The Deaf-Blind Program at E.H. Gentry Facility is a state-wide program, managed by a team, which will result in the evaluation, instruction, training and transition of consumers who are deaf-blind. The program is designed to provide Assistive Technology services, Braille instruction, Orientation and Mobility (O&M), academic remediation, independent living skills training and employment services.
Gentry’s Deaf-Blind program is committed to supporting consumers who are deaf-blind in achieving their life’s goals –whether leisure, class or career. Through training and information, we aspire to improve the independence and quality of life for people who are deaf-blind to work successfully and live independently.
For more information, please contact:
Bethany Miller, Deaf-Blind Program Coordinator
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth Transition Coordinator
Meet Chelsae Miner
I first discovered AIDB’s magic as a prospective student in 2009. The moment I stepped into Johnson Hall on the Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD) campus, I felt an intensity unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was surrounded by other people who were just like me. I enrolled as a sophomore and began my unforgettable adventure in education. It was also an adventure that gave me the confidence and competence to chart my own course and be successful in a world that was changing faster and more drastically than ever before –especially for me. Here’s my story…
I was born in Ohio in 1993, an only child and deaf. I had what you could say is the average childhood. Although I never knew my father, I had a mother who loved me and wanted the best for me. I attended public school and made good grades.
Everything changed in 2007 at the age of 14. At what was to be a simple eye appointment, the course of my life would be altered forever.
“She has Usher Syndrome,” the doctor told my mother. Since there was no interpreter present, I didn’t understand what was going on. After researching, we found that Usher Syndrome is a condition characterized by hearing impairment and progressive vision loss. The vision loss is due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative condition of the retina and usually appears during adolescence or early adulthood. In other words, I was going blind.
Being a typical teenager, this was hard for me to grasp. I ignored it for a while hoping it would just go away –no such luck. At school, I began working with an Orientation and Mobility Specialist who was teaching me different techniques, one being the use of a cane.
The next year, Mom decided to move us closer to her brother. We made the 12-hour drive from our home in Ohio to a small town in Alabama where I attended public school as a freshman. As luck would have it, I was the only deaf person in the school. And to make things worse, I did not have an interpreter everyday to assist me in my classes. I began to feel isolated and depressed. I heard of the Alabama School for the Deaf and begged my mother to allow me to attend. She gave in and I enrolled as a Sophomore in 2009. As I said earlier, it was magic and I finally felt that I was where I belonged.
At ASD, I was learning so much and having fun. I began participating in extracurricular activities and even tried out for cheerleading. Things were going great until my Mom began to get sick. She was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer and lost her battle to the disease my senior year of high school. I could have given up but I remember how hard my mom pushed me and how much she wanted me to succeed.
Thanks to the great teachers and staff at ASD, I finished my senior year but I still needed to pass two portions of the Alabama High School Graduation Exit Exam. For this, I transferred to Gentry, AIDB’s adult rehabilitation facility. There, I studied and passed the language and math portions of the exam and received my academic high school diploma.
“But, what now?”
I decided to enroll in Gentry’s Deaf-Blind Program. It was time to finally embrace my future and make the most of it. I learned independent living skills. Computer skills, money management and more. I also discovered that technology does and will continue to play a very important role in my life. Soon after enrolling, I was approached by the Deaf-Blind Coordinator and Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Transition Coordinator, Bethany Miller. She explained there were additional programs such as iCanConnect that could help me receive loaned telecommunications devices –devices that can help me with both the deaf and hearing world and will eventually be able to assist me as my eyesight worsens. Now, my iPhone and my iPad are my new best friends! I use them in my everyday life to communicate and most recently, I am using them at my new job at Walgreens, where my manager thinks I might just be management material!
On November 21, 2013, I was the first graduate of Gentry’s Deaf-Blind Program. I am sure my future is bright! I have embraced my situation and feel stronger because of it. No longer am I afraid or embarrassed; instead, I am confident and independent thanks to the programs and staff at Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind
Gentry’s Deaf-Blind Program is for adults, 16 and older, who have both vision and hearing loss. It’s sister project –The Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind, serves children, birth to 22, in school systems across Alabama through a U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Award.
Building upon the successes of the Alabama Centre for Deaf-Blind/Multi-Challenged Services (Gentry’s Deaf-Blind Program); the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP)iCanConnect initiative; and the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) Alabama Telecommunications Administration Program (ATAP) and eight statewide Regional Centers which administer Alabama’s Early Intervention Services – the Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind’s Goal is tobuild 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.
As children and youth, ages birth to 22 are identified (Download Alabama’s Deaf-Blind Census Form Here), targeted individual and group technical assistance to caregivers and school systems will be provided through AIDB’s Talladega-based campuses (Alabama School for the Blind, Alabama School for the Deaf, Helen Keller School of Alabama and E.H. Gentry Facility) and eight Regional Centers across the state.
The Census collects information about individuals from birth to 21 years of age who have a combination of vision and hearing losses. This information is used to study trends of etiology, to obtain information about classroom placement, ages and school districts where children are located, and to plan training and individualized services and technical assistance for teachers, parents and service providers. Examples include, but are not limited to Early Intervention Services and Coordination; Individualized Education Plan, Individualized Plans for Employment, and Personal Futures Planning development; Transition Services; Assistive Technology Assessments, Professional Development and Training; Caregiver Support Groups and Parent Conference Calls; Information Sharing and Dissemination; Braille and Large Print/Interpreting Service Coordination; Vision and Hearing Assessments and much more!
Reported students do not have to be completely deaf or completely blind to be included in this Census. Individuals included should have a mild, moderate or severe hearing loss AND a mild, moderate, or severe vision loss. Students should benefit from instruction specific to the presence of dual vision and hearing loss. If there are questions or to join our listserv, contact Jessica L. Edmiston at 256.761.3470; 256.493.3360 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP): iCanConnect
Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) has been selected by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to be the sole authorized entity certified to participate in the National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) for Alabama.
Within the NDBEDP, AIDB will administer free, loaned communications devices to qualified persons who are deaf-blind. Devices will be provided statewide to Alabama residents through AIDB’s E.H. Gentry Facility and network of eight statewide Regional Centers with device recommendations based on individual demand with AIDB/ Gentry Facility’s Deaf-Blind Program and Assistive Technology expertise.
As one of 53 entities selected in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AIDB will provide individual assessments, individual training, equipment distribution, installation and maintenance as well as local outreach.
The FCC established the NDBEDP in response to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). The CVAA directed the FCC to establish a program using funding of up to $10 million annually from the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service Fund (TRS Fund) for the nationwide distribution of communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind.
For a list of all 53 certified programs or for additional NDBEDP information, contact Director of Services for the Blind Jack Harrison at (256) 761.3406.