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The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act

The National Coalition on Deafblindness along with NFADB and many other organizations have been working to include language related to the education of children and youth with deafblindness in federal legislation, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Macy Sullivan Act. Title III of the bill includes the following:

  • Designates intervener services in the “related services” listing
  • Reflects the need for the recognition of and training for teachers of the deafblind
  • Adapts the federal definition of deafblindness
  • Requires each state to specifically address deafblind issues in the development of its state plan

Deaf-blindness can create a tremendous gap in a person’s ability to gather information about the  environment around him or her. People with sight and hearing can easily pick up information about people, things and events through observation. To many people who are deaf-blind, these things do not exist without frequent and responsive support from someone who is trained to provide this type of information.

This section of our website focuses on four types of qualified personnel which are vital to many individuals who are deaf-blind:  Interveners, Teachers of Students with Deaf-Blindness, Interpreters and Support Service Providers.


Intervention for people who are deaf-blind can connect them to the world around them. It provides access to clear and consistent visual and auditory information, support for the development and use of receptive and expressive communication, and support for social and emotional well-being.

This connection to the world can be made through a person called an intervener. An intervener is defined as a person who works consistently one-to-one with an individual who is deaf-blind and who has training and specialized skills in deaf-blindness. (Adapted from

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Teachers of Students with Deaf-Blindness

Teachers of students with deafblindness (TDB) are trained in how to identify a child as a student who meets the deafblind eligibility for educational services, provide appropriate educational evaluation/assessment specific to students who are deafblind, develop appropriate communication strategies for working with a student who is deafblind, determine the need for an intervener and work as part of the educational team to develop an IEP that addresses the unique needs of a student with deafblindness. TDBs provide support for educational interveners by assisting the intervener in the process of employing the educational strategies and accommodations that enable the student with deafblindness to access classroom instruction.  The inclusion of a TDB to clarify questions about a student’s deafblind eligibility, as well as the educational implications of their sensory needs,  empowers the IEP committee to create more informed decisions on how best to meet the unique needs of students with deafblindness in their school or district. 

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Interpreter for the Deaf-Blind

A qualified Deaf-Blind interpreter is adept in providing visual environmental information in addition to spoken or signed content. A qualified interpreter knows how to modify the signing space, the distance between the consumer and interpreter, adjust pacing, and is competent delivering the content in a manner which is meaningful and coherent for the individual who is Deaf-Blind. The interpreter also knows the importance of appropriate clothing and other essential factors in accommodating people who have various types of restricted vision.

The Deaf-Blind interpreter also is skilled in working with people who use tactile signing and/or tracking. Tactile signing is a hand-over-hand method for people who receive signed information through touch. Tracking is used by Deaf-Blind people who have some vision but rely on understanding signed information by touching the interpreter’s wrist or forearm to visually follow their hands.

An interpreter’s role when working with people who are Deaf-Blind is expanded and often includes guiding when walking from place to place, relaying visual/environmental information, note-taking, sight translation of printed materials or assisting with seating arrangements.

Adapted from the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting

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Support Service Provider

A support service provider can be any person, volunteer or professional, trained to act as a link between persons who are deaf-blind and their environment. They typically work with a single individual, and act as a guide and communication facilitator.

The role of a support service provider (SSP) is to provide visual and environmental information, communication access, and guiding within the physical environment, generally in community-based or informal settings. This could mean airports, train stations, restaurants, shopping, recreation and leisure sites, during health and fitness pursuits, and the wide variety of errands and community activities in which we engage in our lives. This support can also take place at home with activities such as reading mail, social gatherings, and any other activities needed by an individual in a private setting.

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OUR MISSION:  NFADB exists to empower the voices of families with individuals who are deaf-blind and advocate for their unique needs.


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