Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2012 A Publication of the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults
TABLE OF CONTENTS
141 Middle Neck Road
Sands Point, NY 11050
VP: 866-351-9089 or
Joseph J. McNulty
HKNC Regional Offices
Sands Point, NY
East Moline, IL
Shawnee Mission, KS
San Diego, CA
Helen Keller Services
for the Blind
It gives me great pleasure to officially announce that the Helen Keller National Center is the recipient of a $6 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust! Since its establishment in 2008, the Trust has committed millions of dollars to a wide range of charitable organizations supporting such fields as health, medical research, social services, education, and more. HKNC’s relationship with the Helmsley family dates back to the mid-1990s when Mrs. Helmsley became acquainted with the work we do at the Center. In 2001, she generously donated the funds to build a two-story addition to the Training Building which houses our state-of-the-art Conference Center, aptly named after the Helmsleys, as well as a board room, staff lounge, and offices.
The funds from this new grant have been earmarked for the expansion of the Information, Research, and Professional Development Department in three specific areas. The department will conduct research to determine the needs of Americans who are deaf-blind. In collaboration with universities, research projects, and personnel preparation programs around the country, they will identify the most effective practices for working with youths and adults who are deaf-blind. And, finally, through professional training initiatives, they will disseminate the best practices nationally through a new website, webinars, informational videos, and professional seminars. Through these efforts, the Center hopes to increase the number of professionals qualified to provide services to people who are deaf-blind in their local communities as stated in HKNC’s mission.
On behalf of HKNC, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for giving us this opportunity to fulfill our mission of enabling people who are deaf-blind to live and work in the community of their choice. - Joe McNulty
Originally proclaimed by Congressional resolutions and Presidential signature on April 3, 1985, Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week has always encouraged recognition of the achievements and capabilities of people who are deaf-blind. Over the years, it has educated the public about the accomplishments of individuals who are deaf-blind in areas such as employment, independent living, travel, and technology. Through this effort, employers have learned the tremendous contribution of deaf-blind workers in the business world.
The 2012 Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week (June 24 - June 30) will focus on the services offered by the Helen Keller National Center – both on the campus in Sands Point, New York, and in the field throughout the country.
For more than 45 years, HKNC has been the only agency which has consistently provided vocational and independent living skills training nationally for people who have combined vision and hearing loss. The Center works in partnership with people who are deaf-blind, their families, and service providers to offer training, advocacy, information, and referral. As a result, there are greater opportunities for employment, independent living, and civic and social engagement for people who are experiencing vision and hearing loss. Challenges are conquered and possibilities unfold!
If you would like information to publicize this event in your community or state including a poster, press release, suggested activities, and a sample proclamation, please go to www.hknc.org or contact email@example.com
We’d like to know about any events that are planned around Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
HKNC continues to be a destination for visitors from around the world. During the past couple of months, we have hosted a diverse group of professionals as well as private citizens who wish to learn about our services.
We were honored to welcome the spouses of the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations. The wife of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, was accompanied by the wives of the ambassadors from Azerbaijan, Guatemala, India, Morocco, and South Africa. They learned about the latest assistive technology, met students who were working together on an art project, toured the Independent Living Department, and heard the life stories of members of HKNC’s Student Leadership Group.
The Perkins International Educational Leadership Program has been a regular visitor to the Center since the 1980s. This year’s attendees came from Bangladesh, China, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Serbia, and South Africa. They enjoyed hearing from staff about HKNC’s programs and got to see the most recent advancements in our Technology Department.
The Nordic countries were represented by 12 staff members from the Center for the Deaf in Denmark. They have several deaf-blind consumers in their Center and were particularly interested in hearing about our residential and vocational programs. Another visitor was a deaf-blind gentleman from Holland who was interested in meeting Americans who are deaf-blind and seeing what training is available in the United States.
In April, the Board of Directors of DeafBlind International (DbI) held a meeting at HKNC bringing 30 members representing 14 different countries together in our Conference Center. They toured the Training Building and had an opportunity to hear from Anindya “Bapin” Bhattacharyya, HKNC’s technology, development & training specialist, about an exciting project the Center is working on with the National Public Radio and Towson University – Captioned and Braille Radio. The presentation was followed by a rousing exchange of ideas between the Board and HKNC staff.
