Unique Certification Organization Recognized with $20,000 Award

2014 Jacob Bolotin Award pictured with the booklet announcing the winners and accomplishments

The nation’s only non-discriminatory, certifying organization of blindness professionals was honored earlier this month with a $20,000 award.

Named for Dr. Jacob Bolotin, a blind doctor from Chicago who practiced medicine in the early 20th century, the award exists to encourage the development of ideas and programs that don’t exist in the field of blindness.

“I learned about Dr. Bolotin many years ago in an offhand comment, and I wondered whether it could be true,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, Past President of the National Federation of the Blind. “Then I met members of the Bolotin family and came to know them well enough to be sure that it wasn’t a myth. Dr. Bolotin was a medical doctor, a competent medical doctor, and impressive person who did very good work in the medical field…although he had an enormously difficult time finding anybody who would recognize his abilities as a blind person and he did it before 1925.”

Formed after an accreditation body refused to certify blind people as cane travel instructors, the National Blindness Professional Certification Board has worked to develop standards for certification of professional personnel who provide services to blind people and to administer tests designed to assess their professional competence.

“The NBPCB’s standards give full respect to the competencies and capabilities of blind people in working in these programs,” Jim Gashel, chairman of the Jacob Bolotin Award committee, said. “In becoming widely recognized and accepted as a reliable certification authority, the NBPCB has brought equality to the blind and put an end to second-class treatment of the blind in the profession of serving the blind. When you think of exploding myths by more enlightened understanding, when you think of courage to believe in blind people in the face of others who do not, and when you think of shaking the blindness profession to its core and changing that profession forever, think of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board.”

NBPCB President Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D., well-known for being denied certification as an orientation and mobility instructor solely on the basis of blindness, accepted the award.

“The Board has really done some amazing things and really its formulation is pretty straightforward,” he said. “We start with the assumption that blind people can live the lives they want to live. We believe in blind people and when the established profession wouldn’t certify blind people to teach orientation and mobility, we created a certification standard, which—in my opinion—is the gold standard in certifying orientation and mobility specialists.”

Dr. Schroeder also explained the NBPCB’s other key focus areas.

“We have taken affirmative steps to address the crisis in braille literacy and have now certified many, many people in competent in literary braille,” he said. “And the same with our training centers. Using the Federation philosophy as the foundation, we look at training programs in terms of do they really fulfill the promise of providing the encouragement and skills that blind people need.”

The NBPCB will use the $20,000 for strengthening its foundation and ensuring that it has the resources to continue providing certification services long into the future.

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Corbb O'Connor
Corbb, a blind entrepreneur, coordinates the outreach and marketing efforts for the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University as an independent consultant.

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