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The PDRIB POST - Summer 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.


Summer 2011


The Director’s Dish

As we move into the heat of the summer, we have lots of hot and exciting things to report to you all. Since the last Post, the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University has continued to grow, expand, and further change what it means to be blind in the realms of education and rehabilitation for the blind.


In this edition, you will learn about the exciting speeches, events, and outcomes from the 7th Annual Cradle to Career: The ABC’s of Blindness Conference that was held in Shreveport, LA. Over this same time period, we have continued our work on the National Reading Media Assessment, the National Orientation and Mobility Assessment, the Adult Rehabilitation and Employment Survey, NCLB and NOMC certifications, and other  work.


We have just returned from the 2011 NFB convention that was held in Orlando, Florida. During that time, we successfully completed the 10th Annual Rehabilitation and O&M conference: Structured Discovery; The History, The Legacy, and the Future. This conference was well attended by more than 115 professionals, students, and consumers. We had Dr. Allan Dodds of Nottingham, England, deliver the keynote address, in which he described the events that led up to the use of the phrase “Structured Discovery” in describing cane travel. Speeches and breakout sessions were held throughout the day on topics from cane travel, children, agency training, veterans, and assessments. All in all, it was a magnificent kickoff to the larger NFB convention.


At this years NBPCB Award Ceremony, we recognized the accomplishments of eight (8) brand new NOMC certificants, 19 individuals who have successfully recertified with their NOMC, 17 brand new NCLB Certificants, and several agencies who are being recertified. During our time in Orlando, faculty of the Institute, and the Institute itself received awards and recognition for our contributions to the field of education and rehabilitation for the blind. Details about all of these awards is presented further in this document. Nevertheless, it is with pride in our work, and with humility about the road ahead that we take this opportunity to brag on our accomplishments. 


Be sure to check out the personal stories that highlight a recent graduate of the TBS program (Emily Gibbs), as well as a recent grad of the O&M program (Jennifer Kennedy). Within the PDRIB family, there have been exciting announcements, including the birth of children, a wedding, and other news from our alumni and friends.


As I close out this Director’s Dish, two quotes come to mind as we reflect on the work that we have done, and what there is yet to do. Phillip Brooks said, “Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” I feel that these words of wisdom not only remind us of how our work has earned us the recent accolades that we have received, but also the road map that we must continue to follow as we work to improve education, rehabilitation, research, and service for individuals who are blind.

Inside the Institute


T-Shirt 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.  Several people bought one at convention and were wearing them around. So see, it’s the cool thing to do.

We have two shirts for sale, and both are so awesome, you’ll never be able to pick just one of them.
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" in his left paw.
(LEFT PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Dr. Eddie Bell modeling the Use More Canes shirt).
The PRICELESS shirt is touting the importance of independence that cannot be captured at any cost, 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!”
(RIGHT PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Our lovely models, Deja Powell and Dr. Eddie Bell show both the front and back of the Priceless t-shirt).

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.


Cradle to Career: ABC’s of Blindness Conference Addresses Topics Most important to Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired
This year’s Cradle to Career: ABC’s of Blindness conference (which occurs annually) was held in Shreveport, Louisiana at the Holiday Inn West, on April 7th and 8th. The conference was well attended and featured speakers and presentations on “Make and Take” books for Braille teachers, advocacy for your blind kids, children’s O&M, teaching social skills, assistive technology in the classroom, reading and O&M assessments, digital book players and low vision in the classroom.

There was also a keynote address by Dr. Edward Bell, director of the PDRIB and a speech from National Federation of the Blind President, Dr. Mark Maurer. Kids and parents also got to participate in a cane walk and a sensory safari. Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired also participated in the first ever Teacher Retreat which included in-depth discussions into the issues facing teachers of the blind. The conference was a big success!

Structured Discovery, the History and the Legacy in Review
This year marked the 10th year for the annual rehabilitation professionals conference. This July, in beautiful Orlando, we held “STRUCTURED DISCOVERY: The History, the Legacy, and the Future.” The morning session featured world-renowned influences in the field of Orientation and Mobility including a presentation from Dr. Allen G. Dodds or Nottingham, England who years ago coined the phrase we now so commonly use, “Structured Discovery.” He talked about his experience traveling to the United States to test out this “new theory” for himself in Nebraska. He talked about his contributions to the field and his belief in the abilities of the blind to be good teachers of orientation and mobility.


