Arthur "Art" Roehrig

President’s Blog

Art Roehrig

Greetings! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a great start to 2008.

I want to start the new year by introducing “AADB Today.” “AADB Today” is a new, expanded monthly newsletter. In each issue we will highlight happenings within the AADB Office, as we have been doing, and describe new projects that AADB is undertaking. We will also add some new features for this newsletter. Each month, we will spotlight people in the deaf-blind community and include a few articles on “hot” topics, such as advocacy, mental health, employment and other important issues.

The AADB Board of Directors, in its October meeting, voted on providing monthly issues of “AADB Today” and two issues of The Deaf-Blind American each year. We want to provide timely information about AADB and the deaf-blind community to our members and the public. “AADB Today” is a free publication, available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to it.

Also, please contact me or the AADB Office if you have ideas or comments on “AADB Today” and about AADB that you wish to share with us. I welcome your ideas and look forward to hearing from you.

Linda Annala

Tribute to Linda Annala

By McCay Vernon, Ph.D

Linda Annala was a strong advocate for the rights of deaf-blind people, and was actively involved with the American Association of the Deaf-Blind for many years as a board member. Her involvement with the deaf-blind community began when she was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome. At that time, she was already twenty and had started her career.

Although a native New Yorker, Linda lived for a number of years in Louisiana where there is an active community of persons who are deaf-blind due to Usher syndrome. There she was a leader in the Louisiana deaf-blind community.

Linda was a woman of strong religious convictions which were especially important to her when she entered the hospital for an operation she knew might take her life. Linda did not live long after the operation. Her death is a major loss to the deaf-blind community nationally. On a more personal note, I lost a very dear friend for whom I had great respect and admiration.

AADB in Action

News!

Membership Fee Changes

In an effort to recruit more members, the AADB Board of Directors voted on two changes: 1) membership fees for individual members (Active, Associate and International) are decreased from $25 to $10/year, and 2) organizational fees are divided into two categories: for profit businesses $75/year and non-profit businesses $50/year. To get our updated membership form, go to www.aadb.org, or contact the AADB Office.

National Citizens Corps Meeting

Elizabeth Spiers, Director of Information Services, attended a National Citizens Corps Committee meeting that focused on the needs of people with disabilities in emergency settings. She spoke about the need for deaf-blind people to be involved in emergency planning, and the need for accessible emergency communication.

Board Member Resigns

Janet Sand, an AADB board member serving her second term, has submitted her resignation effective January 2008. She was the former editor of The Deaf-Blind American, and her service to AADB will be greatly missed. The Board of Directors will consider a replacement soon.

Janet Sand
Jamie Pope

Presentations and Outreach

Jamie Pope, AADB Executive Director, presented at a “Deaf-Blind Forum” held at Gallaudet University in December 2007. The forum was part of a workshop focusing on “Strategies for Developing Effective Learning Environments for Deaf-Blind College Students.” Ms. Pope gave an overview of the deaf-blind community, and presented on support services available to deaf-blind college graduates.

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AADB Information Clearinghouse

The AADB Office continues to be a convenient information source for the public. Our top four information requests for January 2008 has been in the area of technology, AADB, the deaf-blind community, and available programs and services for deaf-blind people in their home areas.

Future AADB Today Issues

We will soon be using a different server to send out future issues of “AADB Today.” We can offer html format or plain text. Please contact the AADB Office at aadb-info@aadb.org to let us know if you want to receive “AADB Today” in html or plain text.

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Donation Opportunity

Jack Wright is reading Braille Jack Wright is showing his Tele-Braille.

Jack Wright Memorial Scholarship

The Jack Wright Memorial Scholarship is a new fund recently established by AADB and the family of Jack Wright, a former AADB board member who recently passed away in June 2007. The purpose of this scholarship is to give deaf-blind people an opportunity to attend our national AADB conferences when they otherwise could not afford to go. The scholarship will allow deaf-blind people an opportunity to meet and network with other deaf-blind participants, and learn about available programs, services, legislation, and other important topics in the deaf-blind community.

