Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

Annual Meeting

October 14, 2021 American Printing House Episode 39
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Annual Meeting
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode, we're recapping APH's Annual Meeting. We’ll hear from APH President, Craig Meador, Ed.D., speak about the state of the company and hear from award winners.

Participants (In Order of Appearance)

  • Sara Brown, APH Public Relations Manager
  • Craig Meador, Ed.D., APH President
  • Marje Kaiser, Ed.D., Wings of Freedom Award recipient
  • Gilles Pepin, Horizon Award recipient
  • Stine Storm, Louis Award recipient
  • Dr. Kirk Adams, Navigator Award recipient
  • Dr. Penny Rosenblum, Navigator Award recipient

Additional Links

Jack Fox:

Welcome to Change Makers, a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Sara Brown:

Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I'm APH is Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown . And today we are looking at the ongoing Annual Meeting. We'll hear from APH's President Dr. Craig Meador about the state of the company. And we're going to hear from some very special award winners. APH's Annual Meeting started on Wednesday, October 6 and runs through tomorrow, Friday, October 15, the meeting covered the usual topics and discussions and APH president. Dr. Craig Meador held his annual State of the Company address

Dr. Craig Meador:

"In 2021. We received $34.431 million, which was an increase. Um, 31 of that went to the appropriations for the operations at APH and $3 million went through our regional partnership with AIDB, which also funds our regional specialists and the work that we are doing there, which is ever-growing part of APH. And we're excited about that. So you can see from 2017 to 2021, we have had a steady growth, almost $10 million in five years.

Sara Brown:

Dr. Meador also said.

Dr. Craig Meador:

"Production had a record year. This year production did a amazing job, not only with getting the right inventory in stock, but also reducing back orders. Three years ago, I hung a goal on them, which at that time seemed like it was a moonshot and that was get back orders. Now back orders are anytime you place an order and it's not in stock. It goes on back order . And our goal was never to have more than a $100,000 of product in back order. So this year and a COVID year impacted by supply chain , uh, where we had to do switch up on , uh , bills and material everyday because we can no longer get this Velcro or that gray, flannel. Production this year achieved that goal. And in fact, we had two months, one month where they have back orders of $2,000, which is unheard of. And when you got... That was just fantastic job by the production team , uh, in the planning team to make that happen. So excellent job for them. So , uh , good year, great year, actually, for operations."

Sara Brown:

To hear the full state of the company, please check the show notes. We have a link to our YouTube channel. On Wednesday, October 13, the Wings of Freedom, Horizon Award, Louis Award and Navigator Award were presented to trailblazers in the field. We're going to hear some of their acceptance speeches and speak to the winners, but first let's listen to the acceptance speech from Dr. Marje Kaiser . She was presented with the Wings of Freedom award. The night's highest honor.

Dr. Marje Kaiser:

"When I think about the many people at APH past and present who have taught me and become my friends, I realized how much APH has enriched my life. You are all on my mind right now through APH. I grew as an educator and I was able to provide accessible tools for the students that we served in our state. Truly I received so much more than I contributed. Again, my thanks for being considered for this award. It is my great honor to receive it."

Sara Brown:

The Wings of Freedom award recognizes and honors individuals who have demonstrated leadership in the areas of education or rehabilitation of those who are blind or visually impaired, Dr. Kaiser's career has been a great example of servant leadership. She has served as a superintendent of the South Dakota school for the blind and visually impaired for 34 years. She's been an Ex - Officio Trustee for APH served on numerous committees and is currently an APH board member. Hello, Marje, and welcome to Change Makers.

Dr. Marje Kaiser:

Hi, sir . It's so good to be here. Fun to talk to you.

Sara Brown:

Congratulations on receiving the Wings of Freedom. How are you feeling as the latest recipient?

Dr. Marje Kaiser:

Probably the word that comes to mind is overwhelmed. Um, I still can't quite believe it.

Sara Brown:

Your career has been about leading and service. How does an award like wings of freedom make you reflect on your career?

