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Trending Topics-Support Service Providers (SSP)

Transition

Trending Topic – Support Service Providers (SSPs)

With more communities and states providing SSP services, now is a great time to learn more about the subject.

What is an SSP?

An SSP (support service provider) serves as the eyes and ears of the person who has both vision and hearing loss. (This definition is from the SSP White Paper by the American Association of the Deaf-Blind – AADB.)  There are four key components of the SSP role:

1) relays visual and environmental information such as the price of a bottle of tea or chips in a store;

2) provides access to the community by serving as a human guide and making transportation available when further SSP services are required;

3) facilitates communication, such as what a store clerk is saying during the checkout process; and

4) insure the safety of the person with vision and hearing loss when they are together.

SSPs are sometimes confused with other roles such as interveners, interpreters, or personal care attendants.  One big distinction is that the person with vision and hearing loss makes all the decisions when working with an SSP.  Thus, the person with vision and hearing loss must be able to make their own decisions.

What an SSP CAN do:

SSPs strive to increase one’s independence through these type of activities:

  • Food/clothing shopping
  • Social/recreational activities
  • Running errands

Basically, leveling the playing field for people who are deaf-blind with their neighbors.

What an SSP CANNOT do:

  • Run errands FOR the person with dual sensory loss
  • Personal care (bathing, grooming)
  • Clean house
  • Teach/Instruct
  • Formal interpreting (unless the SSP is certified as an interpreter)
  • Make decisions for the person
  • Provide transportation only

Where can I find SSP services?

HKNC maintains a listing of the SSP programs across the country, both community-wide and statewide programs.  There are 17 states providing statewide SSP services and over 30 programs nationwide.  Some programs receive private grants or state funding for their services, while other programs rely on volunteers with big hearts.  Updates are being made to the national program listing with current contact information. The list will be posted to this Transition Forum once it is complete.  Until then, you can always contact your HKNC regional representative to find out if SSP services are available in your community. https://www.helenkeller.org/hknc/nationwide-services

Additionally, there are a number of resources on the Internet about SSP services.  There is an SSP White Paper (that is also currently being updated) on the American Association of the DeafBlind website and a number of resources on NCDB’s website:  https://nationaldb.org/library/page/2166 including this article that compares the responsibilities of interpreters, interveners and SSPs.  http://documents.nationaldb.org/dbp/pdf/sept01.pdf

Questions for Thought:

  • Does your community have SSP services?
  • How have SSPs improved your son/daughter’s life?
  • Have you been involved in establishing SSP services in your community?
I look forward to your input on this topic.


Beth Jordan

Posted Apr 11, 2018 by Beth Jordan

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Comments (12)

That is fantastic Beth. We need to shout this from the rooftops..

Mike Fagbemi

Posted Jun 6, 2018 by Mike Fagbemi

Good news! The national listing of all of the SSP programs across the country has been finalized. There are 22 statewide SSP programs and 12 additional regional or community-specific programs. This list continues to grow each year. This listing that I maintain for HKNC is ever-changing and thus the document is fluid. If you are interested in knowing what is available in your state, please contact your HKNC regional representative for the most current version of the document. https://www.helenkeller.org/hknc/nationwide-services

Beth Jordan

Posted Jun 4, 2018 by Beth Jordan

Hi Patti, Laura and all,
Some programs allow family members to serve as SSPs. Others will do so, but they cannot work with their own family members. Instead, they can work with other deaf-blind program participants. Sometimes it's difficult to switch hats from family member to SSP. Like transportation provision, it is a decision that is determined by each program.
This is a field that is still in the development stage. It hasn't matured to the point where there are national standards, certifications or processes. I like to say that SSP services are where interpreter services were 30 years ago. They've come far, but have a ways to go, to strengthen the profession.

Beth Jordan

Posted May 10, 2018 by Beth Jordan

Hi Laura and all- Great conversation!
I think here in PA, transportation is "not really discussed" meaning that the SSP is not responsible for the transportation or as you say not approved, but if the consumer and the SSP work out something out of the paid hours of time, it would be between them? I don't know what that may or may not do with any kind of liability issues that may or could arise? However, when PA was doing the training for SSP's you would actually see a lot of family members that were taking the training to become SSP's so I imagine if it is a family member, transportation might not be an issue for some but I am sure a huge issue for others.

