Our Mission


This project is the result of a collaborative among educators in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.  Its Mission is to provide a Resource for professionals, families, and university students involved in educational and societal inclusion of children and youth who experience Vision Impairment/Blindness and Hearing Loss/Deafness. 

Currently, we are living amidst a COVID-19 pandemic with Virtual interactions and classes forced upon us all.  Yet, during these extremely difficult times, Australian colleagues, Dr. Michael Steer and Dr. Frances Gentle, and Trinity University Professors, Dr. Rocio Delgado and Dr. Heather Haynes Smith, have contributed updated Research and Practice to this website, so that we may continue towards our goal of educational and societal inclusion of students with sensory losses.

My special thanks to Trinity University for its invaluable ongoing support.  With his expertise and wisdom, Professor Benjamin Harris (Head of Instruction Services, Library) has maintained and updated this site over many years.  He continues his critical work for us all as we move to a new era and website platform.

 


 



 

Three children listening to an adult reading an open book on her lap


 

Child wearing a hat


 

Vision Impairment/Blind


 

Hearing Loss/Deaf


Karen Waldron, Michael Steer, and Dolly Bhargava in the Renwick Centre campus Library, in New South Wales, Australia


Professor Karen Waldron,  Professor Michael Steer, and Master's Candidate Dolly Bhargava, in the Renwick Centre campus Library, in New South Wales, Australia.  
 

Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children logo

 

Trinity University logo with tagline
Our Story

Where we started 


Karen A. Waldron


As I later wrote for the University magazine “Trinity” (Spring, 2005),  the story of our international collaboration and the subsequent creation of this website began in 2004:

I was on academic leave for the fall semester, spending four months in Australia and New Zealand, as I worked with my 30-year colleague and friend, Dr. Mike Steer, to compile best Research and Practice for teachers and families of students with vision and hearing losses.  

Due to meningitis and deliveries of very premature infants, more children with vision and hearing issues were appearing in schools.  Yet, with funding cutbacks in the U.S. and Australia, fewer specialists were available to teach them.  

In Texas, the “Generic Special Education Endorsement” for Teacher Preparation programs did not include more than an occasional “Survey” lecture in vision and hearing losses, as these had developed into separate certificates.  So I was concerned that my Trinity students would be unprepared to teach this population unless we provided additional training

Dr. Steer and I share a passion for Inclusion, believing strongly that despite a disability or any type of difference, all children have the right to be educated with their peers whenever possible.  But in order for teachers to be successful, they need state-of-the-art information.  In Vision and Hearing, these resources were abundant on Mike’s campus, in the Renwick library.

The college sat on a small suburban Sydney campus, part of the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Blind.  Housing a school, assessment and research center, it provided one of the best training grounds in the world for master’s and doctoral programs for educators of children with sensory disabilities.  These dedicated professionals arrived annually from throughout Australia, New Zealand, many African countries, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor, staying in dormitory rooms far away from their families, in order to become teachers, researchers, professors.  Some were accompanied by their own children, who were Deaf and/or Blind, with the hope of gaining a more fulfilled life.

Also far from his native home in England, Dr. Mike Steer directed Renwick programs in Vision Impairment – only one aspect of his brilliant Educational career that has spanned continents and decades of Advocacy and Intervention to develop Inclusive programs for every student, regardless of need or background.

Also collaborating at Renwick was Dr. Breda Carty, the only Regional Deaf Professor preparing educators of the Deaf.  Having studied at Gallaudet University, she presented critically important lectures through rapid sign language, an interpreter by her side.

As part of her Master’s Thesis, graduate student Dolly Bhargava joined us in the writing and editing process.  The daughter of a family from India, she grew up in Africa and then relocated to Sydney.  Her training at Renwick prepared her to be a knowledgeable Specialist in Vision and Hearing.  We appreciate her fine work on this project.

Because my research typically focuses on children’s Learning and Behavioral needs, these new colleagues invited me to lecture at classes, conferences, and dinner meetings across Australia and New Zealand.  Some very warm memories:  After a Sydney session, attendees stood and shared what my presentation had meant to them personally as educators.  Then they honored me with “Deaf applause,” hands raised high in the air as if to clap, but never touching.  Another evening, as I concluded my dinner talk for the South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment (SPEVI), I heard champagne corks pop as the group serenaded me with Give Me a Home Among the Gum Trees.  I experienced the wonderful warmth and the commonality of compassion among all educators across our world.

At a Sydney conference, I met Sharon Barrey-Grassick, a wise and passionate American educator, relocated to Australia, who invited me to travel 3000 miles to Perth, to lecture and consult with families and educators of children with medical and physical syndromes.  While these West Coast lecture audiences ranged across those working in Early Childhood to Geriatrics, it was a Perth luncheon meeting with mothers of babies with severe disabilities that reinforced their commonality with families in San Antonio:  Painful stares at their children in everyday life, yet compassionate support at times from complete strangers.  

Weeks later, after arriving on an overnight ship from Sydney, I drank coffee in a picturesque café in Hobart, Tasmania, with directors of early childhood, behavior, autism, and vision impairment programs for the State.  In that conversation, my University and School District colleagues in San Antonio could have shared so many of their own similar experiences! Tasmanians were grappling with the best methods for Inclusion of their students with disabilities.  And aren’t we all? I thought quietly, as they planned to host the upcoming national Australian Special Education Conference.  

As a result of that conversation, the following month I flew back to Tasmania to deliver a keynote address and concluding remarks to 600 lively and passionate educators.

I began my talk with a video recording created earlier with the fantastic support of Pat Ullmann, an Expert in Instructional Media at Trinity.  It included poignant photos of children and grandchildren of my colleagues at the university, with background music from the Oakridge Boys’ song “Thank God for Kids.”  (We had created this video for my “Food for Thought” community lecture in San Antonio and luckily stored it on my computer).  

That morning, watching this moving video across the world in Hobart, Tasmania, Special Educators wiped away tears of love for all our children.  They also wrote Research and Practice pieces that appear on this website, sharing their knowledge and experience with us all.  

A month later and a continent away, I was greeted warmly in Christchurch, New Zealand, by teachers at the Elmwood Visual Resource Centre.  We discussed the hardships faced by families of students who lived in distant areas of their West Coast. With special programs difficult to find,  they told me that teachers from more populated areas might have leave their own families for weeks at a time to demonstrate techniques instructors can use with children with vision impairments.

On New Zealand’s South Island, educators gave me their compiled Resources, and some wrote sections to share with you on this website. After my return, I thought of these fine educators as my Trinity graduate students and I visited the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Subsequently, the culmination of this work was my students’ own research and writing on best Research and Practice in teaching children with sensory losses. Immeasurably proud, we  include their contributions to this website.