Serena SpeakerSerena Speaker

Serena Speaker, OTR, SCLV

My quest for knowledge regarding vision began after I became a certified vestibular/balance therapist. I knew that vision was a huge component of balance but wanted to know what else it influenced besides balance.

As a non-traditional student I enrolled in the distance learning UAB Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation program offered through the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I graduated from the 5 semester program in 2011.

What does vision influence?

In completing the certificate program, I found that asking what does vision NOT influence would be a better question. This program gave me the skills and confidence to begin a private OT low vision practice in rural Texas as a sole provider. I am privileged to see people with all types of low vision diagnosis including brain injury and even returned to UAB in spring of 2015 to take another advanced class on treating persons with vision impairment from brain injury. I have helped numerous clients to accomplish visually guided tasks and remain in their own home. The reward these clients gave me is fabulous.

Sarah LaRosaSarah LaRosa

Sarah J. LaRosa, MOT, OTR/L, SCLV, CLVT

Sarah J. LaRosa is a 2013 graduate of the UAB Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation program. An employee of Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, Florida since 2009, she developed the outpatient vision rehabilitation occupational therapy program at the Brooks Rehabilitation Center for Low Vision in 2013. She is passionate about her work, her patients, her research and her education in the field of vision rehabilitation. Recently, LaRosa chatted with us about her innovations, initiatives and the importance of being a continual learner as an occupational therapist and low vision practitioner.

How did the UAB LVRC help you personally?

“The certificate has equipped me with the education and skill set I need to provide practical life solutions to very complex every day problems directly related to vision impairment, such as being able to manage medications or prepare meals safely. The program has given me the knowledge needed to collaborate with eye care physicians to teach people how to use the remaining vision they have so they can safely continue engaging in their daily meaningful activities. I learned how to use assistive technology, optics, adaptive equipment, and visual skills training, alongside my existing skill set as an occupational therapist, to improve functional outcomes for my patients.”

Lind StevensLind Stevens

Lind Stevens, OTRL, SCLV, MS

While providing care as a home health occupational therapist many years ago, I worked with a woman who told me that she had the ‘macula’ and that because of it, she could no longer read or cut her meat. I was intrigued and puzzled as to what she meant.

This encounter also changed my professional life as it marked the beginning of my path towards specializing in low vision.

I began to search for learning opportunities and discovered the work of Mary Warren, first by attending one of her weekend workshops, followed by completing the AOTA self-study course Mary authored. In 2006, I landed a full-time job in low vision rehabilitation, in my home state of Maryland. To ensure I had the knowledge and skills I needed, I applied and was accepted into the UAB graduate certificate program.

Tomeico Faison, OTR/L

Tomeico FaisonTomeico FaisonThe University of Alabama at Birmingham Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation program has changed my life and my practice!

I founded Therapeutic Solutions in 2003, and we worked predominately in mental health for the first four years. In 2007, I noticed that a client who was diagnosed with psychosis had low vision and was mixing up her medications. Perhaps, she appeared psychotic because she was taking the wrong medications because she could not see the small writing on the bottles!

Shortly after this epiphany, I enrolled in the UAB Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation program, and it was an amazing journey.

Ellen DavisEllen Davis with AIDB student

Ellen Davis, OT

I graduated from the UAB Low Vision program in 2009. My reason for entering the program was two-fold.

  1. To gain immediate knowledge and skills for my current job. I work at Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind where I provide OT services to the school age students at Alabama School for the Blind, Alabama School for the Deaf, and Helen Keller School of Alabama.
  2. To have career options when I am too old to be crawling through tunnels and sitting on the ground with students!

More Peer Respect

I am surrounded by professionals that have years of training in sensory deficits.

Debbie Boey MS, OT

Debbie BoeyDebbie BoeyI work as an occupational therapist in an acute hospital in Singapore. I first came to know about low vision rehabilitation when an expert, Beth Barstow, Ph.D., with the University of Alabama at Birmingham came to Singapore to teach about the subject in 2009.

Back then, I was working with the elderly and many of them had falls due to low vision. I was ill-equipped to help them overcome challenges in activities of daily living (ADL) due to limited knowledge in this field and there was no specialized OT low vision rehab practice in Singapore.

