According to the Virginia Association of the DeafBlind, there are about 16,000 people living in Virginia with some degree of combined vision and hearing loss. Persons who are DeafBlind vary greatly in their background and experiences. For example, one individual may have lived his or her entire life blind or visually-impaired, and then begin to lose hearing later in life. Another individual may have lived his or her life deaf or hard-of-hearing, but now is losing vision due to glaucoma, macular degeneration, or another health condition. Other individuals may have had full hearing and vision for most of their lives, but are now experiencing some age-related loss of both. Each of these people will have different needs to communicate and live independently at home and/or in the workplace.
The Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (VDBVI) provides services and resources which empower individuals who are blind, vision-impaired or DeafBlind to achieve their desired levels of employment, education and personal independence. Elizabeth Spiers is the program director for DeafBlind services at VDBVI and recently provided an overview of the agency’s services for individuals living with combined vision and hearing loss. These services include:
Rehabilitation Training/Independent Living and Vocational Rehabilitation
Elizabeth and her colleague, Christine Day, work throughout Virginia to meet with people who are DeafBlind and help assess how their combined vision and hearing loss is impacting their lives, both at home and at work. They then make personalized recommendations and help connect each person with service providers and programs to obtain adaptive equipment, services and training that will help them to communicate more easily and live and work independently. VDBVI works closely with rehabilitation teachers, education service coordinators and/or vocational rehabilitation counselors to provide written results and recommendations and assist in providing services for customers who are DeafBlind. To receive rehabilitation teaching/independent living or vocational rehabilitation services, you must have an open case with VDBVI.
iCanConnect is a national program that distributes no-cost telecommunications equipment to people who are DeafBlind and low income. In Virginia, VDBVI identifies and assesses applicants to make sure they are good candidates for the program and makes recommendations for the telecommunications equipment that is best suited for each person’s needs. When the equipment is ordered, VDBVI helps install it in the consumer’s home, and provides the necessary training and tutoring to make sure they understand how to use it. iCanConnect applicants do not need an open case with VDBVI to receive equipment. To apply, please visit www.icanconnectvirginia.org.
Community Outreach and Education
Elizabeth and Christine regularly offer presentations for people who would like to know more about DeafBlindness. They also provide training to other agencies and organizations working with this population. Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired Located in Richmond, the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired provides training programs in a classroom setting to help people learn more about living independently with vision loss. Lessons include orientation and mobility, Braille, cooking, personal and home management, keyboarding and technology skills, job readiness skills, vocational evaluations, adult basic education, health education, and more.
For more information about any of VDBVI’s DeafBlind services, or to request a presentation, please contact Elizabeth Spiers at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-371-3133 (Voice/TTY) or 804-325-1282 (Voice/Videophone).
From the Spring 2015 issue of The Commonwealth Caller. Read the full newsletter here.
The Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC), the area’s leading non-profit for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deafblind, is proud to host Celebrate Communication 2015. Northern Virginia’s premier information fair for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community will be held from 10am – 2pm on Saturday, May 16 at the Northern Virginia Community College Ernst Center Gymnasium in Annandale.
Celebrate Communication is free for the public and will feature exhibits and activities providing information to support better communication and understanding for people with hearing loss and their families and friends. More than 40 organizations, businesses, educational institutions and community groups will be on site offering free information on hearing assistive technologies, cochlear implants, government services, hearing aids, telecommunications and Relay services, hearing assistance dogs, professional services, and more. A full list of sponsors and exhibitors can be found on NVRC’s website at www.nvrc.org.
Other activities for all ages will include:
AT A GLANCE:
WHAT: Celebrate Communication 2015
WHO: The Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC)
WHEN: Saturday, May 16, 2015; 10am – 2pm
WHERE: Northern Virginia Community College
Ernst Center Gymnasium
8333 Little River Turnpike
Annandale, VA 22003
COST: Free; free parking available in “B” lots
Virginia Relay and Hamilton Relay are excited to announce that CapTel 840i and the 2400i are available to Virginia residents at low or no cost!
There are now three ways to obtain a CapTel phone in Virginia:
2) People who do not meet TAP’s financial requirements, but are able to obtain certification of hearing loss from a qualified independent third-party professional (physician, audiologist, government/veterans program or other hearing healthcare professional), may request a CapTel 840i or 2400i phone at no-cost. For more information, please call 1-800-826-7111 or email Stephanie Ulmer at email@example.com.
