American Association of the Deaf-Blind

A New Beginning


Brief on Support Service Providers (SSPs)

Last Update:
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Deaf-blind indiviudal and SSP

An deaf-blind individual

The American Association of the Deaf-Blind seeks your support in recognizing support service providers (SSPs) as a needed service for deaf-blind people nationwide.


Many deaf-blind people face challenges in all aspects of their lives. Simple tasks such as shopping, maintaining a home, voting, and getting an education can be difficult for someone who cannot see and hear well. One way for deaf-blind people to overcome these barriers is through the assistance of trained people called support service providers (SSPs). Deaf-blind members of the American Association of the Deaf-Blind, a national organization of, by and for people with combined vision and hearing loss, have voted that support service providers are the greatest need for them.

What are SSPs?

SSPs relay visual and environmental information, act as sighted guides and facilitate communication for people who are deaf-blind, using the deaf-blind person's preferred language and communication mode. SSPs enable deaf-blind persons to access their communities and connect with other people, reducing communication barriers that otherwise would result in social isolation, incapability to live independently, and inability to participate as citizens within mainstream society.

SSPs are not interpreters. They can provide communication assistance for short exchanges, but not for more complex situations. For example, an SSP can help a deaf-blind person fill out an insurance form at a doctor's office, but a sign language interpreter would be needed during the actual medical examination.

How many deaf-blind people are in the United States?

Exact statistics are not available. The most recent study, from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University, estimates approximately 1.2 million people who have combined vision and hearing loss.

Need for SSPs

Approximately 18 states and cities around the country provide some level of SSP services, either statewide or locally. Other states do not have any SSP programs at all. Several SSP programs are experiencing a decrease in their funding or have had their funding cut entirely. Clearly, there are not enough SSP programs to meet the needs of deaf-blind people around the country.


  • American Association of the Deaf-Blind
    8630 Fenton Street, Suite 121
    Silver Spring, MD 20910
  • Voice: 301-495-4403
  • TTY: 301-495-4402
  • VideoPhone: 301 563 9107
  • Email:

Reduce the Isolation

Enable Support Service Providers (SSPs) to be the eyes and ears of deaf-blind people.

For more information, please visit our SSP page or contact the AADB Office.