Low Vision Rehabilitation Program First in the Country to be Accredited
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Low Vision Rehabilitation Program First in the Country to be Accredited

The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) has been accrediting Orientation and Mobility (O&M), Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) and Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI) programs for a while now.

woman holding video cameraBut the organization did not previously accredit Low Vision Rehabilitation (LVR) programs . . . until now. And, Salus University’s LVR program, in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS), is the first program to achieve this accreditation from AER.

“It acknowledges the discipline, I think that’s the main thing,” said Kerry Lueders, MS, COMS, TVI, CLVT, director of the LVR and Education of Children and Youth programs at Salus. “It’s also a testament to the quality of our LVR program that has a longstanding history at this University, that it’s been reviewed by peers and a comprehensive evaluation of the program.”

BLVS started the process to achieve this in Fall 2020, during the pandemic. AER interviewed graduates, current students and faculty that work with the University’s LVR program. After those interviews were completed, Lueders heard back from AER in April of this year that the LVR program had been accredited.

students in cap and gownThe Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) was the first institution in the country to offer a graduate degree and certificate program in Low Vision Rehabilitation starting in 1983. BLVS students who come through the LVR program are already working in the field and want to add certifications to upgrade low vision skills. Some of them might be in an eye care-related field — working as an optician or an ophthalmic assistant — and are looking to vary their experience for employment.

Sometimes, students at PCO/Salus are also taking the low vision master’s or certificate program concurrently, so by the time they have finished the optometry program, they are also graduating with an extra diploma/certificate along with their Doctor of Optometry degree.

Low vision rehabilitation studentsAnd, then sometimes there are students from other countries who are already trained in optometry but their country doesn’t have a low vision program. In these cases, they generally want to add the LVR certificate because of the rehabilitation aspect of it.

What makes the LVR program at Salus so unique is its comprehensiveness, according to Lueders.

“From what I’ve heard about other programs, they might just be focusing on the low vision piece, whereas we have core courses that every program takes. And, we address the education and rehabilitation system — we are addressing working with individuals with multiple disabilities,” she said. “I think our programs go beyond just the low vision core. We definitely cover quite a bit of ground maybe other programs might not cover.”

Lueders said the LVR accreditation is also helpful for the field in general.

“I hope that other programs crop up and follow suit,” she said. “I think we definitely see the need for low vision rehabilitation at The Eye Institute (TEI), the clinical training facility for PCO/Salus.”

With the aging population, she is hopeful more universities will create LVR programs.

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