DeafBlind Central Staff

People who are DeafBlind have unique needs and we are here to help! Meet our staff.


Beth Kennedy, Ph.D. is the director of DeafBlind Central: Michigan's Training & Resource Project and the director and instructor for the online Deafblind Intervener Training Program offered online through Central Michigan University. She has worked in the field of deafblindness since 1991, having held positions at Perkins School for the Blind and the Florida DeafBlind project prior to returning to Michigan, her home state.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and her Master of Education degree in Special Education, with a specialization in deafblindness, from Boston College. Beth led teams to develop four of the Open Hands Open Access (OHOA) training modules available on the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB). She completed the Educational Leadership Ph.D. Program at Central Michigan University, studying the process of how interveners learn to support students who are deafblind in school settings for her dissertation.
Email Beth Kennedy


Julie Unatin, MA graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in Special Education-Visual Impairment and received her  Master’s from Western Michigan University in Orientation and Mobility for the Blind. She began her career at a multi-disciplinary low vision center working with patients experiencing vision loss and then moved to Oakland Schools where she has just finished her 30th year as a TVI and COMS with Oakland Schools. In 2020, Julie completed her second Master’s degree in teaching students who are DeafBlind from Texas Tech University. Julie has presented nationally on braille literacy and most recently has presented on the impact of dual sensory loss, including strategies to enhance learning and best practice. Julie conducts functional vision evaluations on students birth-26, including assessment and considerations for DeafBlind students. She has a direct caseload of students whom she consults with, including some who need braille instruction. She spends a tremendous amount of time integrating instruction for students who are DeafBlind in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program in Oakland County. Julie works daily with interveners who have their National Intervener Credential and promotes collaboration with teams to ensure access, understanding, and literacy for each student. She enjoys mentoring new staff. In addition to her work for Oakland Schools, Julie works as an as-needed consultant for DB Central.
Email Julie Unatin

Kelly Merrifield is the mother of a pre-teen child with CHARGE Syndrome. Her daughter was born with hearing loss, vision loss, swallowing difficulties, heart defect, neurological issues, and many other medical challenges. Her daughter was in the NICU for 6 months and has had several surgeries. Her daughter has a BAHA implanted hearing aid communicates using American Sign Language (ASL). Having a child who is deafblind brings many challenges and Kelly has a passion to help families who are new to this journey. Because of her passion to help families, Kelly became a parent guide for Michigan Hands & Voices and began working as a Family Consultant for DB Central. Kelly has done presentations on her lived-experience as a parent of a child with multiple disabilities that cover infancy to current day struggles and triumphs. Kelly looks forward to meeting with families and making family to family connections, so that people can learn form one another and work together to improve the lives of their children.
Email Kelly Merrifield

Graduate assistant

Graduate assistant Samantha Klunejko, B.S. is a third-year Ph.D. student in Central Michigan University’s School Psychology Program. She earned her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Neuroscience and Psychology at Central Michigan University in 2019. Her graduate research is focused on examining interventions for students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and understanding the impacts of technology/social media use on youth. Samantha has experience conducting assessments and interventions with youth and families in school-based, recreational, and clinical settings. She has assisted in previous DB Central efforts such as Story Time and looks forwards to providing further support to the DB Central community.
Email Samantha Klunejko

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