MAER Conference 2021

Check back here to find information about the 2022 Michigan AER Conference as it becomes available.

Conference update May 24, 2021


Meri McGregor and Susan Bradley!!

Please let Allied know your addresses.   If they don’t hear from you, Allied will be in touch to get your addresses.

Our team will be taking the full week next week to calculate your ACVREP CEU’s before sending that information to your MAER Board. MAER Board members will fill out your CEU certificates and send them out to you.

Due to the extensive and precise nature of these tasks, we won’t be able to accept any late CEU form submissions.


Conference update May 18th, 2021

The door prize winners for this week are … drum roll please
Dorothy Miller and Anne Zanger!
Reach out to and let them know your address. If they don’t hear from you, allied will reach out to your email address on file.

Thank you to the vendors that donated this week’s prizes:

Camp T, CVI Connect, DB Central, MDE-LIO, Seedlings, and ViewPlus.

For next week Allied will remove the entries that won and add the new and existing entries to the mix. Only the winner’s entries are removed from future drawings.  The final drawing will occur on May 20th. Next week’s prizes were donated by APH, Humanware, and Leader Dogs.

You have until MAY 20 to watch all of your MAER presentations and Vendor Ads! The Portal will close on May 21.

Conference update May 7th, 2021

Congratulations to everyone who filled out Door Prize forms after watching the Vendor Ads. We had 435+ entries already!  A big THANK YOU to the vendors, Camp Tuhsmeheta, CVI Connect, DB Central, Lion’s Bear Lake Camp and LV Tablet for donating this round of prizes.

Your winners this week are: Kimberly Otto and Frida Firth Harrison.

Winners please send an email to so they can get your door prizes sent out to you. (If you are reading this after Friday, May 7, Allied will reach out to you directly).
For the next 2 weeks, Allied will remove the entries that won and add the new and existing entries to the mix. Only the winner’s entries are removed from future drawings.  You have until May 13 to be entered for the next drawing.  The final drawing will occur on May 20th.

You have until MAY 20 to watch all of your MAER presentations and Vendor Ads! The Portal will close on May 21.


Michigan AER 2022 Annual Conference

Join us April 21 and 22 for the Michigan Chapter of AER’s 2022 Conference. The in person, or perhaps, virtual conference will take place at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Kalamazoo Conference Center and is a place for professionals to share their expertise, effective practices, innovative programs, employment strategies, and research results with their colleagues.

We will leave the 2021 Conference information up for now.  That conference’s information follows.

Michigan AER 2021 Annual Conference

The Michigan AER 2021 Annual Conference was a success! All speaker and vendor presentations are available for viewing until May 20th.

Link to the most up-to-date Conference Agenda.

Link to the Conference Program.

Basic Information

  • April 22, 2021
  • 8:30 am – 4:00 pm EST
  • April 23, 2021
  • 8:00 am – 4:00 pm EST
  • Open to all! Online Virtual Conference.

Registration Prices

  • AER Member $125
  • Non-member  $150
  • Parent/Retiree $75
  • Presenter $75
  • WMU-BLS or consortium student Fee $0
  • Student – Not attending WMU – $50
  • Vendor Not For Profit $25
  • Vendor For Profit $125
  • MAER Board Member $0

Have Questions?

 Our full conference schedule will be out soon. Gerry Brooks is not allowing us to record his session for later viewing so participants need to watch live to get the credit (and the laughs).

Keynote Speakers

Gerry Brooks

Thursday, April 22nd  


Keynote Speaker:  Gerry Brooks is a 27 year veteran educator with 14 years in administration. His current take on humorous situations in education has gained him a following of over 2 million educators on social media. His focus will always be on personal common culture and being the best you can be in whatever position you serve.