3) All CapTel phones, including models that do not require internet service, are available to non-qualifying TAP applicants for for purchase for the exclusive discounted price of just $75. To order, please call 800-233-9130 or visit www.captel.com/availability/VA.php.
The newest addition to the family of CapTel technology, the 2400i captioning telephone, will be available in early 2015 to Virginians with hearing loss. The CapTel 2400i includes new elements along with a variety of enhancements to its popular features, providing another option for enjoying phone conversations with clarity and confidence!
The CapTel service is the same, offering quality captions through the use of voice recognition technology. With its new touch-screen technology, the 2400i allows users to enjoy a large colorful display with the capability to navigate the menu and dial a number by touching images on the screen.
Check out these great features:
In addition, the 2400i Captions will default ON automatically, due to recent
changes with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This means that users will not be required to turn the feature on at the beginning of every call.
To learn more about CapTel, call 1-800-552-7917 (voice/TTY) or visit
CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc.
The Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH) and Hamilton Relay, Virginia’s captioned telephone (CapTel®) service provider, recently announced that Stephanie Ulmer has been hired as Virginia Relay Captioned Telephone Outreach Coordinator. In her new position, Stephanie will provide outreach support and education services for the entire Commonwealth of Virginia to raise awareness of the CapTel services available through Virginia Relay. Virginia Relay is a free public service that enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or who have difficulty speaking to place and receive telephone calls.
Ulmer is highly experienced in business and customer service within the health care field. Previously, she worked for the District 19 Community Services Board as administrative associate in Child and Adolescent Services. She currently resides in Prince George, Va.
“I am looking forward to shifting my focus to marketing,” says Ulmer. “I am excited to have the opportunity to travel and meet people throughout Virginia and educate them about the life-changing benefits CapTel provides for individuals who have difficulty hearing over the phone.”
CapTel is designed specifically for people who have difficulty hearing over the telephone. Using a CapTel phone, users speak directly to the other person and are able to listen while reading word-for-word captions of what’s said to them during phone conversations. Behind the scenes, captions are generated by a specially-trained Captioning Assistant using state-of-the-art voice recognition software. Captions appear on the CapTel phone’s display screen nearly simultaneously to the spoken word, adding clarity and confidence in using the phone to communicate with friends, family and businesses.
Virginia residents are eligible to purchase CapTel phones at a special reduced rate of $75 through Virginia Relay. CapTel phones are also available at no cost to people who qualify medically and financially through Virginia’s Technology Assistance Program (TAP). For more information, please visit www.varelay.org or contact Stephanie Ulmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Sunday is National Grandparents Day! If your grandparents, or other friend or relative, would like to hear better over the phone, we offer no-cost amplified phones, captioned telephones, and other assistive telecommunications equipment to qualified applicants through the Technology Assistance Program (TAP). To learn more about TAP or to request an application for equipment, please click here to visit our website or call us at 1-800-552-7917 (V/TTY). Happy Grandparents Day from Virginia Relay!
Governor McAuliffe announced today the launch of Virginia’s new employment app, VAWorks. Now, wherever Virginians may be in the Commonwealth, they can have thousands of jobs at their fingertips.
Available on iPhone and Android, Virginia’s new app provides job seekers with free access to jobs. Using a mobile device, users can search for jobs by occupation, location, or keyword. They can also share their job search activity and information via email or social media.
The VAWorks app is one of many job seeker services available through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). App users now have the option to receive notifications from the VEC when new job openings are available, filter their results by occupation and expand job listings to review details and locations.
The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Center of Southwest and Western Virginia recently announced that Jennifer McDonald has been hired as an outreach specialist. McDonald will coordinate outreach initiatives for people in and around Staunton, Charlottesville and Winchester.
As an outreach specialist, McDonald will sponsor workshops, demonstrations and training sessions to help educate the local community about hearing loss as well as how to use Virginia Relay, the free public service that enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or who have difficulty speaking to place and receive calls via a standard telephone. She will also help people obtain no-cost telecommunications equipment through Virginia’s Technology Assistance Program.
Previously, McDonald worked as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter in Northern Virginia’s education system. She also spent 15 years working with seniors at a senior living community.
“I am looking forward to making a difference in the community by connecting people with the local resources and services Virginia offers to communicate with people who are deaf and hard of hearing,” said McDonald. “I grew up in Southwest Virginia, and I’m also excited to be returning to the area.”
