March 23, 2021 – Cyral Miller Recieves the Deafblind International Lifetime Achievement Award

Cyral Miller, 2021 Recipient of the Deafblind International LIfetime Achievement Award

LIfetime Achievement Award recipient for 2021, Cyral Miller.
LIfetime Achievement Award recipient for 2021, Cyral Miller.

Cyral Miller currently works as an Outreach Consultant and previously served for 28 years as Director of Outreach Programs at TSBVI, which includes the Texas Deafblind Project. Cyral is a certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments and was a TVI in both San Antonio and Austin public schools. She has a Master’s of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. She is the chair of the statewide Alliance of and for Texans with Visual Impairments, and a long-standing member of Texas AER.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is made to an individual or individuals who have made a distinguished contribution to services for people who are deafblind on a national and international level. Distinguished contributions could be in the area of: publications, research, development of new techniques or procedures, practical application of teaching techniques, training staff and parents, advocacy; and dynamic leadership. 

DbI Lifetime Achievement award winners:

Barbara Mason
Pilar Gomez
EvaBritt Andreassen
Dorte Schultz Nielsen
2015Cristiana Salomi
2014Joseph Morrisey
2013David Brown
2011Mari Saetre
2009Inger Rodbroe
2008Mike Collins
2007Norman Brown
2003Peggy Freeman


From Vivecca Hartman, Parent and Co-founder of Touch Base Center for Deafblind, Spring Branch, TX

I am the current President of The Deaf-Blind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (“DBMAT”) which is a Texas state wide family and professional support organization to help improve the lives of individuals that are deafblind and those who work with them. We have worked side by side with the Texas Deafblind Outreach team and Cyral for many years. For me, it has been over 20 years that I have been involved and have always respected Cyral for her leadership in the deafblind community. She has been a great role model for me as a leader too. I have learned from her guidance that it is good and okay to be involved with multiple groups. It helps us all be stronger as a result of our threaded interrelationships. This is not always easy for everyone in an organization to see. However, when you have observed the results of the leadership and foundation of collaboration that Cyral has laid you can see the results of the benefits over time and time again. DBMAT is fortunate to have this partnership with the Texas Deafblind Outreach team, as it helps us feel strong and empowers us with the resources we need to support families in both Texas, as well as across the nation and internationally, whenever the opportunities arise.

Also as a mother of an adult young man that is deafblind, I could be a bystander dealing with the results of system changes, yet through training and encouragement of the Deafblind Outreach Team under Cryal’s leadership and encouragement, I have felt empowered to be involved in the systems change, where possible, by being present and participating. Cyral has always had a passion and view that the Texas Deafblind Project had leadership and system- change responsibilities on both a state and national levels. Cyral has shared this passion with the Project staff and established parent trainings during her leadership to encourage parent involvement as well. We have carried this forward with our family support organizations to advocate for improved laws and services for individuals who are deafblind in Texas. Cyral has even joined us, in her retirement, to advocate at the state capital to do the same.

From Kate Moss Hurst, TSBVI Outreach Consultant, Austin, TX

No doubt Cyral would protest that she isn’t the most knowledgeable person about deafblind education and not worthy of this award. I would differ with her. Her training was as a teacher of students with visual impairments and there are some things, I admit, that she doesn’t know about hearing loss. However, Cyral was instrumental in leading the Texas Deafblind Project, taking a group of people that hosted workshops and helping to transform them into a group of professionals that have made significant contributions to the field of deafblind education. Cyral joined Outreach in 1990 as our first Outreach Director. Until that time we lacked a clear direction and had only vague ideas about what we needed to do to provide technical assistance. Although staff on the Deafblind Project has only grown by one or two individuals, the amount and quality of our work has grown exponentially with her guidance and support.  

Cyral has served on many state and national task forces, advisory committees, and work groups. She is well-respected by her colleagues who recognize her passion and commitment to improving educational practices for children, including individuals who are deafblind. Though she has theoretically retired, Cyral continues to play an active role in the fields of visual impairments and deafblind education.

Cyral’s greatest gift is trusting others to know what they are passionate about and letting them use that passion to enhance the services they provide as part of Outreach. Cyral provided incredible leadership to the team and the state as we worked to build a stronger system of support to students who are deafblind, their families and the educators who serve them. She supported staff with the gift of time to pursue their interests in the various aspects of deafblind education, knowing it would lead to more and better services. A great advisor and mediator, Cyral is extremely talented in bringing people together to advocate for change.

From Elaine Robertson, Instructional Officer for Deaf Education, Katy, TX

I met Cyral Miller for the first time when my school district agreed to be a part of the Deafblind Pilot Program in 2011. One of the qualities that I was most impressed with was Cyral’s visibility. As the Outreach Director, she attended many of the meetings and trainings to show her support of what would be a very impactful project. I noticed immediately, her ability to facilitate difficult discussions, her patience with staff who had limited knowledge, and her depth of knowledge that she shared every time she spoke to the participants. I remember specifically a time when I approached Cyral and shared that as an administrator, I wanted to support my team but felt like I had limited knowledge. At that point, she was encouraging and made me feel like I had everything I needed to be influential and supportive. Cyral has a way of making everyone in the room feel competent and appreciated. It is truly a gift. Little did she know that she would impact my career in such a positive way.