Dr. Marje Kaiser:

When I think about the last 30 plus years in this field , um, I know that I met amazing people, amazing students, amazing families, and the other people that I've worked with in this field have become another family as well. I've learned from all of them. And I think that's one of the best ways that this field serves each other is that we are supportive. We share ideas, we collaborate. I've never seen it in any other contexts , the way I've seen it in services to blind children and blind adults.

Sara Brown:

You've done so much in your field and I'm sure you've honored legends in the field. What's it like being a part of that esteemed group?

Dr. Marje Kaiser:

I've really never thought I'd be a legend that's for sure. Um, but it really is an amazing thing to belong to the same group as the people that have received this award and other awards in the field, because I'm in the middle of the United States, I'm in South Dakota. I'm not part of the bigger schools and I, if anything, I hope that serves as a, maybe a guide point for others who think, oh, what I'm doing is too small. Um, I'm just not material for leadership. Uh , you can do that. Um, you just have to decide that you're going to make that effort.

Sara Brown:

You're on APH Board of Directors. What plans do you have for this next phase?

Dr. Marje Kaiser:

Well, I'm really excited about being on the APH Board, especially right now on , when we're looking at making changes to the building and then reinventing the museum. It couldn't be a better time to be on the board as far as I'm concerned.

Sara Brown:

Thank you so much Marje for joining me on Change Makers.

Dr. Marje Kaiser:

And thank you, Sara, for giving me this opportunity.

Sara Brown:

And congratulations again on your award. Up next, we're talking to the recently retired HumanWare CEO Gilles Pepin who is the recipient of the Horizon Award, which recognizes creating and caring individuals who continually pursue new ideas that result in the development of innovative products designed to improve the quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired has worked in technology and assistive technology for more than 30 years and has spent his lifetime developing braille products for the blind consumer. Let's listen to his acceptance speech.

Gilles Pepin:

"I have the privilege of working with a great team, a fantastic team at HumanWare, a group of people that are extremely dedicated , uh, focused on delivering a high quality products. And I want to share this award with all of them, all of my colleagues at HumanWare who have contributed to bring these products to the market."

Sara Brown:

Hello, Gilles, and welcome to Change Makers.

Gilles Pepin:

Thank you, Sarah , for having me. It's a great for me to be here.

Sara Brown:

Great. First off, congratulations on receiving the Horizon Award during Annual Meeting and your recent retirement. That's huge. So congratulations on that. So I'd like to ask you, 30 plus years ago, you founded the company that would become HumanWare. Did you have any idea where it would go?

Gilles Pepin:

Well, that's a very good question. Uh, when I started , uh, uh, in this field, I was a young engineer. It was in 1986. In fact, I started working for an Institute for the blind. I was a young engineer working as a consultant and they hired me to help them with some new technologies that they , uh , have acquired and they wanted to see if we could help them , um, um , mastered that technology and well, it all , it was an eye-opener for me, for sure. I could , uh , see right from the start , uh, what impact , uh, this , uh, these new technologies would have on the lives of , uh, of , of blind and visually impaired people. And , uh, so that was in 1986 and I started the , uh, working with this Institute and trying to do more and more and , uh, you know, see all of the opportunities that were in this field. And , uh, about a year and a half , uh , after that , uh, in 1988 , uh, the executive director of this Institute came to me and said , uh, and invited me in his office. Uh , and he said, Jill , I want you to start a company in this field , uh , to create more technology for , uh, the blind and visually impaired people. And I said, well, yeah, that's a great thing. I was, I was not an entrepreneur. I didn't have any idea that I would start any company in my life. And , uh , he said, we're going to support you, but we really , uh , have trust in you and we want you to do this. And , uh , so I started then, and, you know, it was , uh , an easy go , uh, on October 26th, 1988. Uh, I founded the company at that time. There was, you know, I hired one person and , uh , another engineer and we started working on different products and , uh , that's how it started. Uh, and , uh, I think , um, you know, when I look back at the last 33 years, I'm certainly , uh , very proud , uh, uh, and , and, and , uh, looking at where we are and what we have done and what we have delivered , uh , so far. Uh it's um , it's, it's certainly a big thing for me, but to answer your question, it's clear to me that I have no idea where this would take me, but I'm very proud and very happy to have spent my career in this field.

