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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals

By Scott Bowman, Interim Assistant Commissioner, Division for Blind Services, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services

Abstract: Interim Assistant Commissioner Bowman shares a success story of a consumer who, with the support of the Deafblind Community Program, was able to learn, practice and master independent living skills.

Keywords: deafblind, independence, Deafblind Community Program, self-determination

Parents, professionals and students often question what life will be like after high school for young adults who are deafblind.  How does a young adult successfully move (cut the strings) from the support of family and the education system to the world of work and independent life?  For young adults who have both a vision and hearing loss, are eighteen years or older and are committed to work, the Deafblind Community Program (DBCP) offers a training program in Austin, Texas. It is geared to assist in building confidence and skill development to meet those challenges of getting a job and developing independence. Training focuses on the “Big Six” areas of Adjustment to Deafblindness, Independent Living, Travel, Communication, Support Systems and Vocational Skills; and is designed to meet the individual’s communication requirements by knowledgeable staff.

Elaine Sveen, Manager, Deafblind Services, shared the following story of one consumer that demonstrates how DBCP services can assist individuals who are deafblind.  Jessy Dussetchleger started the training program this past April at the age of 21.  He was born deaf and is legally blind.  With the aid of a cochlear implant and American Sign Language (ASL), he can communicate with speech in quiet environments and uses ASL in noisy environments.  Jessy was not ready to move into an apartment when he started the program, but he took full advantage of the training programs available to learn to live independently and prepare to get his first job.  

After six months of training, Jessy started to cut the strings from his family he loves through a four day experience living by himself in a studio hotel room equipped with a full kitchen.  The DBCP training prepared him for this experience through a series of real life classes such as learning to:

  • open a checking account and manage his own finances
  • use a first aid kit
  • know what to do in an emergency and how to call 911
  • travel by bus to the local HEB food store and shop for meals
  • develop a checklist of items to bring for his hotel stay

Once Jessy, his parents, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and Deafblind Services staff members agreed he was ready, the hotel was booked and the journey was about to begin.  Jessy was a bit scared at the thought of being on his own, but held to his commitment to show he was capable of living by himself.  In November, Jessy arrived at the hotel with everything that he needed.

Jessy utilized his skills in problem solving, time management and his self-determination to:

  • check in and pay for the hotel
  • arrange his transportation
  • ride the bus to HEB and navigate grocery shopping
  • cross a major intersection
  • set up his Silent Call door pager and his wake up alarm
  • cook his meals
  • entertain himself

The next day, he chose to sleep most of the day.  In the evening, he successfully prepared dinner and served his parents. That night, he set his own Silent Call alarm clock to wake him up on time so he would be ready for his driver to pick him up to attend training at the DBCP.

As individuals begin to cut strings to their families, young adults face challenges, with or without a disability.  Jessy too, experienced the temptation of staying up late, having no parents around to tell him to go to bed, and this resulted in him oversleeping the next morning,  He kept his driver waiting and he arrived late to training.  Jessy said in his own words, “I need to go to bed early when I have an early appointment the next day.”

Later, during a debriefing with Jessy where he talked about his experience living alone in a hotel studio, he said it was a good experience and he now knows he can live alone but he prefers to have a roommate. “A roommate will help me not to be bored or get lonely.”  At the end of our discussion, he added with a smile, “But it is important to never give up and to always have hope!”

Jessy’s journey is continuing as he works on landing a job.  He is preparing his resume, learning more about how to organize his information and actively talking with employers.  With several applications submitted, his DBS team and family is confident that work is in his future.  Jessy is striving to reach his vocational goal. One of the key elements of his vocational program is that the DBCP program staff know how to interact with Jessy. 

Are you interested in knowing more about interacting with people who are deafblind? 

The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services is pleased to announce the release of its newest brochure:  Resources for Interacting with People who are Deafblind. This 18-page, full color brochure presents the diverse nature of what it means to have both hearing and vision loss, provides communication options and strategies to interact.  Resources are listed to obtain more information on deafblindness. The brochure is printed both in English and Spanish and available in accessible formats.  Our new brochure offers insight into the variety of ways to interact with people who are deafblind. When in doubt, ask the individual, “Proper interaction can ensure that the independence and abilities of people who are deafblind are respected.” For a free copy of this brochure, you can contact the DARS Deafblind Services at: 512-416-5450 or