Tag Archives: vision loss

How Interveners Contribute to Services for People who are DeafBlind

There are a variety of supports available to people who are DeafBlind. Yesterday, the Sign Shares’ blog discussed the difference between DeafBlind Interpreters and Support Service Providers, or SSPs.

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

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

While a DeafBlind Interpreter supports formal communication situations, and SSPs may assist with informal situations, guiding, and transportation, Interveners help educate individuals who are DeafBlind in ways that enhance their independence.

According to the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting, Interveners often work with students who are DeafBlind, but can also work with children and adults in their homes and communities. These individuals need the one-to-one support of a trained, consistent professional who understands and is prepared to address the needs of the student.

Two people use tactile sign language
Interveners and DeafBlind Interpreters may work together in educational settings, with the Intervener focusing more on meeting individualized educational plan goals. photo credit: Communication via photopin (license)

Interveners team with school staff, family, and community providers to achieve individual goals for the person who is DeafBlind, according to the task force. They are gaining recognition as a service for individuals who are DeafBlind to have access to education under the IDEA, the law that guarantees equal access to education, and within their home and community,

According to the task force, “an Intervener provides a bridge to the world for the student who is DeafBlind” by facilitating access to the environmental information that is usually gained through vision and hearing, such as:

  • gathering information,
  • learning concepts and skills,
  • developing communication and language, and
  • establishing relationships that lead to greater independence.

Qualified Interveners have completed training and credentialed through the National Resource Center for Paraeducators (NRCPara) and may work together with school districts on the student’s Individualized Education Plan, according to the task force.

According to What’s My Role? A Comparison of the Responsibilities of Interpreters, Interveners, and Support Service Providers, the Intervene:

  • “acts in a manner that is governed by the local education agency and federal education laws,”
  • “uses the Individual Education Program as a road map for learning,” and
  • “is considered a paraprofessional and works with, but does not replace, the teacher.”

You can learn more about Interveners at the National Center on Deaf-Blindness and at http://intervener.org/.


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.


The Need for Star Wars Access for All Abilities, Signing May the Force Be with You

Children dress up as Jedi masters from the Dark Side with red lightsabers.
People of all abilities want to put on a costume and share the Star Wars’ experience. Credit: Christina Goebel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Dec. 17 premiere at Disney Springs in Kissimmee, Florida

While premieres for the latest Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were last night, the film opens in nationwide theaters today. Almost everyone who wants to can view one of the coolest movies in the galaxy–but not quite. For one blogger who uses a wheelchair, leaving home to view the movie with a damaged wheelchair could endanger his life. Another young man may be attending the film because of director J.J. Abram’s and others’ contributions.

Access to movies for people of all abilities will take a community effort.

Star The Force Awakens Wars lit up on the ground.
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens step and repeat on the ground at Disney Springs in Kissimmee, Florida makes it easy for everyone to snap their picture, even if they use a wheelchair. Credit: Christina Goebel

Movies have been a stress point for many people with a disability. For some, they need captions or amplification to hear, others need descriptive voice, and others need physical access to parking, the building, and accessible seating and bathrooms. Many theaters now provide this access and indicate next to the movie listing if it’s accessible.

A lot of work is still needed for ensuring access, as you can tell from viewing this “official” trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that has no captions or this one, with 22 million views–but no captions for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deafblind. As for descriptive voice for people who are blind, also not there.

Star The Force Awakens Wars light display on side of a Disney building.
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens building wall projection provides another accessible backdrop for people with many abilities. Credit: Christina Goebel, at Disney Springs

Here is how theaters accommodate disability, but visit your theater’s website or call to verify and if necessary, reserve access:

  • Descriptive voice: actions described by voice, supplied for those with low vision or blindness and available over a theater-provided headset
  • Closed-captioning: viewed by theater-provided Sony glasses, a captioning device, or shield (View a captioned video of how captioned glasses work here.)
  • Open captioning: scheduled less frequently, captions are shown on the film itself for all to see
  • Assistive Listening Device: a theater-provided amplification device for those with mild to moderate hearing loss
  • Accessible Parking, Seating, and Bathrooms: those spaces with no seats allow someone using a wheelchair to sit–and may run out temporarily during Star Wars’ showings
  • Showings for People with Cognitive Disabilities: usually scheduled later for showings, allow viewers to walk around or talk as they desire, sound may be lower for those with Autism, reduces stress about “proper behavior” for viewing films
  • Showings for with Sign Language for People who are Deaf: usually scheduled later with sign language interpreters

Watching films with sign language is a truer form of communication for those who are culturally Deaf and use sign as their primary method of communication.

