AER Strategic Plan 2023-2026
Executive Summary 

Established in 1984, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) is the unifying voice of specialized education and rehabilitation professionals, yielding the highest quality services to people who are blind or who have low vision. The passion of our members is our greatest strength. AER’s comparative advantage is its ability to foster collegial connections – in the field and on the front lines of service – to support, inform, and empower professionals to do the work.  

In 2023, the AER Board of Directors and senior leadership identified a bold, ten-year vision for the association:

Professionals serving people who are blind or who have low vision are one community and speak together, powerfully, with one voice around issues of critical importance to the profession and its ability to provide consistently high-quality services across the lifespan.

This vision grew out of shared recognition that the role of AER is to amplify the voices of our members promoting the systemic changes most important to them and those they serve. The work of AER is to convene and hear the diverse perspectives of the membership, build meaningful consensus around the highest priority opportunities for the membership, and provide support, inspiration, and leadership throughout the change process.

AER’s primary challenge and, perhaps, its greatest opportunity is the lack of a singular identity of vision professionals across specialties and across geographic areas. The community engagement activities undertaken ahead of the strategic planning exercise identified a number of significant concerns of our members, many of them having roots in this challenge of finding unity and, through it, greater visibility for the professions. Primary among these concerns is the personnel shortage which is negatively impacted by lack of visibility of the professions and lack of recognition of the importance of the specialized knowledge and skills these professionals bring to the work, signaled by the lack of reimbursement of services under Medicare. Waiting lists for services for older adults and unfilled positions for teachers in school districts will not get better without changes that address the visibility and recognition of the professions to which AER members belong and the value of the specialized skills and knowledge they bring to their work.

The AER strategic plan consequently places heavy emphasis on developing consensus around necessary systems change efforts to address the personnel shortage and related challenges. We will concentrate our effort and other resources on meaningfully engaging the members of AER around this critical opportunity.

The plan also recognizes that AER’s greater strength and visibility comes from robust membership growth and lively engagement at all levels of the organization. We have developed several strategies to better communicate the value of membership and connect existing and potential members to the services they want and need from AER. The plan commits us to building bridges and forming partnerships with our “sister” organizations to form a stronger community of organizations with whom we share core interests and values and can collaborate to pursue those shared interests.

Finally, the plan recognizes that our sustainability comes from cultivating a wide range of connections, collaboration, and substantial, diverse streams of revenue to support our efforts to carry out our mission and realize our vision. We need a stronger, broader base of support to sustain AER. We also need to engage with more people with diverse knowledge, experience, and perspectives – people with a reason to care about our mission and the ability to help us identify and seize new opportunities, make beneficial connections, and attract new resources. Strategies we intend to pursue include forming a board of advisors to supplement the leadership of AER with new perspectives and beneficial connections, building a fundraising infrastructure for AER on the board and staff, creating and executing a comprehensive development plan, and generating plans to explore and pursue several alternate streams of revenue.  

AER volunteer and staff leaders are dedicated to investing the knowledge, creativity, and resources to pursue the promising opportunities detailed in the AER 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, learning from these experiences, adjusting course as needed, and doing all that we can to address the needs of our community. Together, we believe our efforts over the coming three years and beyond will enable us to realize our vision of one professional community speaking together, powerfully, with one voice around issues of critical importance to the profession and its ability to provide consistently high-quality services across the lifespan.

Click here to read the Strategic Plan