Orientation and Mobility Awards for the Years 2020 and 2022

O&M Awards Committee Chair: Nick Leon
Committee Members: Ana Leffel, Justin Kaiser, Maggie Winn, Mary Kline, Tommie Roesch, and Tricia Sproles

The Awards:

Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award
The Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award was established in 1994 to recognize professionals who demonstrate distinguished service in O&M through a long-term commitment to direct service. Named after Sandy Kronick due to his lifelong commitment and dedication teaching O&M while continuing to be actively involved with numerous professional activities and committees.

Lawrence E Blaha Memorial Award
The Lawrence E. Blaha Award was initiated in 1968 to honor people who have shown exemplary behavior in the field of O&M, made outstanding contributions to the profession, and shown dedication to serving people with visual impairments. It is the highest honor that the O&M Division can bestow.

Janet Morgan Barlow Environmental Access Service Award
The Janet Morgan Barlow Environmental Access Service Award was established in 2021 to recognize professionals who demonstrate distinguished service in orientation and mobility through a long-term commitment to environmental access. The award was named for Janet Barlow because of her lifelong commitment and dedication to the field, her steadfast, practical, and strategic methods to address research needs, advocacy for greater accessibility to the built environment, and education of orientation and mobility specialists and transportation professionals such as traffic engineers and urban planners on issues relevant to both professional areas.

The 2022 recipients:
Susan Langendonk- Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award
Dr. Laura Bozeman- Lawrence E Blaha Memorial Award
*Janet Morgan Barlow – Janet Morgan Barlow Environmental Access Service Award
* The first recipient, awarded posthumously

 The 2020 recipients:
Rod Haneline- Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award
Nora Griffin-Shirley- Lawrence E Blaha Memorial Award


Orientation & Mobility Division Awards
2018 AER Orientation and Mobility Division Awards
Reno, Nevada July, 2018

Orientation & Mobility Division Awards
Introduction: Gala S. Brooks,Chair Awards Committee
Good evening and welcome to colleagues, honorees and distinguished Guests. My name is Gala Brooks. It has been my honor and pleasure to have served as your award committee chair for the past biennium. This has been made much easier due to my cooperative and responsive committee. My most sincere appreciation to:

Susan Langendonk, Bruce Blasch, Jane Mundschenk, Nick Leon, Chris Tabb, Justin Kaiser for your hard work.

We had some very, very difficult decisions to make; quite painful at times. We did our very best and know that you will be pleased with our results. So many deserve recognition. We are blessed with colleagues who go above and beyond, who raise the bar and achieve so much. We thank all of you who submitted nominating and supporting letters.

Before introducing you to the 2018 honor class, I would like to take a minute to acknowledge those previous recipients of our awards who are with us today. O&M Citation – Raychel Callary; Kronick Award – Marjie Wood, Vince Fazzi, and Lukas Franck; and the Blaha Award – Bill Wiener, Eileen Siffermann, George Zimmerman and Gala Brooks.

And we have a very special guest in the room, Sue Melrose, Rod Kossick’s bride of a few decades and I suspect she is really the power behind the throne!

And, now, for our first presentation,

The Orientation and Mobility Citation of Excellence for Direct Service
Thirty-four years ago, at a division meeting the question was raised as to why a person waited until the end of their career to be honored. At that time, the only nation mobility award was the Lawrence E. Blaha Memorial Award. So, a committee was formed to develop an award and criteria and it was first presented in 1986 to Peggy Madera and Judy Davidhizar Holmes. The award was to be presented to a “younger” member of the profession whose excellent teaching skills and professional participation foretold of a promising career.

Gala Brooks

April 15, 2018

Dear Ms. Brooks,

I am writing with the purpose of nominating Mary Ball-Swartwout for the Orientation and Mobility Citation of Excellence for Direct Service Award.

I have been very fortunate to know Mary for a number of years now, beginning in the summer of 2013 when I was enrolled in the O&M licensure program through the Ohio State University, and she came to us as an instructor at the Ohio State School for the Blind and facilitator with the OSU O&M program. Later that fall she was assigned to be my techniques instructor and opened up a whole new world of instruction to me. She has a gift for clarifying the information provided in the instructional texts and making the mobility experience leap off the page into the real world. I found that reading the descriptions of the techniques was a good first step, but it was vital to me to go through the experience of using those techniques in order to understand. Mary is very good at scaffolding the skills so each layer builds upon another, never disseminating too much information at a time and watching closely to monitor our ability to absorb and learn.

While we always knew she was close by, she did not rescue us too quickly and our problem-solving abilities grew as we built skill sets we would later pass along to our own students.

That calm, cheerful voice will forever be in my ear as I now work with children and families in my own career.

Later in 2013 and into 2014, I was able to spend time with Mary as she worked with the students on her caseload and gain experience working with them myself, honing skills and knowledge and confidence and seeing her students do the same. She works with such a wide range of ages and abilities – from the adults in the O&M program to the children 3-22 years of age through the OSSB preschool and school-age enrollment, and some students have multiple disabilities that affect their ability to hear, feel tactile input, move independently and comprehend complex directions. Mary has worked hard to build her own American Sign Language skills and often works with students at the nearby Ohio School for the Deaf who also have visual impairments. She advocates for those students in their IEP meetings, in the community and sometimes further out as they enter college. It was inspiring to watch her calm confidence in so many different settings, her ability to read her students and provide the appropriate support and input that matched their goals and abilities.

Currently, I work with parents and children ages birth through six years who have visual impairments or are blind. There are times when we consult with each other as I have been an early intervention specialist for some time and she has so much experience in general. There are times when I have a child move from my program to the OSSB preschool and it is a delight to be able to share with parents the utmost confidence I have with her moving forward with their child where I left off. I look forward to many more years of collaboration and feel there could not be a more deserving recipient of this award than Mary Ball-Swartwout.

Sincerely yours,

Julie Stevens, MEd COMS
Franklin County Bd of DD Early Childhood Program

Letters of support make note of personal and professional qualities. She is innovative and creative, encouraging and adapting for students of all abilities. She is passionate, enthusiastic, resourceful and committed to the work she does at the Ohio State School for the Blind.

A past Citation recipient comments that Mary has much to offer our field and potential to be one of the great leaders in the future of Orientation and Mobility.

It would be my distinct pleasure to ask Mary to come forward at this time to be recognized as the 18th recipient of the O&M Citation of Excellence for Direct Service…. but unfortunately, someone needed her more…. her toddler son…..and she was unable to come as planned. But she sent these heartfelt remarks;

Mary’s Comments: “It is difficult for me to express how grateful I am to receive the Orientation and Mobility Citation for Excellence for Direct Service. It is a great honor to be recognized by my peers for my work at The Ohio State School for the Blind.

My students’ successes, like identifying their near parallel traffic surge or making their first solo purchase at the store, is the reason I go to work each day. I enjoy introducing students to their first white cane to set the foundational skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. I feel pride when I step back from a student who uses a street crossing card or rides the bus independently. Every day, I learn from my students and adapt my teaching style to fit their needs.

