Students with Usher Syndrome at Gallaudet University are now able to benefit from a scholarship fund established in 2015 in honor of Linda Annala, ’70, an influential leader in the deaf-blind community. The fund’s first award period will begin in fall 2017.

Having graduated from Gallaudet with a bachelor’s in psychology, Linda became a teacher at the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD). In 1974, during her tenure at ISD, Linda was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome. Nevertheless, she completed her Master’s in Education at Western Maryland College (Westminster) two years later.

Linda responded to her diagnosis with passion and enthusiasm, taking it upon herself to establish support groups, present workshops, participate in professional conventions, and ensure numerous resources available for deaf-blind people. She became actively involved in the Association of the Deaf-Blind, including as a board member.

In 1980, Linda became the founder and first president of the Louisiana Acadiana Deaf-Blind Citizens. The same year, she became coordinator of the Louisiana Association of the Deaf ‘s Program for Deaf-Visually Impaired. When the program was taken over by the Louisiana State Department of Education, Linda became project coordinator and worked to liaise with organizations, including the Helen Keller National Center, to provide comprehensive services to deaf-blind Louisiana citizens. In 1982, she was elected chairperson of the Deaf-Blind Section of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association.

Linda passed away in 2007. However, her memory continues to inspire the deaf-blind community. Her legacy lives on through the Linda Annala Scholarship, established to help students with Usher’s Syndrome complete their education at Gallaudet.

This scholarship award was created by her cousins, who wanted to honor Linda’s achievements as a leader in the deaf-blind community.

“Linda was a tireless worker for the rights of the deaf and deaf-blind.” said Barbara Cortina, a cousin of Linda. “She would be delighted to know her estate will provide financial assistance to deaf-blind students, and that her life will serve as an inspiration to those individuals with the same loss of hearing and vision that she experienced.”

Recipients for this scholarship award must be female, have a GPA of 2.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale, be enrolled part-time or full-time as an undergraduate or graduate student, must demonstrate financial need, have Usher’s Syndrome, be registered with the Office of Students With Disabilities (OSWD), and be an active participant of the OSWD (defined as three contacts per semester with the OSWD officials). The OSWD director will coordinate with the Financial Aid office in making the awards when considering both unmet need and student debt. The scholarship may be used towards tuition, academic fees, and room and/or board.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Cortina.

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