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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals
Fall / Winter 2015


By: Petra Hubbard

Abstract: The author discusses teaching daily living skills, responsibility and self determination to children with visual impairment at a variety of ages as their skills develop

Keywords: daily living skills, responsibility, independence, chores


Ensuring that each child with a visual impairment has age-appropriate daily living skills and is responsible for chores has benefits, both for the present and the future of the child. Parents often do not make their child with a visual impairment responsible for chores for a variety of reasons, but parents are not doing themselves or their children any favors by not allowing them to be equal contributors to their families. Not having chores will put the child at a disadvantage compared with his or her siblings who may feel the division of labor is unfair. More importantly, the message that the child with a visual impairment receives is that they are less capable, and not an equal contributor to the family. This will impact their feelings of self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-worth.  Having regular chores builds a child’s sense of self-esteem and will encourage a good work ethic and a can-do attitude as they become accustomed to completing a job under the supervision of their first “bosses,” their parents. Regular chores give the child consistent practice with many skills so that these skills become second nature. The individual with a visual impairment will become accustomed to what it takes to run a household so when the day comes to live independently, they will have the experience and confidence to be successful. Having a visual impairment does not mean never having to do dishes! 

So, what are the various types of daily living skills? The areas include eating skills, personal hygiene and grooming, clothing management, food preparation, household duties and maintenance, communication, organization, personal record-keeping, and financial concerns.

Assigning chores should start before kindergarten, such as putting toys and clothes away, helping to set the table, clearing and wiping the table, helping with simple food preparation, making their bed, and putting trash in a waste basket. As the child grows, the complexity of the chores can increase, but remember that they will have to be taught. People with visual impairments do not have the same opportunity for learning through casual observation the way people with full sight can, so they must be directly taught how to perform skills safely and effectively. Parents may need to learn some of the special techniques that can be helpful because essential skills can be practiced and refined in the natural context of home. Also, the child's teacher of students with visual impairment (TVI) can facilitate informal assessment of the student’s current skills and may teach daily living skills. There are several instructional arrangement options: pull-out of class for instructional time, consult with the classroom teacher about modifications they can naturally incorporate into their regular programming (especially in the upper grades where Home Economics classes might be chosen), provide direct instruction before or after school, or have a special summer IEP. Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Service/Division for Blind Services (DARS/DBS) has Rehabilitation Teachers who can provide instruction in the home, and in some areas, DBS offers special programs and events that incorporate daily living skills. The DBS Transition program will help families learn about options for continuing to build and practice skills after the child becomes an adult. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin offers short term and summer programs that teach daily living skills. Region 10 ESC offers technical assistance to teachers of students with visual impairment within the region on how to address activities of daily living, and the Region 10 ESC Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) Planning Committee offers events every year, some of which address daily living skills.

The ultimate goal for anyone is a happy, productive life including full independence and employment, full involvement in the community, and a wide network of friends and loved ones. Acquiring the skills to pursue these dreams has to start early. It will take a village to get there.


There are many additional resources for learning about special techniques, equipment, and environmental modifications for daily living. 

TSBVI has an extensive website, and a search for "daily living skills" will yield many links to websites, curriculum, and free articles. 

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) at also has many resources. In addition to what is available on their website, AFB has a branch office in Dallas with a model apartment which demonstrates many useful pieces of equipment for daily living skills.

American Printing House for the Blind at has many articles and information.

Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services/Division of Blind Services (DARS/DBS) at offers articles and links to more resources.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) at has articles and additional resources. 

The Hadley School for the Blind at has free correspondence courses available to visually impaired persons, and some, including the course on Independent Living Skills is also available to the parents and teachers of students with visual impairment.

A search for "daily living skills for the blind" on will yield many instructional videos.

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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals
Fall / Winter 2015


By: Wearable Technology: A Motivator for Fitness?

Abstract: In this article Superintendent Daugherty shares information about the agreement between TSBVI and the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) to implement a National Fitness Challenge on the TSBVI campus.

Keywords: TSBVI, Blind, Visually Impaired, United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), Fitbit


The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired recently signed an agreement with the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) to implement a National Fitness Challenge program at TSBVI. With funding from USABA and the Anthem Foundation, approximately 25 students will be wearing Fitbit devices on their wrists to monitor physical activity for the next 9 months.  One of the strategies being used by USABA to promote fitness is to connect these Fitbit users with other participants locally and around the country in order to develop a social network of people striving to reach fitness goals.  Along with some sports tournaments such as goalball and a  Paralymic/Olympic Day, TSBVI and USABA aim to use the wearable technology and social networking so popular among young people to influence students towards an interest in life-long fitness.

