DeafBlind Immersion Experience



Deaf-Blind Immersion Experience (DBIE)

This is a five-day innovative assessment and training opportunity for individuals who are DeafBlind with intellectual disabilities AND the staff and family who support them. Helen Keller National Center.

During this experience, the DeafBlind consumer along with his/her team will receive:

  1. A lifestyle assessment through participation in preferred functional activities related to work, home, and leisure.
  2. Functional vision and hearing recommendations.
  3. An individualized communication system recommendation which may include object symbols, picture cues, touch signals, tactile sign language and other forms of communication.
  4. Individualized recommendations on how to ensure optimal access by providing environmental modifications such as tactual cues and markings, low vision adaptions, and vibrating alerting systems.


Meet Deb

Deb, her brother Randy and his support team all attended a recent DBIE.

Deb shares her experience. I learned so much from this seminar.  I came… when we arrived Sunday night I was skeptical.  We had an experience on the plane. Randy was like in panic mode and we got him to sit back down in the seat but I could tell he was so upset.  He didn’t know.  He had never flown before, this was his first plane ride and he was frightened and there was no way that I could communicate to him other than the fact of, Randy – pull his arm down sit down in the seat and I held my arm in front of him to help him to understand that, “You need to stay here, you cannot go.”  So many times, I wanted to communicate fun things to him and I couldn’t. (Deb tears up) It was frustrating and it was for him as well as for me.  So, coming here… this is a dream come true.  I was able to tell him that he and I were going to go and get a snack, “come.”  He knew exactly what I said and he knew exactly where we were going to go and he was good with it.  He walked with me.  He was able to go on his own.  It’s amazing he is becoming familiar with this place in just the four days, five days actually, that he has been here.  It’s phenomenal.  He found his own door last night.  We trailed the wall and he was by the door before his door and he felt the knob. He knew it was not his knob so he walked farther.  You could see he was excited, he knew his door was coming up and he felt that door handle and pushed down on it and went right into his room. He had this huge grin on his face like, “It’s my room!” and we celebrated with him.  It was so wonderful.  It warmed my heart. It gave me tears, but we celebrated.  That was worth it.


Meet Randy:Randy has no usable vision and is able to access only environmental information through his hearing. Prior to this experience Randy did not have an effective communication system in place.  Randy and his team were introduced to a number of techniques and strategies to assist him in effectively communicating his needs and wants.  Here Laura, one of Randy’s trainers, is demonstrating how to respectfully initiate interaction with someone who is DeafBlind.  Notice how she gently taps Randy on the shoulder to let him know she is there and identifies herself using tactile sign language. During this experience, Randy was introduced to some simple signs combined with object symbols and concrete representations to communicate basic needs and wants, make choices, and anticipate what he will be doing next. Randy had the opportunity to participate in functional and meaningful activities throughout the day.  Techniques, such as partial participation, hand under hand approach, and the use of object symbols to relay information were introduced to Randy and his team.  Here Randy is using these techniques to participate in various activities, including mail delivery and restocking of a soda machine.


Now meet Jacob. Jacob is deaf and legally blind.  He relies on his peripheral vision and tactual methods to access his world.  He communicates primarily through visual sign language. Jacob along with his parents, DeafBlind specialist, and caregiver attended the DBIE.  During this experience, he and his team participated in several work site assessments.  Jacob ended up feeling most comfortable with laundry service in a hospital setting.  At the hospital, he and his team developed necessary skills and strategies that could be transferred to a similar job back at home.  Notice his job coaches used touch signals to provide support and feedback during the job.  Jacob worked alongside another student that he had befriended at HKNC.  The student provided tips and was the perfect role model for Jacob.

What makes this week so valuable is the opportunity for consumers and the support team to work alongside seasoned HKNC trainers to develop a person-centered plan that can be implemented in the consumer’s home environment. 


For more information regarding this exciting new opportunity, please contact your local HKNC regional representative. Contact information can be found at: or contact us directly at