The Difference between DeafBlind Interpreters and Support Service Providers

Many supports are available to people who are DeafBlind. Yesterday, the Sign Shares’ blog discussed DeafBlind Interpreters. There are others who provide support besides interpreting, so that people who have vision and hearing loss can live independently.

According to the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting, there are three types of support roles for people who are DeafBlind.

  • DeafBlind Interpreter
  • Support Service Provider (SSP)
  • Interveners

If their need regards formal communication, such as medical appointments, education, meetings, etc., they will need a certified professional, a DeafBlind Interpreter, according to the task force.

What happens if the individual’s need involves more than communication, such as transportation?

Person walks down street using cane and talking to another person.
Traveling and navigating around unfamiliar locations are one of the reasons a person who is DeafBlind might need the services of a Support Service Provider, or SSP. photo credit: Marchez sur le trottoir (Walk on Sidewalk) via photopin (license)

If the person who is DeafBlind needs transportation and support navigating an environment such as a conference, shopping, hobbies and sports, or informal settings, they may need a Support Service Provider, or SSP.

Friends and family members often take the role of Support Service Providers, according to a white paper by the American Association of the Deaf-Blind.

There are problems with people close to the person who is DeafBlind performing the SSP role, according to the white paper. They often lack formal training, may not provide reliable support, and the person requesting SSP support “may have feelings about infringing on others’ time. Often, this will lead the person who is deaf-blind to change their plans or not get out into the community…”

According to the paper, not getting out into the community “can lead to isolation, depression, low self-worth, and frustration…”

Hiring SSPs may offer greater independence for the individual with need because they are involved in their travel experiences.

According to the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting, SSPs:

  • provide visual and environmental information,
  • assist with communication access, and
  • guide within the physical environment, generally in community-based or informal settings.

In a white paper, the American Association of the Deaf-Blind describes the SSPs main role as:

  • “Providing access to the community by making transportation available (by car, bus, or other conveyance), and serving as a human guide while walking,” and
  • Relaying “visual and environmental information that may not be heard or seen by the person who is deaf-blind. This is done in the person’s preferred language and communication mode.”

    Several cars drive through traffic and between many people trying to walk through a crosswalk.
    While an interpreter isn’t needed for communication during heavy traffic situations, an SSP could provide support. photo credit: Californian Crosswalk via photopin (license)

An important aspect of the relationship between the person who is DeafBlind and an SSP is that the person who is DeafBlind makes all decisions, according to the white paper.

Support Service Providers, according to the task force, might assist in the following locations:

  • airports,
  • train stations,
  • restaurants,
  • shopping,
  • recreation and leisure sites,
  • during health and fitness pursuits,
  • errands,
  • community activities,
  • at home reading mail,
  • social gatherings, and
  • other activities in private settings.

SSPs may work in together with DeafBlind Interpreters at events like conferences, where the interpreter supports workshop communication, and the SSP supports travel and navigating the event, according to the task force.

According to the American Association of the Deaf-Blind, SSPs and Interpreters share some traits:

  • precepts they share:
  • remaining impartial,
  • maintaining confidentiality,
  • and working in a variety of settings.

However, they differ in important ways, because Interpreters:

  • work with people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and also people deaf-blind;
  • Interpreter education is available from colleges/universities and can culminate in state/national certification;
  • Interpreters are paid based upon their certification and/or the rate established by the referring agency/community.

SSPs work only with people who are DeafBlind or have a combination of hearing and vision loss, according to the association.

Their training is less formal than interpreters, may be taught in workshops or through life experiences. Because of the less formal education and certification of SSPs, they may be volunteers, or receive less pay.

Review a detailed Interpreter/SSP/Intervener comparison chart here under What’s My Role? A Comparison of the Responsibilities of Interpreters, Interveners, and Support Service Providers.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine the role of Interveners.

If you’d like to request a Sign Shares’ interpreter, you may do so here.

 

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