One of the DbI board members, Diana Isabel Bonilla Sinibaldi from Guatemala, extended her stay at HKNC. Diana is the chairperson of the DbI Employment Interest Group and is associated with Fundal, the only school for children who are deaf-blind in Guatemala. She is interested in starting a program to provide services for adults who are deaf-blind in her country and was able to meet with headquarters staff, visit work sites, and learn all about setting up adult services. An interesting aside - among the spouses of the United Nations ambassadors who visited HKNC earlier in the year was Margit Rosenthal, the wife of the permanent representative of Guatemala. We were able to put Diana in touch with Margit and provided a venue for them to meet in person during Diana’s visit. Another important contact was made with Clara Berg, family specialist at the New York Deaf-Blind Collaborative, who knows many resources in Central and South America. Hopefully, with all the networking that was done, Diana’s dream of additional services for Fundal will become a reality.
The Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission has chosen Perkins School for the Blind, partnering with HKNC, to conduct national outreach efforts to promote the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP). Included in this pilot program are FableVision, Inc., and other national and local consumer groups, parent groups, agencies, and associations. The NDBEDP is mandated by Section 105 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act that “provides funding of up to $10 million annually for the local distribution of communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind.”
During this initial phase of the NDBEDP, $500,000 has been allocated for the branding and marketing of the national outreach effort to “reach and inform the greatest number of consumers, service providers, and others” to explain the state-level certified program, contact information, available equipment, and ways to apply for equipment and related services provided by the program. Perkins, along with HKNC and others will work together in reaching out by creating videos and a fully accessible website. There will be consultation with programs, advocacy groups, professional associations, and others as well as a toll-free number established to provide consumers with basic information about the NDBEDP. The program will be promoted at key conventions and conferences and an electronic tool kit containing sample press releases and templates for announcements, digital postcards, and newsletters will be created.
The remaining $9.5 million will be divided among the U.S. and its territories. Stay tuned to future issues of CONNECT! for updates on the progress of NDBEDP.
All around the country, people who have combined vision and hearing loss are giving back to their communities.
At the Helen Keller National Center, students have an opportunity to join a group called Reach Out to the Community or HKNC-ROC. Its mission is to raise money to help other organizations in need. The students bake their favorite goodies and then hold bake sales. The proceeds from the most recent bake sales went toward purchasing non-perishable food items which were then donated to a local community’s annual winter food drive. The beneficiary of the next donation will be the Ronald McDonald House!
A deaf-blind cyclist in California, Andy Grande who has Usher syndrome type I, is the stoker on a tandem bicycle - the guy in the back seat! He participates in “Cycling for Sight,” a three-day 200 mile event to raise money for a local center for the blind. The HKNC regional representative in his area, Cathy Kirscher, has worked with Andy securing SSPs through the program run out of her office and referred Andy to the part-time job he now holds teaching braille to a deaf-blind woman.
For the past few years, former HKNC student Jon Gabry has come back to HKNC to participate in the annual “Helen’s Walk,” a major fundraising event for the Center. Not only does he walk the 3.1 miles but, after completing the Walk, Jon can be found at the finish line cheering on the others and, on occasion, teaching sign language to the walkers. For the past four years, Jon has been one of the top three fundraisers.
Another former student, Angela Orlando, along with her SSP Kara Bull, joined many others in the Columbus area who walked to raise funds for the Ohio Association of the Deaf-Blind. Angela is the co-founder and leader of the Northeast Ohio Deaf-Blind Association’s new SSP Pilot Program and Kara is the coordinator of the program. The walk-a-thon was only one mile but it was a big goal for Angela, who not only has Usher syndrome but a rare genetic disorder called PHARC (polyneuropathy, hearing loss, ataxia, retinitis pigmentosa, and cataracts). The funds raised by the walk will assist in further developing the SSP Pilot Program in Ohio. In a recent article in the Kent Patch, Angela said, "I am totally deaf, blind, and physically impaired. Most people would never consider that I can do a walk-a-thon. But I'm determined to succeed, even if it takes me longer than others."