USABA is housed at the Olympic training facilities in Colorado Springs.  It is an organization for serious athletes who want to compete at the highest level in paralympic sports. It is a testament to their commitment to fitness for all that they have reached out to 9 organizations such as TSBVI without any requirements on the athleticism of the participants. It is my assumption that USABA realizes that increased fitness among all students will lead to a larger pool of developing athletes who might one day decide that they want to be involved at a higher level.

TSBVI offers many opportunities for students to participate in physical fitness and sports activities during the day, in the evenings, and on weekend competitions with other schools. Students coming to TSBVI often say that the opportunity to be on a sports team is something they highly value. Still, there are many students at the school who are way less active than is desired by those of us who worry about the long term impact of a sedentary lifestyle. Perhaps this snazzy looking, wearable technology found in the Fitbit will be a motivator that gets traction and kid-to-kid buzz about fitness.

Students with more significant disabilities can be at even higher risk for insufficient physical activity as part of their daily routine.  Some may not personally connect with sports or the pursuit of fitness goals in the same way promoted by USABA, but everyone is going to have a higher quality of life if fitness is part of their routine. It’s encouraging to read that walking 30 minutes a day at a comfortably brisk pace delivers about 90% of the benefit of more strenuous exercise. If walking is not an option, then a stationary or tandem bike might be a good fit.

One of the better resources on fitness for students with visual impairments of all ability levels is Dr. Lauren Lieberman, the founder of Camp Abilities ( USABA can be reached at . At TSBVI, Kristine Seljenes  is at for information about the school’s Fitbit program. In Texas, the regional Education Service Centers are generally aware of sports and fitness activities available within their regions. The Sports Extravaganza held annually in the DFW area draws a big turnout and is a great place to introduce a young person to fitness and the fun of competition. 

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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals
Fall / Winter 2015


By: Scott Bowman, Interim Assistant Commissioner, Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services – Division for Blind Services

Abstract: : Mr. Bowman reviews the legislative changes for the programs in the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and discusses plans underway to make a successful transition.

Keywords: Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services (DARS), Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), Transition Services, Blind Children’s Program


As the 84th Legislative session adjourned on June 1 “Sine Die”, otherwise known as the last day of session, a new course was set for the programs administered by the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).  On September 1, 2016:

  • The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) will operate all of the Vocational Rehabilitation programs (including General, Blind, transition services, and the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center), the Business Enterprises of Texas program, and the Independent Living services (IL) for Older Individuals who are Blind.
  • The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will operate the Blind Children’s Program (BCP), Blindness, Education, Screening and Treatment (BEST), IL- Part B, Autism, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services and Disability Determination Services.

As a part of transition, the affected agencies are required to submit a plan to the Health and Human Services Legislative Oversight Committee, which will review the plan and hold public meetings.  All of the members of the Oversight Committee have been named and will be co-chaired by Senator Jane Nelson and Representative Four Price.  A list of all the members can be found at the following link (  The Oversight Committee was created by the Legislature to allow for a more public and thoughtful vetting of the transition process. 

There is much to do in order to make this transition a success and to ensure that quality services are continued throughout this process.  To this end, DARS, HHSC and TWC have begun working diligently to map the processes that must occur.  DARS and TWC have held seven public meetings across the state to allow the public to address the transition of programs to TWC.  These were important meetings and we appreciate everyone who took time to attend.  Your participation makes these meetings worthwhile. 

TWC and DARS have recently completed a draft of their transition plan. This has been presented to the TWC Commissioners and will be sent to the Oversight Committee in the near future.  HHSC’s version of this plan will be submitted to the Oversight Committee in March.

DARS, HHSC and TWC are committed to making this transition a success; however, we cannot do this without your support. Your thoughts about these programs are important to ensure we continue to serve consumers in the manner best for each consumer.

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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals
Fall / Winter 2015


By: Excerpts for the Braille Challenge Web site

Abstract: The Braille Challenge is an academic competition designed to encourage students who are blind to emphasize their study of braille. This article provides information on the Braille Challenge and highlights Texas winners for the 2015 competition.

Keywords: Braille Challenge, braille


Congratulations to Harley Fetterman and Summer Johnson from Austin, Texas for being among the 15 students from across the nation that won honors at the 2015 Braille Challenge Finals!

