AVRT Logo in Braille

AVRT History: A Chronology

A Chronology was originated by Garry Bowman in 1993.  Drawing on his extensive
background of involvement with MACRT over the years, he meticulously organized the information and compiled it into a document to record our history.   We are grateful for his efforts to assemble the many details of MACRT from the past.  We have recently taken on the task of updating the information to the current day.  

What a great way to look back onto the many training conferences and reminisce about the officers and award winners of the past.  We hope to continue to keep this updated and also to add additional details as they come to our attention.  

The one missing piece that we have yet to locate is a picture of the person that our annual award for excellence in our field of rehabilitation teaching was named for, Ms. Charlyn Allen.  If anyone has a photo of her, or any details of significance about her life and career, please be sure to send them on to us to include in our archives.  We welcome your input on this document and would be happy to add any additional information that you may have to offer.  Enjoy the trip down Memory Lane as you read about the history of our organization that continues to thrive and provide continuing professional development and networking for vision rehabilitation therapists throughout the country. 

Susan M. Dalton, CVRT MACRT Treasurer 1998 to present In the early 1920s, the American Association of Workers of the Blind (AAWB) was formed to meet the needs of workers in the field of blindness. The special needs of rehabilitation teachers, then called home teachers, were met at the national level in Group 3 which met bi-annually. Out of a desire to have more opportunities for professional sharing and to provide smaller geographic units to allow greater regional participation, regional "Home Teacher Conferences" were established. The Eastern Conference of Home Teachers in 1926, the Western Conference in 1946 and the Mid-Western Conference in 1947. These regional conferences met on the off years of AAWB conventions, allowing opportunity every year for rehab teachers to get together.

Our particular organization, The Mid America Conference of Rehabilitation Teachers, Inc., had its origin in 1947 as the Mid-Western Conference of Home Teachers (MCHT). The first meeting of the Mid-Western Conference of Home Teachers met in October, 1947. The location is unknown, but is believed to be Chicago, Illinois. Florence Horton was the first president. Miss Evelyn Kay, a research agent for the AFB and Coordinator of Home Teachers Training Courses had piloted the preliminary planning of the first meeting. Thirty members were present representing 8 states. Miss Kay noted that, MCHT shall be a means of great good to the blind of the Mid Western states. Some of the decisions made during our meetings may virtually affect the thinking of the workers for the blind throughout our great nation.

The second meeting was held at Springfield, Missouri in May, 1949. Thirty-one were registered representing 9 states. Martha Brannan Hahnel presided over the meeting. A number of ideas were presented and a demonstration of the Mirromatic Pressure Pan was given. Several papers were given such as, "A Birds Eye View of Home Teaching in the United States", "Services to the Deaf/Blind," and "Aspects of Case Work in Home Teaching." All who attended the meeting seem to remember the 120 mile trip through the Ozarks in chartered buses. 

In 1951, we met in Columbus, Ohio. There were 120 registered from 11 states. This was a joint meeting of all three Home Teacher Conferences sponsored by the AFB. Marie Busch presided. The first conference newsletter was published in 1951.

The next meeting was in 1953 at Houston, Texas. The theme for the Conference was "Teamwork Approach to Home Teaching". Helen Vargo presided over the meeting. Papers that were presented included, "The Home Teachers Place in the Rehabilitation of the Blind," and "How do we Coordinate Public Welfare and Home Teachers Activities to Best Serve the Blind?"

In 1955, the Conference met in Arkansas and were guests of the Southwest Rehabilitation Center and participated in one of their "Travel Training" sessions. The group also enjoyed a tour of the Hot Springs National Park.

The 1957 Conference was held in Topeka, Kansas. Charlyn Allen was the president and presided over this meeting. The theme of the Conference was on the importance of creative and meaningful activities for the aged blind. The group visited the Topeka Rehabilitation Center.

Charlyn Allen was president in 1958.

The 1959 Conference was held at Indianapolis, Indiana. Sammy K. Rankin presided. Rankin noted that this Conference emphasized the social work aspect of our business. She stated that this shows the multiple services and activities that Home Teachers provide.

The 1961 Conference was held in Mobile, Alabama. Braxton Tatum presided. Several papers were presented which included "The role of the Home Teacher in the Rehabilitation Process," "Home Teaching as a Rehabilitation Tool," "Occupational Therapy: Therapeutic use of Craft," "Rehabilitation for Independent Living and It's Implications for Home Teaching," and "Community Resources and Volunteers. "Marshal Stroud presided over the 1963 Conference in Chicago, IL. MCHT learned of the new teaching facilities for home teaching at Western Michigan University. The Conference concentrated on issues of staff development and preparation of teaching manuals.

