louisiana

Louisiana Association for the Blind (L.A.B.)

Louisiana Center for the Blind

NewView Oklahoma

New York Vision Rehabilitation Association and its participating member agencies

Pennsylvania Association for the Blind and its participating member agencies

Society for the Blind Sacramento

Spectrios Institute for Low Vision

St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Wayfinder Family Services

Next Steps

“Upon completion of the Aging and Vision Loss reports, VisionServe Alliance plans to continue its collaboration with the Ohio State University College of Optometry,” reports Ms. Nasehi.  “Similar data is badly needed for working age adults, that is, 18 to 64 years old; and for children through age 17 years.  Those two groups will be Phases Two and Three, respectively.”

BRFSS and ACS data sets will also be used in developing the individual state, territory, and national reports, utilizing data and analysis criteria relevant to each age group.

The Call to Action

As the pilot project draws to a close, VisionServe Alliance calls on stakeholders in the field of blindness and low vision to champion the Big Data Project:

  • Make a participation commitment to enlist the vision rehabilitation organizations in your state to support production of your state-specific report
  • Make a financial commitment, pledging support for each of the three phases
  • Write letters of support for VisionServe to include in funding applications to government agencies, foundations, corporations, and others
  • Arrange introductions between VisionServe representatives and members of your various networks who are interested in supporting efforts to address the need to reframe vision rehabilitation and services
  • Contact Lee Nasehi or Libby Murphy with your questions, suggestions, and your commitment

Contact: Lee Nasehi, President & CEO

Email: leen@visionservealliance.org

or

Contact: Libby Murphy, Project Manager

Email: lmurphy@visionservealliance.org

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THE RETURN OF BLUE AWNING YOGA & WELLNESS- VIRTUALLY

WHO: Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, Inc.

WHAT:  Inclusive and Interactive Yoga for All

WHERE: Virtual via Mindbody using Zoom

DETAILS: Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh is excited to announce the return of VIRTUAL classes at Blue Awning Yoga & Wellness.  This inclusive studio creates an atmosphere of harmony and wellness in oneself. Our experienced instructors are committed to their students by creating a positive environment focused of education, healing, and mindfulness.  The classes are accessible for all and support all skill levels.  Whether you are an experienced yogi or new to the practice, virtual yoga is the perfect solution for you.  Enjoy our classes via Zoom in the comfort of your home.  Classes are $5.00 each and can be scheduled directly through the Mindbody App. 

To register or learn more, visit www.blueawningyoga.com.  You can also download the Mindbody App in the App Store or the Google Play Store and search for Blue Awning Yoga & Wellness.   If you have questions or need assistance please contact Michael Mari at 412-368-4400 or mmari@pghvis.org.

Yoga has been proven to decrease stress, increase flexibility, and promote better overall health. Attending classes will not only benefit you but will also help Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services grow this exciting program!  I hope you will share this information with your networks and will consider attending yourself.   

CONTACT: If you need additional information or have questions, please contact Michael Mari, Development Associate at 412.368.4400 or mmari@pghvis.org

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Blog News

VSA Collects Membership Data For Better Insight

VSA Collects Membership Data For Better Insight

VisionServe Alliance is helping to bridge the gap in data available in our field. Starting in 2022, VSA will ask members to submit an annual report on the services they provide and other data points to help clarify the services and makeup of our field. The data will focus on vision rehab services, the demographics being served, how these services are funded, and more.

The purpose of this annual report is to gather information from all VisionServe Alliance member organizations so that we have information each organization can use to their benefit. For example, our member organizations may wish to know:

  • How many people are served each year by VSA members, and in what way
  • How the number and types of programs offered by your organization compare to other organizations with similar sized staff and budgets.
  • What revenue sources or funding is obtained from by organizations in your geographic area.

Completion of this form is voluntary but highly encouraged. 

VSA has contracted with Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum to assist with this project. Dr. Rosenblum has more than 35 years of experience in the field of visual impairment as a teacher of students with visual impairments, university faculty member, and researcher. Recently she made the decision to focus full-time on her consulting business, Vision for Independence, LLC.