Sara Brown:

Wow. That's amazing. What is it like to see the company you founded create products that are in the hands of users today? Is it like that , that proud parent moment, you know, where you just sit back and think, look what I did and look at how it's helping?

Gilles Pepin:

Well, that's a, that's a great analogy. Uh, I think , uh, when you think of , um , giving birth to , to a product , uh, I mean , I can tell you every time it's painful, it's a person it's always longer than winter space . It's always more difficult than we would have liked. Uh, it costs all the ways more than , uh , than we plan. Uh, but , uh, at the end of the day, you know, we put all of our arts, all of our, and that , you know, I'm not in a lone in this, obviously when we create products , uh , uh, we have a whole team and , um, I like to be involved with, although I , I, I really, you can ask our engineers. They hate me when I sit in these meetings and I say, no, that's not right. We , we have to do more. We have to do better. We have to do quicker. We have to do, you know, less expensive. Uh, people hate me when I say that, because it , it creates more work for them. Uh , but at the same time, you know, we , um, we , we, we really like , uh , the feeling of, of working hard at passionately and creating this product , uh, at the end of the day, we're extremely proud. They're not, I must say, you know, over the last 33 years, we've created over 50 new products, five, zero, that's a lot of products for a company of our size. And , uh , you know, with those , uh, 50 products, we served worldwide over 1 million people. So we have, you know, over 1 million people that have one of our products in their hands and, you know, on a daily basis, we hear from that and we hear back from them. Uh, and it's so motivating. It's so engaging for us to, to , um, to see that our mission is fulfilled through our products and through the help. Uh , it's not only products. It's , it's the support, it's all of the theme of human wear that is really supporting these people. And, and we see, you know, w what they share with us is mostly how it impacted their lives. Uh , sometimes very positively, obviously sometimes, you know, they , they, they hit some difficulties with the product, but most of the time it's , um, it's, it's wow. You know, I've, I've been able to do this. I was not able to do that before and now, you know, I can pursue my, my, my education. I can , uh , work there. I didn't know. I w I couldn't do that. So I think, you know, over 33 years, we have seen the technology evolve so much and empower people in ways that we never anticipated. So, yes, when we think of a baby becoming an adult, you know, taking of our products becoming more and more mature and helping more and more people , uh, that's uh , that's, these are moments that , uh , all of our team , not me , but all of our team see as , um , as, as their mission in life as what they want to do. And , uh , obviously for me, that's been my motivation all of these years. I've been passionate about technology, for sure. I mean, engineer , but I've been certainly passionate about how this technology is being used and what impact it has on the lives of people.

Sara Brown:

That's remarkable more than 50 products in the hands of 1 million people. Wow. Just off the, off the cuff, do you remember the very first product you created?

Gilles Pepin:

Certainly I do. That's a product that was called Iris. Uh, and , uh, it was in fact, we came out , uh, as the second , uh , uh, OCR reader , uh, for , uh , for the blind, so that , uh, a text reader that would OCR , uh, but that was in 1988, so long ago. Uh, but , uh, we, we came out , uh, I mean, Kurzwell came up with the first , uh , product in that category and we came up with the second version of it. And then we worked with Arkenstone at that time long ago , uh, and , uh, which in them in . And we did not , uh, a, a product that they used , uh , for promotion and an Arkenstone came out with their product in the us , but we had our product also , uh , spread all over Europe and also in the U.S. Uh , afterwards. So that , that was the first product, a great product that we , uh, we , we don't carry anymore, but , uh, we, we , uh , we at that certainly a product that was a stepping stone for us in the market.

Sara Brown:

So that , that product was called Iris right now. Does Iris live on in any current products today? Or evolve into anything that we see today?

Gilles Pepin:

That's a good question. No, I think, you know, we , we decided, and that was kind of a mistake , uh, from a lightbar , uh, around 1996, 1997. Uh, we , we could see, you know, there was a lot of , uh, uh, good screen readers on the market. Uh, OCR was very cheap. The scanners were cheap and , uh , you know, I made the call at that point. We , we had to move our, our harvest system , uh, that was DOS-based at the, at the beginning to windows. And , uh , we decided not to do it because my call was that this market would die because , uh , everything else was accessible , uh, from the start, you know, from , from the manufacturers. And I thought at that point that , uh, he should not, but it should not continue, but , uh , I can tell you that I regretted this, this move because , uh, these reading systems are still available today. Uh , uh, and , uh , uh , very , uh , useful for people.

Sara Brown:

Did you say DOS system-based?

Gilles Pepin:

Yes. Well , they , you remember when we, I mean, the first person with computers , uh, appeared on the market , uh, at the beginning of the eighties. So mid eighties, mid eighties, 85, 86 , uh, the first products for the blind and the vision people appeared on the market. And , uh, this is when this old industry of technology for the vision impaired started reading . Uh, there were products before, but the real big chunk of companies started in , in , uh, in the eighties , uh, and beginning of the nineties. So, so that was , um, at that time, at that time you have dusk and you had apple too . And that was, that was what we were working with.

Sara Brown:

It's just hearing those names is a blast from the past that I wasn't around for it. So just hearing DOS and it took me back,

Gilles Pepin:

I can imagine, oh my goodness.

Sara Brown:

Okay. Back back on track. So you receive this horizon award and the horizon award honors, those who pursue innovative products and ideas. What do you say to those listening right now who have a groundbreaking idea, or, you know, maybe a, a company that has a groundbreaking idea or a potential groundbreaking product.

Gilles Pepin:

Yeah , but first before I go there, I just like to , uh , yes, we're receiving, I'm receiving personally this, this award , but , um, but first I want to thank , uh, APH. I mean, we've been working , uh , with APH, especially during the last five years with the new leadership at APH. And , uh, I want to thank them. They , they have pushed us to the limit of innovation. They have , uh, really being very creative in ways they wanted to , to us to develop products. And I think we've worked extremely well with APH, and I hope, you know, we , we see the impacts , uh, the products we've developed with ADHF I've had. And , um , we're very proud of that and just recognizing what we've done that myself, but the old team that Humanware I think is , uh, is great. And I want to thank , uh , Craig neater, for sure. And around that we've been working with and all the team at the APH they've been fantastic working with, and we've really appreciate the support we've received from them. I also want to say that , uh, this award , as I said , uh , we've, I , you know, I've had, since the beginning a great team around me, I have people that have been around me for, you know, 15, 20, 30 years , uh, within HumanWare. And they've been as passionate as I am about , um , about technology and about the impact we have on people. So that's really great , um, uh, receiving this award and being recognized for the innovation we've brought to the market. Uh, now to answer your question, I, I very often get calls or meetings with people that have this great idea. They all start from the same point technology. So they, they see it technology and they say, oh, wow, I can apply that to blind people because they don't see the mistake they make is they don't talk to the users. They don't sit down, they don't hear the voice of customers. And they start working on the technology, thinking they have the right thing, and they don't want to share too much. They don't want to lose their ideas to the public. So they , they , they don't, and that's a big mistake because, you know, the first time I talk with them, it's very often too late. They have spent a lot of time, a lot of money. And , um , I tell them, you know, especially there was one case, you know, everybody thinks they have found a new technology to , um, identify objects in front of people when they move around or blind people so that they can go around. And the first question I ask them is, okay , uh, how do you convey back this information to the user? And they say, well, that's not important. We can draw a picture of, of everything that is in front of them. And I said, yeah, but I mean, you know, how are you going to tell them this is there ? And I tell them about the white cane, about how , uh, efficient the white cane is and, or a guide dog. And, and they started that technology in this specific area is it's not the impact they would like to have. Uh, but the thing is, you know , once, you know, we kind of discuss what, what is good about the technology they are using and, you know, the, the VR , the reorientation they should , uh, they should, they , I tell them how important it is. We, we are, we need young entrepreneurs, engineers , uh, innovators, people that have good ideas and are willing to commit to have an impact on society. We want those people to come in our field and help us. There is so much to be done. Uh there's no, yes, we are competitive. We have competitors, but our competitors are people we work with. We , we, we, we know we're there to help people, and there is so much that can be done and there was a market for everyone. So it's not a question of , uh, you know, pushing back people. We want to include everyone that has talent and who is motivated to help us in our journey for sure.

