Seventeen-year-old Brian Meersma embodies the characteristics of a leader. From the time he was diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade, Brian embraced his learning disability (LD) with strength and courage. First he learned how to use assistive technology, and then he explored many resources to help him read and write better.
Today, he dedicates much of his free time to helping others with similar learning challenges. And for his advocacy, Brian just received the 2013 Yes I Can! Award from the Council for Exceptional Children. CEC President Christy A. Chambers said, “Brian deserves this award for his perseverance and hard work!”
CEC is an international membership organization of special education professionals who work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for individuals with exceptionalities and their families. Each year, CEC recognizes the accomplishments of 21 students in seven categories. Brian’s award is #5 on this list:
- School and Community Activities
About Brian’s Advocacy
At age 11, Brian won a New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award. He was issued a proclamation by his town, West Windsor, and received a personal letter from President Clinton, who expressed admiration for Brian’s involvement in his community. Brian has witnessed the introduction of six bills to the NJ State Assembly pertaining to how dyslexia is addressed in public schools. With members of the Decoding Dyslexia NJ group, he made five trips to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to seek support for educational issues. He wanted to encourage more participation in the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, and eight of the ten congressmen joined the Dyslexia Caucus.
Brian often demonstrates how to read digital accessible books using assistive technologies and portable apps. He likes Bookshare’s Read2Go app and uses it on his iPhone so people can hear the quality of text-to-speech and see word highlighting. Brian believes that more assistive technologies should be readily available in schools for kids with LD. He often says, “Technologies can help to level the playing field for students with disabilities.”
For several years, Brian has presented at national and local conferences on the benefits of assistive technologies. He writes a popular AT blog that provides information, tips, homespun videos, and commercially made training videos from AT vendors. Last year, Online College Courses named Brian’s blog one of the top blogs for parents of students in special education.
In 2011, he became the first student advisor to join Bookshare’s National Advisory Board. In this capacity, he shares his perspective as a student with dyslexia and a consumer of assistive technologies. He beta tests new products and provides commentary for articles that reflect his learning challenges.
You can read Brian’s Bookshare blog about the benefits of assistive technology. What’s next? Brian just received all A’s in school and is now exploring four-year colleges.
The Bookshare staff congratulates Brian Meersma on this prestigious award and thanks him for his service and continued advocacy!
To learn more about CEC’s Yes I Can! program, visit http://www.cec.sped.org/yesican.