Harley Fetterman, (Varsity) From Austin, TX. This entrepreneurial 11th grader hopes to one day develop a 2 ½ dimensional, refreshable, tactile screen that he can distribute through a company that he owns and manages himself! He is a board member of the Texas Association of Blind Students, is part of his school’s “All A” Honor Roll and was named “Camper of the Year” while attending Camp Discovery. He plays several musical instruments including the French horn, guitar, ukulele, mandolin and the saw. He and his family have traveled to all 50 states and together they choose to look at every situation in the most positive light and with humor. This is Harley’s 8th year attending The Braille Challenge and he has been reading braille for 11 years.  We invite you to read an article written by Harley’s mom, Beth Freeborn, from the Fall 2012 Texas SenseAbilities newsletter highlighting his experience when he competed in the 2012 Braille Challenge.

Summer Johnson, (Apprentice) From Austin, TX. Summer was a 1st place winner in the regional Braille Challenge in 2015. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up, so that she can teach people different things such as science, math, and Braille. Summer has participated in The Braille Challenge for 2 years.

Get Ready for the 2016 Braille Challenge!

The Braille Challenge is an academic competition unlike any other. This two-stage contest is designed to motivate blind students to emphasize their study of braille, while rewarding their success with fun-filled, but challenging, local and national events. Any visually impaired student who reads braille is eligible to participate in the preliminary Challenge contest events, which are held from January through the end of March throughout the U.S. and Canada. Contests are proctored by volunteer teachers for students visual impairment and scored locally according to our national guidelines by volunteer transcribers. Each contestant receives a braille certificate of appreciation and general feedback on their performance, which will be sent to families and educators in May.

This year The Braille Challenge will be held at 46 different sites and will be proctored by up to 80 individual teachers of visually impaired students from throughout the United States and Canada. The preliminary round is open to students of all skills levels, but the top-scoring 60 contestants nationally will be invited to Los Angeles in June for a Final Round—two days of competition, camaraderie and fun! Braille Challenge contest categories include reading comprehension, braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling and reading tactile charts and graphs.

The Braille Institute Is gearing up for another exciting season of The Braille Challenge! Here’s where you’ll find all the latest news for teachers, finalists, parents, and Regional Coordinators. They also invite you to visit their Facebook page to get updates, engage with other contestants and their families, and share your #BrailleChallenge experience!

For 2016 contracted apprentice contests will be in Unified English Braille (UEB), freshman contests will be UEB Optional. As of January 2016, UEB will be the official braille code for the United States. Based on a review of state implementation plans and feedback from our Regional Coordinators, teachers and National Advisory Committee, most younger students will be transitioning to UEB in September 2015, but the transition from EBAE to UEB is less defined and not as consistent for older students. The goal of The Braille Challenge is to support the timely transition to UEB.

To learn more about The Braille Challenge, please visit The Braille Institute website. 

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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals
Fall / Winter 2015


Northeast Texas Low Vision Conference: Filling in the Gaps 

January 22, 2016

Location: Region 8 Education Service Center, Pittsburg, TX

This one-day event is co-sponsored by TSBVI Outreach Programs and Region 8 Education Service Center with support from Region 8 ESC, Region 10 ESC, East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, Stephen F. Austin State University and DARS-Division of Blind Services.

What’s my next lesson with my student with low vision? What is my role and how can I support the needs of academic students with low vision?

Join us at this event to learn more about issues and answers for this unique group of students with visual impairments.

Highlights include:

•           interactive learning stations with ideas for instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum

•           tips for access to the general curriculum

•           effective models for itinerant service and collaboration

Presenters: Our presenters include Dr. Cindy Bachofer, Chrissy Cowan, Dr. Kitra Gray, and Dawn Adams among others.

Audience: The conference is geared for professionals. Parents, administrators, and others are always welcome and are encouraged to attend and share in the learning.

Active Learning Conference

February 26-27, 2016

Location:  James C. Durkel Conference Center at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, Austin, TX

Presenter:  Patty Obrzut, Director, Penrickton Center for the Blind, Michigan

This conference will provide strategies and resources for teachers and paraprofessionals who serve students with low incidence disabilities (i.e. severely cognitively disabled, medically fragile, and/or deafblind). Motivating and inspiring an individual with special needs to engage in their environment can be challenging.  Delve deeper into Active Learning theory and ways to implement this approach. Content will include the following topics:

General overview of Active Learning and the dynamic learning circle:

  • Understanding and implementing
  • The Five Phases of Educational Treatment
  • The Functional Scheme
  • Assessing the Developmental Level of special needs students
  • Identifying the developmental progression that occurs when using Active Learning equipment
  • The FIELA curriculum and meeting the needs of the special needs student
  • Adapting the daily curriculum to reflect Active Learning Techniques
  • Daily living skills and Active Learning
  • Training vs. Learning; Planning for the future – identifying the needs of your program and creating inspiration for change.

