Champlain Student Serves
on State Council for the Disabled
students dream about making a difference
in the world after graduating from college.
For Heidi Viens ’08,
a visually impaired student at Champlain
College, that dream has already come true.
In fact, Viens recently completed her first
full year of service with Vermont’s
State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) for the
Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired
(DBVI), an advocacy group within the Agency
of Human Services. Viens, a Business major
from Essex, Vermont, was named to the council
in September 2006 -- a prestigious appointment
recognizing her ability to inform disability
All SRC members have
either a disability or a close connection
to the state’s disabled community.
Their primary roles involve conducting research
in Vermont communities to provide legislators
with recommendations for improving opportunities
and conditions for the state’s disabled
residents. “We have insight that lawmakers
don’t,” Viens says.
The council’s most
recent initiatives focused on three areas:
employment, technology, and transition.
Viens has been working on a team of four
individuals responsible for exploring transition
-- specifically, how the State helps disabled
young people transition into independent,
self-sufficient lives in their communities.
“Thirty percent of blind adults work,”
Viens notes. “[So] our first recommendation
was that the transition needs to start younger
and younger with disabled children in schools.
They need to learn to transition into the
real world before they turn 16.
“Our second recommendation
was that all schools, whether big or small,
should have uniform funding and resources,”
she adds. “Schools in the Northeast
Kingdom should have just as many resources
as those in Essex or Burlington.”
Viens’s views and
dedication have made her a valued member
of the DBVI team. “Heidi is very bright
and very determined,” says Scott Langley,
assistant director for the DBVI. “She
is very willing to take on challenges and
has come a long way. I knew her when her
impairment was new to her, and she was very
willing to try new things in the community.”
In addition to fulfilling
her responsibilities to the SRC, in her
final year at Champlain, Viens is completing
a self-designed internship that involves
a study of Champlain’s accessibility
to visually impaired members of the campus
community. She’s investigating accessibility
of information, the physical campus environment,
and technology available to the visually
impaired. She’s also examining faculty
members’ protocols and standards for
visually impaired students in their classes.
Her final report will be reviewed by the
College administration for areas in which
Champlain might better serve visually impaired
students, faculty, and staff members.
While Viens’s findings
have not yet been compiled, her diligence
in the effort -- as an SRC member and as
a Champlain student -- have come to distinguish
her to teachers, such as Professor Jim Whitney,
program director of the Business major.
“Heidi is a highly motivated individual,
and her name was forwarded to the governor
because those who know Heidi believe in
her ability to deliver,” he says.
“Her strength of personality already
has people within the commission talking
about her future leadership potential.”
DBVI Director Fred Jones concurs: “Heidi
is very positive,” he says. “She
has lots of energy and good ideas and she
is a good team player. … She is a
role model to her peers, and that is what
we are looking for.”
Viens takes leadership
opportunities seriously and feels confident
that she’s up for the tasks before
her. “I earned my membership on the
SRC not because I was in college,”
she says, “but because of who I am
as a person.”