Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Division (Division 11)

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Welcome to the AER Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Division

Our Mission is:

To serve as a national and international forum for information on current issues in certification and related legislation; provide updates on University Personnel Preparation issues and trends; and opportunities for continuing education, specialized meetings, and training forums.

To facilitate the exchange of current resources and product information, updates members on research and educational trends, provides university certification standards to the AER University Review program, and promotes employment opportunities.

To provide instruction and guidance in adaptive independent living skills, enabling adults who are blind and visually impaired to confidently carry out their daily activities. Vision Rehabilitation Therapists are active members of multidisciplinary service teams, providing consultation and referrals utilizing community resources. [Rehabilitation Teaching University Personnel Preparation Guidelines]




Chair: Daniel E. Norris [email protected]
Chair-Elect: Polly Abbott [email protected]
Secretary: John McMahon [email protected]
Social Media: Tina Laffer [email protected]
Past Chair: Kathleen Spengler [email protected]
Canadian Representative: Scott Birney [email protected]
ACVREP CVRT Subject Matter Expert Committee Liaison: Stepanie Welch-Grenier [email protected]

Year Strategic Plan Committee Chairs:

Field and Public Awareness:
Frankie Marcille  [email protected]
Meghan Fink  [email protected]

Strengthening the Field of VRT
Jennifer Ottowitz  [email protected]

Policy and Funding
Cathleen McGuire [email protected]

Let Us Introduce Ourselves:

Daniel E. Norris, M. Ed. (COMS, CVRT)
Daniel is the Director of Adult Services with the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and has been with the agency since 2004.  He is also the VRT Program Coordinator and Methods Instructor for UMass Boston since May of 2014.  He received his Master’s Degree in Education: Special Education from Portland State University.  While working as a TVI, Dan returned to graduate school at UMass Boston, to become both a COMS & CVRT.  He participated in a five-year project with the Vermont Sensory Access Project to become a DeafBlind Consultant.  Daniel currently serves as the Chair of the AERBVI CVRT Division, serves on the AER Higher Education Accreditation Commission, and co-chairs the Subject Matter Expert Committee for Vision Rehabilitation Therapy for ACVREP.  Daniel Norris is visually impaired himself, having developed a juvenile form of Macular Degeneration at the age of eight.  In this role, he has acted as a mentor and role model for many transition-aged children in the state of Vermont and elsewhere. 

Polly Abbott B.Ed., CVRT, OMS
Polly's career in the field spans the U.S./Canada border.  She started with a degree in education and spent a brief period as a teacher in France and England before leaving the classroom to attend Mohawk College’s post-graduate certificate program in 1998-99.  Her direct service work in the vision field started with CNIB Ontario division, working on a special team serving clients with visual impairments and additional disabilities. Wanting to broaden her knowledge and serve clients more fully, she returned to Mohawk College to complete the orientation and mobility instructor program.
In 2005, she moved to the Chicago area, where she spent 15 years working as a direct service provider and as the Director of Rehabilitation Services with blind and low vision clients through Second Sense.
Polly is the author of the manual Starting and Maintaining a Vibrant Vision Loss Support Group (with Second Sense) and co-author of two chapters in Foundations of Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (APH 2020). In addition, she is a subject matter expert (SME) for Vision Rehabilitation Therapy with ACVREP and has recently received certification in UEB Braille Transcription (CNIB 2021).
Polly enjoys all aspects of direct service provision and is committed to helping those just entering the field by providing workshops to students and new VRTs.  She enjoys mentoring and helping others to network and she is passionate about promoting the profession.
Recently she relocated to Seattle, Washington. She is working remotely for the Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance Center with the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University. 

John Mc Mahon - Ph.D., M.A., CVRT
John Mc Mahon earned his Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Teaching from Western Michigan University in 1985, and his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences from Western in 2013. Over the past 38+ years he has worked as a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and program administrator in Maine, and as a VRT, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and Low Vision Therapist in Michigan. He has been a long-time member of AER, and over the course of his career he has served in a variety of local and international positions in AER, ranging from Board of Directors and President of the Michigan chapter, Board of Directors of the Northeast Chapter, national committees for the VRT Division such as Certification and Code of Ethics, and as the Chair-elect, Chair, and Immediate Past Chair of the Division. Dr. McMahon currently serves as the Immediate Past-Chair of the AER Rehabilitation Counseling and Employment Services Division and as Secretary for the VRT Division, and served on the VRT Subject Matter Expert Committee of the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP). Dr. Mc Mahon currently holds ACVREP certification in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy, and has published articles and conducted numerous presentations at various professional conferences through the years.

