Reflecting on a Year of Growth: APH ConnectCenter in 2023

APH ConnectCenter team members from left to right: Amber Bland, Tony Susnick, Lori Scharff, Alan Lovell, Katie Frederick, Pris Rogers, Richard Rueda, Olaya Landa-Vialard, Lee Huffman, and Melisa Matthews

It’s time to reflect on the incredible progress made by APH ConnectCenter in 2023. This year has been marked by a milestone anniversary, a new streamlined and cohesive website, the introduction of our newsletter—the APH ConnectCenter Quarterly, and a steadfast commitment to providing information on empowering independence for individuals who are blind or low vision. 

This year we’ve expanded our reach, enhanced our offerings, and strengthened our partnerships while maintaining our unwavering commitment to excellence. Let’s look at the defining moments of 2023 and the content our program managers think will best support you. 

Unfortunately, 2023 also brought overwhelming sadness and loss for the APH ConnectCenter and community. Our Information and Referral Coordinator, Alan Lovell, passed away in December. This blog will share a tribute to him. 

Monumental Milestone: Five Years and a New Website 

July marked a significant milestone for APH ConnectCenter as we celebrated our fifth anniversary of APH assuming stewardship of valuable resources from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). These resources include the CareerConnect, FamilyConnect, and VisionAware websites, the Information & Referral (I&R) Line, and the Directory of Services. 

APH ConnectCenter has undergone a remarkable transformation since its inception, expanding its scope to become a comprehensive and interactive resource hub for individuals with blind or low vision, their families, teachers, counselors, and employers. This growth is evident in the expansion of our articles, webinars, partnerships, and our new website.  

Yes, this year, we were thrilled to announce the launch of a redesigned website that consolidated our programs into a single, user-friendly platform. This streamlined approach provides seamless access to a wealth of information and support services. 

Visit the new site at  

The APH ConnectCenter Quarterly 

This year, we began publishing a quarterly newsletter to disseminate our latest resources on cultivating independence in the home, learning environments, and workplace; spotlight a member of our team or a contribution to the field of blindness and low vision; share a story or personal reflection of how we’re directly impacting the community; and tease information and resources heading your way soon! 

Keep abreast of the latest information and resources and easily share them with others by subscribing to the APH ConnectCenter Quarterly

Highlighted Content from 2023 

APH FamilyConnect, CareerConnect, and VisionAware program managers proudly share a curated selection of their most impactful and thought-provoking content from 2023. 

APH FamilyConnect Year in Review 

Reflections from APH FamilyConnect Program Manager Melisa Matthews 

APH FamilyConnect reflects on the most engaging content this past year to support families raising a child who is blind or low vision. We have shared stories from family members and children, tips, and ideas for all ages and abilities to round out our impactful year.  

  • This past year, we have heard stories from many families through our blogs. One particular blog captured the hearts of many; Tiara shared her journey of Advocating for Max, My Son Who is Deaf-Blind.  
  • Having a child who will not drive doesn’t take away the role of being an active passenger. In June, we heard from Cindy Bachofer and Kathi Garza in a two-part webinar, sharing tips for Getting in Charge of Getting Around.   
  • Transitions occur often throughout your child’s life—from early childhood to adulthood. We have created a space to support you and your child through many changes. Transitions: Ages and Stages shares tips, ideas, and supports for significant transition times you encounter with your child.  

APH CareerConnect Year in Review 

Reflections from APH CareerConnect Lead Content Contractor Lori Scharff 

APH CareerConnect is happy to highlight three pieces of interest from 2023. 

APH VisionAware Year in Review  

Reflections from APH VisionAware Program Manager Katie Frederick 

We are highlighting some of the content on APH VisionAware supporting individuals, family members, and professionals in the field of blindness or low vision. A sincere thank you to the VisionAware peer advisors, individuals, and professionals who have contributed content— your expertise, personal stories, and perspectives are appreciated. 

  • APH VisionAware peer advisor Audrey Demmitt R.N. wrote a five-part series discussing self-care. Articles include: “Eating Your Way to Health and Well-Being,” “Move Your Way to Better Health and Well-Being,” “Stress Management and Relaxation,” “Good Quality Sleep is Essential to Your Health,  and “Social Connectedness Improves Health and Well-Being.” The articles offer advice and tips for everyone – encouraging us to eat better, get moving, manage our stress, sleep well, and connect with others. Read the blog Self-Care Series: An Overview and click on the articles to read more on this important topic. 
  • Peer advisor Amy Bovaird shared her excitement when she was hired in the bakery of her local grocery store. She soon discovered working with baked goods was not as sweet as she hoped. Laugh and learn how Amy and the store work together to find a solution that works in Bungles in the Bakery: a Look Back as a Low Vision Clerk
  • Articles and blogs made up most of the content on APH VisionAware this year, but webinars also offered useful information to our audience. Watch recordings of Getting More Contrast Out of Life: Applying Contrast to Everyday Routines, Basics of Bioptics and Bioptic Driving, and learn about Emerging Therapies for Retinal Diseases

Remembering Alan Lovell 

Alan Lovell and his dog, Layla
Alan Lovell and his dog, Layla.

Legally blind since birth, 49-year-old Alan Lovell worked at APH for nearly 28 years, starting at age 21. He worked in Product Sales, Customer Service, and Technical Support. The knowledge base he acquired personally and professionally led him to be the Information and Referral Services Coordinator at the APH ConnectCenter. He recently shared, “The most rewarding aspect of my job is when I’m able to impart a bit of that technical information about a product or a service to a person who may be new to blindness, as well as some practical or technical wisdom that may make someone feel a bit less dependent in their daily lives.” 

Alan certainly did just that. His commitment to excellence in providing support, a listening ear, and relevant resources—with heart and humor—will be missed more than we can express. Alan has a remarkable legacy we will continue to uphold. 

Continuing the Legacy 

We look forward to continuing to support you in 2024 and beyond. It is an honor and great pleasure to provide resources, services, and information that equip you to set goals, take measured risks, and live life to the fullest when blind or low vision. 

High school and college students, are you interested in joining us on our mission? Consider becoming a part of the APH CareerConnect Student Advisory Committee to develop leadership skills while contributing to blogs, webinars, and more. Learn more and apply today. 

If you’re looking for resources and services related to blindness or low vision, contact our trained staff at the APH ConnectCenter Information and Referral Line by calling 800-232-5463 or emailing [email protected]. Additionally, take full advantage of our APH ConnectCenter and Be My Eyes Partnership, another highlight of 2023, by contacting us through the Be My Eyes app. 

Lastly, visit the ConnectCalendar to be informed about upcoming events as well as to promote your event and share it with the community. 

Happiest New Year to you and yours.