As a recent member of the Forum for the Advancement of the Field of Blindness and Vision Impairment Professionals, I am happy to share with all of you the important message below.
In 2014, Salus University and VisionServe Alliance co-sponsored a Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) Symposium, including 20 individuals representing VRT personnel preparation programs, agencies and consumer organizations in the U.S. and Canada, to identify key issues challenging the field of VRT. Several recommendations were suggested by symposium participants, one of which was to "...collaborate with individual vision rehabilitation programs and ACVREP to research the feasibility and process for transitioning to a unified professional title" to encompass VRTs, Low Vision Therapists (LVTs) and Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Specialists.
In the Fall of 2014, some national agency and professional organization representatives from the VRT Symposium decided to lend their help to the above recommendation. Representatives of the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals, VisionServe Alliance, American Foundation for the Blind, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and other organizations serving adults in our field worked diligently on what was recently released as the attached White Paper from the Forum for the Advancement of the Field of Blindness and Vision Impairment Professionals. Gradually, other professionals were asked to join the Forum to continue to broaden perspectives on the idea of the unification of a professional title.
An important next step is to involve the broader Blindness/Low Vision community in a beginning discussion, including a single professional designation and its implications for personnel preparation in our field. The attached document intends to serve as a springboard for conversation.
Another consideration was the establishment of a "core" set of courses, with specialized certification in LVT, O&M and/or VRT. Discipline-specific courses could remain similar to current program delivery curricula, with the potential major change being a unified title for the profession. For example, a student may take core courses and elect to take one or multiple discipline-specific courses of study. Some programs already have these options available. The fine tuning would involve the establishment of a unified core of courses.
It follows that personnel preparation programs must consider the potential eventual need for a national database of expert courses. These would be made available to all personnel preparation programs interested in offering a unifying degree, if they currently do not have the curricular resources to provide such preparation.
At this point, we are currently at an idea/exploratory stage, welcoming a spirited discussion from the field as to the pros and cons of some of this Forum's considerations, particularly:
a. a unifying title ("single professional designation")
b. a core curricula concept with access to a national database of expert courses
The following online survey represents one attempt to gather feedback from the field. Please read through the attached White Paper before responding to the survey at the following URL: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FMYNDDF
We hope to receive your feedback via this survey as soon as possible.
With much appreciation for your time and effort in providing feedback,
Vice President for Programs
Center for the Visually Impaired
739 West Peachtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, GA 30308