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Federal Grant Supports Technical Assistance for Educators of Deaf-Blind Students

A growing number of students with the deaf-blindness dual impairment are making their way out of specialized schools and into local neighborhood schools. Providing technical assistance to the educators who teach those students is part of the goal of a new $10.5 million grant awarded recently by the United States Department of Education.

The grant has been awarded to the Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University to operate the operate the National Center on Deaf-Blindness. The center is a collaborative effort between the Teaching Research Institute, the Helen Keller National Center, and the Hilton/Perkins Program at Perkins School for the Blind.

According to figures published by the NCDB, there are some 10,000 infants, children, and students (up to age 21) in the United States who have deaf-blindness (meaning they are both deaf and blind) — and some 90 percent of those have additional disabilities, physical or intellectual.

"Many people think of Helen Keller when they hear 'deaf-blind.' However, many children with deaf-blindness have additional disabilities that significantly impact the complexities inherent in providing quality educational services and supports," according to D. Jay Gense, NCDB director. "Expertise is needed not only in vision and hearing, but a host of other areas as well."

According to the TRI, the trend over the last decade has been for these deaf-blind students to move away from specialty schools and into their local schools for at least part of their education.

"The percentage of young children ages 3-5 educated in a regular early childhood education setting has more than doubled in the past decade. Over 60 percent of the children and youth in school age special education are receiving their education in local schools, with 65 percent of elementary school aged children being served at least portion of their day in a regular classroom in their local school," according to TRI.

"This is a significantly positive shift, but it also means that personnel in these schools need specialized professional development to meet the needs of these children," according to Gense. "The continuing trend toward educational placements in inclusive settings is significant and positive for children and families. The trend does, however, have profound implications on the needs for information, resources, and access to expertise in deaf-blindness being available at a local level."

The grant will support the center's activities in the areas of:

  • Researching and developing a national system for delivering technical assistance to deaf-blind students, their families, and educators through the Deaf-Blind Technical Assistance Network;
  • Developing technologies to facilitate communications between projects devoted to technical assistance for the deaf-blind; and
  • Promoting interventions for deaf-blind youth, among other activities.

"This grant will help the National Center on Deaf-Blindness continue its very important work to ensure that deaf-blind students get the support and resources they need to succeed in their education," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "All students deserve to be equipped with the appropriate tools and services they need to help them improve academically."

The five-year grant was awarded through ED's Office of Special Education Programs.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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