December 2012 – Winter Edition

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.


The Director’s Dish

As we draw our activities to a close for the year, it is always wise to reflect back on what we have accomplished to date, rejoice in our successes, pause over our defeats, and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that 2013 will bring.


Personally, I love this time of year and am excited about all of the commercial, spiritual, and secular activities that Christmas brings. Just this past weekend I put up our Christmas lights with my two daughters, Victoria and Samantha, who provided far more help and comic relief than was strictly necessary. Yesterday we put up our Christmas tree, and like every year, it was a National Lampoon’s event trying to get it straight and secure—me turning the screws at the base while being directed by my wife and girls on which way to adjust it. The joy of doing such activities with your family is indescribable, and the wonder and joy on their faces with each new Christmas experience is priceless. Finally, I look forward to the cold winter nights to come, where I will sit in front of our warm fireplace enjoying a glass of brandy with my wife, Maria, as we remark on the wonder of our children, and dream of all that we hope for the New Year.


Indeed, this time of year is the time for reflection, introspection, thanksgiving, and recommitment to family and friends. For the Institute, we too have much to be thankful for, much to be excited about, and the appreciation that we have for the friendship and fellowship that only comes from caring and dedicated people who work tirelessly together on a daily basis. You will read more in this edition about the newest member to the PDRIB family, Casey Robertson, who is joining the TBS team.


We have also grown and prospered. Our graduate programs in O&M and TBS remain strong and vibrant. The numbers of professionals who have earned NOMC and NCLB certification continue to grow at a steady rate. We have increased our direct service to young blind children in several local parishes in Northern Louisiana.


We have completed one of the largest field-based studies in the area of rehabilitation and employment for the blind in history, and it is currently under peer review with the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research (JBIR). Similarly, you will read about the National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA) which went live this October, and already has more than 200 teachers registered to use it. The three research studies that support the efficacy of the NRMA have also been written up and are under peer review with JBIR. Make sure that you are subscribed to the journal at so you can read the findings of all of this research. Our previous work on the NCLB, NOMC, mentoring, attitudes about blindness and more have found their way into the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research and other professional publications.


Gandhi was quoted as saying, "You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result." While Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” We, at the PDRIB, come to work every day tackling the many emails, phone calls, requests for information, classes to be taught, data to be analyzed, conferences to be detailed, and myriad other activities that comprise our 8 to 5 day. It brings me pride and satisfaction to reflect back over 2012 and to be proud of what we have achieved. Already, 2013 is shaping up to be bigger and more challenging than ever before. I look forward to the next couple of weeks to rest and enjoy the time at home with my family. I look forward to the opportunity to take a break from work, and I look forward to coming back to the Institute in January excited and energized with all that the New Year promises. Happy Holidays to all of you and I hope you enjoy reading this edition of the Post as much as we enjoyed the activities that have brought it to fruition.


Inside the Institute

The Institute Welcomes a New Member: Casey Robertson, M.Ed., NCLB

2012 PDRIB Staff

Photo: The 2012 PDRIB Staff (Dr. Edward Bell, Laura Bostick, Dianne Reed, Casey Robertson, Dr. Ruby Ryles, Darick Williamson)


Casey Robertson is the newest addition to the PDRIB. She taught a blindness course at Louisiana Tech in the Fall 2012 quarter and will be serving as an instructor and NCLB consultant for the Institute.


Mrs. Robertson is an itinerate teacher of the blind in Mississippi. She began her teaching career in 2000, and has specialized in the teaching of blind students for the past four years. She spearheaded a state bill, HB 960, to provide better services for blind students in the state of Mississippi. The bill had bipartisan support, with a lead sponsor and twenty-two cosponsors. HB 960, the Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act, passed in the House and Senate, was signed by the governor on April 24, 2012, and went into effect on July 1.


Mrs. Robertson advocates for the right to braille and equal education of blind students in her state and around the country. She was a key advocate in the creation of a Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) program in Nebraska.


Mrs. Robertson was acknowledged for her outstanding efforts during the 2012 NFB National Convention in Dallas where she was named the 2012 National Distinguished Educator of Blind Students. She was also the 2011 NFB of Mississippi Distinguished Teacher of the Year.


We here at the PDRIB are proud to call Mrs. Robertson a colleague. We will certainly benefit from the passion and expertise of such a dedicated educator of blind students working alongside us to prepare future blindness professionals with the skills and positive philosophy needed in the field.


Working with Kids

The PDRIB continues to improve the lives of blind children through its involvement with the public school system in North Louisiana and by providing its graduate students the opportunity to work with children as part of their course work.


In Ruston, Louisiana where the Institute is housed, blind children in the area are receiving twice-weekly O&M services. Six children in Ruston now use a long white cane and are learning the skills of blindness at an early age. A blind student in Bienville parish is receiving daily braille lessons taught by a TBS master’s program graduate and an Institute staff member that includes the full code and expectations of an age-appropriate reading speed. Children in nearby Webster parish are now being taught to use the long white cane for the first time by a current orientation and mobility graduate student. Much like the principles taught through the PDRIB to future professionals, these skills and attitudes are being passed on to a population in much need of quality blindness services.


On December 8, the PDRIB and the Louisiana Center for the Blind held the second annual Saturday Club (formally called Saturday School) Christmas party for blind children and their families from North Louisiana parishes. Students baked and iced sugar cookies, decorated homemade dough ornaments, decorated their canes for the holidays, created their own personal pizzas, went on a scavenger hunt for their Christmas presents, and wrote braille letters to Santa. Students and their families met competent blind role models who used the same non-visual skills to participate in the holiday fun.


Santa himself made an appearance along with his elves all the way from the North Pole to bring the kids some holiday cheer. He and his elves used white canes and were able to read the children’s braille letters. Santa told the children how he learned blindness skills from LCB so he could continue giving Christmas joy to boys and girls of all ages.


Below are photos from the 2012 Deck the Halls with Braille and Canes Extravaganza.


Braylon and Laura decorate his cane for the holidaysPhoto: Braylon and Laura decorate his cane for the holidays with ribbon, bells, and tinsel.


Lindsay and her father (under sleepshades) prepare their personal pizzas for lunch.Photo: Lindsay and her father (under sleepshades) prepare their personal pizzas for lunch.


The PDRIB looks forward to reaching out to even more blind kids in the future. It has always been a part of our mission to develop the best professionals in the blindness field. By fostering our relationship with local school districts and local blind kids, we feel we will better prepare our graduates in working with blind and visually impaired children throughout the country.


The NRMA Goes Live

The PDRIB and the NFB Jernigan Institute are pleased to announce that the National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA) is now live for use by blindness professionals. The NRMA is a standardized assessment tool developed to identify the appropriate reading medium for pre-reading and K-12 visually impaired youth with enough functional vision to identify print letters and shapes by sight.


The NRMA takes into account the child’s current and future literary needs. While other learning media assessments measure a student’s ability in several situations and variations, the NRMA gathers only information relevant to reading and writing function in standardized conditions. Children taking the test read 18-point font text, the standard size for large print according to the Library of Congress, in normal lighting. The assessment includes questions about observed behaviors of the child such as holding the text close to the face while reading or unnatural reading posture. The evaluation of the child’s reading ability is based on what would be expected of sighted peers of similar intellect.


Both pre-reader and K-12 assessments are comprised of:

  • observation and interview forms
  • an assessment conducted by the TBS/TVI
  • an assessment of future needs page
  • a results and recommendations page


Teachers can now complete and save the easy-to-use assessment online, as well as access Integrating Print and Braille: A Recipe for Literacy, edited by Sharon Maneki.


Visit for more information. Contact us with questions by using the feedback form on the Web site, or by calling the Jernigan Institute at 410-659-9314, extension 2529.


Blindness 101

The PDRIB is offering An Introduction to Blindness course for the first time at Louisiana Tech University available for both undergraduate and graduate credit.


This ten-week course will answer common questions about blindness, give students the opportunity to meet blind people, provide hands-on experience using a long white cane, and introduce students to professions in the blindness field. The class will be offered during the Winter 2013 quarter from December 3, 2012 through February 25, 2013 for anyone interested in learning more about blind people, the condition of blindness, and career opportunities.


Students will be educated in this class about the normality and capability of the blind through varied instructional strategies including lectures, panel presentations, group discussions, video and multimedia presentations, and in-the-field experiences. During this class, students will write weekly journal entries relevant to the lecture topics and their impressions about blindness; take a survey at both the beginning and end of the course to determine how their ideas about blindness have changed; and tour the Louisiana Center for the Blind to gain a richer understanding about rehabilitation.


Revitalizing Research

Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research Seeks Submissions

On behalf of our editorial team, the National Federation of the Blind would like to extend to you a special invitation to publish in the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research – our open-access publication, online-only professional journal.

JBIR publishes peer-reviewed, original research and review articles in an interactive, open-access format. Published articles deal with all aspects of blindness other than the medical. Find out more at

Why publish in JBIR?

