This past weekend, I went to a deafblind conference sponsored by SHEP, a business which provides SSPs for deafblind members in the state of Oklahoma. SHEP sponsors these conferences every two years, both as a way for deafblind individuals to connect with one another and to help promote awareness for the deafblind and the challenges they face. This year, the conference was held at the Lake Murray Lodge, in Lake Murray State Park, southeast of Ardmore, Oklahoma.
I arrived at the lodge Thursday afternoon; I met with Joan Blake, my previous vocational rehab specialist with Oklahoma’s DRS (Deparment of Rehabilitative Services) and currently the independent living specialist for Oklahoma City and surrounding areas; Jeri Cooper, the independent living specialist for Tulsa; Christa Woods, my current vocational rehab specialist; Scott Davert, one of the regional representatives for Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) and an assistive technology expert; and Molly Rimer, another regional representative for HKNC.
Friday, I met with several fellow deafblind individuals: Meredith and her service dog Frankly, Charlie, and Peter “PJ” Broussard. Prior to that, Kim Powers gave a presentation on Pro-Tactile (also known as ‘support tactile’), a touch-based way for SSPs (support service providers) to convey nonverbal communications to the deafblind consumer. For lunch, we went to the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, after which we toured the museum and attended a dance demonstration performed by Chickasaw tribespeople. After returning to the lodge, Doug Boone, the administrator for visual services for DRS spoke about his professional history as an advocate for the blind and his continued support for the deafblind community. That evening, several arts & crafts classes ran for about two hours.
Saturday, Scott gave his presentation on assistive technology, with Molly called up to the stage to talk about the ICANCONNECT program for providing distance communication devices. That afternoon, one-on-one sessions with Kim and Scott were held; I spoke with Scott for a bit and got a fairly broad overview of the kinds of assistive technology that’s available, but I also came to the conclusion that I would need to speak with an AT specialist at length. After dinner, PJ gave an inspirational talk about his own personal journey through life, and then a costume dance party was held. I don’t dance, but unfortunately there’s now photographic and video evidence which proves otherwise.
Speaking of photos, my SSPs and I took several over the weekend. There are more which aren’t in the album, but they’ll be added whenever my SSP gets around to emailing them to me.