The Center for Deaf-Blind Persons offers a wide range of educational and rehabilitative programs aimed at building the communication skills and independence of deaf-blind individuals.
The Beth David Institute has the first and only Learning Center for Israelis with deaf-blindness in Israel. Our Center is a proud member of the highly successful, international Karten Network of Centers for Adults with Disabilities.
Subjects taught range from daily life skills to alternative means of communication, including e-mail and messenger on computers equipped with Braille displays or CCTV’s (video magnifiers).
These skills make a real and immediate difference in the lives of 15-20 deaf-blind Israelis a year, opening up the hearing–sighted world to them and providing access to information and direct communication, which can make the difference between being dependent on others for life versus living independent, fulfilling lives.
In addition, these skills are also vital for current and future employment. The Center is located on our premises in Tel Aviv, with branches in Northern and Southern Israel (Haifa and Ashdod).
Role Model Program
Children who are both hearing and visually impaired are almost by definition children at risk, a situation further complicated by the fact that the diagnosis of Usher Syndrome usually comes as a devastating shock.
Timely and appropriate long term intervention, provided by 4-5 Role Models who are successfully coping with similar issues, prepares 10-12 children a year for independent life as far as possible.
They receive practical and emotional support and learn ways they never dreamed existed of coping with the challenge of deafness combined with deteriorating vision. As their level of independence, self-esteem and self-confidence increases, they are not only less at risk for abuse, but also stand a much improved chance of succeeding in school and in life.
The mentors benefit as well, gaining valuable employment experience and work through their own issues as well. The program coordinator, Dana, has Usher Syndrome herself and inspires us all.
Women with deaf-blindness – especially those who are mothers – face unique challenges. In response to their needs, we created a special program for a group of 12-15 women which combines emotional and practical assistance, including participation in a structured long-term support group and practical assistance.
Ulpan for Deaf-Blind New Immigrants (Olim)
The Center for Deaf-Blind Persons provides the only option available for deaf-blind new immigrants to learn the Hebrew language using Israeli Sign Language, Braille and Hebrew script.
Thus, they can integrate into Israeli society and access the basic sources of information that hearing-sighted olim take for granted such as neighbors, television, radio, etc.
Classes are individually tailored to meet the specific needs and abilities of each student, taught one-on-one in our Learning Center and supplemented by educational tours to various sites.
To date, more than 70 new immigrants, primarily from the F.S.U., have studied in the Ulpan, for periods ranging from one to two years each.
Social Recreation Club
Deaf-blindness typically causes tremendous isolation, as activities organized for blind individuals usually depend on their ability to hear, while those for deaf individuals rely on sight, and both are inaccessible to people with deaf-blindness.
Even talking to (or making) a friend can be next to impossible. Our Social Recreation Club meets the social needs of adults and keeps them updated as to news as well as providing additional lectures and activities. The group meets weekly on Monday nights and draws a regular crowd of 40-50 participants, typically older adults, from across the country. Expenses include transportation for the participants and the cost of external speakers and staff.
Support Groups for Young Adults with Usher Syndrome
The meetings provide emotional rehabilitation, support and information on related topics such as accessing rights, technological innovations and success stories.
As members of this group grow older, their needs change,. For example, emotionally thanks to the group they are more comfortable with their Usher Syndrome while physically, their vision continues to deteriorate.
Towards the end of 2012 we identified a real need to open a second group for 15 individuals aged 18-30. The younger adults have better vision, on one hand, but need more help learning to adjust to life with Usher Syndrome.
Jewish Identity Program for Israelis with Deaf-Blindness
In this important program the participants learn about their Jewish heritage and traditions, the history of Israel and the Jewish people and deepen their sense of Jewish Identity. The year-long program is structured around the Jewish and Israeli calendar.
It includes classes on a wide range of relevant topics, interactive workshops, shared holiday celebrations, educational and experiential tours.
Many, if not most, of our clients need individual counseling and assistance to some degree. One might need hours of counseling prior to an operation which will cause his/her to lose her remaining hearing, another might need help navigating the bureaucracy to use his/her rights while a third has questions about equipment he/she wants to borrow. Our social worker meets all of these needs on an ongoing basis, with discretion and tact.
Finding, interviewing and diagnosing deaf-blind people and assessing their individual needs ranks among our most challenging tasks. To date, we have succeeded in gathering information about approximately half of the estimated 1,200 deaf-blind people in Israel. The outreach program is intended to identify the remaining deaf-blind people in Israel, and thereby enable us to assist them, both directly through our programs and those that we will design with them, and indirectly, by helping them to get legal recognition of their status, and by lobbying to improve that status.
Introducing the Concept of SSP’s to Israel
Support service providers (SSPs) are individuals who are trained to empower deaf-blind people by providing them with information about their surroundings. For instance, SSPs may help deaf-blind people navigate difficult street situations, help them shop for groceries, or assist in filling out forms. Although SSPs may be able to facilitate simple communication with hearing people, they are generally not interpreters (indeed, many SSPs are themselves deaf). This profession, though accepted in many parts of the world, does not yet exist in Israel.