Tessa McCarthy
Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor
Department of Teaching, Learning, and Leading

Dr. Tessa McCarthy is an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh affiliated with the Vision Studies Program. Dr. McCarthy is both a teacher of students with visual impairments and a certified orientation and mobility specialist. Dr. McCarthy’s scholarship revolves around finding way to improve educational practices for students who are blind and visually impaired. Dr. McCarthy is particularly focused on developing teaching strategies and curricula that enhance the mechanical abilities of children who are just beginning to learn to read braille.

Dr. McCarthy earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in Secondary English Education and French. She went on to pursue a master’s degree in Special Education at the University of Louisville. Dr. McCarthy’s doctoral degree is from Vanderbilt University. Previously, Dr. McCarthy coordinated the Vision Studies Programs at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln and North Carolina Central University.

Instructional Interests

  • Orientation and mobility
  • Methods for working with individuals who are visually impaired
  • Single subject research design

Scholarly Interests

  • Braille
  • Orientation and Mobility for individuals who are Visually Impaired
  • Single Subject Methods
  • Statistical Strategies for Low Incidence Populations

Selected Grants

  • McCarthy, T., Kulzer, J., Schein, M., Beck, K., & Dietz, L. J. (2019-2025). Project Certified Rehabilitation counselors and Educators Supporting Transition Success (CRESTS). Office of Special Education Projects, US Department of Education ($1,180,874). Principal Investigator.

  • McCarthy, T., & Kostewicz, D. E. (2017-2022). Project Certified Orientation and mobility/Behavior specialists (COMBS). Office of Special Education Projects, US Department of Education ($1,112,509). Principal Investigator.

  • McCarthy, T. (2017-2019). A Detailed Assessment of Hand Movement Patterns and Characteristics Related to Braille Reading. University of Pittsburgh, Central Development Research Fund ($12,000). Principal Investigator.

  • National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities. (August 2016 – July 2020). Office of Special Education Programs. $274,483.

  • Equipped for the Future: Transforming Education of Students with Visual Impairments Through Technology and Personnel Preparation. (PI from January 2014 through September 2016). Office of Special Education Programs. $1,165,580.

Featured Publications

  • Kamei-Hannan, C., McCarthy, T., D’Andrea, F. M., & Holbrook, M. C. (2020). Investigating the efficacy of Reading Adventure Time! for improving reading skills. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 114(2), 88-100. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482X20913128

  • Smith, M., Chambers, S., Campbell, A., Pierce, T., McCarthy, T., & Kostewicz, D. (2020). Use of routine-based instruction to develop object perception skills with students who have visual impairments and severe intellectual disabilities: Two case studies. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 114(2), 110-113. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482X20910826

  • Holbrook, M.C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (2017). Foundations of education: Volume I history and theory of teaching children and youths with visual impairments. New York, NY: American Foundation for the Blind Press.

  • McCarthy, T., Rosenblum, P. L., Johnson, B. G., Dittel, J., & Kearns, D. M. (2016). The artificial intelligence tutor: A supplementary tool for teaching and practicing braille. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 110, 309-322.

  • Wall Emerson, R., & McCarthy, T. (2014). Orientation and mobility for students with visual impairments: Priorities for research. International Review of Research in Developmental Disabilities, 46, 253-280.

Awards and Honors

  • Alan J. Koenig Research in Literacy Award 2019

  • Outstanding Contributions to the Low Vision Rehabilitation Division of AER; Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired 2014

  • University of Nebraska—Lincoln; College of Education and Human Sciences Scholarly Enhancement Award 2011-2012

  • Outstanding Dissertation of the Year; Council of Exceptional Children, Division of Visual Impairments 2011

  • Outstanding Reviewer for AER Journal 2008-2010

Engagement, Partnerships, and Professional Service

  • Council for Exceptional Children

  • Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired

  • Braille Authority of North America
Tessa McCarthy


University of Pittsburgh
5128 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

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