I am sorry that I could not be there in person to receive the award. I am very thankful to be honored for my work. I want to thank those who helped me achieve my O&M knowledge and skills including co-workers, administrators, mentors, friends, family and a big thank you to my students.”

Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award

In 1994, the Kronick Award was established to recognize professionals who demonstrate distinguished service in O&M through a long term commitment to direct service. Sandy Kronick had a lifelong commitment and dedication to teaching O&M in Oregon until his sudden death in May 1993. This award was presented to him, posthumously and accepted by his wife Bethanne at the 1994 AER conference in Dallas.

The establishment of this award is fitting tribute to Sandy Kronick and the countless other O&M Specialists who forego promotions or higher paying career changes in order to do what they know and love best…. namely teach O&M.

To present the 2018 Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award to the 13th recipient is that lovely VIP to many, 34 year veteran O&M’er and Cal State @LA, college professor extraordinaire, Brenda Naimy.

Nomination of Christopher Tabb for the Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award

Every now and then, you meet someone that you know could rise to the top of any profession they choose, and you realize we are so fortunate that they chose Orientation & Mobility as their career. When Christopher Tabb applied to the O&M specialist training program at Cal State LA in 1998, he said he wanted to serve and he thought that helping people become more independent through orientation and mobility instruction would make a difference in people’s lives. In the 20 years that have passed, Chris’ actions have shown he is true to his word. In addition to providing direct O&M services to countless children and adults with visual impairment in California, Connecticut and Texas, Chris has also quietly worked behind the scenes to strengthen the profession of O&M. It didn’t surprise me in the least to see this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King recently favorited by Chris on a social media website; “Everybody can be great, because everyone can serve.” While I suspect this nomination is not nearly an inclusive review of Chris’s contributions to our profession to date, I think it touches upon at least a few highlights.

Chris has excelled as a direct service provider throughout his career. As soon as he was eligible, just three years after completing his own training, Chris served as a master teacher for trainees in the O&M program at Cal State LA. It is unusual for one so new to the profession to be asked to serve as a master teacher, however Chris’s work with adults with visual impairments was highly respected by his colleagues who had many years of experience. Being a master teacher is one of the most profound ways an O&M specialist can support the quality and growth of our profession. Master teachers have the power to make or break moral, build or break down confidence, and inspire or discourage new teachers. In his role as a master teacher, Chris mentored by example, providing ongoing support, thoughtful guidance and gentle feedback to O&M trainees in their initial teaching efforts. In recent years, Chris has been honored for his provision of outreach services as the recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Related Service Provider from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), the 2017 Outstanding Provider of Outreach Services by the Principals of Schools for the Blind (POSB), and the 2017 Outstanding Outreach Provider Award from the TSBVI.

As part of his service to the profession of O&M, Chris has contributed his expertise in social media, communication, and assistive technology, benefiting O&M specialists both nationally and internationally. Kate Hurst, a TSBVI colleague of Chris’s, quite accurately described him as “A terrific presenter with a great passion for orientation and mobility. He is very knowledgeable, current on all O&M tech (a geek), and someone who is on top of the latest trends in the field.” One of Chris’s many notable contributions to the profession is an extensive array of resources he has developed, acquired and organized that O&M specialists can access via LiveBinders ( The LiveBinders site contains information and resources on topics such as the expanded core curriculum, early childhood O&M, iOS and Android apps, navigation technologies, location literacy, paperwork necessities, and working with students who have additional disabilities, including deafblindness. The site is easily accessed, highly organized and allows for others to contribute. The view count alone indicates it has already been of use to thousands of O&Ms and related professionals. To help keep AER Division 9 members in-touch and up-to-date, Chris has established and maintained the Division 9 Facebook page, and the AER O&M Outpost, a website that has been founded to serve as an archive of O&M information and resources. The home page of the Outpost provides the latest information on upcoming and current events, including professional development opportunities. The Resources page of the Outpost will link one to archives of the AER conferences, newsletters, and O&M Division minutes. On numerous occasions, Chris has presented on the use of assistive technology for O&M, most recently on “Technology for Orientation and Mobility: What is Affordable, What Works and Where Can We Get It?” for the 2018 inaugural International Orientation and Mobility Online Symposium.

Chris also contributes to the profession of O&M through his service on a variety of committees for the ACVREP and AER. He is currently serving as a subject matter expert in O&M for the ACVREP and as part of this role, he has participated in committees promoting international certification and addressing the internship requirements of certified O&M specialists. Up next as a subject matter expert for ACVREP, he (and the rest of the subject matter experts) will be tackling the gargantuan task of updating the national certification exam for O&M specialists. Chris has also served in a variety of capacities for AER over the last several years, including: chair of the AER Professional Issues Committee and Scholarship Committees, co-chair of the AER Communications/Media Committee, member of the 2017 AER International O&M Conference planning committee, and member of the Ad Hoc Committee of Strategic Planning, Goals and Initiatives. Very notably, Chris was the 2017 recipient of the Bob Bryant and Bill Bryan O&M Leadership Award issued by the Texas AER O&M Division! In fact, Chris’s commitment to professional service makes it ridiculously difficult for him to be recognized through the AER Division 9 service awards! ☺ As of the writing of this nomination, Chris is serving on the AER Awards Committee which makes him ineligible to accept a nomination. In 2020, he will be ineligible as a nominee, because at that time, Chris will be serving as the Division 9 Chair of AER, and as part of that role, he will again be serving on the awards committee as an ex-officio member. In 2022, he will be serving as Past-Chair of Division 9, and again, likely participating in the awards and other committees to provide continuity and support.

This nomination is submitted knowing that Chris will only be eligible if he chooses to step down from the Awards committee and allow the other capable members to cover for him. He is most certainly a worthy recipient of the Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award, and he deserves to pause to take a bow.

Respectfully submitted,

Brenda J. Naimy, COMS
State University Los Angeles

Christopher Tabb’s comments: I am rather embarrassed to be standing in front of a room full of people who have inspired me. Before I came into this field, I was literally digging ditches working as a plumber’s apprentice after graduating with a psychology degree. I couldn’t imagine being happier anywhere else than in this field. Thank you to everyone for doing what you do and setting an example with your work and your passion.

Christopher Tabb and Brenda Naimy

Lawrence E Blaha Award

Fifty years ago, a pioneer, an athlete, a war hero, a master technician, a keeper of the highest standards, a kind and compassionate human being……these all describe Lawrence E. Blaha. He was one of the original six individuals chosen by Russ Williams for training to become O&M Specialists at Hines. He was a magnificent master teacher of blinded veterans. He was empathic and compassionate. He bolstered the weak and challenged the strong. He believed in and respected their ability to become independent.

One day Larry was out with a veteran who, during his street crossing, veered into his parallel street. Larry, close by, patiently waiting for the vet to orient himself as traffic was whizzing by was yelled at by a lady on the sidewalk who hollered “why don’t you help that guy”. Larry, thought a minute and then answered “because I cannot go home with him”.

