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The PDRIB POST - Fall 2011

The PDRIB Post, the Official Newsletter of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness

The mission of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness is to provide leadership in creating programs, preparing professionals and conducting research that empower blind individuals not only to live independently, but also to participate fully in society.


Fall 2011


The Director’s Dish

Dr. Edward Bell

As we move into the deep part of the fall, we reflect on what we have accomplished as we begin to prepare for all that winter brings. We too at the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University would like to share with you our recent activities, ongoing projects, and plans that we have for the future.


In April of 2011, we reported to you on the successful completion of the 7th annual Cradle to Career: the ABC’s of Blindness Conference that was inspired and led by Dr. Ruby Ryles. As a testament to the success of the ABC conference, a group of Teachers of Blind Students approached us in May to consider offering a stand-alone conference for teachers of blind students from across the state. It was felt that the early Fall would be more conducive to school teachers because they are starting fresh, they could use the  inspiration, hope and ideas gained from the conference in their work, and they would not be burdened by standardized tests and end of year activities. In response, the Louisiana Teacher Training Conference on Blindness and Visual Impairments was born.


During the weekend of September 30—October 2, more than 50 teachers, administrators, students, and colleagues who work with blind youth met in Lafayette, Louisiana for the first ever stand-alone conference focused on the needs, technology, and strategies to more effectively educate youth with visual impairments. This edition of the Post will provide you with more highlights from the conference, but suffice it to say … build it, and they will come!

We are continuing our work in the area of research and evaluation. The Adult Rehabilitation and Employment Survey has now closed for data collection, and the real fun begins! More than 1,050 participants completed the survey, and it is now my task to try to make sense out of those data and to hopefully have interesting information to report to you in future posts.

Final data collection on the National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA) is nearly completed and we expect to be able to validate this assessment to better evaluate the reading needs of visually impaired kids across the country. We will be presenting our findings at the Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference (GITWL) in Louisville, Kentucky during the week of December 6-10. We hope to see you there. Work on the National Orientation and Mobility Assessment (NOMA) and other projects continue as well and we will bring you updates on those as they are available.


Also contained in this PDRIB Post is exciting information about certification and the latest test dates for National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB). Inspirational life stories from our graduates and certificants, news of new editions to our family, and much, much more.

As I close out this Director’s Dish, I leave you with two quotes that I think are reflective of where we have been in these recent months. Benjamin Disraeli said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” And,   Winston Churchill said," We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Carry these thoughts with you as you continue to go out and work to improve the lives of youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired.


Inside the Institute

Institute on Blindness and the Louisiana Center for the Blind host 1st ever Louisiana Teacher Training Conference on Blindness and Visual Impairments
Over 50 teacher’s of the blind and visually impaired from across the state of Louisiana and its surrounding states attended a one-of-a-kind teacher training conference in beautiful Cajun country, Lafayette, Louisiana. Teachers who attended the conference got lots of hands-on training sessions, one-on-one idea sharing, roundtable discussions and small group activities.

Early break-out sessions on Friday afternoon included hands-on training using the Duxbury Braille Translation Program. Participants had one-on-one instruction on the Duxbury Braille translation program, from basic introductory material to more advanced features. Other teachers were treated to demonstrations and instructions on HumanWare products such as the Victor Stream, Mountbatten, Braille Note and more.  A hands-on experience in cane travel was offered to interested teachers who put on the sleep shapes and grabbed a cane for one-on-one instruction.

Later in the evening teachers participated in a variety of roundtable discussion groups on important topics for teachers of today such as adapting material for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classes. Others learned about the Rehab System and the transition of students from high school to college. Other discussions included technology for kids and teachers and basics of the IEP process.

While Friday was a full day, Saturday was filled with lots of topics pertinent to teachers of the blind and visually impaired. Saturday morning started with a general session meeting for all attending the conference. A key note address was delivered by Dr. Ruby Ryles, coordinator of the Teachers of Blind Students Program at the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University.

Following Dr. Ryles presentation a special presentation took place, “A Tribute to Warren D. Figueiredo,” who was a local and national leader in the field of blindness and visual impairment and who is currently it the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field, from the American Printing House for the Blind.


The morning ended with a powerful and emotional panel of blind students who both learned braille at a young age and those who did not. They talked about the challenges and triumphs they faced through their youth.

The Saturday afternoon sessions involved more small break-out sessions which included topics such as,  Braille: An Active Reading Medium, Developing Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM), The Mountbatten Learning System, Cane Travel in the Public School System, Technology Versus Braille: The Great Debate, Using Data-Driven Assessments in the Decision Making Process, Youth Programs: Academics to Extracurricular Activities and more.