“Jennifer has all of the qualifications we were looking for in an outreach specialist, as she has excellent experience with both the deaf community and senior citizens,” said Betti Thompson, director, Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services Center. “We are so fortunate to have her working with us and we’re looking forward to working with her.”
In her spare time, McDonald enjoys watching movies, shopping and traveling. Staunton residents wanting to learn more about Virginia Relay and other communications resources for people who are deaf or hard of hearing may contact her at 540-885-0822 (V/TTY) or email@example.com.
Virginia Relay recognizes Better Hearing and Speech Month this May. Sponsored by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) since 1927, this annual observation provides opportunities to raise awareness about hearing and speech difficulties and to promote resources that can improve the quality of life for the nearly 40 million Americans who experience difficulty hearing and/or speaking.
Virginia Relay provides the most up-to-date technologies and assistive devices to enable people in Virginia who are deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind or have difficulty speaking to communicate by telephone.
To benefit from Virginia Relay, Virginia residents may take advantage of any of these resources:
o Technology Assistance Program (TAP): Administered by the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH), TAP provides telecommunications equipment to qualified applicants whose disabilities prevent them from using a standard telephone. Available assistive devices include text telephones (TTYs), amplified telephones, VCO phones, HCO phones, CapTel phones, signalers for the phone and door; and more. For more information, please visit www.vddhh.org/tapabout.htm or call 1-800-552-7917 (voice/TTY).
o TAP for Veterans: If you are a veteran living with hearing or speech loss, our no-cost Veterans’ Program can provide you with all the equipment you need to stay connected through the telephone. To qualify, you must be deaf, hard of hearing, or have difficulty speaking and provide proof of honorable discharge. For more information on all TAP services, visit www.vddhh.org or call 1-800-552-7917 (voice/TTY).
o iCanConnect Virginia: Administered by VDDHH in cooperation with the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, iCanConnect Virginia provides no-cost communications technology, along with installation, training and support, to low-income, DeafBlind Virginia residents. For more information, please visit www.icanconnectvirginia.org.
If you or a loved one has difficulty hearing or speaking over the phone, there are many services and varieties of equipment available to keep you connected. For more information about Virginia Relay or to apply for no-cost equipment, please visit www.varelay.org or call 1-800-552-7917 (voice/TTY) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) new testing system called SecuriTest, customers can complete knowledge exams in 16 different languages, now including American Sign Language (ASL).
Beginning last fall, SecuriTest replaced the agency’s 20-year old testing system. The web-based application reduces the need for translators to assist customers in the testing process. DMV and the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH) collaborated to begin offering DMV tests in ASL this month. A native ASL signer, who is a former teacher of the Deaf, translated more than 1,100 test questions for DMV’s driver’s license, motorcycle license, and commercial driver’s license (CDL) exams. For many individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, ASL is their first language, so offering DMV tests in ASL, as opposed to just reading the questions, allows them to receive the information in the language they prefer.
Before SecuriTest, a customer who wanted to take a test in ASL had to arrange for an interpreter ahead of time through VDDHH’s Interpreter Service Program, which was not typically a same-day service. Now, those customers can walk in to any full service DMV office and take their test in ASL at a touch-screen kiosk; however, customers more comfortable using an ASL interpreter will still have the option of scheduling a qualified sign language interpreter.
“Virginia is one of the first states in the nation to offer DMV automated tests in American Sign Language, and we are so excited to partner with the Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to make this testing option possible,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. “We want all of our customers to be able to take their knowledge exams in the language in which they are most comfortable, and offering tests in ASL fulfills that goal.”
While statistics from VDDHH show that an average of two people were requesting interpreters to take DMV tests each month, many others may have benefitted from interpreter services to access the test in the appropriate language mode.
“We believe this increases the ease of access for people whose primary form of communication is ASL,” said Ronald Lanier, Director of VDDHH. “Partnering with DMV to offer this service will allow Virginians who are Deaf the same access to the testing process as Virginians who are hearing – the opportunity to walk into DMV on the date and at the time that they choose and take the test, rather than having to schedule the test time based on the availability of a sign language interpreter.”
SecuriTest offers DMV knowledge exams in ASL at all 75 brick and mortar DMV offices. Tests in ASL will be offered on DMV’s five mobile offices in the near future.
*Virginia DMV is now on Skype, providing more on-camera interview opportunities for television stations outside of the Richmond market. Contact Sunni Brown for more information.