Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired to honor five individuals and one chapter at its international conference

Date Posted: 07/09/2014

A number of individuals in the field of visual impairment and blindness will be honored as part of the biennial Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) awards program. The awardees will be honored at a luncheon on August 1st at the 2014 AER International Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Margaret E. Cleary will receive the John H. McAulay Award. Named for a pioneer in vocational rehabilitation of people who are visually impaired (that is, those who are blind or have low vision), the award was established to honor professionals who have contributed outstanding efforts and achievements leading to the placement of people with visual impairments in productive employment. After completing a rehabilitation nursing graduate program at Boston College, Ms. Cleary joined St. Paul's Rehabilitation Center for the Blind (now known as Carroll Center for the Blind) in Newton, Massachusetts, and worked with Father Thomas Carroll himself. She spent her 35-year career educating, assessing, and supporting individuals through the vocational rehabilitation process, and has been honored numerous times by the Northeast Chapter of AER and AER's Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Division. Now a licensed nurse in Colorado in private practice, she provides adaptive health and diabetes management instruction for Colorado State Services for the Blind and teaches the distance-education series on diabetes and visual impairment that she developed for the Carroll Center.

Kay A. Ferrell was named the recipient of the C. Warren Bledsoe Award, which is given in recognition of a particularly noteworthy piece of literature that presents new facts or concepts about, offers a new perspective on, or identifies a particular need in the area of visual impairment or popularizes the life and times of people who are visually impaired. Professor at the School of Special Education and director of the National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), Greeley, Dr. Ferrell has taught individuals of all ages with visual and multiple disabilities and has written extensively for both parents and professionals. She has authored several books and monographs, including Reach Out and Teach: Helping Your Child Who Is Visually Impaired Learn and Grow (revised and expanded by AFB Press in 2011), which was based on innovative and extensive research and field tests conducted with parents. Dr. Ferrell was principal investigator of Project Prism, the first study of child development to focus on children with visual impairments and the ways in which their development is similar to or different from that of typically sighted children, and she recently examined the relationship between the expanded core curriculum and adult outcomes represented in the National Longitudinal Transition Study&ndash2. Dr. Ferrell is serving as guest editor of the forthcoming 2015 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) Special Issue on Critical Issues (the call for papers for this issue is available online). Dr. Ferrell was the first chair of the Infant and Preschool Division of AER and served on AER's Program Committee for its first International Conference in Nashville, Tennessee in 1984. In 2013, Dr. Ferrell received the Migel Medal, the highest honor in the blindness field, from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). She has received numerous state and national awards for her work, including the Mary K. Bauman and Josephine L. Taylor Awards from AER; AFB's Corinne M. Kirchner Research Award; and the Distinguished Service Award from the Council for Exceptional Children, Division on Visual Impairments.

Ed Mullen will be honored with the Alfred Allen Award, for epitomizing the spirit of and unwavering commitment to direct service to people with visual impairments. After working for 12 years as a secondary school teacher and soccer coach in Massachusetts and Germany, Mr. Mullen returned to university in 1972 to earn a master's degree in orientation and mobility (O&M) from Western Michigan University. Since then, Mr. Mullen has provided direct O&M instruction to children and adults in Guam, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas. For the past 10 years, he has trained O&M instructors at Royal Guide Dogs for the Blind in Melbourne, Australia, and in Kenya for the Kenya Ministry of Education. Mr. Mullen is currently an instructor at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center in Austin, Texas, where he has worked for the past 15 years as the supervisor of O&M internship training.

Sharon Sacks was chosen to receive the Mary K. Bauman Award, which honors an individual who has made significant and outstanding contributions to the education of children and youths who are visually impaired. Dr. Sacks is director of Curriculum, Assessment, & Staff Development for the California School for the Blind (CSB), as well as its interim superintendent. Before joining CSB, she was professor and coordinator of the teacher preparation program in visual impairments at California State University, Los Angeles, and coordinator of the teacher preparation program in moderate-severe disabilities at San Jose State University. Dr. Sacks has conducted research and presented nationally and internationally in the areas of social skills for students with visual impairments, transition services and programs, and psychosocial implications of visual impairment. She has published several books and numerous articles on social skills, multiple disabilities, low vision, and transition programs. Dr. Sacks has served on numerous AER committees, as chair of its Personnel Preparation Division, and was president of AER from 1996 to 1998.

Karen E. Wolffe will be presented with the Ambrose M. Shotwell Memorial Award, which honors an individual who has made significant outstanding contributions to the personal adjustment or rehabilitation of adults who are visually impaired. Dr. Wolffe has worked for more than 30 years as a special educator and counselor with people who are visually impaired, their parents and families, and the professionals who serve them, and she has lectured extensively both nationally and internationally. Her research and writing interests include the importance of career education, social skills development, transition issues, employment for people with disabilities, and literacy in the workplace. Guest editor of the recent 2013 JVIB Special Issue on Transition and Employment, Dr. Wolffe currently manages a private practice as a career counselor and consultant in Austin, Texas; has experience teaching at various universities and at a school for blind students; and is the former director of Professional Development and CareerConnect for AFB. Dr. Wolffe is the author of numerous books on career counseling and employment, including career education for children with visual impairments. In addition, she coproduced with Dr. Sacks the Focused On series of instructional videos and study guides to promote social skills in children and youths with visual impairments. In 2002, Dr. Wolffe received the John H. McAulay Award from AER.

The Pacific Northwest Chapter of AER was named Outstanding Chapter for its commitment to its members during a time of of economic difficulties and a period of declining membership. The Pacific Northwest Chapter demonstrated its commitment to providing high-quality professional development opportunities to its members by hosting two international conferences and a regional conference in the past four years. The chapter has also partnered with other agencies in Washington State to offer workshops and presentations to its members, and the chapter's events have repeatedly sold out or reached maximum venue capacity. For more information, contact: Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, 1703 North Beauregard Street, Suite 440, Alexandria, VA 22311; phone: 703-671-4500; e-mail:; website:

Contact: Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired

Phone: (703) 671-4500



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