Sara Brown:

Okay. And one more question. You are the chairman of the board for human wear and newly retired. So what's next for Gilles?

Gilles Pepin:

Well, newly retired, probably not yet. It's , uh , it's still , uh, no, we just, as of September 1, I'm very happy to say that , uh , uh, I've appointed , um, uh , Bruce Miles as our new CEO. So I've , uh, trends , uh, transmitted all of my responsibilities, operational responsibilities to Bruce. Bruce has been around for five years, six years now with us. And , uh, Bruce has this , uh , passion about technology as well, and is a passionate of helping people. So, so I think he's the perfect fit for, for human, where , and he's done so much for us in the last five years , uh, mainly working on, on sales and , uh , structuring how, you know, our channels and how we work with our customers. I think it's been a great journey for, for, for Bruce and for HumanWare. And I have full confidence. Bruce will be doing a great job , uh, before for human. Whereas as CEO now for myself , uh, I , I, I took the chairman position, so I'm going to be around for some years. Um, and , uh, still , uh, I think very much involved in the market , uh, coming to conferences, talking to our customers, generating new ideas , uh, but more on the strategy side of things, as opposed to the operational side of things. So yes, I will have more time for myself , uh , time that I'm, you know, I'm sitting on , uh, some boards of directors , uh , different fields , uh , and technology mainly, but , uh, and , uh, uh, I'll, I'll be, you know, very much involved with Bruce and the team to , uh , to make sure that the strategy and the move we do and the contacts we have in the field are still a good , uh, so, so yes , uh , uh, retirement eventually , uh, now it's more a transition for me and it will give me more time. You're right. I do a lot of sports, so I'll, I'll, I'll continue to be very active. And , uh , I also have a cabin , uh, you know, isolated , uh, just on the side of the lake. And , uh, I'll, I'll have more time to go to the cabin and spend the time , uh , working there, you know, making things around the cabin. So having a lot of fun , uh, and enjoying gradually more time for myself, for sure.

Sara Brown:

Is there anything else you would like to add? Anything else you'd like to say?

Gilles Pepin:

Well, you know, I think that this Horizon Award is , is a great way to motivate people to do even more for this industry. And APH has played a very central role in indication . I, what I've seen , uh, especially in the last , uh , 5, 5, 6, 7 years , uh, I've seen APH , uh, taking a leadership role in terms of education and not only in the U S but worldwide. And that's extremely important. We driving indication for visually impaired people , uh, is not only when talking about technology, but about everything, about education is crucial. We want more blind people, visually impaired people , uh, getting higher education and getting a job. And , uh, you know, we believe our part is technology. Uh, we believe APH is a great umbrella for , uh , making this happen, that more students, you know , get better education and get a job and , and everything that goes with it. Uh, so, so that's, that's what we're trying to achieve. And, and I think APH is very essential in doing so.

Sara Brown:

Okay. Thank you so much for joining me on Change Makers today.

Gilles Pepin:

It was a pleasure meeting you, Sara, and , uh, really enjoyed the talking with you.

Sara Brown:

And congratulations again on your award. Now we're talking to representatives from the Lego foundation, they received the Louie Award for their LEGO Braille Bricks. The Louie Award recognizes the impact and creativity of a product idea, method, or promotional effort that increased the availability or awareness of a braille or tactile graphic LEGO Braille Bricks promote braille as a tool of literacy, but also encourage students with, and without sight to learn through play. And let's hear the LEGO Foundation's Senior Play and Health Specialists, Stine Storm's acceptance speech.