Jack Wright was a deaf-blind man who was a former AADB board member and a long-time resident of Maryland. He loved AADB conferences, and attended every conference, except for two, 1975 and 2006. He had a cheerful, can-do personality and inspired other deaf-blind people to believe that they could do anything they wanted to do.

For more information or to make a donation, please contact us.

Jack Wright is at the ACT's Rock a Thon event

Summary of AADB’s Letter to the FCC on Hawk Relay’s Petition for Deaf-Blind Relay Services

On February 4th, American Association of the Deaf-Blind filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Hawk Relay’s petition for deaf-blind relay services.

AADB’s comments were prepared with the assistance of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI), as well as Brett Ferenchak and Nguyen Vu from the law firm of Bingham McCutchen. TDI, National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN), Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA), and California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. signed on their support.

AADB appreciates the initiative from Hawk Relay for a separate deaf-blind relay service program. However, AADB raised several key points:

  • Some deaf-blind individuals can use their limited vision/hearing to access today’s relay services, like Video Relay Services, Internet Relay, traditional TTY-to-voice, Voice Carry Over, and Hearing Carry Over. Relay service providers can and should make adjustments to make their services accessible.
  • A segment of the deaf-blind population cannot access any of today’s relay services, and they will benefit from having Communication Facilitators come to their residence, work, or another place to make/receive relay calls. They use tactile interpreting or close-up interpreting to access relay calls.
  • AADB expects all providers to be accessible and provide as many options as possible for deaf-blind Americans to access their relay services. This is the same as what is available for the deaf community.
  • AADB recommends that the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund cover the cost of providing relay services for deaf-blind Americans. To require every state to provide this service could raise several important issues—
    • states tend to pick one provider, and deaf-blind Americans deserve every right to make a choice between providers,
    • some states may not be financially equipped to provide this program,
    • several states that have a large number of deaf-blind residents may find costs feasible to run the program, whereas other states that have low numbers would find running such a program becomes cost prohibitive.

AADB strongly recommends that the FCC invite a number of stakeholders to participate in its summit to address all key facets of a deaf-blind relay service. AADB contends that there are many issues to resolve before the FCC can consider mandating this service, and authorizing reimbursements of costs from the Interstate TRS Fund.

Leadership Tips

Putting Your Best Hand Forward Tips to Developing Successful Leadership

By Jamie Pope
  • Don’t Be “Deaf-Blind” to the public.
    • Reach out to visitors, new faces
    • Smile, be positive
    • Use humor
    • Make sure visitors, new faces are hooked up with other members
    • Talk to everyone, even to people you don’t particularly like. Make sure no one is “alone” for a long time. You want them to feel comfortable enough to come back.
    • Don’t expect new people or visitors to know about deaf-blind culture or the deaf-blind community.
  • Communication Is Everything!
    • Ask questions, don’t assume.
    • Write thank you letters when appropriate.
    • Reply to communications within a reasonable time period.
  • Take Steps to Protect Your Reputation
    • Keep commitments.
    • Be punctual. Don’t follow Deaf-Blind Standard Time.
    • Think ahead! Build in enough time to prepare, whether it’s traveling, running errands, setting up room, time to discuss issues.
  • Do you have the passion? Go for it!
    • Surround yourself with positive thinking people. Set up goals and break them down so you can accomplish them easily.
    • Check with your team periodically.

Editor’s Note: Jamie Pope, Executive Director, gave this presentation to members of the Metro Washington Association of the Deaf-Blind on October 13, 2007.

Spotlight on the Deaf-Blind Community

We Have Rights Too

Judy Groner and Elizabeth Spiers

When Judy Groner heard that a deaf-blind colleague’s leg was amputated during a routine hospital visit, she knew she had to take action.

“A deaf-blind patient went in for surgery and was not provided an interpreter. The surgeon mistakenly amputated the person’s leg because the two of them could not communicate with each other.”

Judy Groner and her guide dog during a sit-in protest.

