Providing Vital Support and Access to Individuals with Deaf-Blindness


Research to Practice • Practice to Research

Providing Vital Support and Access to Individuals with Deaf-Blindness

Posted on October 17, 2016

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Amy Parker

Leanne Cook


Amy Parker and Leanne Cook, of TRI and the National Center on Deaf-Blindness, presented at the 2016 World Blind Union/International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (WBU/ICEVI) General Assembly, on August 22, 2016 as part of the ICEVI Day program.



They presented: Education for Children with Visual Impairments and Additional/Multiple Disabilities or Deafblindness



Here is a reflection on their time at the gathering of professionals from around the world.


By Amy Parker, Ed.D.


When Leanne and I presented the Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA) Deaf-Blind Intervener Modules at the World Blind Union and ICEVI convention in Orlando, Florida, we were thrilled to be part of a multi-panel presentation with educators from around the world. First, our co-presenter Professor Carolyn Monaco from George Brown College in Toronto, Canada has been working for years to promote the role of interveners in providing access to students and clients who are deaf-blind. (*See the bottom of this article to learn more about interveners.)

She's been the very definition of a friendly neighbor in helping NCDB and members of our national deaf-blind community learn more about the intervener practice. As a trusted partner, we reached out to her to present with us because of her long history and commitment in the field of intervention.

Check out this video of Professor Monaco from George Brown College:




We were also quite delighted to share the stage with two faculty members from Vietnam, Nho Hoang Thi from Hanoi National University of Education and My Cao Xuan from Ho Chi Mihn University of Education. Both professors spoke about their study with teachers who served students with severe disabilities including deafblindness and described factors that led to both student and teacher success.

Finally, we learned a great deal from another co-presenter, Director Nandini Rawal from the Blind People's Association of India, as she described the factors that led to successful transitions for young adults with visual impairment and additional disabilities from school to the community.


From left to right: Carolyn Monaco, Amy Parker, Nho Hoang Thi, Leanne Cook, My Cao Xuan, Nandini Rawal, Debbie Gleason



Tremendous leadership from hosts


More than the opportunity to share at this event, we saw a tremendous amount of leadership from the hosts from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) who not only organized the event but welcomed every single guest. The NFB organizers and volunteers provided practical auditory information by standing in the hallways or at entrances calling to guests in the vast conference center saying: "General Assembly, this way" or "Escalators, to your right" or "Tea Break, this way." As a sighted person, I found this information to be universally helpful and came to rely upon it throughout the convention. Often by thanking the volunteers and hosts for their welcome and information, we had the opportunity to engage in short conversations about our work and interests.


Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities


As we listened to the sessions on the impact of the Marrakesh Treaty and heard from members on every continent discussing implementation strategies for Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Leanne and I were impressed with the diversity of experiences across the attendees. While some attendees from wealthy nations spoke of the frustrations in gaining access to voting booths, others from countries with high poverty indices spoke of the very real challenges of people with blindness and deafblindness surviving the ebola crisis, or dealing with war. 

The strength of the World Blind Union was that an organization led by people who are blind and by people who are allies with the blind and deafblind could come together to examine the needs of people with visual impairment from around the world.  Action, which may be simple to take by one person, can be addressed by passionate members of a global community.

By participating in the World Blind Union and ICEVI gathering, Leanne and I were touched by the resilience of the members within the organization who stride forward, often with a long cane in their hands, to influence policies, education and societies by sharing a collective voice, where individual accents and experiences are still heard.


The Presentation


Education for Children with Visual Impairments and Additional/Multiple Disabilities or Deafblindness.


In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education asked that the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) to take on the responsibility of developing high quality, accessible materials to support the practice of intervention for students who are deaf-blind.

Using a participatory approach, which included families, professionals, interveners, and people who are deaf-blind, NCDB has been working with community members to develop and field test a multi-media curriculum to support awareness of intervention. As these multi-media materials have become available (26 different modules), more international partners are using the information to provide training and awareness of intervention.

Through our partner at George Brown College in Canada, the community conversation has expanded to include dialogues about what the practice of intervention means across the globe. Participants at this interactive demonstration learned about the accessible design and the content of the Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA) modules, and about how to register for free to use the materials with groups of learners.

Participants also engaged in dialogue about the international movement around the practice of intervention for all individuals who are deaf-blind, and explored how open access educational resources that are designed with community members can help achieve the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Here is the slide presentation.



*What is an Intervener?

The National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) defines the educational role of Interveners thus:

“Interveners, through the provision of intervener services, provide access to information and communication and facilitate the development of social and emotional well-being for children who are deaf-blind. In educational environments, intervener services are provided by an individual, typically a paraeducator, who has received specialized training in deaf-blindness and the process of intervention. An intervener provides consistent one-to-one support to a student who is deaf-blind (age 3 through 21) throughout the instructional day” (NCDB, 2013).



Amy Parker- Dr. Parker has over 20 years of experience in deaf-blindness. She has a doctorate in special education with an emphasis in deaf-blindness and is currently the Coordinator of Professional Development and Products for the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB).

Leanne Cook- Ms. Cook started at NCDB as a Western Oregon University student worker. After graduation she was hired on to serve as a project specialist at NCDB with a background in ASL Interpreting. Her primary role has been the technical assistance with the OHOA Modules, and accessibility support.


Learn more about the Open Hands, Open Access Modules.


Click here for more information about the National Center on Deaf-Blindness.





WBU-ICEVI 2016 - General Assembly hosted by NFB of USA

The 2016 World Blind Union (WBU) / International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) General Assembly took place August 18 to 25, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, USA, and was sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind


WBU/ICEVI 2016 aims to improve the quality of life of those who are blind and low-vision by providing a common platform on which advocates, innovators, consumers, and service providers can expand both intra-regional and international networks, share information, and learn about new techniques and service models. WBU/ICEVI 2016 brought together participants from around the world, making this an important venue for collaborating and networking around key blindness issues.


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