Tina Laffer M.A., M.Ed., CVRT 
Tina is a vision rehabilitation therapist at Perkins School for the Blind in the Secondary Program and has been there since 2017. She works with high school and transition-age students, many of whom have additional learning needs, specializing in the area of Independent Living Skills.  Before working at Perkins, Tina worked in the Rehabilitation Department at the Carroll Center for the Blind for 4 years. She has experiencing working with students who have dual sensory loss.
Tina earned a Bachelor's degree in Severe Special Education Practices from Bridgewater State University.  She holds a Masters' of Education in Vision Studies from UMass Boston, and a second Masters' from George Washington University in Organizational Leadership and Learning. Tina is certified through ACVREP in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and a Unified English Braille Transcriptionist, certified by the National Library of Congress.

Stephanie Welch-Grenier, M.A., M.Ed., CVRT/COMS/TVI
Stephanie is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, and Teacher of the Visually Impaired who has worked in the field over the last 11 years in a variety of capacities with individuals across the lifespan. She entered the field through a Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Florida, serving transition-aged youth for 5 years, while supporting the adult daily living program. Stephanie had the honor of training with a CVRT that worked in early intervention, which expanded her passion for working with toddlers and babies. Upon moving to Ohio, she added additional credentials to allow for instruction in school districts and with youth in a greater capacity. She currently provides statewide services for individuals of all ages across the state of Ohio. 


What is a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist?

A Vision Rehabilitation Therapist works primarily with blind and visually impaired adults. This highly specialized career requires university preparation and adherence to a Code of Ethics and certification standards. Certification is administered through The Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).

            "Vision Rehabilitation Therapists constitute a cadre of university-trained professionals who address the broad array of skills needed by individuals who are blind and visually impaired to live independently at home, to obtain employment, and to participate in community life. As a discipline, Vision Rehabilitation Therapy combines and applies the best principles of adaptive rehabilitation, adult education, and social work to the following broad areas: home management, personal management, communication and education, activities of daily living, leisure activities, and indoor orientation skills." (Crews & Luxton, 1992)

What would some job responsibilities be for a VRT?

  •  Assessing and evaluating the independent living needs and abilities of individuals with impaired vision for meeting immediate and lifelong goals
  • Developing individualized Vision Rehabilitation Therapy plans in conjunction with the learner
  • Teaching adaptive skills needed for independent living in areas of personal management, household management, communication, education, leisure activities, orientation and movement in the indoor environment, and use of low vision devices and training techniques
  • Coordinating the implementation of the Vision Rehabilitation Therapy service plan;
  •  Teaching problem solving and resource utilization, including the acquisition of adaptive equipment
  •  Facilitating the individual's and family's psychosocial adjustment to impaired vision;
  • Case management and case recording
  • Providing consultation, public education, and in-service training.
  • Case management and record keeping
  •  Identification and utilization of community and national resources
  • Utilization of community support service
  •  Facilitation of psychosocial adjustment to vision loss

What does a VRT hope to achieve?

  • Restore the adult who is newly visually impaired to his/her accustomed lifestyle
  • Assist the person who is developmentally disabled or multiply impaired and visually impaired in reaching his/her highest potential for independent living
  • Demonstrate to other professionals the knowledge, skills and attitudes which make services for persons who are blind and visually impaired more effective
  • Provide instruction to persons who are blind and visually impaired in such areas as home and personal management; adaptive communications skills including braille, typing and computer access; orientation in the home; home mechanics; diabetic and health management; and community resources.

Where might a VRT work?

  • Agencies serving people who are blind and visually impaired
  • Residential schools for children who are blind and visually impaired
  • Local school districts providing services to children who are blind and visually impaired
  • Centers for people with developmental disabilities
  • Centers for Independent Living (CILs)
  • State Vocational Rehabilitation Services
  • Hospital and clinic rehabilitation teams
  • Community-based vision rehabilitation therapy services

Where Can you to study to become a VRT?