During the 1965 meeting, Alvin Roberts presided and Tim Cranmer, developer of the Cranmer Abacus, was Vice President. The meeting was held in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Sheraton Hotel. 1965 was also the year it was decided to change the name home teacher to rehabilitation teacher at the AAWB meeting in Denver, Colorado. Demonstrations were given on use of the Schott and the Cranmer Abacus and the Ultra Sonic Travel Training Program. A paper was given by Miss Ruth Kaarleta of the Home Teaching program at WMU on "The Modern Approach to Home Teaching".

Fred Gissoni of Kentucky Services for the Blind presided over the 1967 Conference which met in Columbus, Ohio. Be noted that ... "MCHT has been a medium of great good to our Home Teachers and consequently, a medium of good to those we are privileged to serve. This good is evidenced in the present standards of qualifications of home teachers as well as in the home teachers concept of the total program of work for the blind today. The home teachers of tomorrow will have an even greater need for the encouragement, information, and inspiration which may be found at home teacher conference meetings". No meeting was held in 1969 as Bruce McKensie who was the president, died unexpectedly. The meeting was rescheduled for 1970 and met in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1972, the meeting was held in Chattanooga, TN. In 1974, Paul Pritle was president. The meeting was held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was at this meeting that the name was changed to MACRT from MCHT to reflect the national name change from home teacher to rehabilitation teacher. Eventually the other two Conferences dissolved, in the early 1970's, leaving only MCHT.

In 1976, the Conference was held in New Orleans, LA at the Royal Orleans Hotel. Norm Dalke was president.

In 1978, the Conference was held in Oklahoma City, OK. Don McBride was elected president.

In 1980, the Conference was held in St. Louis, MO. Cassie Hungate Dermot was elected president. It was at this meeting that MACRT decided to start holding annual, rather than bi-annual meetings.

In 1981, the Conference was held in Belleville, IL at the Town-House Hotel. The theme of the Conference centered around Gerontology. Cassie Hungate-McDermott was president.

In 1982, the Conference was held in St. Louis, MO., at the Roadway Inn Downtown. Cassie McDermott was President and was re-elected to serve as President during 1983 and 1984. Sessions & workshops were given on: The Talking Opacon, Update on Braille Reading Techniques, The Fishburn Alphabet, The Square Hand Alphabet, Reading and Writing Communication Tools, Bibliotherapy as a Counseling Technique, and Recreation for the Visually Impaired.

In 1983, the Conference was held in Wichita, Kansas at the Ramada Inn Central. Cassie McDermott was President. The Charlyn Allen Award was established this year, but not awarded till 1984. This was also the year the AAWB and AERBVI merged. Sessions/workshops included: Serving the Multi-handicapped, Deaf/Blind, The Blind Diabetic, Independent Living Centers and the Blind, Low Vision Aids Update. Thursday evening, the group went to a dinner theater. The Charlyn Allen Award Charlyn Allen worked in the field of rehabilitation teaching for the state of Missouri for about 35 years. The last 10 years was as a Supervisor for the Missouri Bureau for the Blind. Mrs. Allen was President of MACRT, then MCHT, in the late 1950's and assumed a leadership role in all of MACRT's Conferences as well as other groups relative to rehabilitation teaching named this award in honor of Charlyn Allen who was blind and exemplified dedication and service to the rehabilitation of the blind.

In 1984, the Conference was held at Tulsa, OK., at the Camelot Hotel. Cassie McDermott was President. The First Charlyn Allen Award was given to Alvin Roberts. Sessions/workshops included: Home Maintenance Techniques, Diabetes Management, Adapted Aids and Devices, Demonstration of Peritoneal Dialysis Equipment, and Materials and Methods Used in Teaching Braille. An evening was planned at Discovery Land to eat barbecue and watch the play, "Oklahoma".

In 1985, the Conference was held in Chicago, IL at the Bismark Hotel. Judy Pool was the President. Our Guest Speaker was Geraldine Lahorn, an instructor from The Hadley School for the Blind who herself is deaf/blind. The Charlyn Allen award was given to Virginia Offutt. Workshops were given in counseling, Low vision aids, Geriatrics, Home Mechanics, Computers, and RT curriculum used at NIU, DeKalb, IL.

In 1986, the Conference was held in St. Louis, MO at the Days Inn Motel on the Riverfront. Judy Pool was the President. Guest Speaker was Liz O'Donnell, recipient of The Presidents Outstanding Volunteer Award. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Norm Dalke. Workshops/sessions included: Hearing Impairments, Outreach Experiments, Suicide Prevention, Crisis Intervention, Homemaking Aids Update, Math for RT's, Techniques in Ophthalmology, and a forum to exchange information from different states. MACRT awards scholarships annually to students in university degree programs in Rehabilitation Teaching. Its first scholarship was awarded in 1986.

