Fabiana Perla, EdD, COMS, CLVR, director of the Orientation and Mobility Program
, and Audrey Smith, PhD, CLVT, COMS, Blindness and Low Vision
professor, were recently honored with two top awards at the 2017
Pennsylvania-Delaware Association for Education and Rehabilitation (AER) of the Blind and Visually Impaired Conference in Harrisburg, Pa.
Dr. Smith earned the Richard L. Welsh Service Award, which honors “an AER professional who has demonstrated outstanding contributions and performance to the field serving the education and/or rehabilitation needs of individuals with visual impairment in Pennsylvania and Delaware.” While Dr. Perla was honored with the Elinor Long Educator of the Year Award, which recognizes a professional who has demonstrated outstanding contributions and performance in the field of education and rehabilitation for the blind and visually impaired.
Grateful to be honored, Dr. Perla said the award further solidified her love for educating future blindness and low vision professionals.
“I have not done anything extraordinary to receive this honor and that is in a way what makes it so great,” she said. “It means that doing your job with passion, commitment and to the best of your ability can be recognized and rewarded by your colleagues. This award has given me new fuel and motivation to continue to do what I love.”
Both Dr. Smith and Dr. Perla have made their mark in the fields of Blindness, Low Vision and Orientation and Mobility. With an innate commitment to individuals with significant visual impairment, Dr. Smith helped establish Salus’ current Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS) degree and certificate programs
– the foundation for which began in the 1970s. She also helped develop the College of Education and Rehabilitation (CER), where she was the dean for numerous years. As a historical figure in the development of Salus and CER, she has also co-authored some of the first textbooks and publications about low vision, and secured tens of millions of dollars to fund low vision programs.
Dr. Perla’s devotion to the study and practice of BLVS is evident through her numerous leadership positions within CER, including her roles as director of the Orientation and Mobility Program, and chair and associate professor for BLVS. She is an educator focused on incorporating experiential learning into her classes. For example, each summer, BLVS students don low vision simulators, blindfolds and canes to experience the world around them from a visually impaired person’s point of view through various environments. This method helps students gain skills and information they can transfer and use to help their future patients. Dr. Perla has also conducted a plethora of national and international presentations and written numerous research papers about blindness, low vision and orientation and mobility.
Also at the conference, Lachelle Smith, Director of the Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) Program, and Dawn Ciccarone, Occupational Therapy (OT) clinical instructor, conducted an interprofessional presentation entitled “VRT and OT Practice: Bridging the Gap in Adapted ADL Service Delivery.” Director of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Program Kerry Lueders, along with three students - Lindsay Johnson, Grace Fontanez and Christian D'Angelis, presented the poster “Nighttime Glare: A Case Study.”
AER is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting professionals who provide education and rehabilitation services to children and adults with visual impairments. Its Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter awards two leaders in the field at its annual conference.