He developed that terror inspiring, infamous “drop-off lesson” for his veterans and continued to use it as a teaching tool after he left Hines to teach in the newly developed college preparation program at WMU.

He became director of the O&M program at CAL State@LA until his sudden death in 1968.

This award honors Larry and those who receive it for their outstanding contributions and dedication to the profession of Orientation and Mobility. He received the first Lawrence E. Blaha Memorial Award posthumously in 1968.

Today, we remember and we celebrate the highest honor that the O&M Division can bestow. Additionally, The Blaha Award recipient also becomes the declared guardian of Sir Francis Campbell’s cane.

Sir Francis Joseph Campbell was born in 1932 in Tennessee and was an American anti-slavery campaigner, musician, teacher, mountain climber, spirited paradigm shifter and co-founder of the Royal National College for the Blind in the United Kingdom.

Campbell lost his sight due to an acacia thorn accident when he was 3 ½. He became known as “Little blind Joseph” and was excluded from attending public schools. He convinced his parents that he needed to go to school and at age 12 was the second enrollee in the newly established TN School f/t Blind. Eventually teaching music there and at the Wisconsin School for the Blind.

In 1856, as a human rights advocate he voiced strong anti-slavery views. For teaching a slave to read, he was threatened with lynching unless he renounced his views…. he refused…he escaped hanging because of public sympathy for his blindness. He continued to rock the boat at Perkins and eventually ended up in England establishing the Royal Norman College and Academy of Music for the Blind.

He developed his own cane techniques and was an accomplished independent traveler. A writer once described that his cane “had brains, could almost talk and ought to vote”.

In 1909, King Edward VII conferred knighthood on him in Buckingham Palace with the title of “Sir” to precede his name.

His 18K gold handled cane was presented to him by his students and inscribed:” Presented to Dr. Campbell by the pupils of the Royal National College as a token of their esteem. July 25, 1894” …. 124 years ago, yesterday!!!!!

Bill Wiener, O&M’er, college professor, Blaha award recipient, Shotwell award recipient, graduate dean, Vice Provost a man who is a legend in his own time, please come forward to present the 27th recipient of the Blaha Award and the 25th guardian of Sir Francis Campbell’s cane.

Presentation of the Lawrence E. Blaha Award to Rod Kossick Bill Wiener

It is an honor to be able to present the Lawrence E Blaha award to Rod Kossick. At this conference, we are celebrating 50 years since offering the first Blaha award. I have been in this field for a very long time and have had the privilege of attending most of these award ceremonies and even presenting at a couple of them. In the early days, we would look toward our founders and honor those who had a major impact upon the development of the field. We honored the early pioneers including some from the first wave of original orientors and the second wave of orientors. I remember presenting one of the early Blaha awards to John Malamazian, one of the first wave orientors who came to lead Hines in later years.

Each time a Blaha award was given, it recalled the major contributions that the person made to the development of orientation and mobility. We later turned to our contemporaries, some of whom were university faculty members and others who through their devotion to outstanding practice had contributed greatly. Somehow over the years, we neglected to honor the one individual who served as the bridge between these two groups and the one who helped launch our profession by making our collective organization possible through starting the Orientation and Mobility Division, and helping to encourage funding for the wave of university programs that were to follow. It is only fitting that at this 50th anniversary of the Blaha Award that we honor that individual, Rod Kossick.

Rod graduated from Western Michigan University from its first class of O&M specialists in 1962. Following his graduation Rod served as an O&M specialist. In 1964 the new profession of Orientation and Mobility along with its original pioneers was starting to build a small cadre of graduates from Boston College and Western Michigan University. The field of orientation and mobility was in its infancy and there was no structural organization that encompassed the practitioners. The development of a true profession starts with practitioners coming together and forming an organization where they can share ideas and develop standards. Rod was the individual responsible for recognizing this need and taking action to start the first orientation and mobility group. In those days we had two predecessor organizations of professionals, AAWB the Association of Workers for the Blind (serving adults), and AEVH the Association for Education of the Visually Handicapped, (serving children). At the 1964 AAWB convention in New York City, Rod called an informal meeting of all individuals interested in Orientation and Mobility. Those attending the meeting discussed the establishment of an organization that would bring together O&M specialists to share ideas and improve services. The meeting participants decided to pursue the establishment of a group within AAWB. Rod took the initiative of securing more than 50 signatures as required for the formulation of such a group. He then asked the AAWB Board of Directors to establish Interest Group IX. Rod presided over the first official meeting in Denver in 1965. It was Rod’s dedication to the field that led to our current Orientation and Mobility Division.

In those early years, there were a number of short term training programs in the U.S. designed to prepare educators and house parents to teach orientation and mobility to individuals who were blind. In that year Rod took it upon himself to contact Douglas MacFarland, Chief of the Division of Services for the Blind in the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration and explained that the short-term nature of these programs was doing an injustice by turning out ill-prepared instructors. He instead advocated for support of the existing two O&M university programs, Boston College and Western Michigan University, as well as for the development of additional university programs. He explained that short term training turns out instructors who do not have the necessary competencies to insure success in travel. His letter was copied to Mary Switzer, Louis Rives, and a host of other individuals who were influential in the government. Eventually, Mary Switzer made use of the letter to discuss short term training with Douglas MacFarland.

Governmental support of the short-term training programs ended and additional grants to universities came to be.

Rod next focused his attention to international matters. Between 1966 and 1968 he contracted with the United States Agency for International Development, and served as the Blind Rehabilitation Consultant for South Viet Nam. His duties included preparing South Vietnamese personnel to teach O&M, braille, typing, and pre-vocational assessment and counseling. During that time he was instrumental in helping to establish a rehabilitation center adjustment program, and in developing a long-range plan for services within the country. His work in that country resulted in the article published in the 1970 AAWB Blindness Annual entitled Activating a Program for the Blind in South Vietnam.

His next several years were spent as an O&M instructor and administrator at the Northwest Regional Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in Washington State before again turning his attention to O&M international. Working in cooperation with the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled, he served as the Chief Instructor for the National Orientation and Mobility Training School in Australia where he implemented a curriculum and coordinated much of the training requirements.

Upon returning, he served as the State Director for the Blind Division of the Indiana Rehabilitation Services. In that capacity he supervised the operation of the agency and instituted an internship program for Orientation and Mobility Specialists. He later held a similar Directorship with the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. During his final years of employment, Rod returned to providing direct services in Orientation and Mobility on a statewide basis in Wisconsin.

Throughout the years Rod has contributed to many of the organizations that are dedicated to our field. He has contributed to the establishment of the APH Hall of Fame for leaders and legends in the blindness field, and was a leader of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. In regard to AER, he has contributed to AER’s predecessor organization AAWB by serving on its Legislative Committee, and Awards Committee. He was also active in three chapters of the organization: Northwest, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Rod has also been a Life Member of AER. Rod continues to be an active member of AER and the O&M Division. He continues to attend our conferences and contributes his ideas, stands up for what he believes, and offers his assistance in pursuing the best possible services.

