A Message from the TX DeafBlind Community: SSPs



What is an SSP?

Provided by Helen Keller Services



“What Does an SSP Do?”

(2:14 – 3:27)

The SSP is responsible for providing visual and environmental information to the deaf-blind person. For example, if shopping, the SSP may tell what an area looks like, they may notice a sign that says “50% off” and relay that to the deaf-blind person, they might convey who the people are who are milling about the store, or if by chance bumping into a co-worker sharing this information or facial expression, the way something or someone looks. In some cases the SSP could provide transportation to the deaf-blind person. Again, programs may have specific guidelines about providing transportation vs. the use of public transportation such as a cab, bus, train, or paratransit. SSPs can provide access to printed materials such as reading mail, accessing bills, clipping coupons from a weekly circular, etc. SSPs are responsible facilitate communication or provide “light interpreting” in the community. One example might be if a deaf-blind person goes to the bank, the SSP can facilitate communication between the bank employee and the deaf-blind person which is similar to interpreting between the two parties.

“What an SSP Can’t Do”

(4:09 – 5:38)

SSP’s are there to provide access and to empower an individual to do for themselves. There are a number of things that SSPs cannot do. The SSP cannot teach the deaf-blind person to “do” things like cooking or gardening. The SSP cannot assist with activities of daily living such as showering, bathing, grooming, getting dressed and the like. The SSP cannot only provide transportation between locations. An example of this would be for the SSP to arrive at the persons home, drive the deaf-blind person to the store, wait in the car while the person shops and then drive them home. This is not acceptable.

“An Example of an SSP Working with a Person who is DeafBlind”

(4:09 – 5:38)

Maricar using an SSP to grab lunch at a local pizzeria.

Narrator: Maricar is guided into a pizzeria by an SSP. The SSP explains that the restaurant is not that busy. She informs Maricar that the man at the counter is looking at her and smiling. She explains that to her left there is a beverage refrigerator with an assortment of waters and sodas and ahead of them is a display with various pizzas and calzones. She then goes on to describe the various items. Once Maricar has made her choice for lunch the SSP facilitates communication between Maricar and the restaurant employee. She also shares information that the employee is smiling at her and placing the pizza in the oven.

SSP in Action

Presented by FeelTHAT! PRODUCTION 



“If the state overlooks our access and treats us like we are invalids, then you invalidate our existence”

(soft piano melody)
Young adult DeafBlind twin females, Crystal and Danielle Morales, sit in their wheelchairs slightly facing each other in a comfortable livingroom space.
Both have light skin and above-the-ear dark brown hair. Crystal wears a solid light-blue t-shirt, shaded glasses low on her nose, and multiple necklace chains, silver rings and bracelets. Danielle wears a black t-shirt with the words PINK FLOYD in reflective multicolor, clear glasses low on her nose, a nose ring, dangling earrings, many colorful rings and thick wrist cuff bracelets. Her face is made up and her lipstick matches her burgundy nail polish.

Danielle signs: “When you go to a buffet, you go for the many food options available to you.”

Cut to a parking lot. Allen Sugar, a tall, elderly DeafBlind man in gray sweats is led to a curb by a red-haired female SSP wearing a black t-shirt printed: DeafBlind Camp of Texas with an armadillo logo on the back. They step up the curb, and open the door to a restaurant together.

Cut back to Crystal and Danielle in their linvingroom.

Crystal signs: “It’s like being a kid in a candy store, but you’re an Adult, and it’s your dinner.”

Inside the busy restaurant, the SSP signs into Allen’s left hand: “boiled collards, sweet potatoes…” Allen wears a gray newsboy cap and thick black shades. He nods as she lists the food options.

Danielle: “DeafBlind people often miss out on that experience, because it’s assumed that we can’t do things for ourselves. There’s a lot of focus on what we CAN’T see, or CAN’T hear. But many of us have working legs, arms, and hands…”

At a drink station, Allen selects his cup from stacks on a counter. He pours his own drink from the fountain. The SSP stands by with a hand on his shoulderblade, keeping him informed of her location.