This incident and several others led the Deaf and Deaf–Blind Human Rights Committee (DDBCHR), a grassroots organization made up of deaf, deaf–blind, and hearing supporters from Northeast Ohio, to hold a sit–in at a doctor’s office on March 16, 2006. That doctor’s office had refused to sign an ADA agreement saying she would provide and pay for sign language interpreters as needed by her deaf and deaf–blind patients.

About a year earlier, DDBCHR sent information to over 100 randomly selected doctors in Northeast Ohio about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and asked them to sign an agreement form stating the doctors would provide interpreters as required by law. The DDBCHR contacted one doctor four times about the signing, but the doctor never responded to the organization’s contacts via mail and TTY, so they decided to bring their concerns to her in person.

The protesters, made up of 35 members and supporters, arrived at the doctor–s office with signs and banners displaying their demands. The DDBCHR President, a deaf man named Ray Seal, approached the front desk to ask to speak to the doctor but none of the staff opened the glass window to find out what they wanted. DDBCHR members then made a statement to the press about their demands and why they had come to protest.

DDBCHR’s sit–in action hoped to bring attention to the fact that many doctors still refuse to provide sign language interpreters for deaf and deaf–blind patients despite the fact they are required to do so by law.

Ms. Groner, co–founder of the organization, said, “The reason I got involved was because there needs to be strong advocates for the deaf–blind community. I want to see more opportunities in employment and other areas for deaf–blind people, and an end of discrimination for them. We need to show the government what our needs are. We need support service providers, better education, equipment, employment, medical access, and transportation, among other things.”

The sit–in was quite successful. The group continued their protest at the doctor’s office for four hours. Eventually, the CEO of the hospital where the doctor’s office rented space met with the group, and offered to talk to the doctor’s office to see what could be worked out.

“We can no longer sit back and let our rights as deaf and deaf–blind people and as human beings be violated.” Groner said. “We must fight for our rights!”

For more information about DDBCHR, contact the organization by TTY/Video Phone: 440–801–1948, Voice Phone: 440–801’1998, or email DDBCHR1@cs.com.

Community Events

Art Exhibit

Deaf–Blind Artist Exhibits

Jenny McKenzie, an artist who is deaf–blind, is displaying her artwork at a statewide art exhibit at the General Assembly Building in Richmond, Virginia from January 9 to March 8, 2008. Ms. McKenzie, who also uses the pen name Jenny Ohs, paints landscapes, animals, seascapes, flowers and lightouses, using colored and watercolor pencils, marking pens, and regular pens. Ms. McKenzie has limited use of her hands. She draws by holding a pen or pencil in her left fist and securing the instrument against her palm with her ring finger. She then puts her thumb under her chin and draws by moving her shoulder.

Bright Sun dressing in St. Patrick attire

Georgia Association of the Deaf-Blind

Georgia Association of the Deaf–Blind is having a St. Patrick’s Day party on March 8, 2008 in Atlanta, GA. For more information, contact Leigh Russell at leighrussellga@gmail.com.

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Louisiana Acadiana Deaf-Blind Citizens

Louisiana Acadiana Deaf-Blind Citizens (LADBC) will have an annual Deaf-Blind Picnic at Saturday, April 19, 2008 at 409 W. St. Mary Blvd. in Lafayette, Louisiana. Tom Peters, an AADB member from Connecticut, will be a guest speaker. For more information, contact Dan Arabie, chair, at LSUCajunDan@cox.net.

DeafBlind Transition Camp

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Wonder if you want to go to college? Thinking about what career you want? Then this camp is for you! Michigan Services for Children and Young Adults Who are DeafBlind is hosting a camp for deaf–blind young adults aged 16 to 19 on June 22 to 25, 2008. For more information, contact Jill Gaus at 517–764–6178 Voice, TTY or VP, or via email at jagaus@sbcglobal.net, or Beth Kennedy at Beth.Kennedy@cmich.edu; 888–758–0508 Voice/TTY.

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If you have an event you want to announce, contact AADB! Contact information is at the end of this newsletter.

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