Patti McGowan

Posted May 9, 2018 by Patti McGowan

Hi Beth and Mike- responding to Mike's initial question about SSPs in work environment.

In my experience SSPs may support with transportation if this is included in the appointment and increases access to another activity, typically transportation alone is not approved in most states. However I have seen SSPs work with consumers on learning how to schedule transportation in their local community so that when they need transportation outside of their time with a SSP they are prepared. The logistics of being available for a consumer for 20 minutes (or whatever the drive-time is) before and after work sometimes is hard to justify if these short trips take time from another consumer needing SSP services for multiple hours.

Sometimes SSPs will spend time in the consumer's work place if it is a new position but this is usually a short-term support. In these situations I have seen transportation involved as the SSP is with the consumer all day.

Ultimately every state decides on their policy but I have yet to find a state who will approve on transportation as the only purpose of an appointment. Hope this helps!

Laura Benge

Posted May 8, 2018 by Laura Benge

Hi all. You have shared some great personal stories of success with your SSP services across the country. I thank you for your comments as they help others realize how valuable an SSP can be for someone with both vision and hearing loss.

I have been fortunate to be a part of the process to create statewide, paid SSP services in Missouri as of this year. It was not a quick or easy process. As Patty McGowan described, it required people with vision and hearing loss to contact their congressman or woman to explain why this service is so valuable to them...make it real. The folks in PA would agree that once a program is established, it is even more important to express one's satisfaction with services and appreciation for the program to the funding sources. The congressional staff like to hear how state funding is affecting constituents.

For Jacqueline in Texas, I can offer some words of advice from our experience in Missouri. The Missouri Commission f/t Deaf and Hard of Hearing championed our cause and was invaluable in the pursuit of statewide SSP services. Our first year to propose a bill to the legislature, we did not have any consumers or families speak when the bill was being debated by committees. The bill died because the congressional staff didn't think it was needed. The second year, we tried again, but this time, mounted an organized effort to have consumers and family members speak before the committees about the benefits of SSP services in their lives. This was not easy as the Capitol is in the center of the state and many of the consumers are at either end of the state on the state lines. It meant coordinating interpreters and transportation. It was POWERFUL and the bill passed through to law without any opposition. However, we then had to wait many more months until the Governor worked on the next fiscal year's budget. Having a monetary figure in the law was helpful but didn't guarantee that the Governor would fund the legislation. Again, more consumer advocacy helped make this a reality.

Finally, I am almost finished with the updated SSP program listing that HKNC compiles and maintains. Mike and Sheri, this may get to some of the questions people are asking related to statistics. Within it, we ask program coordinators for the number of consumers served, how the program is funded, the number of SSP service hours consumers receive, the types of activities they support with SSP services, and the training that is provided to new consumers and SSPs before they can begin the program. I think you will find it useful information. I will share the resource as soon as it is finalized. There are many other task forces and/or interagency teams across the country who are working to establish SSP services in new communities and states. I see the list grow every year. Exciting for everyone involved!! Beth

Beth Jordan

Posted May 7, 2018 by Beth Jordan

Beth , looking through the interesting and informative posts below I have wondered the same thing relative to any demographic data on SSP use and if there are any trends to give us sense of how the service is being accessed.

Mike Fagbemi

Posted May 7, 2018 by Mike Fagbemi

PA had a small grant that was supporting around 85 consumers with deafblindness, I believe around 14 hours a month for the first few years. Then this past fall it dropped to only 5 hours a month. I am not sure if the consumers realized that this was a pot of money that was not being replenished. So a very small group reached out to one of our representatives named Dan Miller and he really went to work for us! So, this was just shared this week here in PA.

This update is to review and to give next steps.

On April 11, the House of Representatives Human Services Committee held a public hearing on HB-2069. Five persons spoke at the hearing: Marsha Drenth, DBLWS Program Manager, Zenola Tyson, a person who is deafblind from the Harrisburg area, Renee Fisher, a SSP from the Pittsburgh area, David DeNotaris, Director of OVR, and Thomas Earl, Director of Liberty Resources for Independence in Philadelphia. Committee members were very receptive to the comments provided.

