New Club Focuses on Raising Awareness of Blindness and Low Vision Professions
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New Club Focuses on Raising Awareness of Blindness and Low Vision Professions

Katelyn Maffei ‘23TVI, '23VRT believes that many high school and undergraduate students would be really interested in the blindness and low vision professions if they only knew about them.

That’s why she and a group of Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS) students have formed Salus Students Promoting Awareness in the Community about Education and Rehabilitation Services for People with Visual Impairments (SPACERS), one of the University’s newest student groups on campus.

SPACERS OfficersSure, the name SPACERS is a mouthful, but the point is to raise awareness of the blindness and low vision professions — Low Vision Rehabilitation (LVR), Orientation & Mobility (O&M), Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT).

Maffei first became aware of the blindness and low vision professions during her undergraduate education. She was a senior majoring in special education when a friend of hers — Michaela Halesey ‘21TVI, who is vice president of the club — explained the job responsibilities of a TVI.

“That was just mind-blowing to me. It wasn’t a criticism of my undergrad institution. It was a great school and a great program. I had just never heard of a TVI,” she said. “During my undergrad, I had learned so much about so many other disabilities but I hadn't learned about teaching children with visual impairments. It was just crazy to me.”

So when Maffei came to Salus, she started talking to other BLVS students and found that there were several students in her cohort who have had similar experiences, beginning with a general lack of awareness about the profession. Many are adult learners who have decided to go back to school and learn about blindness and low vision careers later in life.

“Awareness is critical these days because there continues to be a national shortage of blindness and low vision professionals,” Maffei said. “I just wanted to get the word out to high schools and undergrad institutions and the youth that this is a viable option for a career. And a career that is so needed."

Katelyn MaffeiTo that end, the group — with the assistance of faculty advisor Emily Vasile, MAT, TVI, MS ’16, CLVT, an assistant professor in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies at Salus — plans to create a PowerPoint presentation about the profession and get in contact with high school and undergraduate institutions to spread the word about blindness and low vision professions.

Maffei will graduate in December with a TVI Master’s of Education but will continue her education as a student in the VRT program. She’ll complete her didactic work in that program this summer but will still need 400 internship hours for her VRT.

Currently there are six members in the club, which includes students in every program of the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies — TVI, VRT, O&M and LVR.

“Myself included, there are so many people that struggle between going into education or healthcare. It’s people that want to help and have a fulfilling career, but they’re stuck in between those two places,” Maffei said. “For me, these careers are a perfect marriage of the two. You can be a therapist, an educator, a healthcare professional. These are awesome careers that most people don’t know about and it is our job to educate them.”

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