June DeafBlind Town Hall Meeting

For Print or Braille copies of this document please contact Terry Schwankl at 651-296-3980 voice/tty or terry.schwankl@state.mn.us.

Here is what the Department of Human Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHS) and DeafBlind Services Minnesota (DBSM) are planning to do this year about some of the issues:

(1) SSP SERVICES On-Call Services
DHS and DBSM will look into offering "on-call" SSP services for their clients. "On-call" is when you have a last-minute need for an SSP--but is not an emergency. DBSM will have more information about how the on-call services will work by January 30, 2005.

SSP services if you live in a group home
DBSM will work with consumers who live in group homes, assisted living programs or other circumstances to see if SSP services can be arranged.

Training for SSPs
Individual client concerns about their SSP's training should be directed to the SSP supervisor. Supervisor will address specific issues between client and SSP. DBSM can arrange one-to-one trainings that can meet the needs of individual clients. Clients who feel that their SSP needs more training should contact the SSP Community Services Coordinator to discuss the issue.

General SSP Training
DBSM will be developing a continuing education (training) program for staff. DBSM does provide training to all new staff and provides on-going support and training to all staff. DBSM will be addressing the topic of training in a focus group so DB people can give opinions on what SSPs should know.

DBSM is planning several focus group meetings with DB consumers this year. A "focus group" is a group of three or four DB people who will meet with staff from DBSM. The DB people will give feedback to DBSM about their SSP services and ideas on how to improve services.

It would be very expensive to offer unlimited access to transportation for DB people. If DHS used its grant money to offer transportation, then it would have to cut money for SSPs or for intervenors for DB children. DHS will consider adding a few more DB people in the pilot program next year because the pilot program money can be used for transportation. But there is not enough money to add all DB people to the pilot program.

If you have a county social worker, ask your social worker about getting better transportation services. You can also call the United Way's 211 number. They may also be able to assist you in finding other means of transportation in your area.

Recently, DBSM had a meeting with the United Way because United Way wants to improve transportation for people with disabilities. United Way may also contact DHS to learn more about the transportation problems for deafblind people. DBSM and DHS will see if there is a way to help the United Way improve transportation services.

Vibrating and audible traffic signals
If you need help getting accessible traffic signalers in your community, you can contact any of the following for assistance:
--Your city hall or city council.
--Regional Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) office in your area. Contact Jan Radatz if you do not know which DHHS office is near you.
--Dan Beal at DBSM at 612-279-3456 TTY, 612-279-3455 voice, or beald@dbsm.org.
--Paul Deeming at DeafBlind Advocacy and Problem Solving Project at 651-297-1384 TTY/voice, or Paul.Deeming@state.mn.us.

O&M; in home community
If you need O&M; training in your home community, explain to your SSB counselor why you need to have this training. If you have a county social worker, ask your social worker how you can get O&M; training in your community. You may also contact Dan Beal at DBSM or Paul Deeming at the DeafBlind Advocacy Project to see if they can help you get O&M; training.

DHS and DBSM do not have any extra money this year to be able to plan and organize a support group. If they did they would have to cut other services because the State does not have any extra money to add new services right now. DBSM hopes to be able to offer support groups in the future if that is what many deafblind adults want.

DHS and DBSM do not decide how much support State Services for the Blind (SSB) gives to DB who want an education. If you are concerned about how much SSB pays for education, contact SSB to discuss it.

E-Mail group for SSP users
Some DB would like to have an e-mail group so they can discuss SSP services. Is anyone interested in volunteering to set up an e-mail group for DB in Minnesota who use SSP services? In the group, DB individuals can help each other solve problems with SSP services and get ideas for how to get better services from their SSPs. The e-mail group has to have an "administrator" but it is not a very difficult job. Please contact Jan Radatz for more information and she will help you to get a group set up.

