USC Upstate’s Special Education – Visual Impairment Program Awarded $497,675

November 3, 2009 at 12:51 pm

The year 2009 is “the bicentennial anniversary year of the birth of Louis Braille, who, by inventing the means of reading by touch, opened the world of literacy to individuals who are blind,” points out James Kirby, Commissioner of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind.

How appropriate, then, that the University of South Carolina  Upstate’s Special Education–Visual Impairment Program in the School of Education recently received a grant for $497,675 from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education. This grant will enable USC Upstate’s Visual Impairment Program, in collaboration with the South Carolina Vision Education Partnership, to significantly increase awareness of Braille and knowledge of how best to teach it.

The grant will also create activities and programs for South Carolina individuals who are blind or visually impaired in order to promote the knowledge and use of Braille and non-visual access technology. Building literacy skills and proficiency in Braille and access technology leads to independence and competence in many areas of life for young people and adults with visual impairments. And for these individuals, independence leads to improved skills in personal care and home management, as well as to increased opportunities for employment.

“There is a direct correlation between Braille literacy and employment of persons who are blind,” said Kirby. “The unemployment rate for persons who are blind substantially declines for those who know Braille. We at the South Carolina Commission for the Blind welcome the opportunity this grant offers to enhance the quality of life for our consumers.”

Primary goals for the first year of this five-year grant include: 1) creating an accessible website that emphasizes the importance of Braille literacy and offers multiple strategies for infusing Braille into everyday life; 2) collaborating with the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind to provide an undergraduate Braille course; 3) providing stipends for individuals to attend training related to Braille and access technology; 4) providing in home training to youth and adults with visual impairments throughout the state; 5) instituting a Technology Olympics for students across the state;  6) working with National Federation of the Blind and South Carolina Commission for the Blind to provide an evening training in tactually reading and writing the Braille code; 7) and developing training materials.

One of the unique aspects of the USC Upstate Visual Impairment Program and this grant is the collaboration with the South Carolina Vision Education Partnership to maximize program effectiveness. The partnership consists of the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, South Carolina State Department of Education, University of South Carolina Upstate, South Carolina Commission for the Blind, National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, South Carolina Association of Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, South Carolina State University, and Medical University of South Carolina Storm Eye Institute. Members of this authentic partnership share ideas, information, and resources.

“We are thrilled to work collaboratively with USC Upstate to help further the education of individuals with visual impairments by working to provide Braille courses for parents, professionals and paraprofessionals,” said Margaret Park, Interim President for the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind. “We are delighted to be included in this project and look forward to the possibilities of promoting Braille throughout South Carolina.”

Dr. Charles Love, Dean at the School of Education at USC Upstate, states, “The awarding of this grant will significantly impact the ability of the South Carolina Vision Education Partnership to increase meaningful, high quality, and research-based professional development opportunities and to expand activities to promote Braille and access technology throughout the state. We are so appreciative of the hard work and expertise of Dr. Tina Herzberg for her role in making this award possible.”

Dr. Tina Herzberg, assistant professor and director of the Special Education-Visual Impairment Program, has been named project coordinator. Herzberg has previously taught for Brownfield ISD and Belton ISD, as well as, worked as an educational consultant for Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco, Texas.  She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education/math from Angelo State University, a master’s degree in visual impairment from Texas Tech University, and a Ph.D. in special education and interagency collaboration from Texas A&M University.

For more information, contact Dr. Tina Herzberg at (864) 503-5572 or