My Excellent Experience as a Hadley School for the Blind “Ambassador”

The Hadley logo

On May 13 and 14, it was my privilege to attend the Hadley Ambassador Training Program at Hadley School for the Blind in Winnetka, Illinois.

The mission of Hadley is to promote independent living through lifelong distance education programs for people who are blind or visually impaired, their families, and blindness service providers.

About Hadley School for the Blind

painting of William Hadley

Mr. William A. Hadley (at left) was a college and high school educator and Superintendent of Schools who lost his sight at age 55. He was encouraged by his ophthalmologist, Dr. E.V.L. Brown, to learn braille, but was unable to find local instruction. As a result, Mr. Hadley taught himself braille and, with Dr. Brown, founded Hadley in Winnetka, Illinois in 1920.

Since that time, Hadley has expanded its course offerings to serve over 10,000 students in more than 100 countries. All Hadley courses are offered in a distance-learning format and the minimum student age is 14. Interestingly, Hadley has no upper age limit and enrolls many students who are in their 80s and beyond.

Here is an overview of Hadley’s current program offerings:

  • The Adult Continuing Education Program (ACE) offers a wide variety of courses, including braille and academic studies, independent living, life adjustment, technology, business and employment skills, and recreation.
  • The Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship, part of the ACE Program, offers business, entrepreneurship, and technology courses for individuals who are seeking to advance their careers or successfully launch and grow a business.
  • The Blinded Veterans Initiative, also part of the ACE Program, complements the Forsythe Center. The Veterans Benefits module contains information on disability compensation, pensions, medical care benefits, survivor benefits, and veteran-specific resources.
  • The Family Education Program offers courses for family members – grandparents, spouses, adult children, and adult siblings of blind adults – of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Courses include child development, independent living, braille reading and writing, and adjustment to blindness.
  • The High School Program provides academic courses and electives for students who wish to earn a high school diploma. Students can earn high school credit or earn a diploma through Hadley.
  • The Hadley School for Professional Studies offers professional continuing education. Courses are available, along with continuing education (CE) credit, to anyone who works directly with blind or visually impaired individuals in a work, school, or community setting, whether as a paid employee or volunteer. CE credits are also available for select Seminars@Hadley.

My Ambassador Experience

The Ambassador Program began in 2003, with a contingent of blindness professionals from Canada who came to Winnetka for an intensive two-day workshop. Since then, the program has expanded to include invitees throughout the United States.

The goal of the program is to provide a first-hand opportunity to learn how Hadley can help supplement local rehabilitation services through a collaborative learning partnership. To date, Hadley has trained 60 ambassadors, who represent more than 50 agencies from 28 states and 10 Canadian provinces.

Group shot of the 2013 Hadley Ambassadors

In a word: fantastic! I met – and became reacquainted with – talented, dedicated colleagues and learned about Hadley’s impressive services and programs. Above are the 14 professionals who participated in Hadley’s 2013 Ambassador Class. (I’m sixth from the right.)

Day One

Chuck Young

We were welcomed by President Charles (Chuck) Young (who made it possible for me to attend – thank you!) and Douglas Anzlovar, Dean of Educational Programs and Instruction. Believe it or not, I supervised Doug’s Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) internship when I was the Director of the VRT Master’s Program at Salus University. As I always told my students, “Never burn your bridges. In our field, it is highly likely that you’ll end up working with everyone eventually.” And it’s true – right, Doug?

Jacque Sabian, Hadley’s Director of Employee and Community Relations, led a tour of Hadley’s “home base,” which included an introduction to Rosemarie Hahn, Hadley’s gracious receptionist, and a question-and-answer session with Tom Poulk, Hadley’s Director of Materials Production.

Senior Vice-President Dawn Turco presented a helpful overview of all Hadley programs, in-depth information about Seminars@Hadley, and discussed ways that we, the new Ambassadors, can use Hadley’s programs and services.

Of course, being the web geek that I am, I loved learning more about how Hadley’s online courses are developed, including the entire process from idea > writing > review > final publication online. I was impressed with the team of Michael Rydel, Dean of Curricular Affairs; Michael Harvey, Senior Instructional Technologist; and Andre Lukatsky, Director of Computer Services. Bravo to “the two Mikes” for their unerring dedication to high-quality content and accessibility!

Day Two

Dawn Turco

Karen Woodfork, Director of Student Services, provided an excellent overview of Hadley student services (wide-ranging and impressive!), Tomasz Babinszki led us through the development of the Forsythe Center, and Michael Rydel and Larry Muffett discussed the new Blinded Veterans Initiative, which made me consider ways I can make my own writing more relevant to the needs of our veterans, both young and old. I thank you for that.

Deborah Bloom, Hadley’s Vice President of Development and Communications, gave an energetic and informative talk about mutual Hadley/Ambassador support, and President Young and grant writer Linda Dunlavy discussed outreach, partnerships, and potential Ambassador collaborations. That’s always a good note to end on – and it got my creative/collaborative juices flowing.

A Final Thank You

A special thank you to Edith Myers and to all my new friends and colleagues. I have renewed admiration for all of your organizations and for the comprehensive services that Hadley provides to learners throughout the world. Think about investing in your future (and yourself!) by enrolling at