In 1983, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), Salus University’s founding College, was the first institution in the country to offer a graduate degree and certificate program in Vision Rehabilitation
. At that time, it was the first time PCO was no-longer a single-purpose institution.
Today, the University’s College of Education and Rehabilitation (CER) offers four degree and certificate programs in the following areas: Low Vision Rehabilitation
; Orientation and Mobility
; Education for Teachers of Children with Visual and Multiple Disabilities
; and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (formerly Rehabilitation Teaching)
Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (VRT) work with individuals with vision loss or blindness adapt to daily living skills and using assistive technology.
“First and foremost being a VRT is rewarding,” said Lachelle Smith, MS, CVRT, director of the Vision Rehabilitation Therapy program. “I have the opportunity to educate, enlighten, encourage, and empower individuals’ impacted living with blindness and visual impairment to live their best lives as a result of providing VRT training.” According to Smith, training from a VRT reduces the percentages of unemployment of those who are blind or vision impaired – which is currently at 70 percent in the country.
The University’s VRT program is considered a hybrid model – offering online classes and an intensive ten-week summer institute where cohorts are on campus to practice hands-on skills. The program prepares professionals with specific expertise across related fields to provide comprehensive rehabilitation therapy services to blind or visually impaired adults by providing course work and supervised field experiences required for the Vison Rehabilitation Therapist certification by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).
“I chose to go into the field of vision rehabilitation therapy because I want to give back to the community by serving in the greater Philadelphia area in order to help persons who are blind or visually impaired,” Christina Grove ‘19VRT said. “I am very passionate about this field and am excited to begin my career after graduating from Salus. I chose Salus because of its excellent reputation and long history of providing quality education in the area of blindness and low vision rehabilitation.”
Similar to Grove, Dan Rose ‘20VRT said, “my desire to become a VRT ensued because of my deep and strong passion for helping people and assisting where I can to improve [an individual’s] quality of life.”
He believes the cornerstone of this philosophy is that each person, no matter their visual ability, has an inherent value. After experiencing sports and repetitive movement injuries in his ‘20s, physiotherapy helped gave him a perspective on what it's like to help others. “I chose Salus because it has an outstanding atmosphere of inclusivity, and it's clear that the staff of BLVS have a passion for the profession of vision rehabilitation therapy,” he said.
Smith suggests to those interested in the VRT program to do general research about the role of a VRT, and of course reach out to Salus faculty with any questions. She also recommends shadowing a VRT professional. “If you find you have the service personality – you have to have desire and passion to make a difference in someone’s life and work one on one and invest in the process,” she said.
Current student Aderonke Koya ‘19VRT agrees. “As we all know, visual impairment or blindness may have a great impact on peoples’ lives, but when people know they are not alone in the journey, it makes it less overwhelming,” she said.
Learn More About VRT and Other BLVS Programs