DeafBlind CAN at DeafBlind Camp of Texas
Authors: Andrew Cohen, DeafBlind Camp of Texas President
Keywords: Family Wisdom, DeafBlind camp, recreation, community, adults, Service Support
Listen to the Article
A Note about the use of the term DeafBlind: On April 6, 2016, the American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) released a statement to the community that announced they are changing the spelling of the organization to American Association of the DeafBlind, thereby eliminating the hyphen, because there “…is the need to shift from a medical view of being a DeafBlind person to a cultural one. We now view our community as a cultural community.” This name change was “overwhelmingly passed by the active members with approximately 90%” voting in favor of the name change. Culture and Language instills a sense of pride, belonging, and community.
Individuals 18 years old and above and with varying degrees of hearing and vision loss known as DeafBlind have always dreamt of a safe, fun, barrier-free place where they could learn from each other and gain rich experiences. It is no longer a dream! Jacqueline Izaguirre, Kim Huston, Todd Huston, Kelly Brittingham, and Andrew Cohen met in early March 2016. Since then, the DeafBlind Camp of Texas organization has received nonprofit status. The organization’s goal is to bring every DeafBlind individual to a safe and barrier-free place for empowerment training.
The very first and hopefully annual DeafBlind Camp of Texas (DBCTX) was held at Variety’s Peaceable Kingdom September 2nd to September 5th. Nearly 40 people including 10 DeafBlind individuals and 25 Support Service Providers participated in this magical journey!
Many recreational activities were offered at the camp such as climbing wall, zip line, high swing, archery, art and crafts, dancing, camp fire with s’mores, support groups, swimming, putt putt golf, slip and slide, and many more. All activities were completely accessible. Braille schedules, menus, and tactile maps were provided to braille readers. Wheelchair users were accommodated. Hayley Broadway and Kris Lund, Support Service Provider (SSP) Coordinators, assigned at least two Support Service Providers (SSPs) to each camper to provide visual information, human guide, and communication. Communication was provided in whatever mode met the needs of the camper: American Sign Language including tactile, spoken English, amplified sound, or written media.
What are Support Service Providers (SSP’s)? Unlike interveners who help DeafBlind individuals make decisions, SSP’s provide support that enhances independence (for example: facilitating environmental communication, providing sighted guidance). SSP’s are not personal attendants nor interpreters. DeafBlind individuals are empowered to make autonomous decisions through their SSP.
Everyone including the volunteers kept asking for more! One camper was, in fact, grouchy on the last day because she did not want the camp to end! Another camper said “The interaction between hearing impaired and totally DeafBlind was amazing!” Students from Lamar University and Austin Community College informed us they are coming back and they will bring more volunteers!
It has been inspiring and a sheer joy to witness the dream becoming a reality. We at DeafBlind Camp of Texas hope to grow the camp on an annual basis, but we cannot do it without your help. The camp runs on purely donations. Everyone involved in the camp is a volunteer including the planning committee, the coordinators, and the SSPs. For more information, please go to www.dbctx.org and check out our social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) for awesome pictures and videos!