Stine Storm:

"Our mission is to inspire and create the business of tomorrow. And we do this by redefining play and re-imagining learning. It is our hope that this innovative playful concept will encourage children who are visually impaired to learn braille through play. Our focus is on developing a breadth of skills in all children, and by purposely making this concept inclusive, we hope that children who are visually impaired will learn and play alongside sighted children, thereby fostering skills, such as collaboration, communication, and joint problem solving . We are so grateful to partners in this project for lending their support and encouragement. Let's continue the valuable work together and ensure that we create the builders of tomorrow."

Sara Brown:

Now we're talking to LEGO Foundation's Senior Play and Health Specialist Stine Storm. Hello Stine and welcome to Change Makers.

Stine Storm:

Thank you. And thank you so much for inviting me.

Sara Brown:

What is it like to see the impact of LEGO Braille Bricks in the hands of children who are visually impaired?

Stine Storm:

Well, this project is simply so heartwarming. So to see these children actually have the LEGO Braille Bricks in their hands is just so touching. And it almost makes me cry every time. Um, but seeing them actually engage and having fun whilst learning is simply just so important for us. Um, we believe that that LEGO Foundation and learning through play , um, so this, you know, can benefit how children learn and how they develop their skills. So to , to actually see it in action just makes it so much more , um, important and impactful.

Sara Brown:

Okay. And how does the Louis Award reflect the LEGO Foundation's mission?

Stine Storm:

Well, the LEGO foundation has a mission to inspire and create the builders of tomorrow. So we do this by what we call redefining play and re-imagining learning. So for me, LEGO Braille Bricks is just such an innovative and tangible example of exactly that learning creative, innovative tool.

Sara Brown:

What is it like to see LEGO Braille Bricks go from the idea to an award winning product?

Stine Storm:

Well , we're actually quite humble about this because LEGO Braille Bricks is not really our idea. Um , and it couldn't have been developed without the help of the blind community. Um, so it's really a true example. Co-creation and we really sincerely hope that this co-creation will continue with the help of teachers, whom we encourage to continue to develop this , uh , teaching concept and methodology.

Sara Brown:

Okay. Stina , is there anything else you would like to add to this conversation?

Stine Storm:

Well, seeing it since a World Site Day today, I'd like to also announce that this week we , uh , launched our massive open online course, which is all about learning through play with LEGO Braille Bricks. Um, so please do , uh , look up the course , uh , online and , uh, we hope to see many of you on the course.

Sara Brown:

Okay. Stina , thank you so very much for joining me today on Change Makers.

Stine Storm:

You're welcome.

Sara Brown:

The Navigator Award was distributed to AFB and Dr. Penny Rosenblum. The Navigator Award recognizes the collaborative efforts in partnerships necessary to remove the barriers and provide pathways, ensuring that individuals have full access to education and life. The 2020 and 2021 Access and Engagement Studies under the direction of Dr. Penny Rosenblum and many collaborators across the field conducted two large research studies that highlighted both need and disparity of services and access to education. During the COVID-19 pandemic, let's listen to AFB's and Dr. Rosenblum's acceptance speeches.

Dr. Kirk Adams:

"Hello. I am Dr. Kirk Adams, president and CEO of the American foundation for the blind AFB at AFB. We value learning collaboration, impact and excellence. We convene leaders across our field and among business leaders, public officials, and other decision-makers to champion impactful policies and practices using research and data to support meaningful systemic change for people who are blind or visually impaired. Our research efforts are sure to continue. And I look forward to our future collaborations with the American printing house for the blind, again, our heartfelt gratitude. And with that, I will now pass the mic to Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, who took the initiative of spearheading these important research projects and mobilizing the fields, Dr. Rosenblum .