  • Quick review and decision times for authors
  • Speedy, continuous-publication online format
  • Global distribution of your research, including enhanced online features such as: public usage metrics, comments features, subject categories, and article ranking and recommendations
  • Professional copyediting and typesetting of your article
  • No cost to authors or subscribers

Consider publishing in
JBIR if you want your article to receive:

  • Quality reviews and efficient production, ensuring the quickest publication time
  • Free, broad, and global distribution
  • Active discussion about your work in online comments from readers of the journal
  • Branding and marketing by the largest membership organization of blind people in the United States


Manuscript submissions will be handled online through Interested authors will need to create a free account in order to access the manuscript submission process. When creating your account, we would also encourage you to consider checking the box to be one of our peer reviewers. To learn more about the JBIR submission policies, please visit our page for authors at

We appreciate your continued work in the field. If you have questions about the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research, please send an e-mail to You may also feel free to write or call me directly. Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Louisiana Tech University Graduates

Congratulations to our recent graduates!
Elizabeth Graves, MA, NOMC
Sheena Manuel, MAT, NCLB
Lerone Walker, MAT, NCLB, NOMC

Leesa Wallace, MAT, NCLB


Certification Central: news from the nbpcb

Congratulations to our new NCLB certificants!

Anita Adkins
Constanza Baker
Laura Bostick
Donna Brown
Mary Drain
Sharonda Greenlaw
Heather Hagstrom
Deborah Hartz
Judy Hurst
Clayborn Jeffcoat
Domonique Lawless
Laura Miyoshi
Monica Morris
David Nichols
Michael Tanner
Lisa Watson
Elizabeth Webb
Gail Wilt
Kristen Witucki
Joanne Zucker


Upcoming NCLB Test Dates:

*To register for any of the NCLB tests below please visit

January 26, 2013
Louisiana Tech University, Woodard Hall 204
Ruston, LA
Deadline: January 21, 2013
Apply Now


February 23, 2013
Louisiana Tech University, Woodard Hall 208
Ruston, LA
Deadline: February 18, 2013
Apply Now


Congratulations to our new NOMC certificants!

Elizabeth Graves
Duncan Larsen
Wayne Marshall
Lerone Walker


Upcoming NOMC Test Dates:

December 31, 2012
As arranged
Ruston, LA
Deadline: December 30, 2012

Apply Now


The NCLB Limelight: Conchita Hernández, MAT, NCLB


Photo: Conchita Hernández I was introduced to Louisiana Tech and the blindness field through the Nebraska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired which I attended in 2010. I, like so many low vision students, was not taught braille or the use of a cane when I was in school. When I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind in 2008 at my first convention, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of, but I did not know yet to what extent. I have always been an advocate for social justice issues of any type. Martin Luther King Jr. put it best when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I truly believe this sentiment and have been active in my community in many areas where injustice has been a constant. For example, I was a liaison in Nebraska for a national taskforce to Washington DC to speak to legislators about immigrant rights. Throughout college, I helped organized petitions, educational activities, movie screening, food drives and so on to educate the community about issues that tie us all together. When I learned about issues of blindness and the inequality that exists in regards to braille, it was natural for me to want to do something about it. It is a shame that so many low-vision students are denied the gift of braille because they have “too much sight.” Once I was armed with my degree, knowledge, passion and NCBL certification, I knew I was ready to tackle another injustice head on.


I currently reside in Lincoln Nebraska where I work at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. I received my NCLB in 2011 and graduated with my MAT in 2012. I am constantly teaching braille to people of all ages from young children to older adults and it is something I have come to love. I also share a birthday with the creator of braille, Louis Braille, so I guess it’s no wonder that I have chosen to follow in his footsteps and continue his legacy of providing literacy for the blind.

I currently serve on the Blind Corps board. Blind Corps is a non-profit made up of blindness professionals who teach blindness skills to people in developing countries. We have since launched a domestic project initiative and I was named as the coordinator. I am an active member in the National Federation of the Blind. I am currently chair of the Spanish Translation Committee where we work to make the Federation philosophy available to Spanish speakers through interpretations of general session at convention, translating literature and initiatives that we have recently started. As part of a fundraising effort for this committee we hold an annual Salsa Night where I teach Salsa lessons. I teach these lessons with the braille cell as my aid. If people can see braille as fun and engaging and easy to learn (which it is) they will more easily embrace it and lose the fear they wrongly associate with it. I had the honor this year of serving as a NFB Fellow, which gave me an insider look into this organization and taught me about leadership skills. I am currently participating in the Braille Readers are Leaders Program. You can check out our blog and sponsor our pages read if you wish. All of the money raised will support the BELL program which runs summer camps focused on braille all throughout the nation.


