Innovative Vision Studies Program Honored on 50th Anniversary

Issue Date: 
November 11, 2013

Representatives of the University of Pittsburgh’s Vision Studies Graduate Program received a plaque from VisionServe Alliance, a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of those who are blind and visually impaired, during the alliance’s annual conference in Downtown, Pittsburgh.

The Vision Studies Graduate Program, which trains teachers to work with students who are blind or vision-impaired, is the only such program in the region. This year marks its 50th year of training educators, making it one of the two oldest vision-studies programs nationally; Florida State University’s program was also founded in 1963.

The program, part of Pitt’s School of Education, is one of only a few in the nation to offer a dual certification in the field of blindness, with its Teacher of the Visually Impaired certificate and a certificate in Orientation and Mobility. 

The Vision Studies Graduate Program offers an innovative curriculum combining online classes with an intensive six-week residential experience. Participants in Orientation and Mobility courses wear blindfolds and goggles and are then given seemingly everyday tasks, ranging from navigating hallways, to crossing streets, to riding Port Authority. Such activities help participants to better understand the challenges faced daily by their future students.

The plaque from VisionServe Alliance, presented on Nov. 8, was given to George Zimmerman, director of the Vision Studies Program, and School of Education Dean Alan Lesgold. Zimmerman is only the second director of the program, having assumed that role following the 1987 retirement of Ralph Peabody, the program’s founding director.

The presentation of the plaque from VisionServe Alliance came just a few weeks after another significant recognition. During the annual meeting of the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Ky., a plaque honoring Pitt's Vision Studies Graduate Program was added to the Louisville organization’s Wall of Tribute.