Gwyn McCormack

Thursday, April 22 & Friday, April 23rd

Gwyn McCormack founded Positive Eye in 2008, her mission being to provide practical courses, consultancy and a bespoke product range of resources for practitioners working with children and young people with vision impairment (VI). Positive Eye has developed to work nationally in the UK and internationally. Gwyn uses her many years of experience as a Qualified Teacher of VI (QTVI) and Head of Service to deliver imaginative and creative approaches, within easy to use frameworks, equipping the front line practitioner with the practical skills they require to support children and schools.

Children are at the heart Gwyn’s work and creativity is one of her key strengths. She is currently collaborating with the South East States and Midwest States Deafblind Projects (USA) to bring Sparkly Story Shows to children and their families.

Stephanie Grant Headshot

Stephanie Grant

Friday, April 23rd 

Keynote Speaker:  Stephanie is trained as a Developmental Psychologist and is licensed as a Professional Counselor. She currently works as the Director of Community Education and Advocacy at Developmental Enhancement in Holland, MI. She has separate master’s degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and Psychology and a PhD in Lifespan Developmental Psychology. Her clinical and research interests focus on working with infants and children with attachment concerns and trauma histories, specifically those who have adoption or foster care backgrounds. She has worked as a clinician, professor, and researcher. She has also parented biological, adopted, and foster children.

Headshot of Hannah Fairbairn

Hannah Fairbairn

Hannah was born in England with a vision impairment and with no support at school.  She trained as a chef and became a partner in a successful London restaurant. After losing nearly all her remaining vision at 33, Hannah switched careers and contributed to the BBC “In Touch,” national radio program for the blind and visually impaired for more than ten years. She also wrote Soups, an award-winning cookbook. Hannah and her family moved to Massachusetts. Hannah was a coordinator of the Cambridge-Somerville Blind and Low Vision Support Group for seniors for six years and later worked at the Carroll Center for 18 years where she enlarged the scope of the department to include a course on spoken communication, called “Interpersonal skills” for adults, (and “People Talk” for teens in the summer programs).

Hannah joined AER in 2006 and gave several presentations at NEAER. She launched a website for people new to vision loss in 2013 .

Hannah retired in 2016 to write When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery, published by Charles C. Thomas, 2019, which has won two awards including the VRT Publication Award 2020. Since her book was published, she has given training sessions to support group leaders in New Jersey, Colorado, and Georgia, as well as a highlighted interview at the OIB-TAC Conference from MSU in September.


Roxanne Balfour headshot

Roxanne Balfour

Roxanne Balfour is the Director for the Michigan Department of Education, Low Incidence Outreach (MDE, LIO).  She has worked for MDE, Office of Special Education for twenty years with five of those years at Low Incidence Outreach.  Her responsibilities at MDE have involved oversight of the State Special Education Personnel Approvals system, grant management, program development, and work in policy, finance/business operations. Previous to coming to MDE, she worked at Grand Valley State University, Graduate School of Education as the certification coordinator.  She is a member of the Association of Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind (AER) and Visually Impaired and the Council of Schools and Services for the Blind (COSB). She earned her bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in business administration from Grand Valley State University.

Collette Bauman headshot

Collette Bauman

Collette Bauman worked for the Michigan Department of Education-Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO) for thirteen years.  She was the previous Director for MDE-LIO and is currently an Education Consultant for the agency. Prior to joining MDE-LIO Ms. Bauman was the supervisor of the Western Wayne Program for Students who are Blind/Visually Impaired(BVI). Her career started as a teacher of students who are BVI and DeafBlind in Livonia, Michigan. She is a member of AER and past board member.  She earned her bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in the area of Visual Impairment and a Master’s degree from Michigan State University in Education.

Linda Billings headshot

Linda Billings

Linda Billings has a dual Master’s Degree in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and Rehabilitation Counseling from Western Michigan University.  She works as a Vocational Counselor and CVRT for the State of Michigan BSBP.  She also holds Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Beth Brabbs looking cool in her transitions lenses.