Advocacy and self-determination
Some people at the Town Hall Meeting wanted to have more meetings to plan how DB people can solve problems related to transportation, SSPs, housing and getting services. DHS and DBSM do not have any extra money this year to plan the meetings or pay for interpreters so what else could DB people themselves do?
--Use DBMinn e-mail group to discuss problems and how to solve them.
--Set up new e-mail group of DB individuals specifically for planning how to advocate for better services.
--Contact AADB to ask if they have ideas about how DB can advocate for more service.
--Ask Minnesota Commission Serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (MCDHH) to get ideas about how DB people can advocate for themselves.
--Ask other organizations like the Minnesota Council on Disability if they can help DB people advocate for better services.

Jan Radatz
651-297-7154 voice/TTY

DeafBlind Services Minnesota
Diane Lentsch
612-279-3413 voice/TTY

DeafBlind Services Minnesota
Kimberly Williams
612-331-2234 TTY only

June 10, 2020

Twenty-one (21) deafblind people attended the Town hall meeting. The meeting was sponsored by the Department of Human Services, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHS) and by DeafBlind Services Minnesota (DBSM).

There were two purposes for the meeting: 1. For DHHS to learn if deafblind people are satisfied with services, what other services deafblind people need and where there are gaps in services.
2. For DBSM to get feedback about their services from the local deafblind adults they serve. and find out what types of services are most important to people in the deafblind community.

Kimberly Williams of DBSM was the moderator. Steve Fischer, Executive Director of DBSM, opened the meeting.

Steve Fischer: I've been at DBSM for 3 years. It is an excellent organization with talented staff. When I started at DBSM 3 years ago, I remember hearing lots of rumors about us closing. I don't know why there are so many rumors about DBSM closing. I can assure you that DBSM will not go out of business. We are committed to working with deafblind people. This is our goal--the only reason we are here. We work closely with Vision Loss Resources (VLR) and we purchase some services from them such as Payroll, Finance and Human Resources. We have no plans to merge with VLR. There are legal issues right now dealing with DBSM's building and I can't answer any questions about that.

Questions for Steve Fischer:

Question: Have DBSM's services decreased? Answer: We have reduced our residential services, but we have increased services in other areas.

Question: Do you envision something like Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) here? Answer: Our long term goal is to have people stay here to receive the kind of training they would have to go to HKNC for.

Question: What kind of services do you currently provide? Answer: Children, Youth, Family Services (CYFS) provides Intervenors for deafblind children. Adult Community Services (ACS) provides SSP services, Rehab program provides training in O&M;, Braille, Home Management, Money Management.

Question: What is going to happen to DBSM's building? Answer: For legal reasons I can't answer that question. DBSM will continue to work closely with VLR. Services to deafblind people will continue.

Moderator: Thank you Steve, now we will open up the floor to comments. This is the opportunity to discuss what you need as clients. We need your ideas to improve our services.

Comment: Deafblind people feel disassociated from DBSM. Why don't we have a greater voice in DBSM? Where is our community representation? Where is our voice? We want more of a voice we need to have more participation. As deafblind people we can influence how things are run--how they are set up. How many deafblind people work at DBSM? How many deafblind people are on the board?

Steve Fischer: One-third of our board is DeafBlind (the board has three members and one is DeafBlind). We have one DeafBlind person working at DBSM.

Comment: DB community must listen to the agencies, too, to hear what they are saying. Also, we must keep in mind that money and staffing are issues. We can ask for what we want in terms of services but first and foremost, we need qualified people to provide the services. Without qualified people, there are no services. We have to realize there are budget problems; it's difficult to find staff who know sign language; it's very expensive to pay for a residential program and there is low demand.

Comment: I agree about being disassociated with DBSM. I don't want deafblind to be isolated in the hearing/blind community at VLR. I need O&M; training in the greater Minnesota area.

Comment: We need emergency SSP services. For example, if my dog gets sick and I need to go to the vet at the last minute, I need to be able to get an SSP quickly. Or if I go for a minor surgery next week and I think I can walk home afterward, then it turns out I can't, I need to be able to get an emergency SSP.

Comment: I would like an emergency SSP program to be set up in DBSM. We need an emergency SSP system.

Comment: I agree with that because, every now and then, an emergency situation comes up where we need an SSP last minute.

Question: Could DBSM have someone on staff as full-time SSP that we could call anytime?

