The 2021 BDS Scholarship in the amount of $3000 was awarded to Yolanda V. Smith. Yolanda is originally from Birmingham. Her Father Jesse Smith was an O&M at the VA Southeastern Veterans Affairs Blind Rehabilitation Center. Yolanda states that she loves her chosen profession. She has worked in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi and has been working in the field of blindness since 2012. She is furthering her education at Auburn University by pursuing a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Clinical Counseling to become a stronger and more skilled professional and advocate for the blind community. She has completed a practicum with ADRS and an internship with the VA Southeast Blind Rehabilitation Center. She expects to complete her degree in Summer 2022.

Yolanda wrote in her application that her favorite quote was from the Dali Llama and simply says, “Our primary purpose in life is to help others, and if you can’t help them at least don’t hurt them.” And Yolanda states that she tries to live her personal life and her professional life by that simple truth.

In addition to the $3000 BDS Scholarship, Yolanda will receive a one-year student membership in AER. Yolanda, we wish you continued professional success. Congratulations on receiving the BDS scholarship for 2021!

Yolanda V. Smith


The 2020 BDS Scholarship recipient is Jennifer Reeves. Jennifer earned the BSW in Social Work from Jacksonville State University. She is employed by Alabama Institute for Deaf Blind (AIDB) as Consumer Case Manager for the Blind. Jennifer states that she loves direct service work and is inspired to pursue a Masters Degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling to assist persons who are blind in achieving their optimal goals.

She is enrolled at Auburn University where she has completed three semesters toward the CRC Masters Degree and expects to complete requirements for the Masters Degree in August of 2021. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA.

Jennifer states that her short term goal is to work in Vocational Rehabilitation integrating case management services with employment and job placement. She further states that in her opinion employment has always been a huge barrier for persons who are blind. Her long term goal is to become a Licensed Professional Counselor as a means of helping individuals who are blind face the struggles and challenges they acquire in integrating into a sighted world.

As BDS recipient Jennifer received $3,000.00 dollars in BDS Scholarship funds and a one-year student membership in AER. Alabama Chapter is delighted to assist Jennifer in furthering her education in keeping with our goal of providing more qualified personnel in the field of blindness in Alabama. The Alabama AER Chapter membership congratulates Jennifer and wishes her continued professional success!

Congratulations! Dr. Derrick Smith has been elected to serve a two- year term as the AER International District 5 Representative. Derrick’s term will begin August 1, 2020 and will end July 31, 2022. Derrick stated that he is excited to serve the states in District 5 and hopefully support the entire organization during this time of transition. As the District 5 Representative Derrick will represent the states of AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, PR, SC, and TN. Derrick will become the third Alabama Chapter member to serve in this capacity. Joe Helm and Melody Brown both served two-year terms as well. For the past two-years Derrick has served on the Alabama Chapter Board of Directors. We are proud of Derrick for his willingness to serve in this leadership role at the international level!

Dr. Smith is an associate professor and Associate Dean of the College of Education at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Dr. Smith holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Faulkner University, an M.A.Ed. in Special Education-Visual Impairments from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and an Ed.D. in Special Education from Texas Tech University. He has an Alabama State Teaching Certificate in Secondary Mathematics (6-12) and Visual Impairments (N-21). He taught secondary mathematics at the Alabama School for the Blind. He is also a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) and National Library of Congress Braille Transcriptionist. For the past 13 years, Dr. Smith’s research agenda has focused on STEM education for students with visual impairments and blindness and he has written numerous book chapters, articles, and presentations on the topic.

2020 Conference the Alabama Chapter Recruitment Incentive


AER Scholarship Recipient Lisa B. Geist received the 2019 BDS Scholarship during the Alabama AER Chapter’s 36th Annual Conference. This year's scholarship was in the amount of $3,000 coupled with a one-year student membership in AER. Lisa was the seventeenth recipient of the AER Billy Don Sims Scholarship. Lisa is from Fayette, Alabama, and teaches in the Winfield City School System. There is a shortage of TVI’s in the Winfield area and in all Northwest Alabama. Lisa is enrolled at the University of Alabama Huntsville in the Master’s Degree Program to become a TVI. She expects to graduate in December 2020. She is excited to fill a need for students in Northwest Alabama and become an advocate for them for many years in the future. The Alabama AER Chapter membership congratulates Lisa B. Geist and wishes her continued professional success!



2020 Conference the Alabama Chapter Recruitment Incentive

Dr. Derrick Smith, Awards Chair, presents Amber Madsen, HR Director with Wendy’s the Employer of the Blind Award for 2019.