Beth Brabbs

Beth Brabbs has been teaching students who have visual impairments in public schools for 34 years. From Flint, Michigan, she got her Bachelor of Science Degree from Eastern Michigan University, where she studied teaching with a specialty in teaching students who are visually impaired. Beth then got her Master of Arts Degree in Orientation and Mobility at Western Michigan University. She has taught in Maryland, and in Lenawee, Oakland, and Macomb Counties in Michigan as a TCVI and O&M Specialist. Beth is currently employed as an O&M Specialist for the Macomb Intermediate School District.

Louis Braille

Louis Braille will not be presenting this year at MAER due to most of him having prior commitments at the Panthéon.  We had an extra column to fill and took the opportunity to recognize the brilliance of Louis, who at the age of 15,  reworked the system of night writing first developed by the French Army. Louis started using his reading and writing system with his peers in 1824.   The braille code was adopted by schools for the blind in the United States in 1916.

Johanna Brutvan headshot

Johanna Brutvan

Johanna Brutvan is an education consultant with the Michigan Department of Education-Low Incidence Outreach. She holds degrees in elementary education, visual impairment, curriculum development and early childhood.  Johanna is also a Perkins-Roman Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) Endorsed Specialist since 2017.

Elyse Connors headshot

Elyse Connors

Elyse Connors, PhD, CVRT, COMS is an associate professor in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies at WMU. Her areas of research interests lie in safer medication management for persons with vision loss, functional assessment, and the changing job roles of VRTs.

Sara Cruchelow headshot

Sara Cruchelow

Sara Cruchelow is an itinerant teacher for the visually impaired and certified orientation and mobility specialist in Van Buren County. After teaching sixth through eighth grade mathematics and science for eight years, Sara graduated from WMU’s dual TCVI/COM Master Program. Sara has co-presented at MAER, MCEC and at other trainings on providing services in rural areas, vision issues, CVI in an SXI classroom and Introduction to NVI. Sara’s most recent accomplishment is becoming a Perkins-Roman Cortical Visual Impairment Endorsed Specialist.

Headshot of Jared Embree with snow in his hair and mustache.

Jared Embree

Jared Embree is a project manager with the Substance Abuse Resources & Disability Issues (SARDI) Program at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. He holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Behavioral Science and is currently a doctoral student in organizational studies. Currently Jared focuses his own research attention on augmented decision making (via machine learning) and virtual reality development. His passion and his purpose is to improve accessibility for all people by way of universal design of systems.

Amanda English headshot

Amanda English

Amanda English is an Education Consultant for Michigan Department of Education-Low Incidence Outreach. She has been a Teacher Consultant for Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist for 21 years. Amanda is Perkins-Roman CVI Endorsed and is an Educational Leadership doctoral candidate at Capella University. She is the chair of the Michigan AER Outreach Committee and has previously served on the Board of Directors and as MAER President. She is passionate about teaching and mentoring others to foster growth and independence.

Gretchen Good headshot

Gretchen Good

Gretchen Good is Senior Lecturer at Massey University in New Zealand teaching Rehabilitation and Disability Studies and Public Health.  She is an ACVREP certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist as well as a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist.  Gretchen is Mum to two school-aged children who live with complex disability and health needs, including vision impairment.  Gretchen is also vision impaired herself.  Her current research is related to disability advocacy and disaster planning, response and recovery for those with impaired vision and in schools.

Charlene Gordon headshot

Charlene Gordon

Charlene Gordon has a Master’s Degree in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and is  owner of Restructure Your View, LLC.,   She works with community based organizations and public agencies to further the progress and opportunities for individuals who are blind, visually impaired and deafblind.

Roberta Hurley headshot

Roberta Hurley

Roberta Hurley has been in the Orientation and Mobility  field for 30 years. She is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist and is currently working at Oakland Schools ISD.  Her previous experience includes working for San Diego City Schools and the Braille Institute in Los Angeles, California. Roberta received her MA In Orientation and Mobility from California State University – Los Angeles.