In 1987, The Conference was held in Dearborn, MI at the Holiday Inn. Wayne Zoutendam was President. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Wayne Zoutendam. Sessions/workshops included: Serving the Developmentally Disabled, Aseptic Techniques for working with Contagious Disease, RT's in the Pre-School. Additionally an all-day Technology Workshop at the Greater Detroit Society for the Blind was offered. Many in the group visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village Complex on Sunday.

In 1988, the Conference was held in Indianapolis, IN., at the Adams Mark Hotel, Wayne Zoutendam was President. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Don McBride. Sessions/Workshops included: Traumatic Brain injury and It's implications for RT's , Cognitive Rehabilitation, Voice Indexing, Dialysis and Kidney Transplants, Converting Depression to Motivation, and Case Management Issues. Guest Speakers were Jean Merritt, Commissioner of Indiana Department of Human Services and Dan Dillon of Indianapolis Comedy Connection.

In 1989, the Conference was held in Oklahoma City, OK., at the Hilton Inn West. Alvin Roberts was President. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Paul Miller. Sessions/workshops included: History of Rehabilitation Teaching, Professionalism and Pride, Talking Videos for the Blind, A Diabetic Workshop, Growing up with visually impaired parents, Services to Blind Veterans, and Experiencing Aging. Guest Speaker was Martha Bagley of the Helen Keller Center, Dallas, TX., and Captain Jack Parker. 

In 1990, the Conference was held in Chicago at the Bismark Hotel. Alvin Roberts was President. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Judy Pool. Sessions/workshops included: Braille Update, Using Color and Lighting, New NAC Standards, Giving Low Vision Services, A Skit about being Diabetic--A Shot in the Dark, Changing Role of the RT, Caseload and District Size Issues, and Ethics Issues for Rehab Teachers. Our Guest Speaker was Camille Caffarelli of Horizons for the Blind.

In 1991, the Conference was held in Madison WI., at the Inn on the Park. Gerald (Jerry) Raistrick was President. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to two people at this meeting, Pat Bussen of UALR and Judy Matsuoka of NIU. Sessions/workshops included: Developing Rapport with Clients, Does Alzheimer's limit rehab teaching potential?, Retinopathy and Macular Degeneration, Research In Diabetic Retinopathy, Less Common eye Diseases, Self Protection on the Job, Serving persons with AIDS, Neurofibromatosis, and Screen Review/Voice Synthesizer Options for IBM Compatibles.

In 1992, the Conference was held at Little Rock, Arkansas, at the Hilton Hotel. Gerald (Jerry) Raistrick was President. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Alice Raftary.

In 1993, the Conference was in Nashville, Tennessee at the Quality Inn Hall of Fame. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Garry Bowman. Alice Raftary was the President.

In 1994, the Conference was held at Indianapolis, Indiana, at the Omni Severin Downtown Hotel. The theme was "Shedding More Light on Lighting". The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Louise Reynolds. Alice Raftary was the President. Nancy Paskin was the speaker at lunch.

In 1995, the Conference was held in St. Louis, Missouri at the Holiday Inn Riverfront. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Lenore Dillon who was also the President that year.

In 1996, the Conference was held in Oklahoma City, OK at the Medallion Hotel. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Nancy Paskin. Lenore Dillon was the President.

In 1997, the Conference was held in Rockford, Illinois at the Best Western Clock Tower Hotel. Sessions included adult learning theory and substance abuse. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Geraldine Lawhorn. Glenda Farnum was the President.

In 1998, the Conference, "Great EYE-deas & New Directions," was held in Nashville, Tennessee at the Howard Johnson Airport Plaza Motel. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Lynn Wiggins. Glenda Farnum was the President.

In 2000, the Conference, "Peripherals: Visions in the Field," was held in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the Hilton Hotel Downtown. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Louise Yates. Jennifer McKeown was the President.

In 2001, the Conference, "Rehabilitation Teaching Mobile-ized for the 21st Century," was held in Mobile, Alabama at the Ramada Plaza Hotel. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Marcia Gevers. Jennifer McKeown was the President.

In 2002, the Conference, “Past and Present: Pathways to Empowerment,” was held in Louisville, Kentucky at the Holiday Inn - Downtown. No Charlyn Allen award was presented. Jennifer McKeown was the President.

In 2003, the Conference, “The ROOTS of RT,” was held in Rosemont, Illinois at the Radisson Hotel – O’Hare. Some of the presentations included adapted gardening, tips for effective writing for reports and for publication, and depression. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Judith K. Smith. Jennifer (McKeown) Ottowitz was the President.