Registration Fee

$100 for Professionals and Family Members thru January 15th; $125 after that date.

$75 for Paraprofessionals and University Students thru January 15th; $100 after that date.

Assistance is available for Texas family members of students with visual impairments or deafblindness on a limited basis. 

Low Vision Conference: Building on Low Vision for Students at the Practical Academic Level 

May 20, 2016

Location: James C. Durkel Conference Center, Austin, TX

How can your programming enhance the quality of life for students with low vision who are academically 2-3 grades below grade level yet can learn many practical skills? These students may have mild-moderate cognitive impairments, may be in academic classes with modifications, and can actively participate in non-academic situations. They can be expected to achieve vocational independence in adulthood with ongoing support. This interactive day will highlight potential goals and lesson plan ideas, add resources to your toolbox and inspire success!

Audience: The conference is geared for professionals. Parents, administrators, and others are always welcome and are encouraged to attend and share in the learning.

Registration fee: $35 until May 1st; $45 beginning May 1st.

CEUs: ACVREP and SBEC continuing education units for 5.25 hours 

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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals
Fall / Winter 2015


Keywords: active learning, interaction, resources


Photo of an Active Learning position board.
Photo of an active learning position board. is the web address for the new, dynamic website on Active Learning.  This highly informative tool is being developed through a collaboration with Penrickton Center for the Blind in Taylor, Michigan; Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach Programs in Austin, Texas. January 2016 will be the debut of this critical resource for practitioners and parents of children and adults with multiple special needs.

Information will include the principles of Active Learning such as:

  • How to encourage independent exploration by a child or adult with multiple special needs
  • Developing adult-child interactions
  • The proper use of Active Learning equipment and perceptualizing aids
  • Appropriate selection of materials to use with Active Learning techniques
  • Podcasts and videos
  • Training opportunities available on Active Learning
  • Interactive features to allow visitors to ask questions and receive answers from experts in the use of Active Learning and for sharing ideas about Active Learning

You will find accurate and useful information of the benefits and practice of Active Learning as developed by Dr. Lilli Nielsen.

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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals
Fall / Winter 2015


Abstract: The National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities (NLCSD) is offering scholarships to selected degree programs for doctoral degrees leading to leadership positions in sensory disabilities. Application dealine is March 1, 2016.

Keywords: doctoral degree, scholarship


The National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities (NLCSD) is a Collaborative Agreement funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs and awarded to Salus University. NLCSD’s primary purpose is to increase the number of highly skilled doctoral scholars who will become leaders in administration, higher education, policy and education in order to significantly improve the interventions, services, and outcomes for children with sensory disabilities (deafness/hard of hearing, deafblindness, blindness/visual impairment), ages birth to 21. Applications for the second of two cohorts of the National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities (NLCSD) are due by March 1, 2016 for scholars to begin their studies in Fall, 2016. (For attendance at Texas Tech University (TTU), applicants must also apply and be accepted into TTU prior to March 1.) The consortium consists of multiple universities with doctoral programs that have an emphasis in one or more sensory impairment areas: blind/visually impaired, deaf/hard of hearing, and deafblindness.

Benefits of being an NLCSD Scholar:

  • Full support (tuition and fees) at a Consortium university, for up to 4 years
  • Annual stipend award $24,000 while matriculated
  • Participation in an Enrichment Program that includes a course that runs through the academic year and is delivered via distance technology and face-to-face meetings
  • Mentorship by Consortium faculty from universities across the country and across disability areas
  • Travel to and attendance at 1 – 2 required NLCSD meetings per year
  • Up to $1,000 materials stipend.

NLCSD Scholars will be required to:

  • Be admitted to a Consortium university as well as NLCSD
  • Be first time doctoral students
  • Be enrolled as a full time student at their Consortium (home) university
  • Maintain an on-campus presence
  • Work no more than 20 hours/week in a position that is directly related to individual programs of study
  • Upon program completion, fulfill the service obligation requirement as outlined by OSEP.

More information can be found at 

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