During the hearing, several other persons who were deafblind met with their Representatives. After the meeting a large group of consumers who are deafblind, SSP’s, and other community members met in the Capital cafeteria to discuss the morning and to discuss what happens next.

On April 18, the House of Representatives Human Services Committee had a meeting to vote on HB-2069. Committee members voted to amend the language, now HB-2069 (2018) Printer# 3393. The updates to the amendment:
• Takes the language from Act 139 to the General Appropriations funding
• Ensures that services continue for one year from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 only.
• Changes the language to “statewide program to facilitate communication for individuals who are deafblind”.

Here are the next steps DBLWS is working on:
• We recommend changing the term “statewide program to facilitate communication for individuals who are deafblind” to “statewide SSP program for individuals who are deafblind”.
• Contacting the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the House Majority Leader to encourage that HB-2069 (2018) Printer# 3393 moves to 2nd Consideration. (2nd consideration means that all representatives have an opportunity to discuss and amend the bill if necessary.)

It’s important that these things happen before the State budget is decided in July.

Also included in this update are talking points so that if you would like to contact Representative Dan Miller and or Representative Thomas Murt, you will be prepared.

If you have any questions, please let us know. We hope to have an update out again soon.

Thank you.

Accessible Version 5-1-18 DBLWS Update

HB 2069 Talking Points PDF

Talking Points Accessible Version

So, we are hopeful here in PA- On a personal note, my son who is about 3 hours away at his university in PA really utilizes his SSP's. It has allowed him the independence by having this support. It is so helpful for all the obvious reasons and when the hours were cut it was limiting and isolating for him. My hope is to see this become permanent funding here in PA.

Patti McGowan

Posted May 4, 2018 by Patti McGowan

We have limited SSP services in Texas, most of them are volunteer. DeafBlind Camp of Texas does provide SSPs for campers and trains both volunteers and campers on how to gain independence through a SSP.
SSPs are empowering and provide a much needed service to adults who are DeafBlind and may be struggling to maintain their independence. My daughter has used SSPs in various activities at camp and other social events and she LOVES it!
We (families, DeafBlind leaders, and friends of DeafBlind) are preparing for an upcoming legislative session and hope to get funding for SSP services in Texas.

Jacqueline  Izaguirre

Posted May 3, 2018 by Jacqueline Izaguirre

This is very interesting and helpful information. I don't think many adults with CHARGE syndrome typically utilize SSP services and often parents don't realize it's an option. I'd love to see more information shared with our families about this particular deaf-blind service and how they can access it. Any thoughts on how to get the word out? Ways we can get people with CHARGE syndrome to share their experiences with this service? NFADB has done a good job with parent trainings on this topic and talking about the differences between SSPs, Interveners and Interpreters. I always wonder how many people utilize SSPs.




Sheri Stanger

Posted Apr 30, 2018 by Sheri Stanger

Hi Mike,
Responding to your questions. SSPs are for people who have both vision and hearing loss. Many people who receive SSP services also have other disabilities including physical impairments, other conditions such as diabetes, lupus, seizure disorder, or even learning differences, so long as the student/consumer can still make their own decisions when with the SSP. The MN SSP program through the DeafBlind Consumer Directed Services Grant Program appears to provide a combination of SSP and Intervener services, just FYI.
As for the second question, very rarely would an SSP program be willing to provide SSP services for transportation only for any destination. The SSP could assist with guiding to the exact location, provide visual and environmental information in route, etc. If transportation only is a service that is needed, possibly consider writing a PASS Plan with Social Security Administration whereby a driver can be hired to transport a person, without negatively impacting one's Social Security benefits. Depending on the community, consider other transportation only options such as bus, paratransit or services such as Uber or Lyft.

Beth Jordan

Posted Apr 27, 2018 by Beth Jordan

Hi Beth , someone at DB Summit asked if I knew of SSP services that have supported people with additional disabilities? The second part of the question was if an SSP could be worked into an employment plan where there only responsibility is to transport this person between work and home.

Mike Fagbemi

Posted Apr 20, 2018 by Mike Fagbemi

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