Hadley Always Evolving, Meeting New Demands

 

Coping and keeping pace with technological advances has challenged many an organization with an age and history that now approaches the century mark.

A model for adapting to and taking advantage of technology is the renowned Hadley School for the Blind, an institution whose programs, curriculum, and methodology have, for decades, reversed life's course for hundreds of blinded veterans and their families.


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


The school is the single largest provider worldwide of Braille education and distance education for the blind community. It serves 10,000 students in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.


The Hadley School was founded in 1920 by William A. Hadley, a former high school teacher who lost his sight at age 55, and Dr. E.V.L. Brown, an ophthalmologist and neighbor. Hadley taught himself Braille so that he could continue to enjoy reading but was frustrated to find that there were few educational opportunities for blind individuals. He and Brown conceived the idea of teaching Braille by mail so that others could acquire skills to foster independence.


The school's curriculum consists of four programs: Adult Continuing Education, Family Education, High School, and the Hadley School for Professional Studies. Adult Continuing Education courses are available to any blind or visually impaired individual 14 years or older. Courses in this program span a wide variety of subjects, including Braille and academic studies, independent living, life adjustment, technology, business and employment skills, and recreation.


Courses in the Family Education Program are available to family members of a visually impaired individual. These courses teach students to read and write Braille, help foster the development of a child with a visual impairment, and support a loved one's adjustment to vision loss.


Hadley is also an accredited high school. The High School Program was established in the 1930s. Students in this program can transfer credits from Hadley courses to their local school district or they can earn a high school diploma through Hadley.


Courses in these three programs are all tuition-free. The school is funded by contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations. All courses are offered in the student's medium of choice: large print, Braille, audio, or online.


The Hadley School for Professional Studies courses are available 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. While some of these courses are tuition-free, a few require a fee.


Seminars@Hadley
are The Hadley School for the Blind's popular "just in time" webinars that address a variety of relevant topics for people who are blind or visually impaired and for related professionals who work with them. These webinars are free, open to the public, and available "live" or in streaming audio or in an audio download from Hadley's website at any time. To date, there have been more than 100,000 downloads from learners throughout the world.


Seminars@Hadley
typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. Many of the courses have been approved for continuing education credit. To receive credit for a seminar, participants are required to pay $25 and take an online quiz to demonstrate understanding of the material presented.


As the economy and technology change, Hadley continues to evolve to meet students' needs. Although statistics vary, reliable data sources indicate that the under- or unemployment rate for those who are visually impaired is 70 to 80 percent. Hadley is responding to the new world economy by helping individuals achieve gainful employment while fulfilling its mission to help the blind live independently.


In 2011, Hadley launched a new course, "Self-Employment with a Minimal Investment." This course presents the basics of discovering a business idea, preparing a budget, and developing business and marketing plans, as well as information about disability programs and benefits. A modified version of the course is also available for professionals who work with visually impaired clients interested in self-employment.


With support from the Oregon Commission for the Blind, Hadley kicked off a series of mini-courses in 2011 to help students become proficient in using text to speech output, searching the Web, and developing professional looking documents. These mini-courses are two lessons each and help screen reader users improve their speed, accuracy, and knowledge of utilizing this technology in a school or employment setting.


In addition to courses focused on employment and professional development in all four program areas, Hadley is also developing two exciting new programs: a Leadership course and the Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship. In 2010, Hadley initiated the Leadership course for emerging blind leaders. A second group of students joined the program in 2011. This collaboration between Hadley and the World Blind Union is a one-year academic program designed to address the potential for blind individuals to assume leadership positions in government, nonprofits, and private sector organizations.

The Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship will launch in the fall of 2011. This new program is designed to provide individuals who are visually impaired with the knowledge, resources, and networking opportunities enabling them to advance in their careers or to successfully launch and grow their own businesses.

"We're very excited about all of the new courses and programs at Hadley that will enable our students to reach their full potential and achieve all of their academic and professional goals," said Hadley President Chuck Young.


For more information or to enroll in courses, please visit www.hadley.edu or call 800-323- 4238.