The history of vision rehabilitation therapy certification can be traced back to the 1930's. Prior to the 1932 Eastern Conference of Home Teachers, there had not been any official attempts to set any standards regarding acceptable teaching practices for home teachers of the blind. At this conference, a committee was appointed with the task of developing minimum standards of practice. The committee's final report indicated that no standards could be set due to the wide variety of needs among those who were blind.
A concern voiced by some people associated with the field was that most of the home teachers were blind women who were not trained to adequately serve the needs of the constituents that were assigned to them. Similar jobs within the field of serving those with disabilities were usually social worker positions that were held by people who were sighted and had received college training, usually at the graduate level.
By 1937, several states had adopted short-term training sessions for home teachers, and a book was produced entitled, "What of the Blind?" consisting of a series of articles dealing with blindness and providing services to blind people. Another book came out three years later, "More of the Blind" (Koestler, page 291).
By 1939, a merit system for home teachers had been suggested as a means of equalizing the civil service standards of other workers in related fields. There was some worry about sighted social workers replacing blind home teachers, and it was thought that a merit system for home teachers might help offset the problem of a lack of recognized credentials when compared to college trained social workers.
Although the initial training attempts were considered helpful, there were still many unanswered questions regarding acceptable practice standards. The American Foundation of the Blind (AFB) and the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB) organized a meeting in 1938 inviting specialists in the field of blindness to adopt the first professional certification standards for home teachers. At this meeting, a board was appointed to develop the standards that were presented at the 1941 AAWB convention.
The 1941 AAWB convention adopted official standards for home teachers. Two levels of certification were available. Class I certification required two years of college credits in the areas of social work and teaching, demonstration of proficiency in braille, and the knowledge and ability to teach six handicraft skills. Four years of experience could be substituted for two years of college. Class II certification required Class I proficiencies as well as being a college graduate with one year of post graduate study in the school of social work. Following the 1941 AAWB convention, many "promising young blind people" were urged to go into social work as home teachers (Koestler, p. 291- 92). The American Foundation of the Blind began funding training for home teachers. The 1942 annual foundation report stated that 19 scholarships had been awarded for training, with five full-time graduate students, and three in home teacher training courses.
As training for home teachers continued, a question remained about how to work with the approximately 300 other home teachers in the field that had not received any official training. As an attempt to resolve this dilemma, a six-week summer training program was initiated and sponsored by the AFB in 1942. Practicing home teachers could get academic credits needed for Class I certification. The Hadley School for the Blind also offered college level correspondence courses as another alternative to obtaining credits for certification.
The professional status of home teachers was fostered by changes in funding and professional titles given to home teachers. The 1954 amendments of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act provided for grant funding to finance personnel training in several areas of related rehabilitation disciplines, including home teachers. In addition, a 1959 revision of the AAWB Class II certification requirements changed the title of Class II teachers to Home Teacher Specialists.
A.N. Magill, Chairman of the board of certification for AAWB in 1959, issued a statement that would later serve as a link between what was currently accepted as a model of the home teaching function and what was emerging as a new concept of the rehabilitation center. His statement proclaimed, "professional home teaching embraces counseling and casework as well as instruction and that it should be the basic field service for the blind which begins the process of rehabilitation" (Koestler, p. 293). In 1965, the Commission on Standards and Accreditation of Services for the Blind (COMSTAC) along with AAWB renamed the title of home teachers to rehabilitation teachers. This change was made in response to the understanding and acceptance of the new teaching function now required of professionals serving the blind. A two-year master's program was begun at Western Michigan University in 1963 that further expanded the professionalism of rehabilitation teaching.
The certification standards were updated in 1963 to reflect the academic personnel preparation of rehabilitation teachers. In 1984, AAWB became part of a new consolidated organization, the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). This new organization, AER, then became the certifying body. Among the changes of the certification process was the elimination of permanent certification that was replaced with a five-year renewable certification.
The need for an independent certification body led AER to seek a separate organization to provide certification to the professionals. Thus, the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP) was established and officially began certifying rehabilitation teachers as of December 2, 2000.
During the March 2004 ACVREP Board meeting, it was decided that the Rehabilitation Teacher Certified (RTC) designation had to be renamed due to copyright violations. With the support of AER and AER's Division 11 (Rehabilitation Teaching), a nationwide request for possible designations was rendered. ACVREP received hundreds of e-mail responses with great ideas and enthusiasm. ACVREP's Rehabilitation Teaching (RT) Committee reviewed all of the suggestions and carefully selected five names to present to the ACVREP Board of Directors for its consideration at the September 2004 Board meeting.
The following considerations were identified before selecting a new acronym:
In November 2004, the ACVREP Board of Directors voted to approve "Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist" (CVRT) as the new name for rehabilitation teachers. After a careful review of the literature and comments from the field, the ACVREP Board felt that CVRT was the most suitable name. The population of people CVRTs serve is dramatically shifting to the elderly. CVRTs must be poised and ready to respond not only to the needs of these consumers but also to rely on new sources of funding that have not yet been available to us. While recognizing the difficulties of selecting a name that everyone would be pleased with, ACVREP saw its responsibility to look beyond that and select a name that would meet the future needs of CVRTs.
Koestler, F.A. (1976). The unseen minority: A social history of blindness in America. In The Three-Wheeled Cart. (pp. 291-294). New York: David McKay
Ponchillia, P. and Ponchillia, S. (1996). Foundations of Rehabilitation Teaching withPersons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. In From Home Teaching to Rehabilitation Teaching.(pp. 15-17). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.