It is clear from the above description that Rod Kossick dedicated his life to orientation and mobility here in the United States and abroad. He clearly is one of the icons in our field. While he has received numerous awards including the Civilian Medal of Honor-Second Class from the government of South Viet Nam, the Outstanding Service Award from AER, and the Omar L. Miron Award for Exemplary Leadership and Dedicated Service to Persons with Visual Impairments from Wisconsin AER, the O&M Division has yet to acknowledge his contributions.

I believe that on this fiftieth anniversary of the Blaha award, it is fitting that we acknowledge the monumental contributions that he has made to this field and bestow upon one of our founders, and contemporaries, the Lawrence E. Blaha

Response to Lawrence Blaha Award By Rod Kossick

First things first!

A very warm and heart-felt “thank you” Bill for that generous introduction. As I listened, I thought “Wow, this guy must be older than Methuselah—wonder if he can still sit up and take nourishment.”

I also want to recognize the rest of the awards committee honoring me with this great award. And I give thanks to those members who took the time and effort to write support letters.

Bill Wiener was the instigator for my nomination, and to you, Bill, a very special thank you. I know it involved a lot of background research, phone calls, emails and politicking. Thank you, Bill.

The Lawrence E. Blaha Award for Orientation and Mobility is much larger than a moment in time, a plaque and Sir Francis Campbell’s cane, the congratulatory wishes of Division 9 and others throughout this field.

Larry was a person who was consummate regarding the profession of Orientation and Mobility, and its delivery of services to blind persons. He brought to the field an unusual warehouse of sound human values; empathy, teaching mechanics, the value and dignity of every person, and paramount, the notion that this new profession should be stringently codified and protected. He realized that administrators, bean counters and the unbelieving; could not only dilute and harm its growing inception, but be a serious threat to its full development and continued existence.

As the jurist Clarence Day said, “When eras die, their legacies are claimed by strange police. Professors in New England, guard the glory that was Greece.”

Larry knew that all the years of Hines contributions including the work of Williams, Hoover, Bledsoe, Et al, and then the fledgling efforts of the university programs, had to remain faithful to the truths that were developed. Sequential skills of orientation and mobility, i.e. basic techniques, correct cane skills, and successes tempered by challenge, were tenets of Larry’s beliefs.

I remember hearing Larry stating these beliefs at: the National Conference on Mobility Instruction for the Blind, Washington D.C., and April 18-20, 1966.

Again, at the Mobility Trainers and Technologists Conference at MIT, December 14-15, 1967, he delivered a paper, “Basic Techniques Essential to Orientation and Mobility.” Larry closed his paper with “basic techniques can and should embody skills which provide a blind person with methods for independently and systematically exploring new environments and developing proficient, efficient mobility with the greatest ease in the shortest time. I should like to impress upon you that Basic Techniques are more than protective hand and arm procedures. It is the beginning of the development or orientation and mobility skills. It is the foundation which ultimately determines the structure to follow.”

Unfortunately, Larry and I did not have many opportunities to be together. Even so, I was able to see his commitment and concern for our profession. I like to think that on the wall in his office were both Bledsoe’s Credo and our Code of Ethics. 11

The Lawrence E Blaha Award is much larger than its physical items, awardees or a moment in time. John Donne, a seventeenth century poet, wrote “No man is an island, any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

The life and contributions of Larry Blaha touched all of us, and indeed, blind persons throughout the world. He set the bell tolling.

Listen to that bell.

Rod Kossick and Bill Wiener

2016 AER Orientation and Mobility Awards Ceremony Program
July 21, 2016
Jacksonville, Florida

INTRODUCTION……….Gala S. Brooks, Chair Awards Committee

Welcome colleagues, distinguished guests and honorees.  My name is Gala Brooks and it has been my pleasure to serve as your awards committee chair during this past biennium.  My job has been made so much easier because of the fabulous, most responsive and cooperative committee ever!  My sincere appreciation to Bryan Gerritsen, Brenda Naimy, Kevin Hollinger, Joe MacDonell, Justin Kaiser and Susan Langendonk for making  this a delightful task. A special thanks to Bryan Gerritsen for procuring these beautiful plaques for our award recipients.

It has been a bit of a puzzle though.  How do we choose one when there are so many in our field who deserve to be honored? We did our very best and know that you will be pleased with our results.  We sincerely thank each of you who submitted letters of nomination and support.

We are sharing some rather rarified air in this room this evening as we have some past award recipients in the audience….one Citation of Excellence for Direct Service recipient….Judy Hayes who received the award in 1990. Two past recipients of the Kronick Award: Lukas Franck (2000) and Laura Park Leach (2006) and 5 past recipients of the Blaha Award: Bill Wiener (1996),  Gala Saber Brooks (2000), Dona Sauerburger (2004), Janet Barlow (2008), and Eileen Siffermann (2010).

And now for our first award.

32 years ago, at a Division meeting, comments were made that a person had to wait many years or until retirement or until death before receiving an honor from the Division.  At that time, the Blaha was our only award.  So a committee was formed and guess who was asked to chair it??…that’s right….me… we decided on the award criteria and the name and a baby was born.  The first Orientation and Mobility Citation of Excellence (by the way you can blame that long name on Bob LaDuke……one of our much loved colleagues) was first presented in 1986 in Chicago by me to Judy Davidhizar-Holmes and Peggy Madera. Imagine my thrill and honor that I am still around 30 years later to present this award to another “newby” in our profession.  The criteria states that this award will be presented to a younger member of the profession whose present excellent teaching records foreshadow a promising career in our profession.  The nominee must be teaching fewer than 10 years.

This year’s “newby” award recipient meets and far exceeds all criteria.  She was nominated by her boss, Cheryl Martin, Executive Director, Lilac Services for the Blind, Spokane, Washington, who so wanted to be here but could not so I am honored to fill-in for her.  I want to share her letter of nomination with you and will read it word for word.

The Orientation and Mobility Citation of Excellence for Direct Service

TO: The Awards Committee, Gala Brooks, Chair

It is truly is an honor to nominate Raychel Callary for the Orientation and Mobility Citation of Excellence for Direct Service. Raychel’s expertise and outstanding teaching techniques are indicative of her professionalism and her compassion. As executive director of Lilac Services for the Blind, I have had the pleasure of working with Raychel since 2009.  She continuously strives to improve her skills and encourages other orientation and mobility specialists to do the same. She does this by example and sharing her knowledge and proficiency with others in the field.  For example, she recently presented at the Pacific Northwest AER conference on how to encourage long cane use by learners with low vision.

Raychel has served as a willing mentor to colleagues in O&M programs at Lilac Services for the Blind. In addition, she has provided support and encouragement to other professionals in the Spokane area going through university O&M programs. She is also active on the list-serve following issues encountered by others in the field.

