State SSPs attend three-day deaf-blind training session

The state's Support Service Providers help the deaf-blind community navigate daily life.
The state's Support Service Providers help the deaf-blind community navigate daily life. | Courtesy of greenwichmeantime.com

Pennsylvania’s Support Service Providers (SSPs), who work with deaf-and-blind individuals, recently attended a three-day training session at the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living in Pittsburgh and the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville.

The event was organized by the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, Department of Labor and Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Center for Independent Living of Central Pennsylvania, Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Statewide Independent Living Council.

Teachers from the Hellen Keller National Center of Sands Point traveled from New York to instruct the SSPs. The day-long training sessions covered the basics of those who are both deaf and blind, as well as communication strategies, cultural aspects and the responsibilities of Pennsylvania’s SSPs.

The Monroeville Mall hosted the last session, during which participants practiced guiding deaf-blind volunteers through the mall, using elevators, stairs and escalators.

SSPs encourage deaf-blind individuals to gain independence by making decisions that are based on environmental signals; deaf-blind individuals independently hire SSPs through an interview process.

As part of the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL), SSPs are participants in the first statewide program that works directly with deaf-blind people. Both federal and state dollars fund the program’s workers, who must be high school graduates 18 or older.