The convention attendees also heard a report on the history of the field of O&M from Dr. Fred Schroeder and report on the current state of the field by Dr. Edward Bell. Conference attendees also got to hear from the current President or the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) on such contemporary issues as state licensure for O&M specialists. He also presented alongside Dr. Edward Bell, Secretary of the National Blindness Professional Certification Boards (NBPCB) in an afternoon break session.

In between the morning and afternoon session, conference attendees attended a banquet in which several awards were given (read more details below) and all NOMC’s and NCLB’s were announced and recognized. It was an enjoyable event.


In the afternoon, several breakout sessions were held which covered topics such as how to run a structured discovery training center, contemporary issues in the field of O&M, incorporating access technology and braille into the classroom, how to incorporate structured discovery into a state agency for the blind, O&M for kids, activities of daily living, transition and summer programs for teens, how to hold effective and confidence building          seminars, quiet cars and updates on the National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA) and the National Orientation and Mobility Assessment (NOMA).


The day ended with a mix and mingle in which conference attendees could meet the days presenters, network with prospective employers and employees and catch up with friends and colleagues. Over 100 people attended this year rehabilitation conference.


The NBPCB Gives Awards to Two Giants in the Blindness Field
The banquet at the Structured Discovery: The History, the Legacy, and the Future conference was the perfect opportunity for the NBPCB to give out two awards to two individuals who have made a significant impact in the lives of blind people.


For the first award, the NBPCB gave the Fredric K. Schroeder Award to Dr. Allen G. Dodds. Dr. Dodds received a plaque that read as follows:

National Blindness Professional Certification Board
Fredric K. Schroeder Award
Presented To

Dr. Allan G. Dodds

For excellence in furthering Structured Discovery Cane Travel methodology, and the National Orientation and Mobility Certification.  Because of your pioneering, dedicated and exemplary contributions to the field of Orientation and Mobility, the blind of tomorrow will be enabled to walk independently through life with faith justified by self confidence.

National Blindness Professional Certification Board
July 3, 2011
Orlando, Florida

The NBPCB also gave the first ever Louis Braille Professional Educator Award to Dr. Ruby N. Ryles. Her plaque read as follows:
Louis Braille Professional Educator Award
Presented To
Ruby N. Ryles, Ph.D.
"The purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable,
to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for
something, to have made some difference that you lived at all."
- Leo C. Rosten


The Louis Braille Professional Educator Award is presented to you in recognition of your commitment to braille literacy, your leadership in teaching braille, your dedication to the blind, and the impact that you have had, and will continue to have in the lives of children and adults who are blind. Because of you, generations of blind people will have the literacy to compete on terms of equality with the rest of society, and to live meaningful and integrated lives.

National Blindness Professional Certification Board
July 3, 2011
Orlando, Florida

Congratulations to both award winners on their enormous contributions to the blindness field!

 PDRIB Staff Win the 2011 Bolotin Award, $20,000
The staff of the PDRIB were honored on July 8, 2011 in Orlando, Florida with a National Federation of the Blind 2011 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. The Bolotin Awards are given to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.

The award is named after a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century, the award is made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust,  allows the NFB to provide direct financial support to people and organizations, such as the PDRIB,  that are improving the lives of the blind throughout the United States and the world.

The PDRIB received a beautiful  trophy and $20,000. The PDRIB staff are honored to receive this important award and pledge to continue its efforts in designing and directing programs and certifications for teachers of the blind…

Congratulation Louisiana Tech University Graduates
We would like to congratulate Miss Geneva Ellingson (TBS and O&M) and Kiki Rogers (TBS) on graduating from Louisiana Tech University in December 2010!


Certification Central

This section is dedicated to updates on The National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) & The National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC), both of which are awarded by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board


Certification Update:

We continue to expand our testing sites for the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) test. We are expanding the number of certified NCLB test administrators across the country. If you are interested in hosting a test, or becoming an NCLB test administrator, please email Deja Powell at

A the rehab conference in Orlando, Florida, we read the names of the following individuals who have received the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) and those who have received the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC):


New NOMC Certificants

Shellford  Cantan, Honolulu, HI
Geneva  Ellingson, Atlanta, GA
Dezman  Jackson, Mobile, AL
Rebecca  Keller, Glen Burnie, MD
Monique Melton, Denver, CO
Jerry  Nealey, Salt Lake City, UT
David  Nietfeld, Littleton, CO
Virgil  Stinnett, Honolulu, HI


NOMC Recertificants (second time, ten years)

