Our History

Visual Aid Volunteers, Inc. is a nonprofit organization, located in historic downtown Garland, Texas. VAV began in the fall of 1960 with a pilot project approved by the Garland School Board and Texas Education Agency. Volunteers, including parents of visually impaired children and motivated civic leaders, came to get to form Visual Aid Volunteers. The pilot program agreement established that this volunteer group would provide all braille materials for visually impaired students of Garland Independent School District. As a result of this initiative, GISD became the first school district in Texas to have blind and low-vision students attend public school with their sighted peers. VAV incorporated in 1962 and continues today providing quality braille materials to students all over Texas.

(1983) Visual Aid Volunteers honored

(1983) Visual Aid Volunteers honored

Michael Hayslip, new president of Visual Aid Volunteers, told the members at the annual meeting April 18 that a special honorary trustee position has been created for Steve Feldman, who has been a trustee on VA V’s board since VA V’s beginning 27 years ago.

(1977) Tools For Blind Explained

(1977) Tools For Blind Explained

SOME OF the newest equipment for use by blind persons was shown at Twentieth Century Study Club in a recent meeting in the home of Kathleen Hand. Doris Bozman, Becky Theis and Dorothy Ashenhurst were co-hostesses.

(1964) Visual Aid Unit Seeks to Add New Members

(1964) Visual Aid Unit Seeks to Add New Members

At a general meeting of the mernbers of the Visual Aid Volunteers held this week at the Williams Elementary school, a general disucssion was held on means of increasing the membership and securing more support for the organization.

(1962) Garland School Pioneers In Blind Student Project

(1962) Garland School Pioneers In Blind Student Project

The little boy in the front row squinted intently at the teacher through thick glasses. He could barely see. In the row next to him, a little girl did not look at the teacher at all. But she listened better than the others. She strained all her senses to learn.

Why Braille?

In our technologically advanced era, the question often arises: why is a code of dots in six cells, known as braille, still crucial for literacy? With readily available technology that can audibly read web pages, books, and phone screens, why would braille be necessary? These advances in technology depend on the user understanding how letters blend together to make words, and words create sentences, and sentences build paragraphs. So, while technology can read audibly, true literacy goes beyond mere comprehension of the sound of a word; it involves understanding the structure and composition of language. If a child only learns the meaning of words audibly, without grasping how letters are combined to form those words, they may not achieve full literacy. This limitation becomes apparent when a student struggles to articulate their own ideas in writing.

Remarkably, in the blind population of the USA in 2019, 90% of those employed were braille readers. Braille is a vital tool to fuller independence as it equips individuals with the ability to read, write, and express their thoughts effectively.

Meet Our Dedicated Staff

Rhesa Higgins, Executive Director

I joined the VAV team in 2023 with zero experience in braille but a heart for work that contributes to making the world a more just and accessible place. I come to VAV from the nonprofit world and am enjoying the opportunity to learn about the many ways VAV supports vulnerable populations. I am married with kids and enjoy beaches, coffee, a great book, dark chocolate and good baseball games.

Beverly North, Associate Director of Production

I have been a braille transcriber for 18 years and hold certifications in Literary braille with UEB as well as Nemeth and have experience in transcribing foreign languages. I’ve been an independent contractor as well as an employee of VAV, and love braille because it gave my life new meaning with a healthier direction allowing me to use my work to help others. My fur babies, Molly and Pikachu, love to watch me craft on the weekends—just as long as we are in the air conditioning!

Cindy Harris, Associate Director of Finance

My story with braille began in 2003 with classes at VAV that led to joining the staff in 2004. Currently, I hold certifications in Literary Braille with UEB, Technical Math (Canadian), and Braille Formats, and am beta testing the new course, UEB with Nemeth. Before braille, I provided words for hymns at church for the Deaf using American Sign Language. Today when I tell someone that I braille for the visually impaired, they say, “Oh, you do that thing with your hands!” Yes, I do! And I love it!

Robin Ramos, Transcriber and Tactile Graphic Specialist

Braille gives me the chance to continuously learn new things, which I love. The best place on earth is to be in the company of good friends, good family, and of course good food!

Amy Johnson, Transcriber

I love doing braille because I am paying it forward and it warms my heart to do something that makes a difference in this world. My work environment is encouraging and one that allows me to grow. I have a career in which I look forward to coming to work every day and it is quickly becoming my passion in life. I have been a braille transcriber for 5 years, certified by the Library of Congress in 2019 and completed the U.S. Department of Labor Graphic Artist apprenticeship program in 2022. My family is the center of my heart.

Meet Our Board of Directors

Suzanne DeFord,

Dana Cooper,
Vice President

Gary King,

Tammy Sidler,

Photo of Doris Dillon

Doris Dillon,

Joe Denton,

Julie Glover,