HARRISBURG – The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) and the Advisory Committee for the Blind of Pennsylvania recently hosted the 2017 Blindness Awareness Expo at the State Capitol Building.
The expo included an awards ceremony, where awards for outstanding high school and elementary school student and outstanding employee/employer were presented, as well as an independence award, and an equal access award.
Among the award recipients was Jaylen Hallowell, a DuBois Area Middle School student. She received the Outstanding Middle School Student #AccessEqualsSuccess in Education video award.
According to her video, Hallowell uses a BrailleNote to type essays and e-mail them to her teachers, a VisioBook for art projects and viewing the board, Bookshare for downloading and reading assigned books, a talking calculator and a large monitor and magnification features on her computer.
L&I Secretary Kathy Manderino spoke at the event on the importance of access for individuals with vision impairments, and connecting professionals from both the educational and rehabilitation communities to provide comprehensive services to Pennsylvanians.
“OVR works to help Pennsylvanians who are blind or visually impaired overcome challenges in education, employment and independence, and access life-changing technology and services that make a difference in the daily lives of those individuals and their families” said Manderino.
“By providing training, equipment, advocacy and support to individuals experiencing vision loss, we ensure that they receive the tools necessary to achieve their career and personal goals.”
Attendees to the expo explored how Pennsylvanians who are blind or visually impaired overcome challenges in education, employment and independence.
BBVS offered simulations of varying visual impairments, while other vendors and organizations gave hands-on demonstrations with guide dogs, tools and services that facilitate living with a visual impairment.
This year’s Master of Ceremonies was Carlton Anne Cook Walker, a certified teacher of students with blindness and visual and multiple impairments.
She served as an itinerant teacher of blind and low-vision students in south-central Pennsylvania for more than six years.
Currently, she serves as project manager for the NFB BELL Academy (National Federation of the Blind Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy), a nationwide program, which provides summer learning experiences for hundreds of blind and low-vision students ages four through twelve.
In Pennsylvania, it is estimated that more than 215,000 individuals aged 40 years and under experience severe vision problems. Of those, more than 69,000 experience total blindness. For those over the age of 50 years, more than 1.76 million suffer from a severe visual impairment.