American Association of the Deaf-Blind

A New Beginning

 

Why Do People Who Are Deaf-Blind
Needs SSPs?

Last Update:
Monday, February 1, 2010

Deaf-Blind individual and SSP

Photo Caption: Playing as a quarterback, an SSP is showing a cheerful totally deaf-blind football fan where to throw the football in a arcade game.

Hearing and sight are the two senses that we depend on for communication, visual and environmental information that will enable us to carry on with our daily tasks. Without these two senses, we isolated from the world around us.

The American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) conducted two focus group meetings, one in Maryland and one in Virginia, with consumers who are deaf-blind. To meet the consumers' visual and communication needs, we had to find volunteers who could help bridge the communication gap between the consumers and the two deaf-blind moderators. Some required volunteers to communicate close up on a one-on-one basis; some were able to communicate with each other in a small group. Others, who depend on their hearing, required a volunteer to read the consumer's signing and voice it through a FM system, which helped amplify their hearing. For each meeting, we used a total of 25 to 30 volunteers to provide communication access.

The focus groups provided a wealth of information on their needs and how to improve their quality of life. The main issues about which deaf-blind consumers are most concerned include family support, mobility, and social or recreation needs - many issues that can be addressed by the provision of a Service Support Provider (SSP).

A majority of deaf-blind individuals rely on family members, friends or colleagues to voluntarily assist with basic needs. This often becomes an inconvenience for both the deaf-blind person and the volunteer, who may be willing or unwilling. In turn, deaf-blind individual suffers the humiliation and shame of asking their overburdened and sometimes impatient family members and friends to help. This often leads to the point of frustration, not enough or inaccurate visual and communication information, isolation, and unwanted decisions. One deaf-blind person at the focus group said:

"I don't like to depend on my family or friends to help me, but I need their support to do food shopping. To avoid problems, I usually go shopping by myself which usually takes me four to six hours of looking and locating several items. Most of the time I cannot communicate with the employees because we don't understand each other, which result in frustrations for both of us."
Virginia Association of the
Deaf-Blind Participants
Richmond, Virginia
September 30, 2005

A totally deaf-blind mother said:

"I usually take care of my small children without any problem. Without pestering my family, it would be nice to be able to have someone give me visual information about my child's facial expressions, such as whether or not they are happy or crying. To others, this might be annoying but I would give anything just to see my children visually."
Maryland Deaf-Blind participants
West River Camp
Camp Churchton, MD,
June 15, 2005

With the lack of visual and environment information, mobility is another common barrier among individuals who are deaf-blind. Although many deaf-blind individuals are able to use public transportation, it is usually with limited success. If they reach a destination in an unfamiliar area, they may have no information about where to go next or if the building is right in front of them. Finding their way back to their destination is also a major challenge. Another deaf-blind person commented:

"Many times I have no way of knowing what street to get off the bus, even with accessible devices such as a small screen monitor or voice device. There were times that I got on the bus and rode the same route several times before I could find my stop near my home. The Para Transit is ok if I have the same driver. With the high turnover of drivers, I have to re-educate the driver that he/she just cannot expect me to respond immediately while standing outside when they beep their horn. Someone has to approach me and tap on my shoulder to let me know."
Maryland Deaf-Blind participants
West River Camp
Camp Churchton, MD,
June 15, 2005

On top of inaccessible communication, the lack of accessible transportation is a major contribution to unemployment among deaf-blind people. Additionally, deaf-blind individuals sometimes want to use transportation for hobbies or pleasure. One person said:

"It would be nice to be able to go out on a Saturday or Sunday drive once in a while. While I cannot see the fall colors in the trees in the mountain, having someone to drive and describe the colors for me, while I enjoy the smell and feel, makes the trip worthwhile for my vacation. If everyone else has this option, why can't I?"
Virginia Association of the
Deaf-Blind Participants
Richmond, Virginia
September 30, 2005

The Solution

Support Service Providers (SSPs) are people who can give deaf-blind people needed vision, hearing and environmental information that will enable them to access their community more easily. Some of the roles that the SSPs do are:

  1. Serve as sighted guides, i.e., escorting a person to or from a meeting room, or through a lunch line during a workshop.
  2. Provide visual and environmental information in the deaf-blind person's communication preference by describing who is in a room, the activity, people's moods; reading a menu in a restaurant, or locating food items in a grocery store.
  3. Provide support to individuals who are deaf-blind in their homes, at their place of employment, in their community or elsewhere.
  4. Provide transportation or accompany the deaf-blind person on public transportation when they need transportation assistance.
  5. Access to community functions; e.g, reading the candidates' names on voting ballots, attending city or county meetings, or participating in recreational activities.

Some of the functions that SSPs do not do are:

  1. Provide personal care, e.g., bathing and grooming.
  2. Run errands alone for the person who is deaf-blind.
  3. Make decisions for the person who is deaf-blind.
  4. Teach or instruct.
  5. Interpret in medical, legal, business, or other formal settings.

Note: This page is still under revision. Please check this page soon.

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