DEAFBLIND AWARENESS WEEK ACROSS THE NATION 2018

Thanks to a lot of hard work Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week (DBAW) got some great attention around the country. The following are just a few of the activities:

  • OKLAHOMA:  Governor Mary Fallin issued a proclamation recognizing DBAW 2018 and the accomplishments of deaf-blind Oklahomans.  This proclamation came shortly after House Bill 1244, also known as the “Jeri Cooper Act,” was passed.  The bill increases deaf-blind Oklahomans' access to Support Service Providers by providing grants for the program through the Department of Rehabilitation Services. The Bill was named in honor of Jeri Cooper, a rehabilitation teacher with the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services who is deaf-blind herself.  Jeri was a major advocate for creating a SSP program in Oklahoma.  Accompanying Jeri at the signing were HKNC regional representative, Molly Sinanan and former HKNC student, Don G.

  • NEBRASKA:   A proclamation issued by the Governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, was read at a ceremony which included Carlos Servan, executive director of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Mike Foley, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Nebraska.  Others of note in the audience were Brent M., a Summer Youth Vocational Program at HKNC student this past summer  

  • NORTH CAROLINA:  Governor Roy Cooper issued a DBAW proclamation which was read at many events across the state by Ashley Benton, LCSW, Deaf/Deaf-Blind Services Coordinator with the North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  • KENTUCKY:  Families and long range service plan partners gathered to celebrate the signing of a DBAW proclamation issued by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.

  • TENNESSEE: During the Southeast Transition Institute in Knoxville, Tennessee, a proclamation from Governor Bill Haslem was read and presented to the community by Lisa Rimmell,  Tennessee’s new state deaf-blind coordinator through VR.   Since Lisa came on board, there has been a lot of hard work spreading awareness, providing workshops and collaborating on various events.  One of the mentors for the Institute was former HKNC student, Ashley J.

  • PUERTO RICO:  Two staff members from the Deaf-Blind Project in Puerto Rico joined other partners in celebrating the DBAW proclamation.   Over the past year, HKNC has worked with Linda McDowell and Mike Fagbemi from the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) in building relationships and meeting with families.

  • SOUTH CAROLINA:  Big smiles with families and Deaf-Blind Project members showing their proclamation from Governor Henry McMaster.  The mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Stephen Benjamin, also issued a proclamation.

 

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DeafBlind, but Definitely Not Disconnected

Here’s what JennyLynn Dietrich would like you to know about her:

She’s taken service learning trips to Guatemala and Ghana. She’s a chocolate snob who wouldn’t dare touch the generic stuff. She’s engaged to be married next year. She loves to paint, draw, and perform on the theater stage. And she’s passionate about helping others, pointing them toward the resources that could help them change their lives.

You might learn these things if you just ask her. But Dietrich says people are often too afraid or intimidated by two of her more obvious traits: she is deaf and blind.

One of the main points Dietrich hopes to make in her TEDxSalem talk, entitled “DeafBlind: Blind but Not Blind,” is that people with disabilities value autonomy — they want to be seen as regular productive members of society, just like those without disabilities.

“We don’t want people’s pity,” she says. “We just want to be accepted as equals.”

Born with a rare hereditary condition called Stickler syndrome, Dietrich is fully blind in her left eye and has limited vision in her right. She’s also profoundly deaf in her left ear, but she can hear a bit in her right with a hearing aid. Her preferred method to communicate is American Sign Language. She also uses a form of communication called ProTactile — developed by the DeafBlind community — that involves signing on someone’s hand or using parts of their body to help give visual or emotional cues.

During her early years growing up in Oklahoma, Dietrich attended a mainstream school. It wasn’t until high school that she went to a state school for the deaf. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Ultimately she moved to Seattle to work as a Case Manager at the DeafBlind Service Center. She helped other DeafBlind people by providing services to make their lives easier — including advocacy, information and referrals, education, and outreach — and she ultimately discovered she had a passion for helping others.

One of the most useful resources Dietrich found in Seattle was Support Service Providers (SSPs) — sighted guides who provide DeafBlind people with visual information about their environment so that they can participate in regular mainstream activities such as grocery shopping, reading mail, or banking.

“When I moved to Oregon, it was a challenge because there’s not an SSP program here for people like me to access,” she says. “I’ve been working hard this year to get something like that established here by reaching out to other DeafBlind people in the community and leaders in public service.”

Dietrich came to the Willamette Valley to pursue graduate studies at Western Oregon University. She is no longer a student there, but she is focusing her time on attempting to develop supports for DeafBlind people in the state. She is currently a facilitator for a nonprofit called the Oregon DeafBlind Community Alliance Network, something she hopes will become a larger statewide organization to help provide resources to those who need it.

Advocacy would be a critical part of their work — to help the general public look beyond their disabilities and learn about their interests, their personalities, and their goals.

“Instead of watching us in fear from afar,” she says, “be brave, and come and learn from us by engaging with us!”

Source: http://tedxsalem.us/deafblind-but-definite...

Fort Sill sued for ending contract that employs the blind

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma state agency is suing the federal government in an attempt to block a local military base from ending its contract with a vendor who employs blind workers.

The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services filed the lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday. That agency is tasked with expanding independence and economic self-sufficiency for disabled Oklahomans. The lawsuit is against the United States of America, by and through Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of the Army Mark Esper.

The complaint requests a restraining order and injunctive relief to block Fort Sill, the Army post in Lawton, from ending its contract with a cafeteria services vendor.

