Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB) is dedicated to working with the visually impaired, blind and DeafBlind population in Maryland, DC and Virginia so that those individuals remain independent, active and productive in society. Within CLB is the Support Service Provider (SSP) Program that pairs DeafBlind individuals with trained human guides called Providers. CLB describes this program as allowing individuals who are DeafBlind to maintain their independence in their community and continue to make informed decisions independently. The program also provides the security of self-determined community access, the freedom of increased mobility, and connections with social and cultural experiences.
On December 13th and 14th, CLB hosted a two-day training at the University of Maryland, College Park for future SSPs. Those who attended the training ranged from certified interpreters to deaf individuals to ASL/interpreting students to hearing individuals. The training focused on general SSP information and more specific techniques like Pro-Tactile. There were hands on activities to give people the sense of what it is like to be DeafBlind. One activity was working with a partner where one person was the guide and the other person had earplugs in and a blindfold on. The pair would practice walking up and down the hall, going up and down stairs, and walking through narrow spaces. Another activity was putting on goggles that were made to imitate different types of vision loss. Some goggles were completely blurry, some had the middle blurred out to imitate cataracts, and others blocked certain fields of peripheral vision. Then it was time to practice wearing the goggles when signing with a partner, to understand the different scopes of vision and how signing styles have to change to accommodate that. Other activities included guiding a DeafBlind person to a car, playing card games and pretending to be at a restaurant. All of these activities imitated real life situations and how to become familiar with them.
The training included a presentation from Shannon Wright, a staff member at CLB, where she discussed different policies of the SSP Program, do’s and don’ts for future SSPs, different types of vision loss, and her own experience as an SSP. CLB also invited three DeafBlind guest speakers; Eddie Martinez, Andrew Cohen and Jamie Pope, to share their experiences and practice experiential scenarios with the group.
If you are interested in working with the DeafBlind community and becoming an SSP, contact Eddie Martinez, the Deaf-Blind Service Coordinator at CLB for more information.
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