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Welcome to the

Helen Keller National Center

for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) 

Our mission: to enable each person who is deaf-blind to live, work, and thrive in their community of choice.

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Sad news: Dr. Robert J. Smithdas, Former Director of Community Education, Passes Away at Age 89

Photo: Dr. Robert Smithdas at his desk, reading a message on a telebraille. Stacks of braille books are in the background.


Dr. Robert J. Smithdas, author, lecturer and poet, passed away on July 17th, 2014, at the age of 89. Born on June 7, 1925, in Brentwood, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Pittsburgh), he contracted cerebro-spinal meningitis at the age of four and a half and as a result, lost his vision and nearly all of his hearing. Dr. Smithdas’ formal schooling began at Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind and he later attended the renowned Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA. He received a fellowship for attendance at St. John’s University in New York where he earned his bachelor of arts degree, cum laude in 1950. Three years later, he became the first person who was deaf-blind to earn a master’s degree. He achieved this distinction at New York University, where he specialized in vocational guidance and rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities.  CLICK HERE to read more...



REVIVING A CAREER – ED’S STORY  Photo: Ed B. works safely with large tool on piece of wood.         


 Former HKNC student, Ed B. has Usher syndrome but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his dream of owning his own woodworking shop.  There were a few bumps along the road on the journey he took to fulfill this dream but it has now become a reality thanks mainly to Ed’s motivation and perseverance in the face of obstacles and the support from his team at HKNC.  Here’s how it happened:

In middle and high school, Ed discovered his love for woodworking and, when it came time for college, he enrolled in National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology where he studied architecture. As his vision began to decline, it became too difficult for him to see the drawings so he transferred to St. Paul Technical College in Minnesota where he earned a certificate in cabinetmaking.  For three years, Ed worked for a company that made cabinets but his continuing loss of vision became problematic.  He began to make mistakes and became fearful of hurting himself on the job.  He left the cabinet company and got a job with the U.S. Post Office where he worked for 15 years before he retired in 2012...(Click here to read more)



Photo: HKNC CAC members (L-R) Carolyn Haas, Lynn Jansen, Julie Somers, Francis Casale, Mussie Gabre, Christopher Sence and Jill Gaus, CAC Chair



The HKNC Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) recently gathered for their annual spring “face-to-face” meeting in the Conference Center at our NY headquarters. The Council members – representatives from the Deaf-Blind Community - provide feedback and information to assist HKNC in maintaining quality standards. In their role as ambassadors, they share information about the Center with the Deaf-Blind Community.  (CLICK HERE to read more)







Helen Keller National Center Recognizes Congressmen with Inaugural “Dr. Robert J. Smithdas Award”

Photo: Dr. Robert J. Smithdas Award Certificate to Steve Israel


The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC), announced its inaugural “Dr. Robert J. Smithdas Award.”  Coinciding with Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week, taking place from June 22-June 28, 2014, this year’s award recipients include Congressmen Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Mark Takano (D-CA) and Steve Israel (D-NY).  (CLICK HERE to read more...)






Newsday - Year of awareness: Technology levels the field for deaf-blind awareness week

USA Today -  "On Helen Keller's birthday, some apps for the deaf-blind"

Photo:  Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week 2014 Poster: white haired woman, left side of poster, reads braille display on device in her lap. Teenage looking girl on right side of poster hold mobile device in her hand. TEXT on left side of poster: She's deaf-blind and holds the world in her hands. Text on right side of poster: Just like her loved ones.




October 20-26, 2014 -  Confident Living Program For Senior Adults Who are Hard of Hearing and Blind or Visually Impaired





There has been lots oPhoto: Kristen, Stacey, Kathrine, Maricar, Hildebjørg, and Marilynf discussion lately about different touch systems being modified,  systemized, and formalized to be used by individuals who are deaf-blind. In an effort to better understand and educate HKNC students and staff about all the options that are available to enhance communication for deaf-blind people, two staff members from Hapti-Co in Norway, Hildebjørg Bjørge and Kathrine Rehder, came to HKNC headquarters to discuss the system they teach called "haptics."

Touch signals have been used by all people – including those in the deaf-blind community – well, probably forever! Nobody really invented them – most were created as a natural reaction to natural events.  Think about sports players giving each other a congratulatory "high five" when a score is made, or the toddler's tap on Mom’s leg for her attention.  (Click here to read more)




Read how the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program continues to change lives:

Government Technology article on NDBEDP featured the New York Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

        "iCanConnect Helps Deaf-Blind Americans Access the Internet"


        CLICK HERE for Transcript of embedded video about the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program.  

        "iCANCONNECT" - the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

        If you are deaf-blind, you may qualify for free telecommunications devices and training!

        Click here to learn more. 



LEARN ABOUT TECHNOLOGY used by people who are deaf-blind through HKNC's new videos:


        CLICK BELOW  to view "Communications Technology for People Who are Deaf-Blind" (CC with descriptive video)



     CLICK BELOW to view "Communications Technology for People Who are Deaf-Blind" (with ASL)



        Text version of script






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Updates: last modified 07/23/2014