People assume that every Deaf-Blind person has a Support Services Provider to help them travel, read and communicate because they hear how Helen Keller had Anne Sullivan. Although Support Service Providers (SSP) are available in other states, in New York there is no funding stream to provide that service. Lacking that vital support, Deaf-Blind people are some of the most isolated and disenfranchised people with disabilities in our community.
That’s why the Center for Disability Rights started providing this on our own with no funding stream. We have drawn from our own funding and have been lucky to benefit from grants (most recently from the John F. Wegman Fund) to support this program but much more is needed. Our SSP program in Monroe County provides Deaf-Blind consumers with visual communication and transportation. It is crucial to supporting many of them in accessing the community.
We intended for the program to model the how to provide these services in New York while seeking funding for our program and advocating for funding across the state. This is the same successful approach we used with nursing facility and institutional transition services. CDR modeled the service, trained others both locally and nationally and then was successful in securing a funding stream. Today, organizations across the country are helping elderly and Disabled people transitioned from nursing facilities and other institutions, in part, because of our work.
We also included a broad definition of support needs in the Disability Integration Act so that states would be required to provide SSP services to Deaf-Blind individuals instead of forcing them into institutions. Today, the states have no obligation to provide those services to a Deaf-Blind person and, instead, simply institutionalize them.
We share the frustration of members of Deaf-Blind Community envision and are working towards a day when New York State recognizes the need for these services and Deaf-Blind people all over the state can get the support they so desperately need.