Penny brings a lot to this project with both her personal experience as an individual with low vision and her wealth of professional knowledge. She is a creative thinker who has a keen eye for designing research tools that we believe will help VSA collect data and, more importantly, present the aggregated data in a report that our member organizations will find valuable. The VSA team appreciates her efficiency, candor, and robust skillset. We look forward to continued work with her as this project moves forward.

Penny Rosenblum
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Clinical Trial Shaping The Future of Vision Technology

The Chicago Lighthouse’s research department is the Epicenter of Vision Innovation. Our groundbreaking work is at the forefront of advancing the possibilities for people with low vision.

In partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology, we are in the first phase of a clinical trial that will investigate the visual perceptions via an implant for people with profound blindness.

The clinical trial involves the implantation of this first-of-its-kind wireless visual prosthesis system, which aims to restore limited vision to people with profound blindness. The ICVP is intended for people who are currently blind without light perception, but were sighted until at least age twelve.

To learn more about the ICVP, project goals, clinical trial participation criteria, and risks and benefits of participation, watch the informational session here: https://youtu.be/Iq6TmZIzYr8

Research reported here is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UH3NS095557. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

The Chicago Lighthouse’s research department is the Epicenter of Vision Innovation. Our groundbreaking work is at the forefront of advancing the possibilities for people with low vision.

In partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology, we are in the first phase of a clinical trial that will investigate the visual perceptions via an implant for people with profound blindness.

The clinical trial involves the implantation of this first-of-its-kind wireless visual prosthesis system, which aims to restore limited vision to people with profound blindness. The ICVP is intended for people who are currently blind without light perception, but were sighted until at least age twelve.

To learn more about the ICVP, project goals, clinical trial participation criteria, and risks and benefits of participation, watch the informational session here: https://youtu.be/Iq6TmZIzYr8

Research reported here is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UH3NS095557. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

ICVP  Intracortical Visual Prosthesis
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News

U.S. Goalball Teams Announced For Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

USABA logo

U.S. Goalball Teams Announced For Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA (June 9, 2021) – The United States Association of Blind Athletes has revealed the 12 athletes selected to represent Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in the sport of goalball. The announcement was made Wednesday at Turnstone Center, an official U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Site in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and home to the Goalball Center of Excellence and the USA Goalball Resident Athlete Training Program.

Named to the men’s team were Zach Buhler (Huntington, Ind.), John Kusku (Commerce Township, Mich.), Tyler Merren (Coral Springs, Fla.), Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.), Daryl Walker (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Calahan Young (Irwin, Pa.).

The women’s team members are Mindy Cook (Columbus, Ohio), Lisa Czechowski (Boonton, N.J.), Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.), Marybai Huking (Salt Lake City, Utah), Eliana Mason (Beaverton, Ore.) and Asya Miller (Portland, Ore.).

At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the U.S. was the only country to have both its men’s and women’s teams reach the podium as the U.S. men’s squad captured the silver medal and the women’s team claimed the bronze. Nine of the 12 athletes named on Wednesday are returning Paralympians from the Rio Games and they boast a combined 21 Paralympic Games appearances and 14 Paralympic Games medals.

Kusku, Merren, Simpson and Walker all return from the silver-medal winning men’s squad in Rio. For Merren, Tokyo will mark his fourth Paralympic Games. He also won a bronze medal at the Athens 2004 Games and was a member of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Team along with Walker, who will be participating in his third Games. Buhler and Young will be making their Paralympic Games’ debuts in Tokyo.

The U.S. men’s team is fresh off a victory over defending Paralympic champion Lithuania in the finals of the Trakai Tournament last month.

“After the USA Men’s Goalball Team’s performance and victory at the Trakai Games, I’m fully confident that the six athletes selected for the Tokyo Paralympic Games will represent our nation well,” U.S. Men’s Goalball Head Coach Keith Young said. “We have veterans who have prior Paralympic Games experience as well as strong newcomers. Our program has moved through having a relatively new coaching staff brought on and a renewed focus on high performance programming, in addition to dealing with the COVID pandemic. I fully believe that we have a team where all six athletes can contribute on the court and face the best teams in the world.”

On the women’s side, the team is awash with experience with five of the six members returning from the bronze-medal winning Rio squad. Czechowski and Miller have been side-by-side for the last five Paralympic Games and Tokyo will mark their sixth straight Games together. As goalball teammates, they won silver in 2004, gold in 2008, and bronze in 2016. Prior to that they both competed in discus at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games where Czechowski was the silver medalist and Miller took the bronze. Dennis will be participating in her third straight Paralympics, while Huking and Mason will make their second straight appearance. For Cook, Tokyo will be her Paralympic debut.

