Support Service Providers
North Carolina is fortunate to have hundreds of trained Support Service Providers (SSPs) who are willing to volunteer their time and energy to the NC Deaf-Blind Community. These SSPs come to the NCDBA Conference every spring, Camp Dogwood in September, and even come to NC residents’ homes to guide them to doctor appointments, assist with running errands, reading their mail and more.
To learn more about Volunteer SSP services here in North Carolina or trainings that are offered on Deaf-Blindness, please contact the NCDBA Communication Access Coordinator here.
Image Discription: An deaf-blind individual on the left is using an SSP, on the right, to gain visual information in her native language.
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 individuals who are deaf-blind overcome these barriers is through the assistance of trained people called support service providers (SSPs). Deaf-blind members of the American Association of the Deaf-Blind, a national organization of, by and for people with combined vision and hearing losses, have voted that support service providers are the greatest needed service for them.
What are Support Service Providers?
Support service providers (SSPs) relay visual and environmental information, act as sighted guides, and facilitate communication for people who are deaf-blind by using the deaf-blind person’s preferred language and communication mode. 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.
How many Deaf-Blind people are in the United States?
Exact statistics are not available. The most recent study was done in 2006 by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University. The study estimates that approximately 1.2 million people have combined vision and hearing losses.
Image Description: SSP helping deaf-blind camper at Camp Dogwood 2014. The theme that year was Mexico. Camper has a puzzle and SSP is explaining the pieces.
Need for Support Service Providers
Around 22 states and cities around the country provide some level of SSP services, either statewide or locally. Other states do not have any SSP programs at all. Several SSP programs are experiencing a decrease in their funding. Clearly, there are not enough SSP programs to meet the needs of deaf-blind people around the country. We ask for your support in recognizing support service providers as a needed service for deaf-blind people nationwide.
If you are interested in information on becoming an SSP for NCDBA, please contact us at: NCDBASSPS@gmail.com.
If you would like more information on becoming an SSP for another area, you can contact the American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB).
American Association of the Deaf-Blind
8630 Fenton Street, Suite 121
Silver Spring, MD 20910