Erica Ihrke headshot

Erica Ihrke

Erica Ihrke is the Manager of Extended Services at Leader Dogs for the Blind and a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist.  She has been employed at Leader Dog since 1998.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Central Michigan University and Master of Arts in Orientation & Mobility from Western Michigan University. Erica is a past-president of the Michigan Chapter of AER and currently the co-chair of the ACVREP O&M Subject Matter Expert Committee.

Valerie A. Kapp, MS, LPC

Valerie A. Kapp, MS, LPC will serve as a research associate for this proposed project. Ms. Kapp has served as the evaluator on a NIDLIRR and 2 BJA grants where she managed data collection and entry and pre-post test analysis. She has over 30 years of experience developing and evaluating programs in the field of deafness, HIV/AIDS and Vocational Rehabilitation. Ms. Kapp has experience in utilizing statistical packages to assist in writing evaluation reports.

Dr. Linda Keilman headshot

Dr. Linda Keilman

Dr. Linda Keilman began her career as an elementary school teacher – that is where she truly learned how humor and laughter could positively impact students. Dr. Keilman went on to a career in nursing, becoming a registered nurse in 1983, a gerontology nurse practitioner in 1989, and a doctorate in nursing practice in 2010. She has taught at Michigan State University, College of Nursing since 1992 where she is an Associate Professor and Gerontology Population Content Expert. Her current clinical practice is in long-term care and subacute rehabilitation where it is her goal to get everyone to smile!

Abby Koroma smiling

Abby Koroma

Abby Koroma is a Special Education Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist with the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency. She has worked in the field for the past two years, graduating from Western Michigan University in 2019. She worked with Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind from 2012-2014, helped launch a live audio description program at the Kalamazoo Civic Theater in 2019, and is a member of the Orientation and Mobility Specialist Association. Abby is passionate about working with individuals with vision impairments to maximize their independence in every area of the Expanded Core Curriculum!

Jane Lee headshot

Jane Lee

Jane Lee is a Tutor in Rehabilitation at Massey University. Jane has a master’s degree in Social Work, and her thesis subject was single mothers with disabled children in Aotearoa New Zealand. Jane also works as a social worker and has an interest in working with families with disabled children and families with adult disabled children continuing to live at home. Jane has a son on the autism spectrum.

Jessica Lehman headshot

Jessica Lehman

Jessica Lehman serves as Executive Director of Senior and Disability Action, an organization committed to mobilizing seniors and people with disabilities to fight for justice on health care, housing, transportation and other issues. She has provided trainings on disability history and ableism for 15 years to agencies and organizations around the country. As a person with a disability who employs home attendants, Jessica supports domestic worker rights as a founding member of Hand in Hand: the Domestic Employers Network. She leads monthly Organizer’s Forum calls, as part of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, to support organizing in the disability community.

Paige Lloyd headshot

Paige Lloyd

Paige Lloyd is a VRT and currently works for the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons providing services in the Independent Living, Pre-ETS, Youth Low Vision, and Vocational Rehabilitation programs. Roberta McCall is a Certified VRT retired from The Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons where she worked in the Independent Living and Vocational Rehabilitation Programs and Youth Low Vision.  She has served for many years as MAER Secretary as well as in several other capacities and has made numerous presentations at MAER annual conferences.

Roberta McCall headshot

Roberta McCall

Roberta McCall is a Certified VRT retired from the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons.  She has personally been dealing non-visually with diabetes management for nearly 40 years.  Several of the techniques demonstrated she designed herself.  Roberta is not a medical professional and shares her experiences for informational purposes only.  Involvement with a medical team that includes a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist is strongly encouraged.

Meri McGregor headshot.

Meri McGregor

Meri McGregor, has been in the field for 35 years as a Teacher and O&M Specialist working with school aged students.  She earned both her Teacher certificate and O&M credentials at Western Michigan University and is proud to call the Kalamazoo/Portage area her hometown.  Meri has taught in Pennsylvania, Ohio, St. Clair RESA and is currently employed as an O&M Specialist for the Macomb ISD.