Comment: One idea is to have a list of SSPs with phone numbers and e-mail addresses so DB can contact an SSP on their own when needed.

Comment: The group home I live in says that I cannot have SSP services. If I need assistance I have to use the group home staff. Is this correct? Can I not have an SSP because I live in a group home? Can someone look into that for me?

Comment: I would like to get more deafblind people involved to discuss SSP concerns and whatnot. Scheduling is a major concern with deafblind and SSPs. This could be helped if deafblind and SSPs could sit down together and go over their schedule before hand.

Comment: I have two things to say. First, I think SSPs need more training because sometimes they ask stupid questions that they should already know. Second, I would like to be able to do things with other people and sometimes things come up at the last minute. I would especially like to make last minute requests for SSP because everything in life can't be scheduled in advance.

Question: What about emergency on-call SSPs? And is it acceptable for two deafblind people to be out together with two SSPs?

Comment: We also need more SSP services as a supplement for those of us who do use the bus system because bus service is so limited on nights and weekends and we have no alternative way of getting around.

Comment: Maybe DBSM could give pagers to SSPs to call them for emergencies.

Comment: Deafblind people should not have to give up their power. We need to make MN DeafBlind Association (MDBA) strong and take what we want out of our services. We need to take an active part in discussions because it is hard for a deafblind person to be empowered so we need to do the best we can to empower ourselves. A big key to deafblind empowerment is readily available transportation. Access to transportation should be a right for deafblind people, not a privilege. The difference is that a right is something everyone is entitled to; a privilege is earned by following the rules and not everyone has the same privileges. Basic rights are things like food and shelter and everyone should have them. The cost of taxis is an as issue for deafblind. And the bus service is difficult to navigate. Unlimited transportation, meaning to go anywhere we want to go is a key issue for our community. SSP training is an issue as well. If we had fewer SSPs, maybe we could pay them more.

Comment: People in Minnesota are extremely fortunate to have this program. I moved here from Ohio because of this program. It is wonderful that the Department of Human Services provides funding for this program. The SSP program does need improvement though. SSPs get together every three months for SSP meetings. It's been a long time since we have had a meeting like this. It's important for DHS and others to know how we feel. There are e-mail groups that focus on SSP services like ours and I hope DHS is listening. This can potentially be a good way for change and improvement in our services.

Comment: I encourage people to join the DB Minn list serve, and get it all off your chest. All ideas that come in go out to everyone. Don't be afraid.

Comment: I'd like to be able to have more face-to-face meetings. I need to get out of the house. I don't like to be at my computer all the time.

Comment: The list serve is a good thing but many people prefer to have 1:1 contact, but it takes money to pay for interpreters. Because of the list I've been involved in advocacy. It's cheap and we get action.

Comment: It is important for us to have emergency SSPs, also, traffic signalers and help for deafblind people as pedestrians.

Question: What if 2 DB go out to restaurant together? Can they each get an SSP to go with them or do they have to share SSP?

Comment: Young DB adults need a support group (like the Teen Group that used to be at DBSM).

Comment: SSPs need better working conditions like offering full-time jobs to attract more people or offering permanent part-time jobs instead of the very limited part-time jobs that are now offered.

Comment: I like the SSP list but I would also like to see interpreters on it.

Comment: We need to me more aggressive. Demand your rights. Don't ask. DB people need to be empowered to get what they need. Who empowers DB people? Not hearing people, not government, not agencies, but DB people themselves. If we tell ourselves, "we can," and we work hard enough, there will be money for the services we need. It's hard to unlearn the helplessness DB have learned over the years. Maybe workshops about that would benefit DB.

Comment: What's most important to me is having an SSP to help me participate in my community.

Comment: When something changes in my community (like a new hospital in town), I need O&M; to learn the new facility. SSB wanted to send me to Blind, Inc. in the Twin Cities for training how does that help me in my local hospital? I need O&M; in my home community.

Comment: I think it would be a good idea to have a workshop with deafblind people and SSPs. We could air concerns and learn from each other.

Moderator: It would be a good idea to have more meetings on a regular basis. We will consider everyone's input. Thank you all for coming