Submitted by the OASIS Sensory Network
There are few agencies in the province of Ontario who are able to adequately address the needs of individuals experiencing “sensory loss”. The purpose of this paper is to provide information to interested agencies across Ontario about what it means to provide supports for this unique community.
People who are Deaf or Deafblind require supports and environments which are sensitive not only to physical and communication needs, but which are also sensitive to unique cultural values and issues. Staff are required to develop highly specialized skills in language, communication, cultural norms, and mobility in order to address these needs.
Deafblindness means having both a hearing impairment and a visual impairment that is severe enough to affect communication, mobility and access to information and the environment. A person who is Deafblind may have some residual hearing or vision or both but the combination of impairments have a disproportional affect on living and learning. The impact of the dual loss is significant. In addition, many people who are deafblind have additional or multiple disabilities, and significant health needs. As a result there needs to be official recognition of deafblindness. Individuals who are Deafblind require access to specialized services/support and communication, including specific planning to identify their needs for services, which allow for access and participation in community. For hearing and sighted people, knowing where you are, experiencing your environment, understanding what is going on around you, knowing who is with you, communicating with other people, making decisions and getting around are all taken for granted. People who are Deafblind need very specialized services to do all of these everyday things.
Deafness is often described as an invisible disability, yet people who are Deaf view themselves as a member of Deaf culture and not as a disability group. Individuals who are Deaf, particularly those with additional disabilities, face numerous obstacles and challenges when attempting to communicate and participate in their local communities and in their families (a large percentage of children who are Deaf are born to hearing parents who, for many reasons, do not learn sign language). The constant frustration of not being understood can result in outbursts which wrongly may be perceived as a behavioural problem and be treated as such, but this unresolved frustration may eventually lead to the development of serious mental health issues. The experience of service providers working with the Deaf indicates that once communication barriers are overcome the “disability” of deafness disappears and behavioural problems decrease or disappear.
Multiculturalism is valued in the Canadian society we live in today. Imagine for a moment placing an Italian speaking child or adult into an English speaking home. The challenges are similar when placing a child who is Deaf or adult with special needs into a “hearing” home. It is a most isolating experience at bare minimum. It is critical for each individual to be served within the context of their own language and cultural framework.
All individuals who are Deaf and Deafblind, regardless of additional disabilities, have the right to understand and to be understood and to reach their full potential. This occurs when people around them use the language and communication approach determined by individuals who are Deaf and Deafblind themselves. Without access to this basic right, it is quite impossible for a person who is Deaf or Deafblind to develop to their full potential.
The OASIS Sensory Partners strives to work collaboratively with government and other decision-makers about the needs of people who are Deaf and Deafblind, the services they require, and their potential contribution to society. The value and importance of specialized services needs to be recognized as crucial in supporting people who are Deaf and Deafblind to join both their community and mainstream life.
OASIS Sensory Partner Agencies
Bob Rumball Associations for the Deaf
Karen Chambers, Executive Director
P.O. Box 338, Milton, ON L9T 4Y9
P: 905-878-4932 Ext. 207
Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf
Christine Geobey, Director
2395 Bayview Avenue, North York, ON M2L 1A2
P: 416-449-9651 ext.145
DeafBlind Ontario Services
Roxanna Spruyt-Rocks, Executive Director
17665 Leslie Street, Unit 15, Newmarket, ON L3Y 3E3
P: (905) 853-2862 Ext. 1222
T: (855) 340-3267
Lions McInnes House
Joan Brintnell, Executive Director
170 Henry Street, Brantford, ON N3S 5C7
P: (519) 752-6450
F: (519) 752-9049
Peterborough Communication Support Systems
Des Penalagan, Executive Director
P.O. Box 2078, Peterborough, ON K9J 7Y4
P: (705) 748-6680
F: (705) 876-9247
Canadian Helen Keller Centre Inc.
Cindy Accardi, Executive Director
101-422 Willowdale Avenue, Toronto ON M2N 5B1
P: (416) 730 9501 Ext. 23
F: (416) 730 1350
Total Communication Environment
Karen Belyea, Executive Director
203 Colonnade Road South, Unit 5, Nepean, ON K2E 7K3
P: (613) 228-0999
F: (613) 228-1402