The women’s team captured the silver medal in last month’s Trakai Tournament in Lithuania.

“Choosing the final roster for an event as prestigious as the Paralympic Games is never easy,” said U.S. Women’s Goalball Head Coach Jake Czechowski. “The depth of our player pool made this year’s selection especially difficult. We have great veteran leadership and experience with a combined 14 Paralympic teams. I expect our team to be ready for all the challenges and excitement that the Paralympics provides. This year, with all the changes and new protocols due to COVID, experience will be that much more valuable. The competition has never been stronger in women’s goalball, and we look forward to taking the court and competing against the best teams in the world.”

Alternates for the men’s team are Cody Carmicle (Lafayette, Ind.) and Sean Walker (Winchester, Va.), while Shavon Lockhardt (White Plains, N.Y.) will serve as alternate for the women’s team.

All selections to the Tokyo 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team are subject to approval by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games goalball competition begins on Aug. 25 with the medal matches taking place on Sept. 3.

USA Men’s Goalball Team
Zach Buhler (Huntington, Ind.)
John Kusku (Commerce Township, Mich.)
Tyler Merren (Coral Springs, Fla.)
Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.)
Daryl Walker (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Calahan Young (Irwin, Pa.) 
Head Coach: Keith Young
Assistant Coach: James Wallace
Athletic Trainer: Adam McDowell
Athlete Alternates: Cody Carmicle (Lafayette, Ind.) and Sean Walker (Winchester, Va.)

USA Women’s Goalball Team
Mindy Cook (Columbus, Ohio)
Lisa Czechowski (Boonton, N.J.)
Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.)
Marybai Huking (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Eliana Mason (Beaverton, Ore.)
Asya Miller (Portland, Ore.)
Head Coach: Jake Czechowski
Assistant Coach and Team Leader: John Potts
Athletic Trainer: Jennifer Brown
Athlete Alternate: Shavon Lockhardt (White Plains, N.Y.)

USA Goalball Team Support Staff
Goalball Coordinator: Linda Welborn
Strength & Conditioning Coaches: EJ Whitney and Emilee Stemler
Resident Team Athletic Trainer: Joe Baer (Parkview Athletic Trainer)
Team Dieticians: Kate Davis and Liz Broad
Sports Psychology: Taylor Gabler (women’s team) and Ciaran Connery (men’s team)

###

CONTACT: Bill Kellick (USABA Communications Manager) bkellick@usaba.org/719-354-6580

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News

National Registry for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments Launches

Success Beyond Sight logo

Success Beyond Sight, (SBS), a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, has created a FREE National Registry (NRTSVI) for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVIs/TVIs) to empower a national voice for TSVIs/TVIs and to provide a means to reach, on a national level, TSVIs/TVIs with free resources and important professional information.

NRYSVI logo

Success Beyond Sight recognizes the crucial role that TSVIs/TVIs play in the long-term success of their students. Strong instruction and mentorship by TSVIs/TVIs are common denominators for many highly accomplished adults who were born without vision or who lost their vision as children.

Because TSVIs/TVIs are licensed / credentialed / certified / endorsed in their state of practice, there has not been a Registry recognizing them as a nationally important profession demonstrating the power of their numbers. SBS formed an Advisory Board to help guide the development of the NRTSVI. Advisory Board members are Dr. Laura Bozeman, Dr. Rona Pogrund, Dr. Amy Parker, Dr. Cheryl Kamei-Hannan, Jill Brown and Dr. Nicole Johnson.

SBS is providing FREE access to the Journal of Vision Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) for all Registrants. JVIB is the resource for peer-reviewed research and articles for professionals serving individuals who are blind or have low vision.

TSVIs/TVIs will be able to be directly engaged with, and have a voice in, national discussions regarding:

  • the funding needed to train current and future professionals and to secure the survival of this very important profession
  • efforts to ensure sufficient funding for all students who require specialized services from a TSVI/TVI
  • the sharing of important information and opportunities to be included in relevant surveys and research to benefit the profession
  • appropriate caseloads
  • legislative advocacy

SBS recognizes that there are important professional membership organizations that provide TSVIs/TVIs a voice among other professional voices, but the Registry will provide the forum for TSVIs/TVIs to be highly visible and have their own unique voice on the national stage.