No matter where I may go and the things I may do I know that the knowledge that I have gained through the NFB and the NCLB will stay with me. As Dr. Seuss wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you'll go.” Thus braille literacy is the first step a blind child or adult can take toward a successful future.


The NOMC Limelight: Dezman Jackson, MA, NOMC, NCLB

Growing up as a blind kid in south Alabama, I was blessed to have received good training in skills of blindness which are all too often lacking in our educational system today. I am blessed that someone knew that my future would depend on what happened back then.


My journey began to come full circle when I discovered the National Federation of the Blind. The consumer movement truly gave me a sense of who I was and who I could become as a person who happens to be blind. Since joining the organization in 2001, I have had the privilege of serving in many capacities such as NFB Newsline state sponsor, chapter secretary, state board member and currently as state youth coordinator in Maryland. I would later go on to receive the empowering training provided by NFB-AFFILIATED training centers.


My professional work in the field of blindness began in 2006 when I served as an Independent Living Specialist at an Independent Living Center in Mobile Alabama. In addition to helping blind people and others in the general disability community find housing and other resources, I frequently provided training in the areas of access technology and public education about blindness. This experience showed me just how strong a philosophy we carry in consumer groups like the NFB. I would later work as a braille instructor at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.


Ever since I discovered the true freedom afforded through good training and experiences in alternative travel skills, I have had a passion for sharing this gift to empower others. In the fall of 2009, I had an opportunity to enroll in Louisiana Tech's Master's program in O&M. In addition to receiving first-rate preparation to provide instruction in cane travel, I earned both the NOMC and NCLB certifications during this time. Upon graduation, I went on to provide skills training in a diversity of agencies such as the Louisiana Center for the Blind and youth programs at the Colorado Center for the Blind before landing my current job in the fall of 2011 at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) as coordinator of Youth Services.


In addition to working for an agency who has a positive philosophy about blindness and who empowers us as a staff to implement this philosophy every day, I get to teach travel skills in our adult residential training program. From time to time, I also work with the older blind in our seniors’ independent living program. To complete the life spectrum, I frequently have the opportunity to participate in my long-time passion of working with blind youth through our mentoring program and other initiatives in youth services.


Often times we speak of our dream career. In many ways, I am doing just that at BISM.


Slate the Date

November 1, 2012-January 4, 2013 The Braille Readers are Leaders contest continues.

The Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest is a national contest for adult Braille readers. The purpose of the program is to promote the joy of reading for pleasure, to promote a pride in Braille as a viable literacy medium equal to print, and to demonstrate the importance of independent reading in the development of Braille literacy skills. January 4, 2013, Louis Braille’s birthday, marks the end of the contest and the last day participants can count their pages.


November 19, 2012-December 17, 2012 request a Braille letter from Santa for a child under the age of 10 at Simply fill out the online order form and a personalized letter from the North Pole written in contracted Braille will be sent to the child’s home. Merry Christmas!


February 4, 2013-Feburary 7, 2013 The NFB Washington Seminar will be held at the Holiday Inn Capitol, 550 C Street SW, Washington, DC 20024.


Room rates are $177 for single, double, triple, or quad rooms with a 14.5% tax per night. Please do not contact the hotel to make your reservations. To make your reservation, call 303-778-1130, extension 219, or you may e-mail Lisa Bonderson at Additional information may be obtained by contacting the National Federation of the Blind National Office at 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, telephone 410-659-9314, or by visiting


The Opening Session will begin Monday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. in the Columbia Room on the first floor of the Holiday Inn Capitol and will adjourn promptly at 7:00 p.m. Legislative appointments should be made for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the Senate and House office buildings. Meetings for NFB members to review the legislative progress and provide guidance will occur Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.


April 12, 2013-April 13, 2013 The Tactile Graphics Conference will be held in the Holiday Inn at 301 West Lombard Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201.


The rate is $145 a night, including breakfast. The Holiday Inn has a special rate for convention attendees, which can be booked through the Holiday Inn site. Guests can also book via central reservations by calling 1-800-HOLIDAY and providing either the group name “National Federation of the Blind” or the three letter block code, NAT.


April 18, 2013-April 19, 2013 The Jacobus tenBroek Law Symposium will be held

The Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium provides disability rights advocates a forum in which to carry forward Dr. tenBroek’s work toward achieving for all citizens equal opportunity for full participation in the society in which we live. With a format that includes workshops in addition to plenary sessions, the symposium will provide opportunities for discussion, collaboration, and networking.


For questions regarding the Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, please contact Lou Ann Blake, Law Symposium Coordinator at the National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230. Phone: 410-659-9314, extension 2221


Contact Us

We here at the PDRIB wish you and yours a happy holiday season!


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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