It is very important to Raychel to continue developing her skills as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Since she has been employed at Lilac Services for the Blind she has not missed one International AER Conference. This demonstrates her commitment to the field since Lilac does not have the funding to pay for conferences for staff members; Raychel incurs all of the cost involved on her own! In addition to AER conferences, she attends the AFB Leadership Conferences so that she may broaden her knowledge of products, techniques, issues and opportunities. Of course, she attends additional professional development workshops and participates in webinars that are relevant. Raychel always welcomes opportunities to work with college students and children who visit our agency, teaching cane skills and braille. Raychel’s passion for her work is evident when she talks to these students about careers in the vision field.

Raychel allows clients the extra time needed to build the trust and rapport necessary to be an effective instructor. This is a trait that I highly value in an instructor.

Beyond her dedication to teaching, Raychel volunteers her time and skills in making travel safer for those with low vision or blindness. She worked with a counterpart at the Lighthouse for the Blind to create a report describing the type of intersection that should have an audible pedestrian signal installed, and requested installation at specific intersections. Several have been installed, increasing safety near public transportation, city buildings and shopping areas.

Raychel is a member of the City of Spokane’s Plan Commission Transportation Subcommittee and Transportation Policy Advisory group. She works to ensure that city planning takes into account the needs of people with vision loss. She was appointed to the Spokane County Accessible Community Advisory Committee, advising county commissioners on ways to eliminate physical, attitudinal and other barriers to full inclusion.

I feel the field of Orientation and Mobility—and the clients and staff of Lilac Services for the Blind—are better off having Raychel as a dedicated instructor and professional. I wholehearted recommend Raychel Callary for this esteemed award.

Cheryl L. Martin
Executive Director

Support letters make note of her holistic approach to teaching mobility and her willingness to go the extra mile and to accept the challenge of the most difficult cases.  Her gift for and natural ability to teach is obvious to all who have the privilege of watching her work so effortlessly and gracefully.

It is my distinct pleasure to ask Raychel Callary to come to the podium and be recognized as the 17th recipient of the Orientation and Mobility Citation for Excellence in Direct Service.

Raychel’s comments:

When I was in second grade, a woman named Virginia Staver talked to my class. She taught us how to braille, and showed us some of the things that she did to live as a blind person. I always remembered three things from that day: how much I love braille, that Virginia could tell her red blouse from her purple blouse, and the fact that blind people do some things differently in order to live independently. I have a copy of the thank you note I wrote to her, signing my name using a pen as a stylus with a magazine under the paper, as well as her encouraging response.

This encounter did not put me on the fast track into this field. First, I was pretty sure that by the time I was an adult, there would be no more vision loss. This was 1983 after all; the year 2000 was right around the corner. Also, it never occurred to me to think about why blind people were able to live independently. I just knew that they could.

When I did become an adult, I had a hard time figuring out what to do. I worked at a series of character-building jobs, and eventually completed a bachelor’s degree on my mother’s suggestion that it would not hurt me to have it.

One day, I saw a woman named Sinae on television who wanted to go to college. She didn’t feel like she could be successful there, because she was losing vision from albinism. I was quite sure that the vision loss did not need to be a barrier for her. I knew that blind people can do things, they just do some of them differently.

One of the professionals brought in to work with her was certified orientation and mobility specialist Vince Fazzi. Junior, as it turned out. He taught Sinae about contrast and glare, how to use a long cane to travel independently, and how to have pride in herself and her abilities.

Through watching her experience, I learned that some things blind people do independently are a result of people having researched and developed techniques, and that there are teachers whose job it is to help people with vision loss gain the skills to live and travel independently. I wrote down Vince’s name right away so that I could look up more information about this terrific job.

My research revealed that Northern Illinois University in my hometown of DeKalb (from which I had moved several years earlier) had one of the premiere orientation & mobility programs in the country. I was glad I had listened to my mother for once and had my bachelor’s degree, because I was qualified to take the graduate entrance exam and apply for the program. I took the test and applied as quickly as I could, and was so excited to learn that not only had I been accepted, but that the program had secured a grant and I was able to attend tuition-free.

One of the highlights of the NIU vision program was attending the Illinois AER conference with my classmates and professors. I saw Bruce Blasch, and got him to sign my Foundations of Orientation and Mobility book (big red). I asked a question at a session about guide dogs that updated information in big red! And yes, over the next few years I was able to get Rick Welsh and Bill Weiner to sign that book as well. This first experience started a love of conferences that has only grown.

Now I work with older adults in their homes and communities. I love to help people deal with the psychological adjustment to vision loss, and help them understand that they don’t need to give up most anything that they enjoyed before. They can live and travel independently.

I’m so grateful to Virginia for teaching me that blind people can do things, to my NIU professors and mentors along the way for teaching me how, and to my clients for continually reminding me why I care and what the alternative is. I’m so grateful to the people in this field: those who helped create it, who lead it, and who sustain it.

This year I was honored to present my own work for the first time at the Pacific Northwest AER conference. I get to be on committees to help the city of Spokane plan for the transportation needs of people with vision loss. I get to teach braille to children and college students just for fun. I recently received a brailled thank you note from a child, and need to reply soon to encourage her to keep going with it.

I get to help restore confidence to people who are losing their vision. I am so proud to be a difference-maker in the lives of people living with vision loss and their families. I could never have imagined that I would have such a fulfilling career, and be part of such a dedicated group of professionals. Thank you all so much for the work you do every day.

The Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award.

In 1994, the Kronick Award was established to recognize professionals who demonstrate distinguished service in O&M through a long-term commitment to direct service

Sandy Kronick had a lifelong passion, commitment, and dedication to teaching O&M in Oregon until his sudden death in May 1993.  This award was presented to him posthumously and accepted by his wife Bethanne at the 1994 AER conference in Dallas.

The establishment of this award is a fitting tribute to Sandy Kronick and to the countless other O&M Specialists who forego promotions or higher paying career changes in order to do what they know and love best, namely teach O&M.

To present the 2016 Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award to the 12th recipient is Christopher Tabb.

Christopher Tabb’s Presentation:

Marjie Wood, Recipient of the Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award

Marjie Wood exemplifies distinguished service!

Professionally, she has been in the field of visual impairment and blindness for over 40 years! She worked at Austin Independent School District for over 36 years and at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for five years before that.

She earned her Bachelors in Habilitative Sciences from Florida State University and went on to University of Texas at Austin to earn her Masters in Special Education. But her involvement in education goes far beyond her degrees. She continually contributes her expertise at professional conferences on a local, regional, and international level, such as at AER International Conferences, SWOMA, SOMA, and the AFB Leadership Conference. Marjie provides resources, training, and reference material for TSBVI’s Web site, makes contributions to the field’s body of knowledge and professional literature.

She has given of herself personally and professionally to the field. Marjie has been a mentor for countless Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and continues her ongoing involvement in the field as well as in AER. She works tirelessly in both the International organization and locally in Texas; in fact, she is presently serving as the Chair of Texas AER. Marjie served the Orientation and Mobility Division of AER as Chair Elect, Chair, and Past Chair from 2008-2012, and then continued on as District 2 Director from 2012-2014.

AFB’s FamilyConnect Web site describes Marjie with expressions like…

“Her current students are of all ages and abilities and her motto has always been, “the sky’s the limit!” Her philosophy is that there’s a fine line between limiting a child through lowered expectations and frustrating a child. We have to find that line and give the children the skills to become the most independent they can be!”