Participating in the Registry is voluntary. For questions or additional information email: NRTSVI@successbeyondsight.org

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VisionServe Alliance Releases Official Code of Ethics Policies

St. Louis, Missouri—May 18, 2021 – VisionServe Alliance (VSA) announces the release of its official Code of Ethics policy which outlines expectations regarding the behavior of VSA towards its members, clients, stakeholders, and society.

Developed by the Board of Directors with assistance from the Employers Association Forum, VSA’s Code of Ethics policy is a statement of the values and standards for its staff, members and corporate partners and is tied to VSA’s Core Values of Commitment, Exceptional Leadership, Diversity, Inclusion, Innovation, and Collaboration. 

“The last few years we have all witnessed many public figures whose actions have called into question what the common standards of ethical behavior are,” notes Lee Nasehi, President/CEO of VisionServe Alliance. “Based on these events, VisionServe Alliance felt compelled to clarify where we stand and to demonstrate to its members our commitment to upholding strong ethical behavior in all its activities, from internal staff to external relations from member to member.”

The Board of Directors worked in partnership with EAF Consultant Chuck Simikian through a series of brainstorming sessions, to determine eight pillars of its official code of ethics policy. “This was a team effort which started with the Membership Committee which includes board members and other VSA members,” notes Bernadette Kappen who chairs the Membership Committee. “Together with help from professional consultant, Chuck Simikian, we worked to develop the pillars of our policy which we all agreed represented what VisionServe Alliance should stand for.” After the Membership Committee’s initial work, the draft was then taken to the full Board of Directors for further revision and final approval.

The new policy was unveiled to attendees of the virtual Executive Leadership Conference April 27 – 29, 2021. The official rollout of the Code of Ethics continues with an emailed announcement to all members, corporate partners and the public.

“We feel strongly that VisionServe’s Code of Ethics will support high standards not just among our employees and board, but also our members and all conference participants,” noted Nasehi. “It emphasizes the importance of ethical behavior standards throughout all of VisionServe’s programs and will become an integral part of our annual conferences and awards process for attendees and award nominators.”

Here are some of the ways the Code of Ethics will become part of VSA’s processes:

  • Renewing and joining members will review and agree to abide by the Code of Ethics policies in order to join VSA.
  • Attendees at VSA’s annual conferences will review and agree to abide by the Code of Ethics policies along with a basic code of conduct to participate in the conference.
  • Annual Awards descriptions will reference our Code of Ethics policies as a standard. For nominations to move forward for consideration, nominators should be able to certify to the best of their knowledge, that their nominees meet the criteria and embrace the ideals for each of the 8 pillars of VSA’s Code of Ethics.

Originally founded in 1987 as the National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCPABVI) and renamed in 2008, VisionServe Alliance is a consortium of 118 nonprofits located throughout the United States and Canada that provide unique and specialized services to people who are blind or with severe vision loss. 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. Members engage regional and national leaders in building a better world through services to people with vision loss by promoting leadership development, ethical management, quality services, and professional growth.

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Blog News

How the American Rescue Plan Act Affects Your Nonprofit

VSA will continue to research and share updates on the ARPA as more info becomes available. Several items to note as of now, 1) The deadline to apply for the PPP loan has NOT been extended beyond March 31st, 2) Be aware of the new extension of COBRA coverage (see below), 3) the new Charitable Incentive bill.

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Paycheck Protection Program

Adds $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection ProgramExpands PPP eligibility to charitable nonprofits that operate at multiple locations and employ not more than 500 employees per physical locationExpands PPP eligibility to other types of nonprofits, but with a 300-emplyee limit per locationNo changes to Second Draw PPP loans eligibility. PPP application deadline is Mar. 31, 2021 unless extended by Congress(Section 5001)

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)

Includes $15 billion for the Targeted EIDL Advance program instructs SBA to spend $10 billion in payments to covered entities that did not receive full amounts to which they were entitledAllocates remaining $5 billion to covered entities that have suffered an economic loss of at least 50% and have 10 or fewer employees(Section 5002)

Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)

Extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit through Dec. 31, 2021(Section 9651)Paid Leave Tax Credits for EmployersExtends through Sept. 30, 2021 the refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave originally established in theFamilies First Coronavirus Response Act and voluntarily provided by employersIncreases the amount of wages for which an employer may claim the paid family credit in a year from $10,000 to $12,000 per employeeExpands leave to cover obtaining vaccinations and any resulting injury or illness related to vaccination(Section 9641)

Charitable Giving Incentives

The new law does not expand incentives for charitable giving, but on Tuesday, March 9, Senators and Representatives introduced the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act618 and H.R 1704. If enacted, the legislation would allow taxpayers who claim the standard deduction, rather than itemizing deductions, on their tax returns to take a deduction for charitable giving valued at up to one-third of the standard deduction (around $4,000 for an individual filer and $8,000 for married joint filers). This added giving incentive would be available for tax years 2021 and 2022. Read the full article from Candid

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News

VisionServe Alliance Announces Two Spring Academic Scholarship Recipients

St. Louis, Missouri—March 22, 2021 – VisionServe Alliance announces two new recipients of its annual academic scholarship: Alison Clougherty, Co-Founder of BEST in Nashville, TN, and Melisa Matthews, a Blind Low Vision Specialist with VIPS in Louisville, KY.

VSA’s annual academic scholarship is available to employees of its member organizations whose annual budget is $1.5 million or less to support continuing education, ACVREP certification, or a degree in vision related specialties or nonprofit management.

“We are thrilled to be able to help these two women pursue the education they need to serve young children with impaired sight,” notes VisionServe Alliance President, Lee Nasehi. “VSA is able to do this thanks to the generous donations of its members who pay it forward!”

Melisa Matthews with VIPS

“After completing the certification, I intend to continue to serve children ages birth to three who have blindness or low vision,” says Melisa Matthews. “I will use the knowledge gained from this program to better support the children and their families. The knowledge will help me support families to better understand and prepare them for the transition from our program to the school districts that will continue their services. The classes completed will help me gain and understand more how to help serve the children. These classes will help me to set appropriate goals and supportive strategies to the children I serve.”

For Alison Clougherty, her mission is personal. “I have recently cofounded a nonprofit in Tennessee that will provide parent support, direct early intervention and advocacy for families of blind and visually impaired children in our state, ages birth to 5. My son was born blind, so I learned first-hand where the gaps are in our state early intervention system. I want to help other families like mine through in-person home visits, advocacy and the creation of comprehensive and robust services.”

VisionServe welcomes additional donations to the VSA Scholarship fund to support applicants for the next application window which will open this summer.

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News

Cleanlogic’s Inspiration Foundation Supports 13 VSA Members Through Assistive Technology Grants

The Inspiration Foundation awarded 13 VisionServe Alliance members Assistive Technology Grants of up to $1,500 to help them keep their technology class rooms and remote training sessions up to date. The recipients used this funding to purchase a variety of equipment including braille displays, braille printers, a new laptop, phones for training, air pods, ear pods, headsets, Fusion software, tablets, handheld electronic magnifiers and more.

The Inspiration Foundation (a philanthropic division of Cleanlogic, a company offering quality bath and body accessories) created these grants to help nonprofit organizations purchase assistive technology equipment. The founder of Cleanlogic was inspired by his mom, who lost her sight when she was 7, but never let it stop her. Through her hard work, she became a passionate advocate, helping other blind and visually impaired individuals gain employment. The Inspiration Foundation’s Board believes that successful job placement and retention depends on strong technology skills and that independent living skills are augmented by technology.

VisionServe Alliance heartily thanks the Inspiration Foundation and Cleanlogic for their support!