The Sight and Sound Impaired of St. Louis (SASISTL), a consumer support group in Missouri, incorporates the philosophy of working together to give back to their local community. Members, along with their SSPs, have participated in the local Hearing Loss Association of America’s WALK4Hearing and the local Foundation Fighting Blindness’ VisionWALK. They raise funds and awareness as they walk together. In addition, during SASISTL’s monthly meetings, members have raffles and fundraisers. The proceeds are used to support SASISTL and their charitable efforts. Each year, they select a different recipient organization to receive the donation. Founder and President Mary Hale states that, “this is our way to pay it forward and show we care about our community.”
“A little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives out roses.”
~ From “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” by Robin Sharma
By Scott Davert, HKNC Senior Instructor
Many people who are sighted and hearing enjoy reading their news on the go with ease. For people with vision loss, NFB Newsline has offered a telephone based service that provides access to 300 newspapers, 40 magazines, and other information of interest. For those who prefer using a computer, there are news media websites, social networking forums, and online transcripts of broadcasts. Now, deaf-blind people can access news via NFB Newsline Mobile, a newly released application for portable iDevices. This app provides full access to all of the content it makes available, both with speech and braille output. NFB Newsline service is free for U.S. citizens who have a qualifying reading disability and/or are legally blind.
While other individual apps can provide some access to people who are deaf-blind, they often have significant limitations. For a review of the three most popular free news apps for iDevices, written from an accessibility standpoint, please go to:
When speaking with a prospective student about the training program at HKNC, regional representatives are often asked about where the student will live while they attend the program.
A two-story Residence Hall is one of three buildings on the HKNC 25-acre campus located in the Village of Sands Point on Long Island – about 25 miles from New York City. The nearest town, Port Washington, is about 2 miles from campus and has all the amenities. Residence staff or a local taxi service provides transportation for shopping and community activities. The Long Island Railroad Station in Port Washington provides a direct connection to Manhattan.
When students arrive at the Residence, they are greeted by a staff person and a buddy who provide an orientation to the Residence and introduce them to the rest of the students. The buddy is a student who is currently enrolled at the Center who helps new students “learn the ropes” by sharing their knowledge and experiences at HKNC. Many students develop lifelong friendships from their time at the Center.
Residence staff is available after 3 PM during the week, and all day and night on the weekends and holidays. There are 2 lounge areas where the students can enjoy TV, board games, and snacks. Wi-Fi and Internet access are available throughout the Residence. Information about Residence rules are discussed during new student orientation meetings. The library and a computer lab have closed circuit TVs for reading and there are several video phones as well as amplified phones available for calls to family and friends. Fire drills are held on a regular basis. Most students are able to have their own bedroom which has a private bathroom.
The kitchen staff prepares 3 meals a day including special diets for medical or religious reasons. Menus are accessible electronically and are also posted inside the cafeteria in large print and braille.
A recreation habilitation specialist works with the students to prepare a monthly calendar of events for leisure time during evenings and weekends. There is an outside track and a gym in the Training Building with exercise equipment available to those who have medical clearance. Regular trips to New York City are planned as well as trips to malls, restaurants, local festivals, beaches, and more. Trained volunteers and a small number of Support Service Providers are available to assist with these activities.
For some students, on-campus apartments are used as part of their training experience. For other students, two off-campus apartments are used for more comprehensive training to promote success when living independently upon returning to their home community.
For more information on life in the HKNC Residence, consult your regional representative.
Mother Nature was especially kind for this year’s annual Helen’s Walk. The sun shone brightly and the temperature was comfortably cool for the large crowd of walkers enjoying the 3.1 mile hike through the residential neighborhood adjoining the Center. The finishers were greeted with the usual pom-pom waving, whistle blowing cheering squad after which they refreshed themselves with bagels, fruit, juices, and more on the Training Building Patio.
Let the Walk Begin!! Walking the Walk!
The Sands Point Garden Club members on the course Volunteers manned the water stations
An HKNC student walker with her SSP at the finish line Tired but happy, 2 walkers and their SSP
June 24 - June 30: Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week
June 26: "Nights Out - Lights Out" Fundraising Dinner
July 30 - August 10: Young Adult Summer Program
August 14 - August 17: Technology Seminar - "Train the Trainers"
September 24: HKNC's 6th Annual Golf Outing
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