Fast-forward almost 50 years to Pro-Tactile (PT) Communication and Support Service Providers (SSP), pioneered – in part – by Jelica Nuccio and aj granda. Both will present to approximately 120 professionals and the deafblind community, September 24 and 25, respectively, on the campus of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) E.H. Gentry Facility. An additional training will be offered to Troy University Interpreter Training Program students on September 27 at Troy University, Troy campus. These trainings are provided through partnership with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) and Troy University Interpreter Training Program under the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, State Technical Assistance Projects to Improve Services for Children who are Deaf-Blind, for which AIDB’s Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind is coordinated. Continuing Education Units will be provided in collaboration with the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Office of Deaf Services, and Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
“AIDB is truly excited to welcome Jelica and aj back to Alabama and to once again partner with ADRS and Troy University to provide superior professional development opportunities to individuals who are deaf-blind and those who work in this rewarding field,” says AIDB President John Mascia, Au.D. “I invite the Talladega community to meet these talented individuals – individuals who are truly becoming renowned in the field of deafblindness –as The AIDB Foundation will host a reception in their honor, beginning at 5:30 p.m., September 25, on the lawn of AIDB’s Talladega Regional Center, culminating what will prove to be an innovative and informative two-day workshop.”
The AIDB Talladega Community Reception will also feature members of the Talladega High School ROTC, led by SGT Mike Tatum; The Star Spangled Banner, performed by former AIDB Birmingham Regional Center Director Larscene Turk; prayer, led by AIDB Senior Services Director and City Councilman Dr. Horace Patterson and keys to the city presented by Mayor Larry Barton and City Manager Brian Muenger.
“We want to extend our “Thank You All” regarding your interest in the SSP training events,” states Alabama Association of the Deaf-Blind Co-Presidents Robb Gatchell and Phyllis Clopton in a joint statement. “This is a much-needed effort to meet Alabama’s Deaf-Blind’s needs towards independence and freedom. This training is not only meant for the enjoyment of the deaf-blind, but also you as current and potential SSPs. Truly, we wish you all well in your training along with your work with the deaf-blind.”
Support Service Providers
Although called ‘teacher,’ Anne Sullivan may have been the very first Support Service Provider (SSP).
As Nuccio co-authors in Providing and Receiving Support Services: Comprehensive Training for Deaf-Blind Persons and Their Support Service Providers, “A SSP is a trained worker who has appropriate communication skills (typically this means at least a minimum level of fluency in sign language) and the ability to guide a blind person safely as well as skill in providing information about the visual environment.”
As the American Association for the Deaf-Blind cites, “Many deaf-blind people face challenges in all aspects of their lives. Simple tasks such as shopping, maintaining a home, and getting an education can be difficult for someone who cannot see or hear well. One way for deaf-blind people to overcome these barriers is through the assistance of trained people called SSPs. SSPs enable deaf-blind persons to access their communities and connect with other people, reducing communication barriers that otherwise would result in social isolation, incapability to live independently, and inability to participate as citizens within mainstream society.
“SSPs are not interpreters. They can provide communication assistance for short exchanges, but not for more complex situations. An SSP can help a deaf-blind person fill out an insurance form at a doctor’s office, but a sign language interpreter would be needed during the actual medical examination.”
“Pro-Tactile means, first and foremost, that DeafBlind people value touch for purposes of communication in the same way that hearing people value sound/voices and Deaf people value vision. Touch is our way of being present with one another,” explains Nuccio in a vlog introducing the concept.
Pro-Tactile Communication involves a system of feedback cues called “backchanneling” that provides the communicators with information about each other, their responses to what is being communicated, and the environment. It is also an effective way to provide feedback to a DeafBlind presenter about the audience’s responses and reactions to their presentation in real time.
In a recent vlog, granda says, “One way I like to explain PT is to compare it to using a TTY [Telecommunication Device for the Deaf]. You might remember what that was like-when the person you were talking with would type and type and type, and you already knew what they were saying, you already had that information. In person, you would just tell them, ‘Yeah, I know that already,’ but the way the TTY was set up, you couldn’t interrupt, so you just had to sit there and wait until they were done. Finally, after what seemed like an unbearably long time, you would see the letters, “G-A” [Go-Ahead] at which point you would tell the person, ‘Yeah, I already knew that. You didn’t have to tell me.’ So the constraints of the technology made for some really frustrating and inefficient interactions.
