SAN DIEGO–The San Diego Foundation will grant $235,000 over three years to the San Diego branch of the Helen Keller Center. This philanthropic support of our deaf-blind San Diegans is made possible through the Adelaide Allen Fund held at The San Diego Foundation.
Deaf-blind individuals have severe to total loss of both their vision and hearing.
The Helen Keller National Center estimates there are more than 500 deaf-blind San Diego County residents.
The Adelaide Allen grant is designated for a Support Service Provider (SSP) pilot program to train sighted guides that facilitate increased independence for the deaf-blind. Thanks to this funding, an estimated 45-60 deaf-blind San Diegans will benefit from three to five hours per week of SSP services, which will help them with shopping, banking, dining in restaurants, and other ordinary activities that require guidance.
Support Service Providers are distinct from translators, who do word-for-word translations of verbal information in formal settings, like legal hearings or medical appointments. SSPs, on the other hand, confer visual information to deaf-blind consumers. Since SSP services are far less costly than formal translations, they can be provided on a regular basis for day-to-day activities.
SSPs communicate with their clients through tactile sign language, modified visual sign language, or amplified speech. Sighted deaf people are often excellent SSPs because of their strong sign language skills and shared experience of deafness.
After significant research and oversight, The San Diego Foundation’s Health and Human Services Working Group determined the Helen Keller National Center’s local office had the expertise and capability to launch this pilot. The organization’s mission is to enable deaf-blind individuals to live and work in the communities of their choice. It operates another Support Service Provider Program for the deaf-blind in Long Island, New York.
The Seattle Deaf-Blind Service Center initiated the first Support Service Provider program for the deaf-blind in 1986. San Diego’s pilot is the 20th SSP program in the United States, though about ten other areas are investigating the possibility of establishing such programs.
Foundation staff conducted research to learn about the deaf-blind in San Diego and their needs, reviewing literature published by the American Association for the Deaf-Blind (AADB) and the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC). National experts in the field were interviewed, including Jelica Nuccio at the Seattle Deaf Blind Service Center, Ed Gervasoni at the Arizona Association of the Deaf-Blind, and Cathy Kirscher at the Helen Keller National Center. Staff also spoke with representatives from the San Diego Center for the Blind, the Braille Institute San Diego, and Deaf Community Services San Diego.