We’re proud to announce that this year one of the two recipients of the Robert J. Smithdas award is our Director of Rehabilitation, Kathy Abrahamson.
The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) is the only national rehabilitation center of its kind, educating those with a combination of vision and hearing impairments in its residential program in Sands Point, New York. The HKNC has produced some of our nation’s most successful and noteworthy deaf-blind advocates, one of whom was Robert Smithdas. In addition to being a long-time advocate at HKNC, Smithdas was also the first deaf-blind individual to receive a masters’ degree, with a legacy that stretched from the middle of the 20th century all the way to his retirement community in 2009. With Smithdas’ passing in 2014, the HKNC established the Robert J. Smithdas award, given every year to a select few deaf-blind educators and advocates who have demonstrated a long track record of service to the community.
The LightHouse Deaf-Blind Telecommunications Program has given away free of charge more than $1.5 million in needed telecommunications equipment to Deaf-Blind people throughout California. This program, the largest of its kind in the United States, is a model of collaboration between the LightHouse and HKNC.
A representative from HKNC came to the LightHouse at the end of July to personally present Kathy with the award. Kathy shares this honor with Ingrid Halvorsen, a longtime deaf-blind educator in Illinois. “Dr. Robert J. Smithdas was renowned for his tireless advocacy and leadership influencing the development of services for individuals who are deaf-blind,” said Sue Ruzenski, HKNC’s Executive Director, “Both Kathy and Ingrid embody Dr. Smithdas passion for empowering the deaf-blind community.”
Direct from the Helen Keller National Center: