Welcome Olaya Landa-Vialard, the New Director of the APH ConnectCenter
Olaya has an extensive background in the blindness field. She is a graduate and fellow of the National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities. She earned her Ph.D. from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX. Olaya has served as a bilingual teacher, bilingual educational diagnostician for students with visual impairments, TVI, professor, and as a bilingual family engagement coordinator for Project Reach, State of Illinois Deafblind Services. Being the Director of the ConnectCenter will complement her dedication to the field as, in her many capacities, she has helped lead the way in the sharing of information with parents, teachers, and school administrators to further improve the lives of individuals with blindness/visual impairment/deafblindness/multiple disabilities.
One of the most exciting things about the ConnectCenter is the Calendar Hub. This is a calendar where individuals and organizations can share information about events taking place across the country. The Calendar Hub is housed in the ConnectCenter, but it belongs to the field. We are so excited about providing this service that can connect us in ways that have not been done before!
In addition to the Calendar Hub and the three websites—VisionAware, FamilyConnect, and APH CareerConnect–the APH ConnectCenter also has a dedicated, toll-free phone line to provide information and referral services to people in all stages of life who are experiencing vision loss. By using our Directory of Services and other tools, we will help locate information or services in your area to assist you. Whether you’re newly diagnosed with vision loss, or you’re just looking for a specific device or tool, we’ve got you covered. Our hours are Monday through Friday 8AM-8PM ET. You can reach us at 800-232-5463, or by emailing email@example.com.
The ConnectCenter, in partnership with the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, has created “Getting Started 2020: A Guide for People New to Vision Loss.” Getting Started is a resource updated with new information year over year. Though it is filled with evergreen tips and techniques, APH recognizes that we live in an ever-changing world. In a current and post-COVID-19 reality, we understand that people who are new to vision loss may rely more heavily on virtual support systems. It is our plan to continue to provide Getting Started in many formats, including print, web, social media, apps, a toll-free hotline, and more. Getting Started is also available in Spanish.
Congratulating the Class of 2020
We recognized that so many graduates in the Class of 2020 did not get the graduation ceremonies they deserved because of COVID-19. We wanted to congratulate them for all their hard work. Producer and consultant, Joe Strechay, who has been working with the ConnectCenter, gathered a great group of successful people who are blind or visually impaired to wish the Class of 2020 well and offer some wise words of encouragement for the future. The 5 videos include Erik Weihenmayer, who summited Mount Everest; Haben Girma, the first deafblind Harvard Law graduate; actress Marilee Talkington; Master Chef Christine Ha; and many others. Watch all the videos on our ConnectCenter YouTube playlist.
FamilyConnect has been busy with providing webinars for parents and service providers. We hosted a webinar on June 3rd, entitled “Connecting Your Families at Home with the Resources They Need to Thrive.” We wanted to create an open forum where parents and teachers alike could hear from one another and share ideas, techniques, and resources on how our blind and visually impaired children’s educational needs are being met during COVID-19.
Robin Lowell, an educator and mom of three special needs kids, was our moderator. We heard from our panelists, Brittany Clarkson, who is studying to be a TVI herself and is also a mother to Addy; a student at the Kentucky School for the Blind; Kelli Schubert, mother to Claire; and Darren Lewis, father to Joshua, who is a bright 10-year-old with a keen interest in coding. Each answered questions from our moderator and audience on topics like having your child’s accessibility needs met; activities that keep them engaged and active; socializing with peers while social distancing; etc.
Join us for our next FamilyConnect webinar, “Creating Learning Environments with Items in the Home,” on July 13, 2020 from 1:00 – 2:30 PM CST. Sara Edwards, TVI/DTV, from the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, will be the presenter. Alongside her career, Sara is also a mother of two children with blindness. Don’t miss this informative webinar.