What We Do and the Services We Offer
In 2015, New Jersey’s DeafBlind community expressed a sincere desire for an organization that would be truly responsive to their needs and representative of the concept “For DeafBlind, By DeafBlind.” A grassroots committee met at the Rutgers University Catholic Center in New Brunswick, NJ that November and brainstormed ideas for this new organization. Key to the philosophy of the organization was – and still is – being responsive to the needs requested by the DeafBlind community: DeafBlind people, their family and friends, and the professionals who provide services, such as sign language interpreters, Access Providers (also known as Support Service Providers, or SSPs), vocational rehabilitation counselors, social workers and all others interested in issues affecting the DeafBlind.
Since the beginning, all of our activities have been provided by volunteers and organizations that believe in our mission, such as Sprint NJ Relay, the American Sign Language interpreter referral service ASL IRS and the Helen Keller National Center. In addition, a teacher of the blind volunteered to support us in developing a method of teaching braille remotely, and volunteers who are experienced Access Providers (or SSPs) and DeafBlind individuals themselves provide beginner and advanced Access Provider training, as well as trainings for service providers in the culture of DeafBlind individuals. We hope to one day be able to compensate our trainers for sharing their valuable, personal knowledge regarding DeafBlind that they impart to their trainees.
In July 2016, DB CAN NJ was incorporated and in March 2017 received federal public charity status. All of our Board trustees are DeafBlind or have a personal connection to someone who is DeafBlind. Through the personal commitment of our Board trustees, our volunteers and the DeafBlind community, we collaborate to provide educational opportunities, cultivate community and social networks, organize recreational activities, and encourage and inspire each other. We also serve as a connection to regional and national organizations and agencies with regard to the DeafBlind community. Our ultimate goal is the highest possible quality of life.
Our Signature Activities
Culture Encounters of the DeafBlind Kind
Developed by DB CAN NJ, Culture Encounters encourages attendees to experience the variety of communication modes used by DeafBlind people, share cultural information between DeafBlind and non-DeafBlind people, and understand how similar we all are. This activity takes place in small groups led by DeafBlind mentors.
Access Provider Services
Access Providers, also known as Support Service Providers (SSPs), act as a link – the “eyes and/or ears” – between someone who has a combined loss of both hearing and sight, and the surrounding environment. Specifically, APs provide access to information, safe travel and brief social communication. The result is that persons who are DeafBlind are better able to make informed choices, more fully engage in their community, communicate with others, and, ultimately, enjoy life with greater freedom and independence.
Access Provider Training
Our experienced team provides AP (SSP) training from the perspective of the DeafBlind individual and the provider. Training is offered in a minimum of three modules, and is hands-on, real-life and intensive. It focuses on the skills and flexibility, as well as the philosophy and theory, necessary to provide access to information, safe travel and brief, social communication for those who use a variety of communication modalities and mobility tools. Individuals who use APs trained by our team tell us they are respectful, skilled providers who meet their needs.
Cornhole DOMination & Chili Cook Off
This annual fundraiser honors the memory of Dominick “Dom” Leto, a deaf man with a huge heart, who believed in our mission and purpose. Dom, age 35, died in February 2017 from cancer. Dom loved enthralling games of Cornhole (beanbag toss) and mouth-watering chili. The event is always loads of fun, and annual Cornhole and chili champs are crowned.