Dr. Penny Rosenblum:

"Thank you, Kurk. Today, I'm accepting the Navigator award for all those who have authored the two reports. Dr. Tina Herzberg, Dr. Tiffany Wild, Dr. Justin Kaiser , Dr. Danene Fast , Dr. Paola Chanes-Mora , Dr. Kathryn Botsford , Dr. Carlie Rhoads , Dr. Rhett McBride , Ms. Michelle Hicks , Ms. Jasmyn DeGrant , Ms. Leanne Cook , Ms. Stephanie Welch-Greiner. You'll note that the authors are combination of academics and practicing professionals. I think this speaks to the importance of all of us mentoring the next generation, Michelle, Jasmine , Leanne , and Stephanie gave up their time to the Access and Engagement Studies because they believed in the topic, but also because they believed in wanting to build their research skills. These ladies are our future leaders, and I'm very proud to know all four of them. Thank you to those at the American Printing House for the Blind who recognized our team's work and have awarded us the Navigator Award in recognition of the contribution, the Access and Engagement studies make to the field. I believe the work, our team did will have the education of our students with visual impairments, including those with additional disabilities and deaf blindness, both in the short term and the longterm ."

Sara Brown:

Now we're talking to Dr. Rosenblum , hello, and welcome to Change Makers.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum:

Thank you for the invitation to join you today.

Sara Brown:

First off, congratulations again, on being the recipient of the Navigator Award, The Navigator Award, honors collaboration and partnerships, you and your research team recently completed two huge studies regarding access to education during COVID-19. How does it feel seeing your work and the work of other researchers honored?

Dr. Penny Rosenblum:

You know, it's a wonderful feeling to have the work that our group did together recognized. And I think it's really important for everybody to understand the , um, AFB took a lead role in , um, allocating my time at the time to lead the studies. There was a large group of individuals from across the country who collaborated, and I want people to really understand that though I'm representing , um , the face of the person receiving the Navigator Award. It truly was a team and collaborative effort to get these two large scale studies completed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sara Brown:

Okay. And can you talk about the importance of partnerships and collaboration in this field and why it's so important?

Dr. Penny Rosenblum:

You know, I have been in the field of visual impairment as, as a professional for 35 years. And then after that, my time as a child and an adult with a visual impairment, I've seen a lot of different nuances within our field, but I really feel like , um, in many ways the pandemic has really increased collaboration across our field. And I think about wonderful things that APH is doing such as , um, the Excel Academy that and TSBVI with their coffee hour. Um, we are a group of collaborators in our field. There's no reason any of us should invent the wheel. And the data that we have gathered through the Access and Engagement Studies , um, is not just valuable to help people understand what is occurring in education for our students, with visual impairments during the pandemic, but also many of the systemic issues that we were able to identify and verify. I mean, things that we all know that when technology is not accessible to our students, how can they participate in education? Um , we have data that really helps highlight some of the specific challenges experienced by our students, their families, and the professionals who serve them.

Sara Brown:

And is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Penny Rosenblum:

You know, I think it's really , um, a pivotal time in education of our students with visual impairments. And I hope as a field that we will continue to work together to really address the needs of our students. We all for so long have been talking about the high unemployment or underemployment rate of adults with visual impairments and the many people acquire their visual impairments as adults. There are also many people who require their visual impairment in childhood. There absolutely is a very strong connection between education and in life success, including employment and success in post-secondary education. So I hope we're able to take what we've learned through the access and engagement studies and, and use that data going forward to affect change both with policymakers , with educators , um , and also within the school systems and for families. And I really would like to thank everybody who was involved with the studies, whether as a participant or researcher , um , to really recognize that this was very much a team effort. And I truly believe in the power of collaboration and working together.

Sara Brown:

All right, Dr. Penny Rosenblum. Thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers and congratulations again on your Navigator Award.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum:

Thank you so much for having me.

Sara Brown:

And thank you so much for listening to this episode of Change Makers. We'll put any links in websites mentioned in this podcast and the show notes. As always be sure to look for ways you can be a c hange m aker this week.