Crystal: “We have fully-functioning brains that crave opportunities to exercise… We crave autonomy, just like everyone else.”

(melody intensifies)

Allen’s SSP stops at a large round table, where his wife asks if he’d like to sit.

Danielle: “Imagine if everyone always assumed you’d be perfectly happy going straight to the table, sitting there, waiting, while someone else picks out your food for you, brings your food to you, and then leads you straight back home.”

Allen stands at the buffet, asking his SSP: “Do they have BBQ Chicken?” Then: “What about baked potato?” Allen tracks the SSPs wrist with his left hand as she tongs the BBQ chicken and baked potato onto his plate.

Crystal: “That leaves out so much of the experience the restaurant environment provides. What would be the point of ever leaving the house?”

In a clip of Allen entering the building, his wife stands in the distance, looking on. On his back, the SSP pinpoints the woman’s location in relation to Allen’s, then maps his pathway to reach her. SSP: “Your wife is waiting for you just ahead, to the left.”

(the now triumphant piano melody continues)

Back to the buffet, Allen is searching for meat options. SSP: “Located the BBQ Chicken. There is also pork available… and some fried chicken at the end. Would you prefer either of those?”

At the fountain machine, Allen observes his drink options. SSP: “Next is Lemonade, next is a strawberry soda…”

Danielle: “This is the limitation that many DeafBlind citizens of Texas are suffering.”

At the buffet, Allen holds his tray with one hand and communicates with the other. SSP: “Do you prefer to scoop it yourself, or should I?” Allen: “No, you go ahead. It’s messy.” Allen tracks the SSP’s arm as she scoops wet cooked collards from a vat into a bowl on his tray.

Danielle: “…a largely passive existence, without Support Services.”

(piano music calms slightly)

Crystal: “If the State overlooks our access, and treats us like we’re invalid, then you invalidate our existence.”

Scenes of Allen choosing a side of green beans, navigating his tray securely through a crowd of oncoming patrons by the guidance of an SSP.

Danielle: “DeafBlind Texans deserve better, and we’re counting on you to represent us accordingly.”

Flashes of light cross the screen and the words, “THANK YOU!” appear in white. Danielle and Crystal sign, “Thank you,” solemnly. Their image zooms then fades.

White text on a black background: Support the TEXAS SSP BILL. Subtext: Improve the lives of DeafBlind Citizens.

Credits: Presented by FeelTHAT! Productions. Directed by Samantha Ferrell. Filmed and Edited by Dylan J. Lutes. Voiceover by Samantha Ferrell and Ashley Joosepsen. Music by Ben Sound.

DeafBlind: Blind But Not Blind

JennyLynn Dietrich at TEDxSalem



“Autonomy in the Grocery Store”

(Starting at 4:35)

what you really want is autonomy which means the ability to decide whatever you want for yourself so let me explain a bit more and give you a better understanding of this concept let’s say you go into the grocery store and you’re walking down the aisle and you see tons and tons and tons different kinds of peanut butter maybe I don’t know maybe there’s 55 different flavors so if I go into the grocery store and I take a look you know I maybe see one or two different varieties of peanut butter I’m pretty limited on what I can see and understand of the variety that is there for you all maybe you will go in and see all 55 but if I have a support service provider with me an SSP that person can explain and tell me every single variety of peanut butter that’s there all 55 and then I can make my decision and I can say yep I think I’d like number 34 and how I make that decision is on my own they’re not giving me their opinion or you know trying to influence my decision in any way that’s my decision to make on my own I’m gonna pick number 34 because I really want the peanut butter with chocolate chips and that is autonomy that is important it’s very very important for anyone whether they be deafblind or a person with a disability or just anyone it’s a cherished value to have autonomy

Hearing on SB1 (appropriations), TX Senate Finance Comm.


(Starting at 2:38)

Hearing on HB1564, TX House Human Services Comm.


(Starting at 17:35)