Roland Allen, Ruston, LA
Douglas Boone, Kalamazoo, MI
Arlene Hill, Ruston, LA
Fredric Schroeder, Vienna, VA
Jeffrey Altman, Lincoln, NE
Edward Bell, Ruston, LA
Christine Brown, Austin, TX
Ronald  Brown, Indianapolis, IN
Roxann Buller, Westlake, LA
Merry-Noel Chamberlain, Omaha, NE
Priscilla  Yeung, Sacramento, CA
Brian Dulude, Orem, UT
Jane Lansaw, Austin, TX
Sumara Shakeel, Toms River, NJ
Patrick Thibodeaux, Lafayette, LA
Tzu-Ling Huang, Boulder, CO
Harold Wilson, Baltimore, MD
Winford Haynes, Austin, TX
Daniel Kish, Placentia, CA


New NCLB’s

Debra Baker, Springfield, Ohio
Tracy Bundy, West Columbia, South Carolina
Karen DiDomenico, White Hall, Maryland
Cindi Eskew, Saltillo, Mississippi
Aaron Fallon, Ruston, Louisiana
Ann Foxworth, Austin, Texas
Kirsten Gwilliam, Salt Lake City, Utah
Michael Harvey, Ruston, Louisiana
Maria Conchita Hernandez, Ruston, Louisiana
Tina Herzberg, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Jan Lavine, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Annie Maxwell, East Point, Georgia
Deborah Prost, Norfolk, Virginia
Ellen Ringlein, Baltimore, Maryland
Charles Scrivener, Witchita, Kansas
Kia Vaca, Sun Valley, California
Leesa Wallace, Shreveport, Louisiana


Upcoming NCLB Test Dates:

  • August 13, 2011, Austin, Texas
    Deadline: August 1, 2011
    Apply Now
  • August 13, 2011, Ruston, Louisiana
    Deadline: July 31, 2011
    Apply Now
  • September 24, 2011, Ruston, Louisiana
    Deadline: September 10, 2011
    Apply Now

Upcoming NOMC Test Dates

  • September 1, 2011, Ruston, Louisiana
    Deadline: September 1, 2011
    Apply Now

The NCLB Limelight:

Emily Gibbs

My name is Emily Gibbs and I am currently an Education Programs Specialist at the National Federation of the Blind. I graduated from Louisiana Tech in March, 2007 and immediately began teaching Braille at a school district in Texas.  I received my NCLB at the first opportunity in 2008. 

The training at Tech prepared me with all the skills I needed to become a great teacher. However, it was when I received the National Certification in Literary Braille that I first felt I could prove I was qualified to teach Braille. NCLB is the only certification in existence that tests not only an individual’s knowledge of the Braille code but also their ability to access information in the BANA handbook. Most states require a teaching certificate to teach blind students but no certification in Braille.  NCLB is the first of its kind and it was incredibly important to me to prove to myself that I qualified for such a rigorous certification.

Having my NCLB has helped me connect with parents and colleagues in the school system. Blindness is a low incidence disability and often I was the first teacher of the blind that students, teachers and parents encountered. NCLB is a certification that everyone can understand. It sets parents and teachers at ease and says that I am competent and skilled at Braille. It is even more beneficial when parents have had a poor experience with less qualified instructors. My NCLB is a way for me to guarantee that I have the skills required to teach Braille.


I am grateful for the training I received at Louisiana Tech University and grateful for the PDRIB for offering a rigorous certification that I can be proud of earning.


The NOMC Limelight:

Jennifer Kennedy

My name is Jennifer Kennedy and I am currently an Orientation and Mobility instructor at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired (VRCBVI), located in Richmond, Virginia. I graduated from Tech in August of 2008 and began my O&M career at VRCBVI in September 2008. Prior to graduate school, I received blindness training from the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB), which allowed me to complete my undergraduate degree in Communication Studies at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio in August of 2007.

I was introduced to the Federation through the national scholarship program in 2001 and was selected as a tenBroek Fellow in 2007, receiving the Nicholas R. Schmitroth III award. Nick was one of the first to graduate from Tech and receive his NOMC. He chose to work in the state system, teaching in Utah until his short career was ended due to reoccurring cancer. I think of him often on the days I struggle to find answers about our field and remember I am helping to carry on the work he started. While working on my undergrad, I spent one summer working on building chapters of the Federation in 2003, and three summers to follow I spent teaching Braille and Technology at the summer youth programs at LCB. It was during those hot Louisiana summers I found my passion for teaching and a desire to teach skills that would provide people with the kind of confidence and freedom I had gained from my adjustment to blindness training.


