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Deaf and Blind

Magda Zecevic is a Charter Member of REBSEA Magda Zecevic who is actively supporting the Association of DeafBlind based in Toronto, Canada. 

Association of DeafBlind 

Founded in 1989, DeafBlind Ontario Services is the largest not-for-profit organization providing residential and other specialized services to adults who are congenitally deafblind across the province. The organization provides community-based housing, Intervenor services, independent living skills and vocational opportunities to enable our clients to live more independently.

Its service model ensures clients’ goals meet their desires, preferences and abilities through a person-centered approach delivered by specially trained Intervenors. 

DeafBlind Ontario Services envisions and advocates for a community where individuals who are deafblind have every opportunity to reach their full potential.  As a leader in the field, the organization contributes to this vision by developing innovative programs, providing specialized services and intensive training for Intervenors, and delivering excellence and expertise in the field of deafblindness.

DeafBlind Ontario Services currently supportsover 55 adults who are congenitally deafblind in 15 homes and 3 apartment programs in York Region, Simcoe County, Middlesex-Oxford, Durham-Peterborough, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa regions and through specialized community programs across the province.

Over 70,000 Canadians live with the dual disability of deafblindness, with approximately 700 living in Ontario.

DeafBlind Ontario Services’ CRA registered business number is 131834319RR0001.

Deafblindness is a complex disability that combines varying degrees of both hearing and visual impairment, making it unique to each individual.   Although a person who is deafblind may not be completely deaf or completely blind, they do not have enough of either sense to navigate their environment independently.

All individuals who are deafblind experience challenges with communication and mobility and most have additional physical disabilities and medical issues.

Intervenors are specially trained to be partners in communication with people who are deafblind, providing the visual and auditory information necessary to enable the person who is deafblind to interact with other people and their environment. Since every individual who is deafblind has a varying degree of sensory loss, they will have their own unique individual way of communicating – such as through tactile symbols, objects of reference, various forms of sign language or Braille.

Some individuals are profoundly deaf and blind and must rely solely on tactile communication.  There are infinite possibilities for uniqueness, and it is rare to find two individuals with similar abilities, methods and forms of communication.  For hearing and sighted people, knowing where you are, understanding what is going on around you, knowing who is with you, communicating with other people, making decisions and getting around are all taken for granted.  People who are deafblind need specialized services to do all these everyday things.

The motto of “doing with, not for” describes the role of the Intervenor in the life of the person who is deafblind – doing activities with the person, not for them, therefore increasing their level of independence and confidence.  Our service model ensures our clients’ goals meet their desires, preferences and abilities through a person-centered approach. Each program looks different for each client. 

It is important to note that our clients are very active in their communities.  They go to the gym, work or volunteer, visit area attractions, prepare their own meals, clean their homes, and socialize with family and friends.  They just communicate in different ways. 

Beyond DeafBlind Ontario Services’ residential program, where individuals who are deafblind live in homes with the support of Intervenors 24/7, the organization offers the following specialized programs.

 

  • ·      Sensory Excursions focus on experiences that stimulate the client’s senses. As part of our person centered approach model, Sensory Excursions are based on their goals, wants, needs, desires, their various assessments (sensory, environmental, orientation/mobility, physio, etc.) and past history and experiences.  The Sensory Excursion process also requires the client, with the assistance of their Intervenors, to research and develop an extensive itinerary and a variety of methods to budget/save.  Since 2009, our clients have realized their dreams through numerous Sensory Excursions that have been provided by generous donors.  By increasing their exposure to new experiences with a sensory theme, they have created memories to last a lifetime.  After their excursion, clients create an experience tool to remember their time away.  This may take the form of photographs, mementos and tactile cues to represent activities from their experience.

 

  • ·      Snoezelen (pronounced SNOOZE-e-len), derived from the Dutch words for "to doze" and "to sniff", is a room designed to give those with developmental disabilities and sensory impairments a multi-sensory experience. A Snoezelen Room provides a full range of sensory stimulation and enjoyable experiences in an atmosphere of trust and relaxation.   In a safe, comfortable environment, the primary senses are stimulated by wonderful combinations of music, light, gentle vibrations, tactile sensations, and aromatherapy.

 

  • ·      The Sensory Exploration ArtsTM (SEATM) Program was created in 2010 to promote and foster artistic expression among individuals with sensory impairments in a visual arts program. The initial concept of this project began after visiting SENSE Scotland in 2008 and observing the benefits and opportunities of their Arts and Wellbeing Program.  Participants include clients of DeafBlind Ontario Services as well as other community agencies supporting individuals with physical, cognitive or sensory impairments. 

This stimulating and collaborative program has exposed the benefits of sensory expression in individuals who may not have engaged or viewed themselves as an artist before.  Artists explore and experience many themes through their senses; they are then given the opportunity to express their responses to these sensory experiences through visual art, music, drama and dance without direction.  This program also includes the broader community through the inclusion of local artists who work with various art mediums.  Pieces of art have also been selected to enter the International Helen Keller Awards, an open multi-media arts competition that explores perceptions of deafblindness across the world, hosted by SENSE.

 

  • ·      REACH provides specialized expertise and support for adults who are deafblind or those with a sensory loss and communication need at their current residences such as nursing homes, family homes, foster homes, group homes, special care facilities, etc. The REACH team consults with families, caregivers, Intervenors and other professionals in order to develop a customized plan that meets the needs of each individual in their own environment. REACH is flexible to the unique communication needs of each individual, and the development of an individualized plan is done after a detailed assessment is completed.

Once the customized plan is developed, the REACH team trains the support team of the individual on implementation. The REACH program is supported by DeafBlind Ontario Services’ TOUCHTM training program, which covers the role of the Intervenor, communication methods for the deafblind, ethical practices and assistive devices. Mentorship is a cornerstone of the REACH program. The team continues to follow-up and provides guidance to the support team sharing advice, knowledge and experience after the initial training. The goal of this follow up is to ensure the philosophy of Intervenor services is maintained throughout the individual’s program. Every REACH program looks different for each individual and each supporting agency.

  • ·      Tremplin is the French word for “springboard” or “stepping stones”. This program launched in the fall of 2011 in the Ottawa area.  This new model of service delivery was originally designed for the needs of Centre Jules-Léger graduates and the desires of their families. This program is offered in French for individuals who are deafblind in the Ottawa area.
  • Tremplin is a blend of our current residential program, in terms of maintaining our highly recognized program model focusing on community involvement, and our REACH program which will allow for each of the participants to return to their family home on nightly basis, while still providing the family with predetermined respite support throughout the year. This program is ideal for individuals whose families prefer for their loved ones to retain the stability of remaining at home, while being able to thrive in a community program during the day, allowing them to exercise their independence. 

Trying to instill a conceptin a person who is congenitally deafblind is extremely complex.  However, even with this severe disability, our clients have the capacity to build their life skills, gain independence and contribute to the greater community with the support of specially trained Intervenors and specialized housing, which caters to their needs.

The organization’s funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Servicessupports the day-to-day operations of our programs and services.  However, it does not include specialized programming or assistive devices, which allow our clients to achieve an optimum level of independence. 

 

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