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

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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)

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

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National Registry for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments Launches

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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VisionServe Alliance Joins Nonprofit Community in Signing COVID-19 Stimulus Letter

March 19, 2020 – VisionServe Alliance joined over 144 national nonprofit organizations calling for the federal government to pass a stimulus bill to support nonprofit organizations facing the COVID-19 crisis.

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Families First Coronavirus Response Act Signed

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) was signed by President Donald Trump on March 18. A congressional summary of H.R. 6201 can be found here.

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Take-Aways From the ELC in Atlanta

“There is lots of work to be done, and together we can do it.”

181 leaders in the blindness and low vision field attended VisionServe’s Executive Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia this past November. This figure sets a record high attendance for any of our conferences and included representatives from 75 VisionServe member organizations (61% of VisionServe’s total membership).

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Executive Leadership Conference to Provide 100% Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired Attendees; Exciting Technology To Be Demonstrated

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

St. Louis, Missouri – September, 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.

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VisionServe Alliance Forms Aging & Vision Loss National Coalition

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.

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Web-based Referral System Launched in Florida, New Hampshire and Oklahoma

St. Louis, Missouri—February 20, 2019 – VisionServe Alliance has launched a pilot program of its new web-based patient referral system known as “VisionRefer!” The web-based referral system will help make referrals of low vision patients by their doctors to vision rehabilitation centers nationwide easy, fast, and HIPAA compliant. The goal is to make VisionRefer! available to every ophthalmologist in the country by year end and to increase referrals to VisionServe members.

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Results of the 5th Biennial Compensation and Benefits Survey Now Available

St. Louis, Missouri – June 19, 2018  –  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 announces that the results of the 5th Biennial Compensation & Benefits Survey are now available to all participating members. This survey is the only comprehensive survey performed in the field for vision rehabilitation professionals, manufacturing positions, and executives.