As an example of Marjie’s direct service skills, I would like to share the words of a mother of one of Marjie’s students, as written by the mother in a blog post about what she observed during a lesson”:

And, so today I watch and hopefully see for myself what Marjie has been telling me for weeks. I’m guessing at any second Marjie will get in front of her and start giving her verbal cues to coax her on the escalator. But my guess would be wrong. Marjie stays behind her and with virtually no prompting, Meredith hops on the escalator without a nanosecond of hesitation.

Huh? My hands are over my mouth and I’m whispering to no one in particular “Oh My God.” Marjie and Meredith are about half way up when Marjie turns around to find me and our eyes meet. I throw my hands in the air and Marjie flashes me a thumbs up sign.

Marjie and I have learned how to communicate about Meredith with virtually no words spoken between us. It’s a true gift to have a therapist that loves your child as much as you do, but it’s a greater gift to have a therapist that can read the mother’s mind.

From Cyral Miller, Director of Outreach Programs, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired:

“Oh, my goodness, when I heard that Marjie had been nominated for this award, I was so delighted!  Marie is one of those true gems in our profession; a woman who goes above and beyond and is always ready to help others.  She has been incredibly active on both the national and state level over many years.  She volunteers over and over again to enhance the field – either by agreeing to pilot new materials, help produce a webinar, test out a protocol, help write a curriculum, lead a committee, edit a document – she is seemingly always ready to do what needs to be done.”

So to reiterate Gala’s words from the description of the award…

“The establishment of this award is fitting tribute to Sandy Kronick and to all the countless other O&M specialists who forego promotions or higher paying career changes in order to continue doing what they know and love best, namely teach Orientation and Mobility.  The award will be given only when a worthy recipient is determined.”

Marjie Wood- we have found a worthy recipient in you!


Marjie’s comments:
Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award

I am humbled and grateful to those who are responsible for my receiving this most prestigious award, to those who wrote nominating and supporting letters and to the O&M Awards committee.  Although I never met Sandy personally, others who knew him have talked about him with the utmost respect and honor for his character and devotion to our field, both as an instructor and in supporting others through mentoring and in leadership roles in our professional organization, AER.

I would like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for His constant love, grace, mercy, and provision these past 42 years as an O&M specialist for children from birth to 22.  A little over 20 years ago, not unlike many of you may have experienced, family illness and subsequent personal illness made the future look dim for continuing as an O&M Specialist. By His grace, not only was I able to eventually return to full-time teaching, but had the opportunity to return to teach O&M summer blindfold classes at SFA University, and be a guest lecturer at University of Texas.

I’ve also been privileged to hold leadership roles in AER International as the treasurer and Chair of the O&M Division. As chair of the 2010 AER International O&M Conference within a Conference, I had the distinct privilege of working with past O&M chairs and again, as conference chair for the 2013 O&M AER International Conference in New Orleans.  As a member of the Texas AER chapter, I’ve been privileged to serve as O&M interest group chair during 3 different bienniums and am currently the TAER chapter past president.

Since 2010, I’ve also had the opportunity to give workshops around the U.S. and Canada on teaching O&M to babies and toddlers and given presentations which focused on increasing awareness for the need for O&M instruction for all identified as visually impaired including those with additional handicaps and low vision.  I’ve also been able to fulfill a bucket list item by writing an O&M chapter for the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation book, “ Raising a Child with Albinism: A Guide to the School Years.” Since 1989, one of my greatest passions has been to advocate for O&M evaluations for all who are identified as visually impaired and have witnessed this dream culminate in an O&M law in the state of Texas, which was passed in 2013.

I would never have experienced any of this without first my students and their families. As we all have come to realize, we receive far more from those we’re helping or teaching than we could ever give. I have fond, fond memories of times past with students, babies, and parents and, like many of you, have found myself to be considered a part of many families. How wonderful to have earned a family’s trust.

Also, I could not have done all of this without the support, guidance, and encouragement from so many colleagues throughout Texas, the U.S. and Canada. There’s a list of over 40 colleagues who’ve been there for me, who’ve given of themselves, who’ve truly been supportive when I doubted myself. I am not only grateful but totally indebted. Thank you all!!

Before I finish, I would like to impart some unsolicited advice/wisdom to those of you who are sitting here tonight:

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, i.e., solicit assistance!
Find ways to explain and the who, what, where, and why of O&M to parents, families, and administrators
Problem solve!
Focus on the solution, not the problem
Keep fighting the good fight.
In order to win the war, you must win a lot of battles.
One battle at a time.
Have patience.
Listen to those who’ve ‘been there, done that’
Re-inventing the wheel is exhausting and wastes everyone’s time.
Read and re-read the Code of Ethics.
Volunteer. Join. There’s strength in numbers.
The years fly by. Enjoy what you do.
Find a passion.

Thank you again! I am truly blessed. I love this profession and I love being in this wonderful family of Orientation and Mobility. Here’s to the next 42 years!~

Marjorie Wood, M.Ed., COMS

The Lawrence E. Blaha Memorial Award

A pioneer, an athlete, a war hero, a master technician, a keeper of the highest standards, a kind and compassionate human being…..these all describe Lawrence E. Blaha.  He was one of the original six individuals personally chosen by Russ Williams to become O&M Specialists at Hines.  He was a magnificent teacher of blinded veterans and then of college students when he left Hines for the graduate program at Western Michigan University.  He became Director of the mobility program at Cal State at LA until his sudden death in 1967.  This award honors Larry and those who receive it for their outstanding contributions to the profession, and who are passionate and dedicated to the profession of Orientation and Mobility.

Larry was the first Lawrence E. Blaha Memorial Award recipient posthumously in 1968.  It is the highest honor that the O&M Division can bestow.

Additionally, the Blaha Award recipient becomes the declared guardian of Sir Francis Campbell’s cane for the biennium.

Sir Francis Joseph Campbell was born in 1832 in Tennessee and was an American anti-slavery campaigner, a musician, a teacher, a mountain climber, a spirited paradigm shifter, and co-founder of the Royal National College for the Blind in the United Kingdom.  He lost his sight when he was 3 ½ years old due to an accident with a thorn and was known as “Little Blind Joseph”.  He was excluded from attending public schools as was the habit during those times and in the rural area where he lived.  He convinced his parents that he needed to go to school and at age 12, was the second enrollee in the newly established Tennessee School for the Blind. Eventually teaching music there and later at the Wisconsin School for the Blind.

In 1856, as a human rights advocate he voiced strong anti-slavery views. For teaching a slave to read, he was threatened with lynching unless he renounced his views….he refused but escaped hanging because of public sympathy for his blindness.

He continued to rock the boat at Perkins and eventually ended up in England establishing the Royal Normal College and Academy of Music for the Blind.  He developed many of his own cane techniques and was an accomplished independent traveler.  A writer described that his cane “had brains, could almost talk and ought to vote”.

