American Association of the Deaf-Blind

A New Beginning


Contacting Us

For more information about AADB, you can contact our office.

SSP Services Forum
The Deaf-Blind Thoughts

Last Update:
Thursday, March 11, 2010


These results summarize the responses of conference attendees who participated in the SSP Forum at the AADB conference in June 2006, in Baltimore, MD.

1. What is your definition of SSP?

Participants defined SSP as: Support Service Provider, Special support person.

Forum respondents said that SSPs provide visual and auditory information about a new environment. SSPs accompany deaf-blind people, provide access to and assist with communication; and help deaf-blind people to feel empowered and to know what's happening during meetings. SSPs allow deaf-blind people to think for themselves and make their own decisions.

SSPs guide deaf-blind people where they need to go: grocery shopping, emergency room, transportation; and other places. SSPs assist with reading mail; guiding at night; provide mobility in unfamiliar areas; assist with signing papers; help label clothes and canned goods; describe colors, and provide assistance at the airport.

2. Are you using or have SSPs now? If so, for what, and how long?

YES responses:

Participants varied in the number of hours they use SSPs, and how they use them. Some use SSPs for 20 hours a month for whatever they want. Others use SSPs for 10 to 15 hours a week for shopping, reading mail, running errands, labeling clothes or food, or going on important trips. Some deaf-blind people use SSPs for recreational activities, usually for a few hours a day, to go camping, visit the park, or for travel. One person only uses SSPs inside the home. Another uses 160 hours a month and uses five SSPs at a time. Others use family, friends, interpreting students, and neighbors. Sometimes deaf-blind people will pay SSPs for gas or buy them a meal, or they will pay SSPs a fee for their work, either on their own or through an agency.

Participants mentioned that some places have great SSP services: Canada, Minnesota, Utah, New York (Helen Keller National Center). One person from Utah is using five SSPs a month and has 160 hours of SSP services.

NO Responses:

People who do not have SSPs in their communities said they mostly relied on family or friends, or do tasks alone. Some participants said this was difficult because they sometimes couldn't get to meetings. They also said they didn't like depending on family or friends because family members could be biased and friends had limited time.

Some participants mentioned that a few states (South Carolina, Florida) had no SSPs. A few mentioned they had to adjust to living in a state without SSP services after living in a state with good SSP services, and they are trying to set up SSP services in their areas.

3. Why are SSPs important to you?

Participants said that SSPs are important because they help them to "see". They read all questions and give necessary information. SSPs also allows deaf-blind to take care of their business and have access to recreation, leisure activities, and social contacts.

SSPs help communicate with co-workers and boss; assists with communication through VRS, and assist with rides, meetings, workshops, and telephone calls. They can provide equal communication and access, and they let deaf-blind people know what is happening in the environment. Participants commented that more SSPs are needed for employment and employment advancement.

4. What are the top problems getting SSPs?


Participants agreed that standardized training programs are needed. Some SSPs are not experienced enough, not enough training is provided, and there are not enough qualified people. Friends, family members and volunteers may not understand the deaf-blind community or culture, and they may not be skilled in communication or guiding techniques.

Characteristics of good SSPs also need to be defined. Currently, many SSPs do not have a code of personal conduct, and don't understand deaf-blind culture and how to interact. Some SSPs are new and awkward; some don't take SSPing as a serious responsibility; others can be bossy and make decisions for delegates. Other SSPs start out eagerly but then lose interest. SSPs also need training on what to wear or what to do when doing SSP work, as clothing is sometimes not appropriate, or some SSPs smoke. Some participants said also SSPs should have intermediate sign language skills.

Participants also mentioned that they should also ask what an SSP is not. Differences between SSPs and interpreters need to be clarified, and AADB needs to develop a standard code of ethics for SSPs.

Lack of SSPs:

Many participants agreed that there are not enough SSPs in many areas, and a good way to get SSPs is not available. It is also hard to get enough SSPs in specific regions or during odd hours, like weekends. Organizations often can't find enough SSPs, so deaf-blind people find their own sometimes.

Even with paying SSPs, there are not enough SSPs because the number of SSPs seem to be shrinking.

Schools and VP/VRS use all the young, new interpreters and potential SSPs. Interpreter programs are not lending support. Some deaf-blind people have to pay for SSPs, and this can be very expensive.

Program Establishment and Management Issues:

Agencies don't respond when people ask for SSPs. There is not enough advertising to recruit SSPs. Deaf-blind people and SSPs experience schedule conflicts; they need more hours and dollars. Also, SSPs need to enter activities for free, and deaf-blind people need to contact people to SSP ahead of time.

Close proximity to deaf community usually means access to SSPs is better; however, in some areas, there is mo regular SSP/deaf-blind meeting place or registry of SSPs.

5. What is the most important thing in SSP services you would like AADB to do for deaf-blind people?

Training/Establishment of SSP Services:

Participants agreed that AADB needs to support SSPs nationally, and to advocate with federal government to allocate funds for SSP services and training, perhaps through the National SSP Pilot Project.

Participants suggested ways for SSPs to receive training and certification, and how AADB can create these opportunities. Suggestions included working with colleges/schools to identify and recruit SSPs; providing workshops to educate and train them, and creating a training/certification program for SSPs.

Participants agreed that the SSP profession is a paid job, not a volunteer job, and deserves government recognition; full-time employment and certification of SSPs is needed.

Deaf-blind people need to have more SSP hours per month, and more SSP services need to be available. Also, potential SSPs need to be identified in each others' home areas. Some deaf-blind people suggested that AADB and others start small, in rural areas.

Public Education and Awareness:

Education and awareness needs to be provided for deaf-blind individuals, their need for SSPs, and where to get them. The education and awareness could include clarification about SSP and interpreter services, legal issues, equipment availability, airport access.

AADB Conferences:

AADB needs to provide delegates with the same SSPs in each conference so they don't have to be retrained. Also, a better system needs to be set up between delegates, SSPs and the AADB Office. AADB should have pictures of SSPs at conferences so deaf-blind are familiar with who to go to.