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From Access to Accomplishment

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired, Volunteerism

Remarkable Learning Ally volunteer Anne L. Corn, Ed. D. cherishes her 46-year relationship with the organization that began as Recording for the Blind. Without RFB (as it was called when she got started), Anne has little faith that she could have completed college, much less received her Master's degree.

Anne's list of accomplishments also includes completing her doctorate, researching how accessible texts reach children with visual impairments, writing curricula, teaching educators of children with low vision, and most recently serving as an ambassador, board member and volunteer reader for Learning Ally.

"Had Recording for the Blind not been there for me in 1965, I don't know what path I would have traveled," Anne wrote in an essay about her experience with the organization. "However, I do know that opportunities for education were available to me because I had access to textbooks.

Anne was born visually impaired and remembers her mother reading aloud to her at home. She also remembers her anguish when she received heavy reading assignments in class.

"When I was in middle school, I could read for maybe 10-15 minutes and then my eyes tired so much that I couldn't continue. I was introduced to RFB when I began high school, and recordings were a wonderful thing because I was able to complete assignments and be competitive."

Anne Corn, Learning Ally volunteer and former member of RFB&DHer lifelong connection also includes memories such as placing quarters on the arm of her record player to keep her audiobooks playing, using the first machine that allowed recordings to be read at a faster than speech rate (although sounding like Mickey Mouse), and rewinding tape from reel-to-reel recordings when they would become a tangled mess. Just as these technologies rapidly advanced, so did the magnification tools that help Anne to visually and independently read today.

"I use four different types of optical devices -- a 6-power handheld magnifier, an 8-power handheld telescope, a monocular telescope, and a biopic telescopic system for driving," Anne says. "I didn’t start driving until I was 41."

Anne used RFB through the process of earning her Master's degree, and has since improved her reading skills and stamina so much using these magnification tools that she is now able to contribute as a reader to expand the very audio textbook library she used through much of her education.

"It is really a family relationship," Anne explains. Her mother recorded materials that weren't already available so Anne could do her homework. "And then when my father retired, he loved volunteering; I'm glad I'm taking over what he was doing because he also knew how valuable it was for me."

"Dr. Corn's insight into the needs of blind and visually impaired children and adults provides her with a unique perspective as a volunteer reader," says Austin Studio Production Director Carter York.

Anne’s background includes an undergraduate degree in special education at Syracuse University and certifications in cognitive disabilities, blindness and visual impairments, preschool, and elementary education. She taught students, finished her Master’s at San Francisco State University and then completed her doctorate at Columbia University. She later became a teacher educator and researcher at The University of Texas at Austin and at Vanderbilt University.

Studying and teaching about low vision led Anne to complete many research studies, including one where she was the first principle investigator of the ABC Braille Study, a five-year research project to look at how blind children learn to read. Anne has also written curricula and textbooks; most recently she co-edited "Foundations of Low Vision: Clinical and Functional Perspectives" (with Dr. Jane Erin). Another called "Looking Good" (with Drs. Michael Bina and Sharon Sacks) provides adolescents and young adults with visual impairments further understanding of physical appearance and personal presentation.   When the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired holds “Looking Good Special Programs” for adolescents from throughout Texas, Anne provides a fashion photo shoot which coincides with her interest in photography.

Recently Anne began a business, ALC Images. “I want to specialize in populations with regard to appearance and helping youngsters look their best. My goal is not to have students look fully sighted – it is just to photograph them to look just as any of us want to in a photo.”

As Anne continues to be active serving people living with low vision, her support for RFB, RFB&D, and now Learning Ally has always been strong and is an honor for the organization.

"I think it provides a quality product that is rare to come by, in terms of human voice with volunteers and staff checking the recordings," Anne says. "The organization has done a very nice job of putting out a product that students can really use, and I'm very impressed with the level of description for charts, graphs, pictures and diagrams. Learning Ally provides access to the general education curriculum, which is mandated by federal laws and a goal of the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities (see www.tsbvi.edu). It really helps to even the playing field for students who need this access."

   –Jenny Falke