“Well, before PT, Deaf-Blind communication was like that. Interactions were limited and we didn’t have access to all of the cues that make things smoother and more efficient. Pro-tactile communication is immediate. Turn-taking is seamless. There are no awkward time lags or frustrating constraints. Information is received when it is produced, and there is a constant stream of information coming from the person you are talking to…It’s fantastic!”
Both Nuccio and granda have Usher Syndrome – which, according to the National Institutes of Health – is usually a combination of hearing loss and an eye disorder called retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which causes night-blindness and a loss of peripheral vision (side vision) through the progressive degeneration of the retina. As RP progresses, the field of vision narrows, a condition known as “tunnel vision,” until only central vision (the ability to see straight ahead) remains.
Nuccio was the first DeafBlind Director of the Seattle DeafBlind Service Center (DBSC) and co-author of Providing and Receiving Support Services: Comprehensive Training for Deaf-Blind Persons and Their Support Service Providers. Prior, Nuccio worked as a research coordinator, advocate and job-developer. Originally from Croatia, raised in the state of Georgia, Nuccio has a B.A. in Biology from RIT, and an M.A. in Public Health from Emory University. A national presenter, she continues to be active and involved in local and national DeafBlind communities.
Granda is a teacher, social justice activist, textile artist, and mom. Along with Nuccio, she is one of the contributors developing curriculum on a national project for training SSPs and individuals who are DeafBlind. Active in bringing changes and new ideas to Seattle’s DeafBlind community for over a decade, granda has worked for the DBSC and at Seattle’s Lighthouse for the Blind as an advocate, trainer, mentor and teacher.
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind
The Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind’s goal is to build capacity of state/local agencies, parents and professionals to improve services and outcomes for children and young adults who are deafblind and their families by providing innovative Technical Assistance (TA), information and training. For more information on technical assistance offered through the Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind or any of AIDB’s additional deaf-blind programs/telecommunications distribution programs, contact Jessica L. Edmiston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256.761.3470. To tour AIDB’s Talladega-based programs or an AIDB Regional Center, please contact Christine Roberts at email@example.com or 256.761.3207.
Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (www.aidb.org)
Now more than 150 years strong, AIDB’s mission is to provide superior comprehensive education and service programs for individuals who are deaf, blind and multidisabled and their families. This commitment to excellence is carried out through three schools, serving children, three to 21 (Alabama School for the Deaf, Alabama School for the Blind, Helen Keller School of Alabama); an education/rehabilitation adult program (E.H. Gentry Facility); and a manufacturing complex (Alabama Industries for the Blind). In Fiscal Year 2011-2012, AIDB served more than 22,500 individuals through five Talladega campuses and statewide Regional Centers located in Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Shoals, Talladega and Tuscaloosa.
Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (www.rehab.alabama.gov)
The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) is a state agency that is unique in the nation for providing services to children and adults with disabilities through a seamless system of service delivery. Through our continuum of services, ADRS provides assistance throughout a lifetime. With individualized services provided in homes, schools, the workplace, and the community, ADRS assists every person in achieving his or her maximum potential.
In FY 2013, ADRS assisted almost 50,000 Alabamians. Learn more about ADRS through www.rehab.alabama.gov, which highlights programs, services, career opportunities, and the personal stories of some of the people ADRS serves.
Troy University Interpreter Training Program (www.troy.edu)
The Interpreter Training Program (ITP) at Troy University is a four-year Bachelors of Science degree program that offers students an opportunity to pursue a career in interpreting. Interpreting, as a profession, facilitates communication between individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing using American Sign Language (ASL) or a form of visual language and spoken English. For more references about the interpreting profession, please refer to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf website www.rid.org and Discover Interpreting at www.discoverinterpreting.org.
Troy University’s ITP also offers an ASL Minor. A Minor in American Sign Language can be a benefit for any major: nursing, psychology, education, and criminal justice, to name a few. Students will become more marketable with ASL included in their skills. The Interpreter Training Program courses can be taken either on-campus, online, or a combination of the two. On-campus courses offer a classroom setting in addition to a language lab that utilizes video cameras, videophones, DVD players, and computers. This lab affords students the opportunity to develop and practice American Sign Language (ASL) skills as well as ASL-to-English and English-to-ASL interpreting. Troy University’s distance learning program, eTroy, offers the Interpreter Training Program online to allow students to receive the same benefits of the program as students attending on-campus at Troy.
Currently, Troy University is the only university in Alabama to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Interpreting. Partners and sponsors of the Interpreter Training Program include: Alabama Dual Party Relay Board; Alabama Department of Education; Alabama Department of Mental Health; Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.