Through Beth’s sessions, I realized there was SO much more that OTs could do to help clients with low vision. That was the start of my venture into the field of low vision rehab.

Kasey Mitchell, MOT, CLVT, OTR/L

Kasey MitchellKasey Mitchell with clientI have spent the majority of life as an occupational therapist working with adults with neurologic injury. I spent the first eight years or so working in neuro inpatient rehab programs and then spent about five years teaching at the University of Utah.

I was introduced to low vision when the university asked me to start a faculty practice. The lead program for the practice was low vision.

JoAnne Wright, the director of Utah’s OT school, suggested the UAB Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation program, directed by Mary Warren, as a way to get up to speed on low vision. To be honest, I have always had an interest in vision and I thought I had a pretty good handle on vision. I soon learned this was naive at best. Understanding vision as our predominate sense, is so important and immense.

Lara Anderson, MSOT

Lara Anderson Lara Anderson Almost thirteen years ago, my husband took a new job, in a new city and I knew it meant starting over in a new job for me.

I found a job in Early Intervention at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, a nonprofit organization that has been providing rehabilitation for people who are blind or have low vision for almost 100 years ago.

I loved the work with children and parents but I had entered a side of rehabilitation where occupational therapists are the minority and my OT training, to this point, did not prepare me for this. I read every book and resource I could find and attended the few conferences that were available and my budget could afford.

Chris Hedlich, OTR/L

Chris HedlichChris Hedlich with clientFrom the time I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Occupational Therapy from Western Michigan University in 1992, I repeated my mantra that I would never return to school again.

I loved hands-on learning but returning to take tests and complete assignments for grades other than required continuing education credit did not appeal to me. I was happy being a generalist OT working with the elderly. I told myself – if I became bored with my current position, I could always change to another treatment venue.

Then the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came into the picture and healthcare changes began happening.

Cheri Nipp, MS, OTR/L, SCLV

Cheri NippCheri Nipp with client"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

~Helen Keller

When I was 18, on a small country road, my world was altered. I collided with an oil tanker and this was followed by many months of pain and rehabilitation.

At the time of the accident, I had an idea of what I wanted to do with my future, or at least I “thought” I did. But because of my experiences during my accident, my path changed and led me to a career in occupational therapy. I switched majors and found my way to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Sheila Roche, MSOT

Sheila RocheSheila Roche accepting the Presidential PrizeWhen I commenced the UAB Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation program in 2008, low vision rehabilitation as a practice area for occupational therapists was an unfamiliar concept to me – an Irish occupational therapist practicing in Ireland.

At that time I had more than 10 years’ experience in older adult rehabilitation and my main area of interest lay in stroke rehabilitation. Without realising it, I was already involved in low vision rehabilitation through the assessment and intervention relating to visual field deficits following stroke.

Monica Perlmutter, OTD, OTR/L, SCLV

Monica PerlmutterMonica PerlmutterWhen I decided to work towards receiving my Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation from UAB, I had no idea what great opportunities this experience would afford.

I was motivated to do this because I had a strong need and desire to gain in-depth knowledge of low vision practice and to connect with other experienced OTs in the area. The program fulfilled these goals and so much more! 

Julie Nastasi, ScD, OTD, OTR/L, SCLV, FAOTA

Julie NastasiJulie Nastasi presenting on Low VisionGraduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation program has opened up so many doors for me. Since graduating, I have had several opportunities to advance myself as a clinician and educator in the field of low vision rehabilitation.

I have earned a specialty certification in low vision from the American Occupational Therapy Association in 2009. I was able to use many of my UAB courses to satisfy requirements for specialty certification and I’m proud to say the majority of SCLV earners are also UAB graduates.

Karen Kendrick, OTR/L, CLVT

Karen KendrickKaren Kendrick with clientKaren is a low vision occupational therapist working at Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center in Wichita, Kansas, who has worked in the field of low vision for 11 years.

Prior to low vision, Karen had the opportunity to work in the fields of skilled nursing, out-patient and in-patient rehabilitation. It was during her time working in in-patient rehab that she noticed the low vision implications with her stroke and geriatric patients.

This experience sparked her interest in further pursuing the field of low vision. In 2004, Karen joined the team at Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center. She went on to get her Certified Low Vision Therapist (CLVT) certification in 2006.