In 2004, the Conference, "Essential Pieces: Building Independence," was held in Nashville, Tennessee at the Double Tree Hotel. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Jennifer Ottowitz who was also the President that year. In September 2004 MACRT website was introduced by Elaine Kitchel with subsequent website management by Rekha Nanchal and Ian Shadrick.

In 2005, the Conference, "Gateway to Independence," was held in St. Louis, Missouri at the Holiday Inn Select. Zeze Miller was the Conference Chair. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Susan Dalton. Marcia Gevers was elected President but had to resign due to medical issues, so Latisha Houston took over as President.

In 2006, the Conference, "Rehabilitation - Leap Into Action – Rekindle, Revitalize, Rediscover," was held in Atlanta, Georgia at the Atlanta Marriott Northwest. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Elaine Kitchel. Latisha Houston was President.

In 2007, the Conference, "CSI: Creating Skills for Independence," was held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Stratosphere Hotel. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Nancy Parkin-Bashizi. Latisha Houston was President.

In 2008, the Conference, "Rehab Rainbow - A Full Spectrum of Possibilities," was held in Birmingham, Alabama at the Birmingham Sheraton Hotel. Lenore Dillon was the Conference Chair. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Cardelia Cunningham. Latisha Houston was President.

In 2009, the Conference, “Brewing Best Practices in Vision Rehabilitation,” was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Doubletree Hotel. Jennifer Ottowitz was the Conference Chair. Sessions included falls prevention, adaptive cell phones, low vision basics, domestic violence and abuse, and working with people with different learning styles. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Suzanne Martin. Latisha Houston was President.

In 2010, the Conference, “Catch the Wave: Join Forces in Providing Excellence in Vision Services,” was held in Daytona Beach, Florida at the Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort. Jane Thompson was the Conference Chair. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Lynda Jones. Latisha Houston was President.

In 2011, the MACRT board of directors made a decision to join with AER for the annual professional development conference. The Conference, "A Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Conference within a Conference," was held in Boston, Massachusetts at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Elaine Boykin. Suzanne Martin was President.

In 2012 the Conference, "Fountains of Knowledge" was held in Kansas City at Westin Crown Hotel. Rekha Nanchal was the Conference Chair. Sessions included Hoarding syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury and vision loss, Meet the AMOSS, New Trends in Rehabilitation, Usage of Apple products etc. to name a few. Discussions were held on future changes in Braille code and additional category for certification of Rehabilitation Teachers. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Jane Thompson. Suzanne Martin was the president.

In 2013 the conference was held in Savanna, Georgia. We voted to change the name of the organization to Association of Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (AVRT). Charly Tipps was awarded the Charlyn Allen Award. Ian Shadrick was president.

In 2014 the conference, "Rock Solid in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy" was held in Colorado Springs, CO at the Antlers Hilton Colorado Springs hotel. Sessions included resources for learning the Unified English Braille Code, working with people with traumatic brain injury, teaching personal care tasks for women and the myths and facts about the use of medical marijuana. Ian Shadrick was President and the Charlyn Allen award was presented to B.J. LeJeune.

In 2015 the conference was held in Louisville, KY at the Louisville Hyatt Regency hotel and hosted by the American Printing House for the Blind. The theme was "Remembering the Past…Visioning the Future". Sessions included the beneficial effects of music, working with people who are deaf-blind, and the new book from APH on labeling and identification. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Dr. Linda Fugate and the newly created Alice Raftary Emerging Leader Award was presented to Odun Amao.

In 2016 the conference, Celebrating the Magic of Vision Rehabilitation Therapy: Where we have Been, Where We Are Now, and Where We Are Going.”, was held in Birmingham, AL at the Birmingham Double Tree hotel. Lenore Dillon was the conference Chair. The conference included an extensive track on working with people who are deaf-blind, a track related to technology and a third track incorporating sessions on resources available from the American Foundation for the Blind and braille. General sessions were held on research in the area of eye diseases and working with people with Parkinsons disease. A scavenger hunt was held in the exhibit area to encourage visition with the exhibitors. The Charlyn Allen was presented to Julie Brantley and no award was presented for the Emerging Leader Award. Ian Shadrick was President.

In 2017 AVRT decided to join the efforts of the American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA. Sessions offered by AVRT included working with support service providers, effective strategies for advocacy efforts, recreation and leisure activities for the blind and visually impaired, tips for conducting research and the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act. Jennifer Ottowitz was President. The Charlyn Allen Award was presented to Lachelle Smith and the Emerging Leader Award was presented to Amanda Sterly.