The argument hinges on the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Act. The law was passed in the 1930s and gives priority to blind vendors, who are licensed as so through the state, when choosing vendors operating on federal property, such as military installations.

The current vendor, David Altstatt, is the Department of Rehabilitation Services-appointed blind vendor for the Army post. The current contract includes one base year and four option years, and Altstatt’s company is in the second option year, according to the lawsuit. In February, the defendants notified rehabilitation services officials that they intended to terminate the contract. The department argues that the defendants didn’t give proper notification to the U.S. secretary of education, who oversees the program. The Oklahoma rehabilitation department requested arbitration with that secretary and defendants in April, according to the lawsuit. In August, the defendants issued a solicitation for a replacement vendor. That solicitation is what the lawsuit attempts to block.

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How Fitness Helped This Woman Cope with Going Blind and Deaf

Rebecca Alexander was just 12 years old when she was told that she'd completely lose her vision by the time she was an adult. After she had trouble seeing the chalkboard in class, her parents decided to take her in for a series of tests. She was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic disorder of the eyes that causes vision impairment. 

She continued on, not understanding the magnitude of what it would mean to lose her eyesight by the age of 30. "It's nearly impossible for a 12-year-old who can pretty much see to understand, let alone try to comprehend what it would mean to be losing my vision," Alexander said on Megyn Kelly TODAY while promoting her new book, Not Fade Away.

Read more at the article here.

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Program helps blind women get her life on track

When Heidi Propp was young, she always thought she lived a normal life.

Blind since birth after her optic nerves never formed, Propp relied heavily on her parents for most things. Her parents cooked, did her laundry and drove her around, or she used HandyDart to get from one place to another.

In grade school it never seemed odd, but it wasn’t until she graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Victoria that Propp slowly began to realize she wasn’t like her peers.

 

“I did not feel good about it [relying on her parents] at all. I wanted to have a normal life just like everybody else … that was a really difficult struggle,” said Propp, who grew up in Langford and lived there for more than 20 years.

“Though it wasn’t my parents’ fault, I felt like my dependence on them held me back socially and professionally.”

In an effort to gain back her independence, Propp was of the first participants to enroll in the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind’s blind people in charge program in 2014, which recently won an award. The only one of its kind in Western Canada, the program has served more than 40 blind, deaf-blind and low-vision adults through a non-traditional model of instruction where blind people are the teachers, planners, directors and administrators.

As part of the two-year program, Propp learned skills such as how to cook, travel, do laundry, take B.C. Transit and picked up financial skills that taught her how to take care of herself.

Read more from original article here - https://www.vicnews.com/news/program-helps-blind-woman-get-life-on-track/

Source: http://https://www.vicnews.com/news/progra...

Advocating for Deaf-Blind in the Workplace

Deaf-Blind in the workplace is on the increase globally and should be seen as any other employment. Deaf blindness might imply a complete vacancy of hearing and sight, but this isn’t the case. Many who are deaf-blind have some hearing or vision or both. People who are deaf-blind can learn skills to work around hurdles. With assisting and usable technology, people who are deaf-blind can be employed in any type industry and work.

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In time for the holidays: OSB's new Family & Friends Cookbook

Look what’s cookin’! Allison Garner reports that the Oklahoma School for the Blind Family and Friends Cookbook will be available soon. OSB staff has worked hard to get the cookbook ready in all formats. Several DRS staff throughout the agency submitted recipes and may be interested in purchasing a cookbook. OSB’s cookbook is available in print, Braille, and PDF versions that are either screen reader friendly -- or not. Get a $2 discount per item if you buy five or more items.

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Oklahoma Watch: Will state’s makeover of developmental disabilities wait list be fair to families?

As the number of people waiting for developmental disabilities services has reached an all-time high, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is considering abandoning the first-come, first-served approach to the developmental disabilities services waiting list.

Instead, it would prioritize the list according to need, meaning families who have waited for help for years could be moved back in line while others are shifted to the front.

But how that system would work, and whether it would be fair and effective, is unclear. DHS officials said the change will take years to implement. The agency has made relatively little progress during the past two years.

In the meantime, the waiting list for government-paid services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities continues to grow, hitting a record 7,560 this year.

Personnel changes at DHS and the agency’s attention to other matters, however, have delayed changing the first-come, first-served approach, a DHS official said.

Read more from original post here.

Oklahoma City Deaf Blind man Creates Gardening service of a small company with the experience of a big company

Oklahoma businessman, Michael Vontress started his own gardening company after working with the Sight Hearing Encouragement Program.  Vontress has Usher’s Syndrome combined with retinitis pigmentosa which has effected his sight and his hearing.

After becoming a client with the Sight Hearing Encouragment Program he began working at others jobs with the help of the organization's job coach, Timothy Oakes.  Vontress was able to acquire a state job through the organization and stayed at the job for some time.  The company he worked for then let Vontress go and he had to consider going back to the typical 9-5 or venture outside the box and gain more independence. He utilized his learning from his job coach and resources from Department Rehabilitation Services (DRS), and realized that he could make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Vontress loves working outdoors and expressed that he has a green thumb and a fondness for nature.  He decided to take a step out of the norm and ventured into the business world.  He established his company, Lawn and Garden by Michael.

"There's nothing better than owning your own business." Vontress stated.  "I can now do what I love and have the confidence in doing it."

Vontress specializes in planting various types of flowers and plant life, care-taking of foiliage and maintain lawn and landscapes of residential and commercial areas.

You can reach Vontress and his services at:

Lawn & Garden by MIchael

(580)-263-9979

vontressmichael@gmail.com