In 1909, King Edward VII, conferred knighthood on him in Buckingham Palace with the title “Sir” to precede his name.

His 18 kt gold handled cane is inscribed: “Presented to Dr. Campbell by the pupils of the Royal National College as a token of their esteem July 25, 1894”.

Nora Griffin-Shirley will you please present the 2016 Lawrence E. Blaha Memorial Award recipient and next guardian of Sir Francis Campbell’s cane to us.  Since George Zimmerman the 2014 Blaha Award recipient is unable to be with us this evening, Eileen Siffermann, most recent guardian here tonight, following long tradition of this award, will you please present Sir Francis Campbell’s cane to Sandy.

Nora’s comments:

I am very pleased and honored to make this important introduction of my friend and colleague, Dr. Sandra Rosen.

Having been in the field since 1980, Sandy has many achievements that have made a significant impact on the orientation and mobility field through her publications, teaching, and service. Dr. Laura Bozeman from University of Massachusetts writes Sandy is humble and gracious in her strength and passion for the profession”.

Sandy has been at the forefront of the O&M field by developing a new approach to increase efficiency in teaching mobility techniques using proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation; creating an assessment and training approach to develop balance skills in preschool children who are blind; and initiating university O&M training programs (e.g., first university-level program to prepare guide dog mobility specialists).

Sandy has contributed greatly to our body of knowledge by authoring 13 book chapters, 17 journal articles, 6 curricula/products, and numerous publications. Many authors have cited Sandy’s publications, which attest to the high quality of her work. Her most recent curriculum project, Step-by-Step, provides an multimedia, interactive approach to instruction of O&M techniques for university students that appeals to individuals’ learning styles. Sandy’s colleague from SFSU, Wendy Scheffers, comments “many of these are in landmark publications that have been translated into multiple languages and are used in teacher preparation throughout the world. She was awarded the AFB Access Award for her landmark article, “Use of the long cane by visually impaired preschool children.”

The knowledge gained early in her career from Sandy’s education and work experience as a physical therapist, VRT, and an O&M specialist enabled her to develop a research agenda focused on gait patterns of congenitally blind children and the use of pre-cane with young children who are visually impaired. Her publications and presentations in the area of motor development are excellent examples of a sustained research agenda.

Sandy has recruited many people to the O&M field by seeking and obtaining $5,235,711 in personnel preparation grants. Since 1988, this external funding has enabled a steady stream of individuals to be recruited into the field and graduate in the U.S. and Siberia. In most cases, these graduates sought employment teaching people who were blind and visually impaired, thus helping to meet an international and a national need. Her preparation of professionals in the field of education and rehabilitation of individuals with visual impairments demonstrate her profound leadership skills. The San Francisco State University’s current O&M graduate students state “Dr. Rosen took and continues to take all of our individual needs into consideration with encouragement, patience, pride, and leadership. “Sandy”, has been a mentor to us”.

Sandy was also instrumental in establishing with Constance Loarie, Friends of TVI and O&M at SF State to increase awareness of the ever-changing field of visual impairments and to assist the students and faculty in TVI and O&M maintain a standard of excellence. Ms. Loarie comments “She is a very wise and thoughtful woman who is sensitive to unrealistic egos and those fearful of change.  Navigating through a barricade of individuals who could not or would not think creatively was challenging but Sandy was up to the challenge.  Her thoughts are organized, clear, and articulated both beautifully and inoffensively.  It was a joy to watch her in action”.

Through her numerous consultative roles and leadership responsibilities in academe and our professional organizations, Sandy has provided mentorship to many different constituents (e.g., 300+ university students, people who are visually impaired, colleagues, companies, etc.). The impact of this mentoring is hard to document; however, at international AER conferences, Sandy is constantly being sought for her counsel. For example, Dr. Eugene Bourquin writes “I have had the pleasure and honor of an ongoing collaboration developing new materials and educational platforms for students learning about deaf-blindness.  These achievements have often come at her personal expense in time and effort, uncompensated except in fulfillment of Dr. Rosen’s dedication”. Marie Trundle and Mary Alice Ross from the California School for the Blind write “She has given us invaluable advice on how to work with some of the more challenging students and is always ready with suggestions and answers to our questions”. Wendy Scheffers also states “In recent years, Sandy has been asked by professionals in Germany, Kyrgyzstan, and China to help begin teacher preparation programs in those countries”. Similarly, Scott Kies from the Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist, Veterans Affairs, writes “Dr. Rosen has ALWAYS made time in her busy schedule to act as a mentor, consultant in my career.  And she has ALWAYS had a smile in her voice or on her face that made everything feel like it was OK.”  Liewise, Ellennie Lee of San Francisco Unified School District writes “Sandy is the first one I call to for a professional consultation.” Finally, the CEO of Aira, Suman Kanuganti, states “I sought the expertise and counsel of Sandra in O&M last year…. And I must say, her help has been invaluable!”

In closing, Sandy’s colleagues, students, and friends describe her as a quiet person who does not boast about her accomplishments, eager to learn, willing to share, ready to receive suggestions, powerful, compassionate, passionate, and humble and gracious in her strength. These characteristics motivated Sandy to become the leader she is today and why she is the 2016 recipient of the highest award in our field. I give you, Dr. Sandy Rosen!!!


Blaha Award Acceptance Speech
Sandra Rosen

As I sat down to write this speech, I wondered, what could I possibly say?  Of course, this is the biggest honor I could ever hope to receive and it is extra special because it is from my colleagues in this field who mean so much to me. There are of course, some very, very special people who I want to thank for their support – Nora Griffin-Shirley for nominating me, for the wonderful people who wrote letters of support, and for the colleagues, faculty and students with whom I have had the pleasure to work and grow in the past 38 years. Without exception, I truly have learned more from them than I ever gave to them in return.

And, there are three people, who have now gone on to the TVI and O&M heaven in the sky who hold a special place in my heart and to whom I owe an extra special debt of gratitude – Pete Wurzburger, Butch Hill and Virginia Sowell. Pete gave me my basic training, my “boot camp” in O&M and encouraged me to go on for my doctorate. I will always be grateful for his faith in me – I sure did not think I had it in me.  Butch polished off that O&M training and taught me the basics of grant-writing, research, and how to teach future O&M teachers. Virginia Sowell was my mentor as I ventured out into my first university job after my time in Nashville.  In addition to helping me perfect my Chicago version of a Texas accent, she was the ever supportive and always positive role model that prepared me to go to San Francisco and take charge of the O&M program in the northern California land of earthquakes. Virginia taught me how to mentor, how to supervise and support others, and how to always keep moving forward.  At SFSU I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most accomplished people in our field.

I have been in the field for 38 years and I look back on what has happened in that time. Each year I see students come into the O&M program who I swear “get younger every year.”  It is not that I am not getting older…  These students are preparing for a world that could not be imagined when I first entered the field. I think back about writing my term papers on this new invention – an electric typewriter with erasable paper (anyone remember what a mess that paper was?) and now I see students flying through their work on computers that they hold in their laps. In teaching class, I now find myself making analogies that no one understands anymore – such as references to reel-to-reel film projectors.  I just tell students that if they don’t know what one of those is, they can find it in a museum… where they will also find me among the antiques of yesteryear.