Are you interested in becoming a vision rehabilitation therapist? Below is a list of  university programs that are approved by the AER University Review Committee. Many programs have grant funding to address a national and regional shortage of service professionals with specialized knowledge in visual impairments. Students meeting admission and grant scholarship requirements may be eligible for tuition support!

Graduate Programming links:

Northern Illinois

UMass Boston

Western Michigan

Salus University

University of Montreal

Hunter College

Here are a few of our favorite resources that we use as VRTs in the field!
From Polly: Braille Refreshers

Braille Refresher questions are designed to “refresh” your braille knowledge by sharing a weekly nugget of braille instruction in the form of a question. Each question is delivered via SurveyMonkey and takes about two minutes to complete. Anyone from anywhere in the world can sign up by emailing their name and braille-related title to [email protected]. (Your “braille-related title” could be transcriber, TSVI, student, sibling, etc.)

There are many types of Braille Refresher questions. The question of the week might ask you to choose the correct braille for a printed word or phrase or ask you to identify a braille symbol; other questions give a silly joke in braille with the punchline in print; and there are lots more! After submitting an answer, you get immediate feedback, but your answers remain anonymous. Braille Refresher questions are not meant to measure your braille knowledge but rather to give it a fun and *refresh*ing jolt of energy.

These questions are great for teachers, students, and parents! To subscribe to these emails at any time, please send your name and braille-related title to [email protected].

From John: Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP)

The AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP program pairs thousands of Americans aged 55 and older with organizations making change in communities across the country. AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers who serve in our RSVP program choose how, where, and when they want to serve, with commitments ranging from a few hours to 40 hours per week. You can find an opportunity with any of the thousands of organizations we work with that see service as a solution to local, regional, and national challenges. AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers themselves report better health and longevity having served their community.

From Dan: VisionAware: Getting Started - Guide for People New to Vision Loss

If you have been recently diagnosed with a visual impairment, you are about to begin a journey for which you may not be prepared and for which you may have many questions. The information provided here can help you navigate your journey. It will not provide you with the answers to all of your questions, but it will point you in the direction of finding the tools, information, support systems, and guidance you seek during this new and challenging (

From Tina: The PenFriend

Audio labeling devices such as the PenFriend (  ) enables you to record your own audio labels for a wide range of items in and around the home, at school, and on the way to work. To identify an item, touch the label with PENfriend and it will play back your voice recording! Labels can be re-used and can play back up to 60 minutes of content.

VRT Flyer :


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Do you want to submit content to these platforms for us to feature? Do you have any questions about becoming a VRT? Email us at
 [email protected]  Not sure how to create content or what we might be looking for? Click the link below to learn more:

(This document does not exist yet but is coming soon!!)

You can reach out to one of us on the leadership team directly!

Chair: Daniel E. Norris [email protected]
Chair-Elect: Polly Abbott [email protected]
Secretary: John McMahon [email protected]
Social Media: Tina Laffer [email protected]
Past Chair: Kathleen Spengler [email protected]

VRT Listserv

A listserv has been established for VRTs to share experiences, ideas, and information to better serve our consumers. This list provides a forum to ask questions, share product information, discuss available and up coming technology, and stay connected with VRTs across the country to serve the ever growing and evolving community of people with vision loss. The list is available to anyone who would like to participate in a respectful and professional manner. To subscribe, view archives, edit your list settings, or unsubscribe, please click here. If you have any trouble signing on to the list you’re welcome to email the admin/moderator Sarah Heinrich, CVRT/COMS, [email protected].

5-Year Strategic Plan

  1. Jan 2024  VRT 5 Year Plan Roll Out.pptx


Winter 2024

Please submit nominations for awards available for the July International AERBVI Conference. Send nominations to Polly Abbott [email protected] or Elizabeth [email protected]

VRTAwardsCriteria.doc - Nominations for Secretary and Incoming Chair of Division 11:


Send nominations as soon as possible to Tina [email protected] or Scott Scott [email protected]



VRT News Fall 2020 – Word
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VRT News Winter 2020 – Word
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VRT News Spring 2020– Word
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VRT News Fall 2019– Word
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VRT News Summer 2019– Word
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VRT News Spring 2019– Word
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VRT News Winter 2018– Word
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VRT News Fall 2018– Word
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VRT News Fall 2016 – Word
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VRT News Summer 2016-Word
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