Austin Lighthouse Celebrates Disability Employment Awareness with New Accessible Certification Testing Center, White Cane Day March

Austin Lighthouse celebrates the grand opening of the Certification Testing Center with a ribbon-cutting. L-R: Al Perales, Vice President of Business Innovation; Marjorie Thibodaux, Google Program Manager; Leif Hemstad, Microsoft Consulting Practice Leader; Vanessa Fuentes, District 2 Council Member; Jim Meehan, President & CEO; Bobbi Dangerfield, Board of Directors Chairwoman; Ed Serna, Texas Workforce Commission Executive Director; and Ryan Ulwelling, Pearson Vue Vice President of Global Channels.

AUSTIN, TX — The Certification Testing Center, sponsored by Microsoft, is officially open at Travis Association for the Blind – the Austin Lighthouse. It’s the only authorized Pearson VUE test center in the area dedicated to providing an accessible experience to blind and visually impaired professionals.

More than 80 guests from across the country attended the grand opening ceremony, including representatives from tech giants Microsoft and Google and local and state leaders. During the event, guests took a peek at the newly launched SHOPAUSTIN.ORG e-commerce site and toured the southeast Austin Lighthouse headquarters.

Marjorie Thibodaux, a program manager with Google, and Microsoft’s Leif Hemstad were guest speakers at the ceremony. Both were instrumental in the development process of the center.

Attendees explored the testing room where those seeking certifications in IT and credentialed programs can take exams with JAWS screenreading or ZoomText magnification software.

Certification Testing Center, sponsored by Microsoft

“The Austin Lighthouse is the only non-Pearson-owned testing center with JAWS permanently installed,” said Pearson VUE Vice President of Global Channels Ryan Ulwelling. Pearson VUE is the world’s leading education and computer-based testing program.

Angelic Hall, Senior Manager of Training & Employment Services at the Lighthouse, will serve as a certified proctor for the exams. She has over 27 years of experience serving the disability community and is certified in American Sign Language. Orientation & Mobility Specialist Jason Bushland will also serve as a proctor.

Hall also lent a hand in Austin’s 20th Anniversary White Cane Day celebration, another event falling during National Disability Employment Awareness Month. She and the Lighthouse WCD committee, in partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission, led the Travis Association for the Blind White Cane Day March in Downtown Austin.

“It’s a day I get to help support and educate the world that the blind and visually impaired can integrate into society, except in a different way,” Hall said. “The march acknowledges their many accomplishments and contributions to Austin.”

Lighthouse employees, their families, and the community marched the 12-block route from Austin City Hall to the Texas State Capital. Afterward, the marchers boarded buses provided by Austin’s Metro Access to attend the White Cane Day Celebration hosted by Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Jim Meehan, President & CEO of the Lighthouse, was a guest speaker at the event.

Marchers gathered at Austin City Hall for the Travis Association for the Blind White Cane Day March

Community involvement and disability awareness are huge focuses for the Lighthouse. The lobby of the Lighthouse’s main building showcases art created by artists with disabilities from ArtSpark, Texas. The large cafeteria is also used to host events, such as Foundation Fighting Blindness seminars, the Deafblind Camp of Texas annual holiday party, and a Health Alliance for Austin Musician’s HAAM Day musical showcase.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month was established in 1988 by the U.S. Congress to raise awareness of the needs and contributions of people with disabilities.