Shannon McVoy, MA, CRC headshot

Shannon McVoy, MA, CRC

Shannon McVoy is the Transition Services Manager for the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, where she has worked in various capacities over the last 19 years.  Shannon has Master’s Degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling and Blind Rehabilitation Teaching from Western Michigan University.  She has worked in both Michigan and Georgia as a consultant for the ODEP High School/High Tech projects.   Her strengths are developing innovative programs and developing partnerships to provide quality transition services.

Laura Millar headshot

Laura Millar

Laura Millar is a blind sex educator, community organizer, researcher and self-proclaimed disruptor! With a Master of Public Health as well as a Masters in Human Sexuality, Laura conducts research and facilitates conversations that examines how individuals who are blind or low vision learn about and navigate the world of dating, sex and intimate relationships. Laura offers everything from one-on-one education to in-services, trainings and workshops, for individuals who are blind or have low vision, their family members and the organizations that serve them. Laura is committed to ensuring that sexual health information and services are comprehensive, inclusive and accessible for everyone. If you have questions or would like to talk to Laura directly you can email her at Let’s create a culture of consent together.

Mark Nelson headshot

Mark Nelson

Mark Nelson is a Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist with 30 years of experience in the vision field working in positions ranging from direct provider to executive.  This experience spans state and federal government, teaching assistive technology assessment at the Master’s level, non-profit organizations and for-profit business.  He now owns his own company producing TrainingWare® instructional curriculum and teaching management system, used nationally by teachers and instructors of assistive technology for both remote and in-person instruction, in K-12, higher education, non-profit and state vocational rehabilitation  organizations. He also conducts assistive technology and worksite/education site assessments, Remote and in-person instruction, product sales, installation/configuration and scripting.  Mark and his company have been providing remote instruction for nine years and TrainingWare, the tools to do so for seven years.

Patricia Obrzut headshot

Patricia Obrzut

Patricia Obrzut is the Assistant Director of Penrickton Center for Blind Children, a private, non-profit organization serving blind, special needs children ages 1-12 years. Located in Taylor, Michigan, Penrickton Center offers residential, daycare, and consultative programs at no charge to families. Ms. Obrzut has a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy and received the permission of Dr. Lilli Nielsen in 2002 to provide Active Learning educational training. She is considered an expert in the use of Active Learning strategies, equipment, techniques, assessment tools and curriculum, implementing programming for special needs children since 1992.

Rachel Pavone

Rachel Pavone, BA, is a current VRT student at WMU. This presentation is based on research that is part of her undergraduate honor’s thesis.

Kristy Plesscher headshot

Kristy Plesscher

Kristy Plesscher is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist at Leader Dogs for the Blind. She attended Western Michigan University where she graduated with her Master of Arts in Orientation and Mobility in 2013.  She has also worked for Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, VIP Rehabilitation Services, LLC & Peckham Inc.

Dr. Anne Riddering headshot

Dr. Anne Riddering

Dr. Anne Riddering is the Director of Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Vision & Neuro Rehabilitation.  She has been an occupational therapist, certified low vision therapist, and certified orientation and mobility specialist for over 20 years. Her research interests include activities of daily living and chronic conditions in individuals with visual impairments. She frequently lectures and trains optometry externs, ophthalmology residents, ophthalmologists, occupational therapy students and occupational therapists in Michigan and around the country.

Amy Shepherd smiling standing in a forest.

Amy Shepherd

Amy Shepherd is a Parent Liaison for the Michigan Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach. She is also an Expert Substitute Teacher at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and past president of the Michigan Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (MPVI).  Amy received her Masters in Elementary Education from Northwestern University and is a Perkins-Roman Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) Endorsed Specialist.

Pauline Smith looking cool in some sunglasses next to a magnet that had smile written in braille.

