American Association of the Deaf-Blind

A New Beginning


Brief on Support Service Providers (SSPs)

Last Update:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Deaf-blind indiviudal and SSP

An deaf-blind individual on the left is using an SSP, on the right, to gain visual information in her native language.

The American Association of the Deaf-Blind seeks your support in recognizing support service providers (SSPs) as a needed service for deaf-blind people nationwide.


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 for deaf-blind people to 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, 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.

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.


  • American Association of the Deaf-Blind
    8630 Fenton Street, Suite 121
    Silver Spring, MD 20910
  • Voice: 301-495-4403
  • TTY: 301-495-4402
  • Fax: 301-495-4404
  • Videophone: 301-563-9107
  • Email:
  • Website:

Reduce the Isolation

Enable Support Service Providers (SSPs) to be the eyes and ears of deaf-blind people.

For more information, please visit our SSP page or contact the AADB Office.