Cyral has served as an Outreach Director for TSBVI for 28 years. I accessed Outreach services as a Teacher for the Deaf serving students with deafblindness and later as an Administrator for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as well and the Visually Impaired. Over the years, I noticed the commitment that the Outreach team had to be collaborative with the public schools. Due to Cyral’s strengths in leadership and her vision, she instigated the use of collaborative teams to enable the public school systems to leverage the expertise of TSBVI and together create a plan for students who are deafblind to succeed. This partnership was contagious and attracted more public school personnel to join with TSBVI and improve their services to students with deafblindness. As a result, a second pilot was developed and additional school districts would now have access to training and support from TSBVI.

Cyral has developed strong relationships with the public schools throughout the state. Her gift of collaboration and visionary leadership is why these services continue to have such a great impact throughout the state of Texas. When Cyral reaches out, it is hard to say, “no.” She has a way of presenting information and drawing people in to be a part of this very special community. Cyral’s accomplishments and positive influence in the field of deafblind education has strongly contributed to TSBVI’s positive reputation throughout the state of Texas and internationally. Her involvement at TSBVI, throughout the country as well as internationally is what makes her very deserving of the Deafblind International Lifetime Achievement Award!

From Maurice Belote, Director, California Deafblind Services, San Francisco, CA

I have served as the Project Coordinator of California Deafblind Services, the federally funded statewide technical assistance and training project, for the past 24 years, and as Co-Chair of the National Coalition on Deafblindness, the national organization advocating on behalf of deafblind children, for the past six years. In countless situations over the years, I have turned to Cyral for advice, facts, guidance, and encouragement. In every instance, she has provided wise counsel and shared her extraordinary knowledge while always maintaining her naturally gracious and supportive style.

There are certain individuals in our field that hold special significance for me. As we all do, I receive invitations to contribute to projects and initiatives, and to serve on committees and writing groups. One of the first questions I ask when receiving these requests is, “Who else has agreed to participate?” For many years, there have been a few individuals who, if involved, will spur me to an immediate and enthusiastic, “Yes.” Cyral is at the top of that list of colleagues. She has always demonstrated such integrity and professional clarity that I know if she has agreed to participate, then it will be worth everyone else’s time and energy to contribute.

It is my firm belief that there is no one as deserving of this honor. Cyral has, for decades, generously given of her time and expertise to support the work of our deafblind network and everyone who has benefitted from the vibrancy of that network is in her debt. 

From Sam Morgan, Project Director, National Center on Deafblindness

Cyral Miller is an ideal model of positive leadership in the field of deaf-blindness. As a field we have frequently looked at and held up those who have focused their work on a specific practice or set of practices that benefit individual’s who are deaf-blind. These people and practices clearing have value and are critically important in furthering our collective work with individuals who are deaf-blind but the role of leadership is what makes much of this work possible.

Cyral has provided leadership that built a strong and vibrant outreach center at the Texas School for the Blind which created an environment where a group of dedicated professionals could thrive. Under her leadership the staff of the outreach center have made a significant and lasting impact on our field as a collaborative group of professionals. The work has taken a number of forms most notably to me the creation of useful functional products that helped professionals and families use practices in school and home to improve programs and the lives of students who are deaf-blind. The other area is significant grassroots development and change that has resulted in many meaningful developments in Texas that serve as a national model. These include parent leadership and family based organizations, regional training models to improve practice, and recognition of teacher of the deaf-blind at the state level to name a few.

While some may not see this type of leadership as exciting there really is nothing more important. Cyral has supported and quietly built more meaningful change than almost anyone else in our field by supporting professionals and families to do good work. Personally Cyral has been a role model for me in quiet determined leadership focused on grassroots change and strong collaboration. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.

From Peggy Malloy, Information Services and technology Coordinator, National Center on Deaf-Blindness

As a librarian and product developer for many years, I can speak to Cyral’s contribution to information in the field. She did this in a number of ways. First, by crating and supporting Texas Deafblind Project staff in the creation of materials related to the education of children who are deaf-blind that are of suc high-quality and usefulness that they are relevant to practitioners and families far beyond Texas.

Second, by ensuring that all of that knowledge could be widely accessed via books, a comprehensive website, and training events, including many online training events and videos. In a field where experts are few and far between and financial resources are limited, the value of this is priceless. While individual authorship is important, and Cyral has done plenty of that, I think her biggest impact has been in supporting the efforts of others and making the Texas Deafblind Project a leader of information about deaf-blindness throughout the world.

Third, she has served as an advisor – and not just a sit-on-a-committee type of advisor – but one who puts genuine time and effort into helping other organizations improve what they do. I had extensive first-hand experience of this when I worked for DB_LINK: The National Information Clearinghouse for Children who are Deaf-Blind. In all of the many, many times we asked for her help and assistance, she never said no. She was always someone we knew we could turn to for good advice and was instrumental in helping us become a better project, better ab le to provide information to educators and families in the U.S., and via our website, internationally.

I think Cyral is a very humble person and while she is well-known for her own knowledge and expertise, what I’ve tried to get across in this letter that it’s her leadership and generosity in helping others contribute to the knowledge of the field of deaf-blindness that I think has the most lasting impact and makes her a perfect recipient of the Deafblind International Lifetime Achievement Award.