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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.
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.
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.
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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