DIALOGUE Interviews Dawn Turco of Hadley

One of the best kept secrets for visually impaired students struggling to graduate from high school due to the lack of local services is the high school diploma program available through The Hadley School for the Blind. But that's only one of the many services at Hadley, which offers more than 90 distance education courses completely free of charge to eligible students. We caught up with Dawn Turco, senior vice president of the Winnetka, Illinois-based school, to request information about the history of Hadley and discover what new programs are planned for the future. Here is what we learned.

The Hadley School for the Blind is truly one of a kind. Co-founded in 1920 by William Allen Hadley and Dr. E.V.L. Brown, Hadley's ophthalmologist and neighbor, Mr. Hadley conceived the idea of teaching braille by mail through what was then called "correspondence" study. When he mailed his first braille course to a Kansas woman desperate to continue reading, one wonders if Mr. Hadley ever imagined the eventual result: a school that has become the single largest worldwide distance educator of people who are blind. Today, the Hadley School serves more than 10,000 students annually from all 50 states and over 100 countries by providing tuition-free courses in a variety of content areas. "The mission of our school is to promote independent living through lifelong, distance education programs for blind people, their families and blindness service providers," Turco said.

The Hadley School has grown over the years and, in keeping with the school's current strategic plan, has increased the enrollment by 31 percent since 2001.

Hadley offers four programs: Adult Continuing Education, High School, Family Education and Professional Education. The Adult Continuing Education Program (ACE) offers a variety of courses for adults who are blind or visually impaired in areas ranging from braille and academic studies to independent living, life adjustment, technology and recreation. The High School Program (HS) features academic courses and electives for students who seek to earn a high school diploma. Students can earn high school credit, which is easily transferred to their local schools, or earn a diploma through Hadley. The Family Education Program (FE) offers courses of interest to parents of blind children and family members of blind adults. Topics include child development, independent living and braille instruction. The Professional Education Program (PE) features courses for professionals, volunteers and service providers who work with blind people. Designed to help students sharpen existing skills or acquire new ones, course topics include independent living, abacus and braille. All courses are offered free of charge and in a variety of media: braille, large print, cassette and online.

The Hadley School has enjoyed positive relationships throughout the blindness community and partnerships with many blindness agencies and organizations, including the American Foundation for the Blind, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Canadian National Institute for the Blind and International Council for Education of People with Vision Impairment. "We do not see ourselves in competition with anyone. We work in conjunction with and often supplement local services," Turco said.

Among the many outstanding features of distance education is its anytime-anywhere approach. People are able to study with Hadley no matter where they live and at times convenient to their schedules and situations. "We offer open enrollment, not a traditional semester calendar," Turco said. Students receive high quality course materials and have access to a supportive, encouraging instructor.

The Hadley School has been supported by generous individuals, corporations and foundations. The school received its first federal grant in 2004. Hadley has a dedicated Board of Trustees and a Woman's Board.

"We are pleased that William Hadley's pioneering spirit was recognized this past October when he was inducted into The Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field," Turco said. Over the past 85 years, tens of thousands of students have benefited from Mr. Hadley's idea. "No other organization or school does what Hadley does, in the way Hadley does it, and for as broad of a range of students," Turco said.

Hadley continues to meet the needs of blind individuals by creating new courses in expanded content areas. "We are excited about our e-Hadley (online) courses and new business skills courses currently in development. We recently opened courses about macular degeneration, safety in the home and a series on foods," Turco said.

For more information about Hadley's programs visit, or call 800-323-4238 for a course catalog. And, for anyone who thinks they can't go back to school, visit Hadley's online discussion board and hear from students who are doing it, and doing it successfully! Click on the Forums link at

New Online Course Offerings from Hadley

The following is a sampling of online course offerings available from Hadley. Many courses are also available in large print, braille or on cassette. Please note that the courses listed are available to students in specific programs, as indicated through the following codes:

ACE = Adult Continuing Education Program

HS = High School Program

FE = Family Education Program

PE = Professional Education Program

- "Going Places" Are you concerned about getting around now that you've given up the car keys? This course can help you maintain different, yet independent, travel options. It not only suggests alternative means of transportation, but also explores issues involved with each, such as planning and safety.

5 lessons. Open to ACE and HS students.

- "Access Technology: Beginnings" This course helps you understand what a computer is as well as the pros and cons of using screen magnification software, refreshable braille displays and speech output to read the screen. This course is available in all formats and a computer is not required. This course is not intended to serve as a training manual or tutorial.

4 lessons. Open to students in all programs.

- "Internet Basics" Do you understand the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web? This intermediate level online course enables you to access the largest library in the world to find the answer. It also enables you to search and communicate online. Prerequisite: Ability to use your own access technology and successful completion of the Internet Skills Diagnostic Test.

6 lessons. Open to ACE, HS and PE students. High school students earn ½ unit for successful completion of both "Internet Basics" and "Word Processing."

- "Learning Through Play" Play is essential to a child's growth and development. Through play, children acquire self-confidence and become more independent. The right toy can help a child reach developmental milestones. This course offers suggestions that parents and caregivers can use to teach children about themselves and the world around them.

7 lessons. Open to FE and PE students.

- "Introduction to Braille" (developed for sighted people) Want to read braille visually? This course gives you the tools to communicate in writing with family members and students who read braille. Its goal is to enable you to read and write the braille alphabet. "Contracted Braille" is currently available with the online version coming soon.

8 lessons. Open to FE and PE students.

- "Macular Degeneration" Has one of your students or clients recently been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD)? This course addresses the questions that arise upon such a diagnosis. Lessons include information on symptoms and risk factors, diagnosis, maximizing vision and lifestyle adaptations.

5 lessons. Open to PE students only. An online version for ACE, HS and FE is coming soon.

- "Blindness Basics" This course is a scenario-based, interactive e-Learning course that enables paraprofessionals and volunteers new to the blindness field to learn fundamental concepts about visual impairment and apply them to real-life situations. The course teaches students the proper etiquette when interacting with people who are visually impaired. It presents an overview of the field's history, identifies some common causes of blindness and explains how people with disabilities can live independently.

4 lessons. Open to PE students only.

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