A high point of the conference came on Saturday afternoon when Lillian A. Rankel, Ph.D., a chemistry teacher and Marilyn D. Winograd, teacher of the blind and visually impaired presented about creating hands-an STEM experiences for youth who are blind or visually impaired. You will read more below (in Looks at Books) about these two women. Both Lillian and Marilyn were on the ILAB (Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind) team from Penn State University, which was funded by the National Science Foundation. The team researched ways to modify equipment and materials so blind students could be fully integrated in the classroom and laboratory.

Saturday afternoon ended with more exciting, small group break-sessions on such topics as Living Skills: Expectations and Techniques and Writing High-Yield IEP Goals. The day ended with a lovely mix and mingle reception for all conference participants.

Sunday closed out the conference with a final general session which included a panel of teachers of the blind and visually impaired who represented a variety of Service Delivery Models such as school-based, itinerant, contract, and residential systems. They talked about the pros and cons of each model.

Many teachers expressed how they enjoyed the conference and its hands-on approach to teacher training. Our first event was small but made for a wonderful opportunity for teachers to have one-on-one time with each other and other leaders in the field. We hope this conference will only grow in the future.


The PDRIB Launches New Website for Children’s O&M

O&M specialist Merry-Noel Chamberlain has created a Website for parents and teachers of blind children. The site includes a question and answer section, games that enhance the O&M experience, a recommended reading list, and a downloadable book for readers of all ages, The True Story of Owin M.

Visit the Website at:


T-Shirts Promote Independence for the Blind, Still Available

Have you got your t-shirt yet? If you haven’t, you need to get with it and get a t-shirt that promotes independence for the blind. 


We have two shirts for sale, and both are so awesome, you’ll never be able to pick just one.

The USE MORE CANES shirt— This shirt, reminiscent of the Chick-Fil-A ® Cow, is a Red, short sleeve T-shirt with a graphic cartoon of a cute yellow dog standing up on hind legs. The dog is wearing a blindfold and holding a long white cane in his right paw. He is holding a white sign that says in black letters “Use More Canes".


The PRICELESS shirt is touting the importance of independence that cannot be captured at any cost. It is a black short sleeve T-shirt with white lettering. The front of the shirt has a printed list which says: “White Cane: $25; Braille Lessons: $45; Accessible Software: $750”.

The back of the shirt says: “Independence for the Blind… Priceless!”

These awesome shirts come in a variety of sizes, Adult: small, medium, large, XL, XXL; Ladies fitted: small, medium, and large; Youth: medium or large, and best of all they are only $20 for adult shirts and $15 for kids.


We have two options for you to purchase:

  • To place an order by e-mail or phone, send an email to, or call 318-257-4554.

Make sure to include the type of shirt, size and quantity, your mailing address, and contact information. Include $5.00 shipping for 1-5 shirts, $10.00 for 6-10 shirts—speak with a representative for larger orders.


Louisiana Tech University Graduates

We wish to congratulate Elnura Emilkanova (O&M and TBS) and Cindi Eskew (TBS) on their graduation from Louisiana Tech University with Master’s Degrees.


Certification Central

New NOMC Certificants
Ron Burzese, NOMC
Elnura Emilkanova, NOMC
Michael Harvey, NOMC
Jedi Moerke, NOMC


New NCLB Certificants
Adam E. Rushforth, NCLB
Susan M. Mattson, NCLB


Upcoming NCLB Test Dates:

October 13, 2011:          San Francisco, California
October 21, 2011:          Ruston, Louisiana
October 29, 2011:          Richmond, Virginia
November 5, 2011:          Minneapolis, Minnesota        
November 12, 2011:          Ruston, Louisiana
December 6, 2011:          Louisville, Kentucky at the Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference
December 9, 2011:          Ruston, Louisiana

*Please go to our Website: to register for any of these tests or contact Deja Powell at or by phone at 318-257-2029.


The NCLB Limelight:  Dr. Tina Herzberg, NCLB

Dr. Tina Herzberg is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate. Each year, she teaches the literary braille course as well as the advanced braille course that includes the Nemeth braille code. She also currently serves as the Director of Graduate Programs for the School of Education.


Tina has 21 years of experience in education, with 17 in the field of visual impairment. Dr. Herzberg earned her bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University (1990), her master’s degree from Texas Tech (1994), and her doctorate from Texas A&M University (2006). She is also certified in literary braille by both the Library of Congress and the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. Prior to her arrival at USC Upstate, she served as a general education classroom teacher, an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments, specialist for a regional service center, and adjunct instructor.


Even though she learned braille in her early 20s, she believed it was very important to become certified in literary braille, especially since she is teaching the code to others. She also hopes that becoming certified in literary braille serves as a positive model to both her students and colleagues.