While there was not a specific lesson or event that has defined my career by attending LA Tech, I am confident I was taught the very best methods for teaching non-visually, both skills for students and skills for the instructor to monitor students. I receive calls and emails on a regular basis from blind and visually impaired grad students at other O&M programs who are struggling to learn skills for monitoring their students. I can only pass along a small part of the experience I received while working under the great instructors and staff from both Tech and LCB. There is no substitution for the emphasis we place on sleep shade training and it has allowed me to work with students in a way that their prior instructors typically have not. Each time I introduce myself as an NOMC, I feel confident knowing that while I am young in my career, I was taught the very best nonvisual training our country has to offer.

People often ask why did I choose to start in a traditional center and not opt for one of our fine NFB centers or at least a state center which runs under total sleep shade training and uses NFB philosophy. My answer is that not everyone is ready for our training centers for a variety of reasons, from health to personal issues, to leaving home for so long to just not quite ready to go totally nonvisual. However, this does not mean we should not offer our NOMC style and philosophy to those patrons.


The director of VRCBVI, Melody Roane, often uses the analogy that those of us who are working outside NFB centers are like the missionaries in the field. I am able to teach as I was taught and have also been able to collaborate and work alongside two COMS at our center and I believe I am teaching them just as much as I am teaching my students. While not everyone is ready for an NFB center, every blind person in our country deserves access to our fine skill set.


Ongoing Research Projects of the PDRIB:

  • Please consider participating in the Adult Rehabilitation and Employment Survey (ARES). This survey is intended for adults who are blind or visually impaired, and who are of employment age. The purpose of the survey is to gain some information about your experiences with Vocational Rehabilitation; adjustment to blindness training; education; and employment. If you are legally blind or significantly visually impaired, and if you are of employment age (at least 18 years old), you are invited to complete this survey.

To date, we have obtained usable data on more than 800 individuals who are blind or visually impaired, making this study already one of the largest field studies of blind persons that has been conducted in the United States. However, this is not enough. For the data to be meaningful, we need at least 2,000 individuals to complete the survey. Only through having robust numbers of individuals who are employed, unemployed, retired, or those seeking employment can we draw meaningful conclusions about the rehabilitation and education systems in our country. This means that if you meet the criteria and have not yet participated, we need you!!

Thank you if you have already completed the survey. Be sure to forward this onto your friends and social networking groups  as well because we are looking for a complete cross-section of society—every voice of a blind person counts.

For your convenience, we have two options for you to complete the survey. They are:

  • Click on the following link and you can complete the questions online.
  • If you prefer, you can contact our office and someone will take your  responses over the phone. You can call 318-257-4554, or e-mail to make these arrangements.

You can complete this survey in under ten minutes. We cannot thank you enough for your time and attention to our work. For those who do participate in this survey, you will be entered into a drawing where 5 individuals will win a $100 VISA gift card. So, take ten minutes to share your experiences with us and get a chance to win!

For more information on ongoing or published research, please e-mail Dr. Edward Bell at

Talking TBS

Looks at Books

A look into the books in the Critical Concerns About Blindness Book Series
The Blind Need Not Apply: A History of O...“The Blind Need Not Apply” By: Ronald J. Ferguson
A Word About the Book from the Author:
 Ronald J. Ferguson


This book has been a work in progress. In the spring of 2000 I started this project and began to collect data and conduct interviews. I copied every article I could find in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness and its predecessors Outlook for the Blind and New Outlook for the Blind. I was fortunate to locate Blindness the annual publication of the American Association of Workers for the Blind. One of the greatest finds was the library at the American Foundation for the Blind. The library contains dozens of volumes related to orientation and mobility. Within two years I had amassed a considerable collection of resources. I began working through the materials and along the way prepared some papers for various conferences. A dramatic increase in administrative responsibilities, as well as the tyranny of meeting grant deadlines, diverted me from giving concentrated effort to this book. All that changed as I reduced my workload in order to devote almost all my efforts over the past nine months to this project.

To purchase this book please visit the Our Website,

Alumni Announcements

What important life events are going on in your lives now? Please email me,, with BIG news happening in your life. Engagement, marriage, baby, graduation, new job? Let us know - we want to hear all about it!
Niki Rogers, MA, NCLB and husband Brandon Rogers welcomed Baby Girl, Drue Elizabeth Rogers, to the world on May 4, 2011 at 8 pounds 6 ounces in Louisiana.

(LEFT PHOTO: Baby Drue).


Mary Jo Thorpe-Hartle, MA, NOMC and Jesse Hartle welcomed their first baby, a little Girl, into the world on , Kayla Elizabeth Hartle



(PHOTO RIGHT: Baby Kayla with mom and dad)
Slate the Date


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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