2020 Assistive Technology Grant Recipients: 

Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired – Grand Rapids, Michigan 

Balance for Blind Adults – Toronto, Canada 

Community Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired – Stockton, CA 

Community Services for Sight – Sugarloaf, PA 

Computers for the Blind – Richardson, TX 

Earle Baum Center – Santa Rosa, CA 

In-Sight – Warwick, RI 

Lighthouse of Pinellas – Largo, FL 

Nu-Visions Center – Lewiston, PA 

San Diego Center for the Blind – San Diego, CA 

Savannah Association for the Blind – Savannah, GA 

The Vision Institute of South Carolina – Irmo, SC 

Valley Center for the Blind – Fresno, CA 

A volunteer with ABVI receiving training on Fusion JAWS and ZOOM Tech software
CCBVI patron uses an Orbit Writer Smartphone Companion braille keypad, which works with all smartphones and computers.
Community Services for Sight patron uses a tablet during a one-on-one training for applications to improve quality of life and promote independence. 
“Receiving this grant and purchasing this equipment has greatly improved the quality of our virtual programs. Prior to COVID all of our training was done in-person and so we had very little equipment for use when we had to transition to virtual programming. This equipment has enhanced the comfort of our staff, improved audio quality, and demonstrates to the training participants how their investment in similar equipment can also improve their experience.” – Chris Butler, Executive Director, In-Sight
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Blog News

Call for Presentation Proposals Spring 2021

VSA is currently accepting presentation proposals for its spring 2021 virtual conference until Feb. 12, 2021. Attendance at the VisionServe Alliance Executive Leadership Conference is open to any and all leaders in the field of blindness, low vision, and visual impairments. The Conference Committee is especially but not exclusively interested in proposals on the following subjects:

Speaker standing in front of a crowd
  • Innovative program ideas
  • Innovative fundraising ideas including running virtual fundraising events
  • Facilitating culture change towards more diversity or other Diversity/Equity/Inclusion topic presentations
  • Team Building and ensuring your employees’ mental health
  • Remote service delivery especially mental health and delivery to rural communities
  • Designing accessible programs at your organization (internally and externally)

Guidelines: Because presentations will be pre-recorded, presenters should be comfortable presenting virtually. Please include links to previous virtual presentations if possible. Please also include the following:

  • Name(s) of presenter(s) (Panel discussions will be considered) along with title and email:
  • Title of proposed presentation (100 characters or less):
  • Description of presentation (500 characters or less):
  • Attach headshot and bio for all presenters
  • Include online links to relevant media

Submit your proposal: Email to info@visionservealliance.org with the subject line: ELC 2021 PRESENTATION PROPOSAL. Deadline to submit proposals: Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 by 5pm CST. If your proposal is not selected for this event, it may also be considered for an additional VSA virtual event.

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News

Vision Loss Community Professionals and Private Service Provider Groups Forge Historic Public Policy Alliance to Lead the Field in National Systems Change

Aging and Vision Loss to Take Center Stage; Services to Students and Working-Age Adults to Have Starring Roles

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News

USABA Names Molly Quinn as New Chief Executive Officer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

Contact: Bill Kellick, Marketing/PR Manager
(719) 866-3222 or bkellick@usaba.org

COLORADO SPRINGS (July 28, 2020) – The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is pleased to announce the addition of Molly Quinn as the association’s new Chief Executive Officer. Quinn comes to USABA with over 20 years of progressive experience in sales, sports marketing, and philanthropy. 

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Blog News

Working to Achieve Medicare Coverage of Low Vision Devices

The Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (ITEM) Coalition was formed to raise awareness and build support for policies that will enhance access to assistive devices, technologies, and related services for people with disabilities and chronic conditions. The coalition is broad-based including disability and aging organizations as well as health and provider associations.

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Blog News

Resilience and Responsiveness in a Time of Unprecedented Challenge

Author: Paul Schroeder, April 8, 2020

Across the US, businesses, and agencies, and the communities and individuals they serve are struggling in countless ways to maintain well-being – physical, mental and economic. And, our political leaders are also struggling, with limited resources and levers to provide assistance and guidance. Recently enacted legislation has certainly helped and most agree that more action will be needed. In light of these unprecedented times, making our voices heard, on behalf of those we serve, those we employ and those we care for is more challenging than ever. Over the next several issues of Enews, we will try to keep you informed of developments and action needed regarding policy advocacy and provide resources here and on the website. Read on to see current threats to education, accessibility, and voting rights.

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News

Important Survey Shared Flattening the Inaccessibility Curve

Today VisionServe Alliance joins many other organizations and companies in a collaborative project to collect data and information about the experiences of adults who are blind or have low vision during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal is to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the lives of adults with visual impairments and to identify solutions for these challenges.