Pauline Smith

Pauline Smith as a Bachelor’s Degree in Teachers of the Visually Impaired from Western Michigan University.  She worked with Visually Impaired Services -Detroit Receiving Hospital as a Braille Instructor for 12 years.  She served a wide range of age groups from high schoolers to senior citizens.  She is the secretary for the Detroit Chapter of NFB.

Sarah Stargardt standing in a marina at sunset.

Sarah Stargardt

Sarah Stargardt is a TCVI/COMS working for Oakland Schools. She completed her undergraduate studies at Michigan State University and graduate school at Western Michigan University. Sarah served as a TCVI/COMS in Chicago Public Schools for 10 years before moving to Michigan in 2011.  She is a member of the MDE-LIO Braille Team as well as the Region IV Technology Consortium.

Lee Staub headshot

Lee Staub

Lee Staub  graduated with his Orientation and Mobility credential from San Francisco State University in 2013 and works at San Francisco Unified School District as an O&M Specialist. From 2013 to 2018, Lee worked with transition age adults at The Hatlen Center. He co-teachers the Orientation and Mobility Seminar course for San Francisco State University’s Orientation and Mobility program. He holds a Masters of Arts in Special Education (2013) and Women and Gender Studies (2007).

Stephanie Steffer smiling standing in front of a fireplace.

Stephanie Steffer

Stephanie Steffer is the Business Director at CViConnect and one of the founding teachers for the platform.  Before this role, Stephanie was Teacher Consultant serving children with visual impairments in Michigan for ten years.  She earned her degree from Eastern Michigan University for Special Education for the Visually Impaired and Early Childhood Education.  Additionally, Stephanie is a Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsed professional.  Beyond her role as a TCVI, Stephanie has been the Program Coordinator for the Visually Impaired Youth Camp at Lions Bear Lake Camp for 11 years.

Dr. Joe Todd headshot


Dr. Joe Todd

Dr. Todd is a CVRT whose practice deals with access technology. He works as a vendor and trainer for the Bureau of Blind Services for Blind Persons and The Michigan Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach. Dr. Todd is a 2011 graduate of Western Michigan University.

Jaclyn Tollas, MA, CVRT headshot

Jaclyn Tollas, MA, CVRT

Jaclyn Tollas is a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist who has been with BSBP for 3 years.  She graduated with her master’s degree in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy in 2016.  Jaclyn started her career with BSBP as the Transition Specialist, where she worked as a member of the Transition Services team to coordinate and provide Pre-Employment Transition Services throughout the state.  In 2019, Jaclyn became a blind rehabilitation instructor at the BSBP Training Center.  In addition to teaching skills of blindness to transition students and adults of all ages, she currently plays an integral role in organizing group transition services provided by the center.  A recent participant in transition services herself, Jaclyn is passionate about helping young students explore opportunities for the present and future.

Josephine F. Wilson, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Josephine F. Wilson, D.D.S., Ph.D. is currently Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences and senior faculty member in the Substance Abuse Resources and Disability Issues (SARDI) Program in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences in the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University. The author of dozens of publications in the areas of substance abuse, addiction, eating disorders, disability, and child abuse and neglect, she has written two textbooks in Behavioral Neuroscience. Dr. Wilson is currently PI or co-PI on federal grants related to substance abuse in deaf and blind populations.

Sean Ziadeh headshot

Sean Ziadeh

Sean Ziadeh studied political philosophy and psychology at UofM -Ann Arbor, law and business in East Lansing, and utilized programs for the blind for internships with the IRS and Defense Department.  Sean is licensed to practice law in Michigan and Illinois.   Sean is an estates and special needs attorney practicing in Southeast Michigan.  Previously, Sean was involved in real estate, sustainable development, and federal investigations into corporate mal-feasance. Lion of the Year – Livonia Lions Club (2017); Illinois’ Green Visionary Award – U.S. Green Building Council (2011); Seeing What’s Possible Award – Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind (2006); and NFB – Michigan member.