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Deaf-Blind Community

Carol Brown-Wollin
Jelica Nuccio
Seattle Deaf Blind Service Center
Seattle, Washington


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.”


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:

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 your job?


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.

This experience illustrated the need for appropriate accommodations for deaf-blind students or VR participants:


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.

Direct suggestions, comments, and questions about this page to:
Cheryl D. Davis, Ph.D., Coordinator
Northwest Outreach Center
Regional Resource Center on Deafness
Western Oregon University
Monmouth OR 97361
503-838-8642 (v/tty)
503-838-8228 (fax)
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Last modified on 21Aug99.