Footage Description: 6:45 video of Jelica Nuccio (White Signing Woman with curly brown hair wearing dark rimmed glasses and a black open sweater over a black turtleneck). The background is a black backdrop.
Jelica: Welcome to DeafBlind Power [Power is signed as standing-up and then spelled out p-o-w-e-r]. I’m Jelica [name sign is Handshape y moving from upper left chest across to lower right hip] Nuccio.
A lot has happened since last Fall. There have been two major occurrences that we would like to share with you. If you recall, DeafBlind Power’s mission has consistently been firm in the belief that DeafBlind individuals are an important part of the process and we will not stop. We continue to be open and will continue to update you.
Now on to the two updates. The first thing we want to share has to do with the gathering last Fall, no I mean Summer, in Las Vegas for the DeafBlind Expo, which was hosted by Bapin. At the expo, DeafBlind Power set up a booth and had the opportunity to meet many vendors and interact with a lot of DeafBlind individuals from all across the nation. It was a wonderful opportunity for connecting with others. We also had the opportunity to share stories with each other, which was really healing. It was a wonderful place to be, where we could touch and feel and know that we have similar experiences. During the expo and following the expo we have continued to collect stories from DeafBlind individuals (vlogs), plus emails so that we can stay in touch. We also gathered a large number of signatures in support of the petition asking that legislatures take action to provide for more options for DeafBlind people to receive services/training than just the one option of Helen Keller National Center (HKNC).
You might know by now that it has been written in the Appropriations Budget that Congress automatically gives a large sum of money to HKNC every year, and those funds are not available to any other potential training programs. We firmly believe that this funding should be available for competitive grant applications in order to give DeafBlind people more choices, which would better meet the specific needs of DeafBlind individuals.
The petition is still online at www.deafblindpower.com, the same address as before, and you can still add your name. We will continue collecting signatures. So that’s the first of two updates.
Now on to the second update: what’s up with HKNC? We have been asked if there is any news and yes, many things have happened. First, last Fall, around November, it was announced that the new Executive Director replacing Joe [Name sign J handshape brushing against mid-chest twice] McNaulty would be Sue [Name Sign S handshape tapping against mid-chest twice] Rudenski. This news was upsetting for many DeafBlind people, who did not want yet another hearing, sighted person in the position, who would not understand our needs and would maintain the status quo when there is a dire need for systems change within HKNC in order to provide optimal, efficient, and equitable services to DeafBlind individuals. Even though members of the DeafBlind community expressed that they did not want Sue at the helm, she was chosen anyway.
In addition, a new position was added and announced at the same time – Associate Executive Director. A DeafBlind man was hired for this position. This position reports directly to Sue, to give you an idea of the organizational structure.
Also, more DeafBlind individuals were hired on an administrative level, and administrative level positions include regional representatives. Regional representatives tend to oversee specific areas, like the Northeast/ New England area, Illinois/ Midwest area, the Northwest, which would be Washington and Oregon, and so on. So more DeafBlind people are now Regional Representatives. Also they added, no replaced, one of the supervisor positions in the Independent Living Department, replacing the former supervisor with a DeafBlind individual.
We want to applaud the decision to hire more DeafBlind individuals in higher positions. This is an important step. Now, oh wait, one more thing- they also added a DeafBlind woman to the Helen Keller Services for the Blind (HKSB) Board. Now you might be wondering, why HKSB? That’s because this board oversees HKNC, which does not have its own Board.
Now we are wondering: will those new hires lead to a much needed internal systems change? That is our biggest concern at this time. We are keeping an eye on HKNC, and are unsure of what to expect at this time because the overall internal (not recruitment positions) leadership, policies, services, quality, environment—has not been changing or improving. The types of improvement would result in a DeafBlind friendly environment where DeafBlind space is respected and individual concerns are immediately addressed. The complaints that we have seen have not gone down, giving us the sense that changes are not being made where it counts.
We continue to stand with the many DeafBlind people who have been through HKNC and have come forward with stories of how they were harmfully impacted by the poor services at HKNC. We very much care about those individuals and want to ensure that similar things do not happen to other DeafBlind people- which is why we continue to fight for more options for services and training than just HKNC.
If you want to share your testimonials with us, we continue to welcome stories. You can contact us at DBCoalition@gmail.com.
So that’s the updates we wanted to share with you. The work is far from finished and we will continue to pace ourselves. We need to continue supporting each other to prevent burnout.
Also, if you are someone who is adept at working with legislative type of work, if this is something you are motivated to do, please contact us to find out how you can help us. We look forward to further steps throughout 2015! Thank you!