The NOMC Limelight: Merry-Noel Chamberlain

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a teacher.  I received my BA in Elementary Education at the University of Nebraska where I met a totally blind student who introduced me to several other individuals who were blind.  Soon after graduating, I became a counselor for the Nebraska Commission for the blind where I taught Independent Living Skills for seniors.  Relocating to the south connected me with the Louisiana Tech Master’s program where I was the first blind female to earn a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology and the National Orientation and Mobility Certification.


Upon graduation in 1999, my family returned to the Midwest and I became an Independent Living Service Coordinator for Iowa Department for the Blind.  But, teaching adults was not my true dream.  Sure, I was teaching but I wasn’t teaching children so I completed a second Master’s Degree in Special Education/Visual Impairments through Western Michigan University and accepted the position as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments with Des Moines Public Schools in 2001.  There, my dream truly began. 


In 2008, my family moved to Virginia where taught Orientation and Mobility (O&M) and Braille to blind and deaf blind children at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind.  Because of that experience, I was able to truly focus on teaching O&M to children and therefore was able to develop several fun ways to capture my student’s interest in learning O&M by way of games and fun activities.  One activity, for those cold rainy days, was to read stories that involved both children and O&M but I didn’t find too many of those types of stories so I wrote The True Story of Owin M. which is a young boy’s perspective of how he uses his cane in a variety of settings; at school, on the bus, train, plane, at grandma’s house, or at camp.  The O&M games and activities, plus The True Story of Owin M. can be found at


Currently, I am both a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments and an O&M instructor (for children birth to age 21) back in the Midwest where I can be closer to my family.


Looks at Books

“Out of Sight Science Experiments for Grades 2-5” By: Marilyn Winograd and Lili Rankel

Want to make balloon rockets, acid rain, a solar finger heater, Ziploc ice cream, Diet Coke Geysers, and more? Scientists Dr. Lillian A. Rankel and Marilyn Winograd have written 32 step-by-step experiments for blind youngsters to do at home with family and friends. Don't wait for chemistry or biology class to explore the sciences - get some experience under your belt while you're still young! Each experiment has been successfully imploded, we mean explored, with real blind scientists! Safely uses household materials. Grades 2-5.


About the Authors:

Marilyn Winograd (TVI) and Lili Rankel (science teacher) have collaborated for a number of years. They worked together to integrate a student, who is blind, in all aspects of Honors Chemistry, Advanced Placement Chemistry and Advanced Placement Physics. With the goal of involving blind and visually impaired students in science, they have "gotten their act together & taken it on the road". They have presented hands-on science workshops for blind and VI students and parents at National Federation of the Blind conventions as well as teacher training sessions at regional AER (Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired) conferences.

Not wanting teachers to have to start from scratch, as they did, Lil and Marilyn have gathered the materials they used to adapt physical sciences and math, and created the Tactile Adaptations Kit. The kit is full of materials, examples, suggestions and ideas for teachers, parents and paraprofessionals working with blind, VI and Special Education students. For more specific information about the kit click here "Tactile Adaptations Kit".

This past summer, August 2009, Marilyn and Lillian traveled to Kenya to conduct a one-week workshop for teachers at the Thika High School for the Blind. The goal of this workshop was to teach the teachers how to teach Chemistry and Physics to totally blind students.

You may purchase a copy of this book by going to:


Alumni Announcements

Juan Haro (NOMC) and Denise Otero welcomed baby girl Ariana Isabella Haro on March 9, 2011. She weighed in at 6 pounds and 4 ounces and was 18.9 inches long. She just attended her first NFB national convention in Orlando and she enjoyed it.

Anna Clara Gayle will be a key presenter at the "Getting  in Touch with Literacy" conference to be held in Louisville in December. She will be a poster presenter on the topic of how art enhances literacy for V.I./Blind students.


Slate the Date

October is Meet the Blind Month: Meet the Blind Month is our nationwide campaign to increase awareness of and support for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). During the entire month of October, affiliates and chapters throughout the country will be joining forces to spread the message that the NFB is the voice of the nation’s blind and that blind people are the best resource for learning about vision loss, blindness, and rehabilitation.

This year, as part of Meet the Blind Month, a challenge will be implemented: to organize innovative and creative events in local communities. We welcome all chapters and affiliates to join in the challenge to develop the most unique event. For general information on Meet the Blind Month or more information on the challenge, please visit the Meet the Blind Month Web Page or contact Melissa Kobelinski by e-mail,, or by phone, (410) 659-9314, ext. 2423.


Contact Us

We would love to hear from you, please feel free to contact us at any time!
Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness
PO Box 3158
100 Wisteria 210 Woodard Hall
Ruston, LA 71272
Phone: (318) 257-4554
Fax: (318) 257-2259
Editor email:


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