- Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
By Owen Devlin
Q&A with Christine Telford, HKNC DeafBlind Specialist - Massachusetts:
Christine Telford has been involved with the DeafBlind community for more than thirteen years in various capacities and has been working at the Helen Keller National Center as an Employment Services Specialist serving Massachusetts since March of 2021. In this role, Telford works to build relationships with various organizations to partner and provide meaningful employment opportunities for individuals who are DeafBlind.
1. Tell us more about yourself.
“Personally, I have always worked with individuals who are DeafBlind. I started out my career working in group homes with individuals who are DeafBlind plus, meaning they had an additional disability as well. Shortly afterwards, I started volunteering at various DeafBlind awareness events, and from there, I quickly started to get more and more involved in this area.”
2. What was your experience like working in group homes?
“It was definitely a very eye-opening experience. I mostly worked with individuals who were Deaf or DeafBlind with some additional disabilities. Specifically, I recall one experience I had that has always stayed with me. One individual in the group home, who I ended up working with quite often, was DeafBlind and had very limited language. Although he had limited language, he could always communicate what he wanted. Personally, I think having this experience was a good lesson for me in learning that every individual has a voice and can advocate for themselves in some way regardless of how limited their vocabulary is.”
3. How did you first become involved with American Sign Language (ASL)?
“My cousin, who is about five or six years older than me, is hard of hearing. In school, she was learning sign language. Since I looked up to her as an older cousin, I wanted to learn about sign language as well. She currently lives in Arizona, and does not sign every day. However, I use it every day for my job. My cousin inspired me, and now I am continuing to move along because of her.”
4. What is your favorite part of your current position?
“Well, I started working at the Helen Keller National Center in March of 2021, and I can say that it definitely is my dream job. I absolutely love being a DeafBlind Specialist working with individuals who vary in diversity each day. For instance, one day I work with someone who doesn’t need sign language, while another day I work with someone who does. In addition, I love interacting with different employment agencies, too. I feel it is important for every individual to have a voice! Personally, if I wasn’t working, I would view my life very differently as I wouldn’t have someplace to be every day…”
5. How do you spread awareness about the DeafBlind community?
“Personally, I spread awareness through the postings I make on my social media accounts. I want to make sure that other people are educated about the DeafBlind community, so they know how to approach situations.”
Q&A with Jason Wells, Executive Director of the Deaf-Blind Contact Center:
Jason Wells is the Executive Director at Deaf-Blind Contact Center (DBCC), a nonprofit social organization for individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Visually that has served Massachusetts residents for almost 40 years. The mission of DBCC is to provide access to social, educational, and advocacy opportunities for the DeafBlind community.
1. How have the resources within the DeafBlind community helped you through the years?
“Well, I was involved with several different organizations in Washington State where I learned how to work with textile and braille. During my time in Washington State, I was also introduced to a CCTV, and gained some experience working with that. I also learned how to accomplish a number of independent living skills like cooking and cleaning, so that I could prepare myself to live independently.”
2. What is your relationship like with HKNC and Christine Telford?
“I meet with Christine once a week, and she helps me out with a variety of different things. For instance, she teaches me some skills about how to improve my resume, she helps me figure out my interests in terms of employment, and she also helps me improve my O&M skills as I was having some difficulty navigating certain types of public transportation.”
3. Can you tell me about some of the events that DBCC is holding this year?
“Every month DBCC sets up events for people who are DeafBlind. We’ve held parties for Halloween and Christmas. In the summer, we go to the park and beach. We also go on shopping trips, too. Once my friends and I are fully vaccinated, we are planning to meet at Panera for lunch.”
4. Do you have any advice for individuals who may be struggling to adapt to life with vision and/or hearing losss?
“Personally, I think that DeafBlind people can do anything! They can certainly find a job, as long as they have some support. I think it is important to educate individuals who are becoming DeafBlind, too. It’s important to ensure them that they can live a fulfilling life. Sitting at home, and feeling sorry for yourself is not a good way to live. You would never accomplish anything.”