Soon To Be Graduate Helps Blind and Low Vision Persons in Alaska

lindsaylee-5.jpgLindsay Lee lives with her husband and children in Wasilla, Alaska. Born and raised in South-Central Alaska, it is truly her home.
 
With a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Alaska - Anchorage, Lee worked as a special education assistant in her local school district for six years - first in Behavior Support programs and then in the program for the Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI).
 
Her first role in the BVI program was to primarily work with a middle school student as a braillist or tactile materials specialist. “I had no knowledge of anything regarding visual impairments or braille when I was hired, but was trained on the job by the itinerant teachers of visual impairments (TVI),” she said.
 
It was the start of a new love, and set her on a new enhanced career path.
 
“I had been thinking about getting my master’s degree in Education for quite a few years, but had not found a specialty that I felt was my calling,” she said. But, after working as a braillist and assistant at the BVI program at her school district, she certainly found it. 
 
lindsaylee-1.jpgAlong her search for a university with a TVI program, she quickly realized there wasn’t an option in her home state. As a result, she went to the internet.  “It was very apparent when I was researching masters programs that Salus is excellent,” she said. “Because Salus is so small and specialized, they are really able to focus on the specialty, while making sure everyone has an introduction to other specialties in the field of Blindness and Visual Impairments.”
 
But, how did she complete her degree in the Education of Children & Youth with Visual Impairments program that focuses on TVI with Salus while living in Alaska?
 
“It was very helpful that everything in the fall and spring was online since I have a full time job,” she said. “I started in the summer semester of 2017 and stayed on [Elkins Park, Pa.] campus for five weeks, then was able to do everything else online. I would not have been able to complete my Masters in Education if the program wasn’t online.”

As she completed the coursework, Lee found it interesting to compare how different states handle blindness and low vision services. For instance, in Alaska most of the BVI services are through school districts, which have itinerant TVIs who travel among the schools providing services depending on individual student needs. In the rural school districts, however, there are contract with TVIs who come several times a year and also provide support through virtual services such as Skype and email.
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Specific to Alaska, those with blindness or visual impairments in remote areas of that state lack consistent services - unless they live in Anchorage, the capitol and largest city. According to Lee, there are also a lack of qualified professionals in the profession in the state and only a handful of certified orientation and mobility specialists.
 
This is what Lee seeks to change.
 
She was recently hired by the Mat-Su Borough School District in Alaska as an itinerant TVI. She will have about 20 students ranging from pre-K to high school spread out over 15 different schools. And, just days away from graduation, she is already planning on becoming a Certified Low Vision Therapist (C LVT) and possibly pursuing an orientation and mobility certificate as well.