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Seattle Deaf Blind Service
OPENING SKIT: "THE FUTURE"
The scene is a job development/placement
office. Brown-Wollin played a talking computer, while Nuccio played
Victoria, a client who is deaf-blind. The computer provided Victoria with
its analysis from her testing:
Victoria, not wanting to be a restaurant worker,
decided to go to college to get a degree in business. Four years
later Victoria went back to the same job development office and met with
the same computer. She went through the same process, this time getting
job titles such as printer and office worker. Finally on the third
visit after getting similar results, Victoria asked the computer, “Why
are none of the jobs related to working with my mind, since the results
of my testing indicate excellent brain activity and high motivation level?”
The computer replied, “You’re Deaf-Blind.”
Hearing Level: 0%
Brain Wave Activity: 89%
Motivation Level: 90%
Physical Examination: Passed
Job Title: Restaurant Worker
BARRIERS TO EMPLOYMENT
The point of this skit is to recognize
that deaf-blind people have been facing very limited job opportunities.
Because of the barriers from standard job tests and computer assessments,
deaf-blind people are being denied jobs they are qualified to do. Deaf-blind
people do not fit society’s expectations.
The purpose of today’s workshop for postsecondary
professionals and vocational rehabilitation counselors is to discuss deaf-blind
people’s potential and to focus on what they can do, not what they cannot
do. The challenge is to be creative, have an open mind, and to be mindful
of your attitude when serving deaf-blind consumers. Attitude is the most
vital factor in removing barriers.
Vocational rehabilitation and postsecondary
professionals who work with deaf-blind consumers or students should understand
that the key to any assessment is an open mind and an appropriate attitude.
Remember, most general assessments used for other consumers do not work
with deaf-blind consumers. Deaf-Blind people have talents and keen skills
but often are limited by the professional’s choice of a career for them,
including career moves. For example, some of the professionals automatically
seek entry-level jobs for deaf-blind individuals because they assume few
skills are required. However, the outcome may not be successful because
most entry-level jobs require vision. The client, without appropriate accommodations,
will fail, and the counselor will once again have to work with the individual
to find another job.
There is no formal protocol or step-by-step
guidelines for counselors working with deaf-blind job seekers such as researching,
job development, job placement, job shadowing, job testing, and the rest.
The emphasis must be on creativity and attitude.
Presenter Nuccio shared her career experience
to help workshop participants to brainstorm solutions:
Through my college years at NTID/RIT
in 1983, my major was Biology. Many professors did not feel comfortable
with this decision due to safety reasons. Eventually; I graduated with
a Bachelor of Science in Biology. I landed my first job in Atlanta as a
Cytogenetic Specialist for the Emory University Genetic Laboratory. It
was a research lab, which was advantageous because I could work independently.
I felt comfortable working alone. I knew how to organize my workspace,
keeping chemicals and other hazardous materials in their place to create
a safe working environment. About five years later the research team
had to relocate to Ohio. I had to decide whether to move to Ohio with the
research team or remain in Atlanta to work in the clinical lab. It was
a difficult decision. I had no choice but to transfer to the clinical lab.
Unfortunately, the job environment had a lot people working in one place
and required a high-speed turn-around time, with many demands from the
HMO and doctors. This lead to a very stressful work life. Concurrently,
things were changing in the scientific technology, which required ongoing
training. A specific database was being designed for genetics results.
The high-speed computer window with its colorful background was very difficult
to see. Without accommodations, I could not adapt to this new environment.
I decided to go to graduate school to study Public Health. After graduating
with a master’s degree in Public Health in 1996, my career options were
limited. Decisions were even more difficult to make because of the lack
of support services, the lack of information on job/career options, communication
obstacles, and lack of knowledge on how to advocate for myself.
Nuccio’s experiences are not rare. This is
a reality for many individuals who are deaf-blind. Success for Nuccio depended
upon her creativity. Ask yourself: Could you pursue your goals if
you became deaf-blind? Could you keep your job if you became deaf-blind?
Could you obtain support and figure out adaptations so you could stay on
Each person in the audience was blindfolded,
and then asked to read black print on red paper. This activity lasted about
fifteen minutes. If people needed to communicate with each other, they
were asked to do by signing. No voices were allowed.
This activity provides a hands-on experience
of what it might feel like to be the deaf-blind person sitting in the placement
counselor’s business office. The workshop participants were asked to share
their comments after they removed the blindfolds. The comments were
telling of many deaf-blind individuals’ experiences:
The audience was asked specifically if the
red paper was hard to read. They answered, “Yes, the color
was overwhelming for me. It is too visually overpowering.”They were then
asked if the communication was different than from what they expected.
One response summarized their feelings: “I had a hard time communicating
because I needed to trust the person who is trying to communicate with
me.” Without visual cues and sounds, they had a difficult time developing
a communication relationship.
My eyes felt fatigued. I wanted to go sleep.
I could not remember what I was reading. I
would lose the place where I had left off because of my limited vision.
I felt so different. I could “see” the
world before, but then after putting on the blindfold, my vision was so
This experience illustrated the need for
appropriate accommodations for deaf-blind students or VR participants:
DEAF-BLIND COMMUNITY RESOURCES
Communication is vital.
Vision loss is isolating.
More time is needed when working with deaf-blind
people. A fast reading assignment is not part of a deaf-blind person’s
reality. A meeting that may take one hour with a hearing person might
take two or three times as long when working with a deaf-blind person.
Clear “turn taking” of speakers must occur
during a meeting. People must take turns so that the speaker can be clearly
identified by the deaf-blind person.
The best solution when presenting written
information is to use buff colored paper and use 18 point font size with
bold lettering. The most often-used font style is Arial.
The last hour of this workshop we have
emphasized the critical importance of having an open mind, and an appropriate
attitude. We have offered an experience of what it is like to be
deaf-blind and what barriers are involved. Finally, we encourage the use
of the resources. Resources include both support system services
and deaf-blind individuals themselves. They can be a rich source of information
for you. The handouts provided contain
a Deaf-Blind Resource List, Helpful Tips for Communication and Guiding,
Usher’s Syndrome Information, and Bibliographies
Several factors must be considered in job
development, such as time, attitude, support, adaptations and accommodations.
Focus on what the deaf-blind person can do. Individuals who are deaf-blind
can achieve goals with support systems, which might include large print,
interpreters, adaptive equipment, and orientation and mobility training.
Our responsibility is our ATTITUDE.
comments, and questions about this page to:
D. Davis, Ph.D., Coordinator
Center on Deafness
Western Oregon University
Monmouth OR 97361
Last modified on 21Aug99.