If engaging in PT means of communication, full access is provided to the receiver through touching various locations on the body (protactile.org) and is a shared, interactive experience. Interpreters working with DeafBlind people can either be Deaf or hearing and work across all environments. DeafBlind interpreting is not a specialty, such as medical or legal interpreting, it simply refers to a means of access for a significant portion of community members.
Many school districts hire paraprofessionals to support students with disabilities in mainstream education (Giangreco & Doyle, 2002) in response to the ratification of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004. Paraprofessionals who work with DeafBlind students are referred to as interveners (Blaha, Cooper, Irby, Montgomery, & Parker, 2009; Montgomery, 2015). Naturally, this role requires a specific set of knowledge and skills to provide adequate access to communication and the environment (Alsop, Killoran, Robinson, Durkel, & Prouty, 2004).
Interveners work under the supervision of certified education professionals, typically classroom teachers, and provide consistent access to communication while facilitating social and emotional development (NCDB, 2013). They provide access to sensory information that would otherwise be unavailable due to limited vision and hearing and empower children to have control over their lives (NCDB, 2012). Access to a qualified intervener is crucial for many DeafBlind students in their educational development (Probst, 2017). This role is still evolving and gaining recognition in the US with training and certification options at the national level.
Support Service Provider (SSP)
A SSP is someone who is trained to support DeafBlind individuals to lead a more self-determined life. This is done by facilitating communication and acting as a human guide in such instances as running errands, accessing social events, etc. An important aspect of SSPs that is different from interpreters is that the SSP role can be more fluid based on the established relationship between the two parties. For example, at times transportation and other supports are provided on an individually negotiated basis. Currently, this role can be either volunteer or remunerated. Much lobbying has been done by the adult DeafBlind community to gain federal recognition of this role, and efforts continue to be made to gain formal acknowledgement.
To further describe the roles and responsibilities of interveners, interpreters, and SSPs, please see the table below.
Adapted from Morgan, 2001
A clear understanding of these three roles is essential for interpreters who work with DeafBlind individuals. Educational interpreters may work alongside interveners in classrooms and may pursue further education to extend their knowledge of DeafBlindness. Interpreters working with DeafBlind people in community settings may need to coordinate their services with SSPs. Finally, although not all DeafBlind people use tactile sign language, many do, making it (and PTASL) an essential skill set for interpreters.
Each of these roles is different from the other, but collectively they fulfill the unique communication, social, educational, and relational needs of DeafBlind people. For more information on interveners, contact the National Center on DeafBlindness. For information on DeafBlind interpreting, contact the DeafBlind Interpreting National Training and Resource Center. And to learn about SSP services in your state, contact your Helen Keller National Center Regional Representative.
Alsop, L., Killoran, J., Robinson, C., Durkel, J., & Prouty, S. (2004). Recommendations on the training of interveners for students who are DeafBlind. Retrieved from http://www.perkinselearning.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/desg_appendix_c.pdf
American Association of the DeafBlind (2012). Retrieved from http://aaDeafBlind.org/SSP.html
Blaha, R., Cooper, H., Irby, P., Montgomery, C., & Parker, A. (2009). Teachers of students with DeafBlindness: Professionalizing the field. DVI Quarterly, 54(3). Retrieved from http://documents.nationalDeafBlind.org/products/dviqblaha.pdf
Edwards, T. (2014). From compensation to integration: Effects of the pro-tactile movement on the sublexical structure of Tactile American Sign Language. Journal of Pragmatics, 69, 22-41. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2014.05.005
Ferrell, K. A., Bruce, S., & Luckner, J. L. (2014). Evidence-based practices for students with sensory impairments (Document No. IC-4). Retrieved from University of Florida, Collaboration for Effective Educator, Development, Accountability, and Reform Center Retrieved from http://ceedar.education.ufl.edu/tools/innovation-configurations/
Giangreco, M. F., & Doyle, M. B. (2002). Students with disabilities and paraprofessional supports: Benefits, balance, and band-aids. Focus on Exceptional Children, 34, 1-12.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, 20 USC §1412.
Morgan, S. (2001). “What’s My Role?” A comparison of the responsibilities of interpreters, interveners, and support service providers. DeafBlind Perspectives, 9(1), 1-3.
National Center on DeafBlindness. (2012). Recommendations for improving intervener services. Retrieved from http://interveners.nationalDeafBlind.org/index.php
National Center on DeafBlindness (2013). Definition of intervener services and interveners in educational settings: Technical report. Retrieved from https://nationalDeafBlind.org/library/page/2266
Probst, K. M. (2017). Measuring the longitudinal communication of learners who are DeafBlind (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://ir.library.illinoisstate.edu/etd/793/
Watkins, S., Clark, T., Strong, C., & Barringer, D. (1994). Effectiveness of an intervener model of services for young DeafBlind children. American Annals of the Deaf, 139, 404-409. doi:10.1353/aad.2012.0306
Welcome to Pro-Tactile: The DeafBlind Way (March, 2016). Retrieved from http://www.protactile.org/
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kristi Probst, Email: email@example.com