The American Foundation for the Blind will present its highest honors at its annual conference


Honoring Pioneering Blindness Advocates

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — At the 2022 AFB Leadership Conference, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) will recognize individuals who have made superb contributions to improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired with the presentations of Migel Medalthe Llura Gund Leadership Awardand the Corinne Kirchner Research Fellowship.

the Migel Medal was established in 1937 by the late MC Migel, AFB’s first president, to honor professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements improve the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted. Gale Watson and Judith Dixon are the 2022 winners.

Gale Watson has worked in clinical care, education and research at many levels in the field of blindness and is rightly recognized as a leader and expert. She was most recently Director of the Rehabilitation Service for the Blind for the Department of Veterans Affairs, having retired in 2019. She served as Manager of the Vision Rehabilitation Program and Health Research Scientist at the Eye Clinic at Atlanta VA Medical Center; professor at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now Salus University) and special educator at the Northeast Georgia Cooperative Educational Service Agency.

As a researcher, Ms. Watson has published 18 times in peer-reviewed journals; contributed chapters to 12 published books; and has served as a reviewer and editor for numerous professional journals, including the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness (JVIB), for which she co-edited the 2008 special issue on age-related macular degeneration. Many of his publications have focused on new and innovative practices and equipment to improve the independence and safety of visually impaired and blind adults. Ms. Watson has received numerous honors and awards throughout her career, including Outstanding Contribution to the Low Vision Division and Outstanding Contribution to Low Vision Research and Literature, both presented by the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired; as well as the Outstanding Public Awareness Award from the Foundation Fighting Blindness; and several Department of Veterans Affairs service awards, to name a few.

Judith Dixon is a recognized pioneer in the areas of braille reading, writing and promotion, including online technology and literacy. She championed access to printed information through the widest possible use of special formats – Braille, the Internet, e-books, ebraille and other emerging technologies. She is a long-time champion of all forms of access to information, consulting with organizations of all types to provide assistive technology and services in Braille, while promoting the inclusion of all people, regardless of regardless of their technological capabilities.

Dr. Dixon worked as a consumer relations officer for the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. from 1981 to 2021. After retiring, she was asked to return work on projects due to his extensive knowledge and expertise. She has served on several committees for various library organizations and associations, consulted many states on access, presented at conferences, and written extensively for the field. She was a member of the Braille Authority of North America. Since 2009, she has been a member of the WBU World Braille Council, has been a member of the Transforming Braille Group and has been active in the International English Braille Council (ICEB) since 2008 when she was elected secretary. In 2020, she was elected president of ICEB, the code maintenance organization for the Unified English Braille code. She now writes regularly for AccessWorld®: technology and people who are blind or partially sighted.

Migel Medals will be awarded to recipients during the general morning session on Monday, May 2.

The newly established Llura Gund Leadership Award recognizes an outstanding leader who has benefited from one of LBS’ employment initiatives. This person receives $5,000 to support their leadership development beyond LBS training programs. Rachel Longane is the 2022 recipient.

Ms. Longan is a licensed marital family therapist who has a private psychotherapy practice in Berkeley, California. Throughout her career, Ms. Longan has improved the lives of individuals by bringing people together. She founded Mind’s Eye, a support group for people struggling with blindness. She previously founded a support group for LGBTQ people struggling with blindness, which she led at Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco. Additionally, Ms. Longan led a grant-funded program designed for families of children with special needs at the YMCA of Berkeley. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Developmental Disabilities Council of Alameda County. Ms. Longan graduated in 2021 from AFB’s Blind Leader Development Program and went on to serve as a mentor in the next cohort. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Mills College in Oakland and a Masters in Counseling from San Francisco State University. She has lectured extensively on treatment approaches for children with autism at the University of California, Berkeley.

The award is named in honor of the late Llura “Lulie” Gund, a philanthropist who, along with her husband, Gordon, dedicated herself to improving the lives of people with blindness by funding research and treatment remedies for blinding retinal diseases. The couple received a Migel Medal in 2016 for their work in founding and running the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

The Gund Prize will be awarded at a special screening on Tuesday, May 3.

the Corinne Kirchner Research Fellowship honors those whose leadership and dedication illuminates the most pressing needs of people living with sight loss through timely, innovative and authoritative research. The 2022 winners are the three members of the research team composed of Rona PogrundPh.D., TSVI, COMS; Shannon Darst, Ph.D., TSVI, COMS; and michelle munro, Ph.D., TSVI; whose work resulted in the Visual Impairment Scale of Service Intensity of Texas (VISSIT). Dr. Pogrund is a professor and coordinator of the TSVI program at Texas Tech University, Dr. Darst is the program facilitator for the visual impairment program at Stephen F. Austin State University, and Dr. Munro is the visual impairment consultant in the region 6. Texas Service Center. Their groundbreaking work is changing the way traveling vision professionals determine the type and amount of appropriate services each student with a visual impairment should receive.

Once a student is identified as visually impaired, teachers of students with visual impairments (TSVI) design an educational program. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) should provide recommendations for specially designed instruction and the type and amount of service (for example, direct instruction and educational team support and collaboration) that will ensure that students and teachers achieve IEP goals. A new tool was needed to help IEP team members and administrators make decisions based on individual student needs related to the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC). The VISSIT was developed by Drs. Pogrund, Darst, and Munro, along with the other members of the service intensity subcommittee of the Texas Action Committee for the Education of Students with Visual Impairments, and responded to this need by basing service time recommendations on data student evaluation. The scale leads to a proposed range of service delivery times, and the results of validation studies on the VISSIT have demonstrated its validity and reliability as a tool that can recommend the appropriate type and quantity of itinerant services. The VISSIT has been nationally validated and is now being implemented across the United States. This type of orientation helps to be more confident that SVIWs will have enough time to provide quality services to students with visual impairments and service time recommendations are determined by a research-based tool.

By determining service delivery time based on student needs rather than the size of the TSVI workload or previous service models, using the research-based VISSIT has a significant impact on student outcomes. students in ECC areas, resulting in a greater likelihood of success in school, career, and independent living.

The Kirchner Prize will be awarded during the closing ceremony on Tuesday, May 3.

About the American Foundation for the BlindThe American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) engages leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. Editor of the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness For more than a century, the AFB has also proudly managed the accessible Helen Keller Archive, honoring the legacy of our most famous ambassador. AFB’s mission is to expand pathways to leadership, education, inclusive technology and career opportunities to create a world without limits for people who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired. To learn more, visit

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SOURCE American Foundation for the Blind


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