Richmond resident proves visual impairment is no obstacle to educational and professional success
PRINCETON, NJ – Learning Ally, a 65-year old nonprofit serving individuals with learning and visual disabilities, has bestowed its highest award to Patricia Halterman of Richmond, California. Halterman is one of six students from across the U.S. who will receive cash awards of $6,000 and travel with their families to be honored at Learning Ally’s National Gala celebration in Washington, DC this April.
Almost two decades ago, Halterman was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a degenerative retinal eye condition, and has been legally blind since then. Now 58, she has shown remarkable determination while navigating her way through major obstacles and life changes. For years after her diagnosis, she managed to sustain a successful career in the private sector by learning new skills and coping techniques for the visually impaired. After her long-time position ended in 2003 due to an economic downturn, Halterman decided it was time to reinvent herself.
“I returned to school in pursuit of obtaining a degree to help others with vision loss,” she says, recounting how she re-entered Contra Costa Community College and completed an AA degree in 2006. Later she was accepted to UC Berkeley, graduating in 2009 with honors in American and Disability Studies. Most recently she completed San Francisco State University’s Counseling program, receiving a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in May 2013 and earning the university’s Distinguished Graduate Student Achievement Award along the way.
“Learning Ally helped me at home in the classroom by providing easy access to required textbooks that are otherwise difficult to obtain,” she says. “In a quick paced environment where time was of the essence, Learning Ally’s human voice narrators kept the information alive. I think all counselors in our program can benefit from this knowledge.”
Halterman has lately been contributing her time and expertise at the UC Berkeley Low Vision Clinic as a Resource Specialist. “I want to work with individuals who are experiencing vision loss and could benefit from learning resources, different ways of doing tasks, and coping techniques,” she says. “Helping others is the greatest reward and through the process, gives me so much meaning and purpose for living.”
About the National Achievement Awards
Since 1959, Learning Ally has honored exceptional students who are blind or visually impaired through its privately endowed Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA) for college seniors and beyond. Hundreds of students apply for these prestigious awards each year and are selected by committees of Learning Ally volunteers, board members, parents, educators, donors and staff. Students are recognized for their academic excellence, leadership, and service to others; each award winner has a long list of honors and accomplishments, and has graduated with a GPA above 3.0, with most near the 4.0 mark; and they have thrived on their education paths thanks in part to their use of accessible educational content and assistive technology provided by Learning Ally. For information about applying for Learning Ally’s National Achievement awards, visit https://learningally.org/NAA/apply
About Learning Ally
Founded in 1948, Learning Ally serves K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Through its programs and audiobooks, Learning Ally enables families and schools to manage the needs of students with learning disabilities. The organization offers integrated learning management systems and professional development for teachers, as well as support for parents through personal consultations, webinars and other tools. In addition, Learning Ally’s collection of more than 80,000 human-narrated textbooks and literature titles can be downloaded on mainstream smartphones and tablets, and is the largest of its kind in the world. Several thousand volunteers help to produce the educational materials, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional success. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit https://learningally.org
Contact: Doug Sprei
Learning Ally PR & Communications