I remember when the population that I was preparing to work with consisted of functionally blind adults. I watched over the years as the field first quivered, then rose to the challenge of serving school-aged children, those with low vision, those with multiple disabilities, the elderly, infants and preschoolers, and most recently, those with brain-based visual impairments. I have seen the advent of APS, quiet vehicles, and driverless cars.  For those of us living near Google, this is truly an experience that really makes you take stock of your life as it flashes in front of your eyes each time one of these cars passes you on the freeway. I remember grid pattern neighborhoods with square corners, no curb ramps or tactile domes. Now we are all experiencing the joys of blended curbs, traffic circles, actuated signals with push-buttons on posts placed in bizarre places, and all those things that make us wonder what in the heck the traffic engineers were drinking!

Over the years I have had the opportunity to visit a number of countries as I have traveled to give invited workshops or to give conference presentations. I have had the opportunity to travel to Switzerland, Denmark, Russia, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and more. I’ve had invitations to collaborate on projects in such places as Germany, China, and Kyrgyzstan. The latter offer also included the opportunity to stay in a yurt. What could be better than that?

Along the way I have also had the chance to do things that I look back on now and say “what was I thinking?!”  Ah, the joys and benefits of being young and foolish.  For example, in doing the videotaping for Step-by-Step, I designed scenarios where people would bump into objects, fall down stairs, get hit by cars, and many other fun tricks that would make  Evel Knievel look sane. I look back on those days and ask myself- would I do it again?  No way.  Now I realize that people can be hurt and killed when cars approach them and stop on a dime within feet of hitting them. Yes, prerequisite skills for our drivers on the project were good depth perception and great reactions!  Only through the good graces of my students (who were also young enough to not realize that they were mortal) and a very talented director and video crew, was the project possible. And, a creative director who actually had safety built into each shot and used trick photography to make the cars look much closer than they were.  But, in hindsight, I am grateful for my young and foolish days… because Step-by-Step became a reality.

Then, there was the day that I was approached with a request to develop an O&M teacher training program in Russia. The grant that a colleague and I wrote that funded the project paid for two students from Novosibirsk State University in Siberia to come to SFSU, go through the O&M program, and then return to Novosibirsk State University to run the O&M Teacher Preparation Program. I expected the university to send me seasoned, mature faculty members who wanted to take on a unique challenge. Instead, two 22 year-old women, Yana Balashova and Katya Chupakhina, appeared on my doorstep. What a wonderful blessing they were!  Not only did they go back to Russia to run a top-quality program, but they did things politically and bureaucratically that a more seasoned, experienced faculty person (one used to the difficulties of getting support for low incidence endeavors), would have said were impossible. Those two women brought the American way of O&M to a country where canes had always been made of wood, came up to a person’s belt height, and where O&M was often limited to indoor travel only. Now, through their efforts and those of their Russian graduates, people with visual impairments are traveling independently both in Russia and abroad.

I guess that one of the biggest lessons I have learned in my career is that it pays to be young, foolish, and unafraid to take chances and tackle the impossible – because you never know when you will succeed!

Two years ago, I “FERP’d.”  Basically, I began my 5-year stint in the “Faculty Early Retirement Program” at San Francisco State University.  This has allowed me to focus more on the consulting and research that has always been in my heart, but which I could never find the time to put in my calendar. Coming from a background of physical therapy, I have always been fascinated by the differences in sensorimotor development and functioning that we see between those born with vision and those born without. As a “FERP’d” faculty member, I have most recently been able to semi-formally research some of the “therapy” approaches from PT that I used to use with my O&M students when I did direct service. Some here may have seen my presentations on PNF – proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Some have actually used this PNF with their students and provided feedback and input as I refine the program I am developing. On another project, one of my graduates is now assisting me with researching an assessment and facilitation program for improving dynamic balance (the lack of which has been shown to be correlated with veering). In doing so, I get to visit the California School for the Blind each week to work with a preschooler and get my “little kid fix.”  What will happen with these projects?  Stay tuned. I hope to keep working on them and we will see where they go, together.

In summary, it has been a fast, fun ride. O&M is a profession that is ever changing, always advancing, and never boring. To all of the young professionals in the audience, I leave you with these words of advice: go for the gusto, don’t believe those who say you can’t do something, and yes, O&M specialists are immortal!

Live long and prosper

Gala’s Final Comment

Thank you all for attending as we honor these women. Now, please join me in raising your glasses as we congratulate these three deserving, distinguished, powerful women who have lives well lived following the advice of this Native American proverb:

“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.  Live your life in a manner so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice”.

Raychel, Marjie, Sandy what you have achieved is notable and significant.  Thanks for letting us share your journey!

Hear! Hear!

Facts and information gathered from previous award presentations, Foundations of Orientation and Mobility “Big Red”, the Unseen Minority, the induction ceremony for Dr. Campbell to the APH Hall of Fame. And my memory (Gala S. Brooks).

Awards Description and Criteria

 Nomination Procedures

In order to make submissions accessible to all members, AER’s accessibility policy now requires that all submissions be submitted electronically – therefore, your nomination should be in Microsoft Word.

Lawrence E. Blaha Award

Selection criteria:

  • The individual must have had at least 10 years experience in the field of blindness and must have distinguished himself or herself in activities related to orientation and mobility such as:
  • Contributing to the body of knowledge/literature;
  • Excelling in a leadership manner in the provision of O&M services to the blind and visually impaired;
  • Has recruited or otherwise impacted on the decision of a large number of individuals to enter the field of orientation and mobility;
  • Has served in a “mentor capacity” to a significant number of O&M professionals.
  • The achievements being recognized must have had a significant impact upon the field of orientation and mobility.
  • The individual must be an AER O&M division member and have ACVREP certification unless retired or out of the field (administration).
  • Nominations and letters of support shall be made by members of the O&M division with a letter of up to two pages in length. The number of letters submitted shall not influence the decision. 

Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service

Selection criteria – The recipient should:

  • Have worked in the field of O&M 10 years or more;
  • Be a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist unless retired or out of the field (administration);
  • Have spent the majority of professional career in direct service, teaching O&M to visually impaired people;
  • Exemplify the standards outlined in the O&M Code of Ethics;
  • Have been a long-standing member of the AER O&M Division (majority of career);
  • Have demonstrated distinguished service by doing one or more of the following:
  • Extend beyond the usual job requirements by using talents and expertise to enhance the field of O&M;
  • Initiate innovative or unique programs;
  • Serve as a mentor to other O&M specialists;
  • Present at local, regional, or international conferences;
  • Publish work in a professional journal 

Orientation and Mobility Citation of Excellence for Direct Service Criteria:

The recipient must be:

In direct service the year preceding the conference;

  • A member in good standing of the AER O&M Division;
  • A Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist;
  • In the field of O&M for 5-10 years;

Involved in teaching children and/or adults