Amber Madsen receives Employer of the Blind Award for 2019

Steve Sullivan & Sharde Cleveland Present 2019 Employer of the blind Award to Amber Madison

AER Board Honors Lenore Dillon

AER Board Honors Lenore Dillon

At the recent AER Board of Directors meeting held at Easterseals Central Alabama in Montgomery the Alabama Chapter Board honored Lenore Dillion for her service and contributions as board member and Past President of the Alabama Chapter. Additionally, the Board presented Lenore with a cake and $100 gift card in celebration of her retirement from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Congratulations Lenore!


BDS Scholarship Winners Updates!


2019 AER Scholarship Recipient Meredith Grace KerrMeredith Grace Kerr was awarded the 2018 BDS Scholarship during the Alabama AER Chapter Annual Conference. This year's scholarship was in the amount of $3,000 along with a one-year student membership in AER.

Meredith Grace was the sixteenth AER Billy Don Sims Scholarship Recipient. Meredith Grace is working toward her Master of Science in Visual Disabilities at Florida State University where she has a grade point average of 3.95. Upon graduation Meredith Grace will be both a TVI and an O&M. She previously graduated Magna Cum Laude from Birmingham Southern College with an undergraduate degree in Collaborative Education.

It was while studying at Birmingham Southern that Meredith Grace discovered her passion for teaching. She expresses that her passion for teaching and her childhood experience with amblyopia are her inspiration for pursuing the Master of Science at FSU. She believes that her experience with amblyopia will be very beneficial in her working with children who have vision loss.

Meredith Grace plans to complete her Master’s degree at FSU in December 2019. Meredith Grace is a native of Andalusia and after graduation she plans to pursue teaching in Alabama and to start a nonprofit, Site4Sight, benefitting children with vision loss which will support accommodations and resources for those children and their families. Alabama AER congratulates Meredith Grace and wishes her continued professional success!

AER 2019 Sholarship Photo

Julie Brock BDS Scholarship Committee Chair presents Scholarship Certificate and $3,000 check to Meredith Grace’s mother Gina Kerr and grandmother Kay Bridges. Kay retired from ADRS in 1990 were she worked as a rehabilitation counselor in blind services. Meredith Grace was unable to attend due to a required meeting at Florida State University.


Hailey McManus 2012 Recipient and Nicholas Derzis 2007 Recipient

Hailey McManus, recipient of the 2012 AER BDS Scholarship, graduated from the University of Montevallo in December 2016. She earned her teaching certificate/degree in Deaf Education. She moved to Tallahassee Florida in January 2017 and worked while waiting for the Master's VI/O&M program to start a new class of graduate students in August 2017.

She is currently working part time in the Visual Disabilities Department at Florida State while she earns her Master’s degree. She is on track to graduate in December 2019. She is a 4.0 student in the Master's Program and loves what she is doing!

Click Here – Nicholas Derzis reprint from Keystone Magazine, College of Education, Auburn University.


Veronica Harrington was awarded the 2017 BDS Scholarship during the AER Alabama Chapter Annual Conference. This year's scholarship was in the amount of $2,500 along with a one-year student membership in AER.

Veronica’s interest in blindness was influenced by spending lots of time with her cousin James Kelly who was born blind. James attended the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega where he learned many skills to live independently. Veronica stated that she “was forever grateful to every instructor, student and peer that helped James live a successful life”.

Veronica’s career goal is to obtain a Master’s degree in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and a Certificate in Low Vision Therapy from Salus University. Through her professional training she desires to help her blind and visually impaired clients learn the skills and strategies necessary to enable each individual reach their maximum independence and personal goals. She stated ”I want to do everything I can to be a successful VRT and LVT in the State of Alabama.”

Congratulations! – Veronica Harrington!

Veronica Harrington Veronica Harrington

BDS 2016 Scholarship Recipient - Jessica E. Williams - Click here

"AER International Honors – Joe Helm, AER Treasurer, as the first recipient of the “Richard L. Welsh, Chapter Leadership Award" at the AER International Conference, Jacksonville, FL, on July 22, 2016.

Welsh Award - Click here

"AER International Honors – Dr. John Mascia, AIDB President, with the “John H. McAulay Award" at the AER International Conference, Jacksonville, FL, on July 22, 2016.

McAulay Award - Click here

"National Easter Seals Honors - Joe Helm, AER Treasurer"

Joe Helm - Click Here

"A Story worth Telling...A Heartfelt Thank You to Charlie Carroll and Alabama BEP Vendors"

"Charlie" Carroll - Click Here

Memorial - Greg Rowe  Memorial - Charles "Charlie" LeRoy Carroll

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Alabama Chapter