After studying at Perkins School for the Blind in the early 1980s, Graciela Ferioli became the first teacher from Argentina to specialize in deafblind education.
Ferioli has since dedicated her career to helping Perkins International improve education programs for children with visual impairment across Latin America.
On March 3, Ferioli was honored with the Anne Sullivan Macy Medal – Perkins’ most prestigious award – for her many years of service to the deafblind community.
At an award ceremony on Perkins’ campus, Gloria Rodriguez-Gil, Perkins International’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, lauded Ferioli for her “unbreakable dedication.”
“Graciela, you planted the seed for the birth of new programs and oversaw their growth and maturity,” said Rodriguez-Gil. “You mentored hundreds of professionals and parents. You brought light and hope where there was despair and isolation.”
Ferioli, who plans to retire this summer, started her career as a special educator in 1981. She is a 1984 graduate of Perkins’ Teacher Training Program – the predecessor to Perkins International’s flagship Educational Leadership Program.
“Perkins will always be in my heart,” said Ferioli. “Our work has had a great impact on the kids and their families, and that makes me very happy.”
Ferioli said she was taught a lasting lesson by former Perkins International director Michael Collins, who died in 2008: “Whenever you have to make an important decision, just think about the children and their families first.”
“I have a picture of Mike in my office,” said Ferioli. “He still inspires me to do my best and to remain focused on the children, their families and our programs.”
Since 1990, Ferioli has worked as Perkins International’s regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. In that time she has overseen unprecedented improvements in the quantity and quality of special education programs in the region.
“Graciela’s career has been dedicated to the education of children who are deafblind or visually impaired with multiple disabilities,” said Perkins International Executive Director Michael Delaney. “This approach propelled her into her life mission: creating awareness and sharing knowledge and skills with parents, professionals, NGOs, universities and governments throughout Latin America.”
The Anne Sullivan Macy Medal has been awarded since 1966 by Perkins to individuals and groups around the world who work to break down barriers facing people who are deafblind.
Ferioli joins an impressive group of past medal-winners that includes former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, first lady Barbara Bush and U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Ferioli’s Perkins International colleagues Steve Perreault and Marianne Riggio have also recently received the award.