To see how different sign language is from captions, learn how Deaf Star signs, “May the Force be With You!”

Seats in a theater with open space next to them to accommodate a wheelchair.
Seats with open spaces next to them are for wheelchairs. Don’t occupy these areas unless you or family members need them. photo credit: Riverview Theater [006/366] via photopin (license)
If you need accommodations, call early for theater access, especially when seats will be full, to know if there will be enough accessible seating, if captions will be available for the 3D version of the movie, if the film will have descriptive voice, if an open captioned film will be shown, or if there will be enough amplification devices on hand.

On crowded days, those using wheelchairs might want to call ahead to arrange for assistance carrying their food and drinks while navigating thick crowds in hallways.

Those needing additional access should show up early to the film to ensure their space or equipment is available. Accessible seating and equipment take extra time to arrange.

While many people with disabilities will experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters, some will not.

Darth Vader kneels on ground. He has painted the words Epic Fail on the wall.
Technology exists to improve people’s lives, but many can’t receive access to it. In some cases, when equipment fails, people with disabilities may have to wait years for a replacement. photo credit: Weston Super Mare – Epic Fail via photopin (license)

For actor, blogger, and activist Dominick Evans, Dec. 17 was a reminder of the downside of the lack of access. Evans said in his blog, “Not only can I not go see [Star Wars: The Force Awakens], but I probably won’t be able to see it until it comes to streaming or television. The reason is because I lack access to the things I need to not only get out of my house, but also out of my bed. I have been trapped in bed before, and it sucks, but today it is my reality…not because I’m disabled, but because any type of equipment and services I (and others) need, are 10 times more expensive. ”

Wheelchair foot rest is alone on floor, broken off the wheelchair.
Something as simple as a broken wheelchair foot rest can contribute to broken bones for the user because the wheelchair can roll over his or her foot. photo credit: Broken leg via photopin (license)

Evans has had a broken wheelchair for three years. He said that if insurance comes through, he may have a new wheelchair next spring. In the meantime, Evans’ wheelchair is painful and dangerous to use.

Not having a wheelchair is one of Evans’ access problems. Another is needing a new Hoyer lift, equipment used to move Evans into his wheelchair and out of it.

Evans said, “Due to something called contractures in my legs, which can be very painful, my legs hang around the bar of the kind of lift I use. My feet snag on it, and I have recently experienced multiple sprained feet and broken toes.”

The new lift that won’t break Evans’ bones costs $5,000 and may not be covered by insurance.

For people like Evans, not having appropriate technology is life-threatening and deprives him of choices many of have that we take for granted.

“This is the part of having a disability that stinks the most … knowing you could have your freedom back, but lacking that access to get the things you need, to make it happen. Today I wish I could go to the movies. I have long been a Star Wars fan,” Evans said.

Evans asks us to think of him when we experience the film at theaters. He said, “So today, if you get to go enjoy Star Wars…have some popcorn for me, and think about ways you can help support the disability community, so those of us currently unable to go see this film, or any other film franchise we happen to love, due to lack of access, have a greater chance of not facing these barriers, in the future.”

J.J. Abrams standing a podium next to microphone.
J.J. Abrams, director of the new Star Wars movie, has contributed to the access of those with disabilities. Have you? photo credit: J. J. Abrams via photopin (license)

J.J. Adams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, contributed $50,000 this year to the family of 10-year-old Michael Keating, a young man who has Cerebral Palsy and whose family needed an accessible van to transport him. They needed more equipment too, since his mother had two hernia surgeries related to moving her 70-pound son.

According to a Washington Post report, Abrams said, “Katie and I made the donation. Likely for the same reason others did: we were moved by the Keating family’s grace, strength and commitment to each other.”

Picture of Yoda's head. It reads, "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."
Abrams lives Yoda’s mantra by taking action to ensure greater access for others. It’s probable that a young man whose family he helped was able to see his movie because of Abrams’ contribution. photo credit: Yoda wisdom via photopin (license)

Sign Shares staff realizes the need to advocate for access and inclusion so that everyone can live, work, and play in the least restrictive environment. Sign Shares has contributed to disability events across the state and nation to support disability education, awareness, inclusion, and advocacy for people of all abilities.

If you need a sign language interpreter, CART live captioning, or similar resources, you can request services here or call: Local (Houston): 713.869.4373 • Toll Free: 866.787.4154, or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832. 431.4889.

The Sign Shares’ advocacy team can provide resources to those who need technology, access, or advocacy information. Contact us here or by calling the numbers above, at  or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832.431.4889.

May the Force Be with You!