DeafBlind Specialists

The Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) expanded its field services to create DeafBlind specialist positions across the country -  Arizona, Florida, Hawaii/CNMI Islands/Guam, Iowa, Ohio, Texas, Massachusetts and Washington.  It is our goal to continue expansion and deployment of DeafBlind specialists in additional states.  

In compliance with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and partnering with state Vocational Rehabilitation and the consumer, the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) DeafBlind specialist’s primary goal is to provide individualized services which lead to consumers’ successful achievement of employment outcomes. Job development, including soft skills training, resume development, completing applications and practice interviewing, prepares the individual for the work force. The DBS connects consumers who are eager to begin work with employers. The DeafBlind specialist also provides communication strategies for the workplace, use of adaptive technology, and community resources for independent living and travel to and from the workplace. Creative and innovative job accommodations and accessibility strategies are key components in this process.

NOTE: During this COVID-19 period, DeafBlind specialists are providing remote services to consumers, through the use of technology.

Services for Adults   

The DeafBlind specialist collaborates with VR and the consumer, to address vocational and attitudinal barriers, and recognize strengths to become successfully employed in a career or vocation commensurate with skills, preferences, and experiences.

The DeafBlind specialist, in keeping with our mission of supporting a person’s desire to live and work in their community of choice, also offers training and technical assistance to service providers and families for existing services, assuring full access.

HKNC is an approved community rehabilitation program (CRP) in the states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. Other states are in progress.  This fee-for-service is a specialized, concentrated, one-to-one direct service that is outcome based. Services provided vary from state to state, may include, but not limited to:

  • Career exploration
  • Community based assessment (CBA)
  • Job development
  • Job seeking skills training
  • On-the-job supports coordination
  • Summer youth career exploration
  • Summer youth work experience
  • Vocational consultation
  • Work adjustment
  • Activities of daily living
  • Low vision services
  • Supplemental braille instruction and tutoring
  • Tactile American Sign Language

Services for Youth  Deaf-Blind Specialist is communicating with a young boy through a window.

HKNC partners with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and other community rehabilitation programs (CRPs) in offering services for youth with Pre-ETS (Pre-Employment Transition Services) funding. The DeafBlind specialist works collaboratively with VR, CRPs, state DeafBlind projects, and educational teams, to support transition age youth to fulfill their employment or college goals.                                                                  

By collaborating with new and existing state and local agencies, together as a team, HKNC focuses on increasing employment outcomes. We are also an invaluable resource for training other community rehabilitation programs to build their capacity to work with individuals who are DeafBlind or have a combined vision and hearing loss.

Questions or want to make a referral?

Referrals to HKNC DeafBlind specialists should be made to the HKNC regional representative who serves the state.  
https://www.helenkeller.org/hknc/nationwide-services

Meet HKNC's DeafBlind Specialists

Jonathan Pringle

Region 9 DeafBlind Specialist, Arizona 
PO Box 1266 
Marana, AZ 85653
516-417-1165 Direct
520-829-9103 VP
516-580-4517 Fax
Jonathan.pringle@hknc.org

Jonathan Pringle joined the HKNC team in 2019.  He is the DeafBlind Specialist for the state of Arizona.  

As a statewide service provider, Jonathan provides employment support, advocacy as well as information and referral.  He is a problem solver with more than 15 years experience in working with individuals with combined vision and hearing loss, or are DeafBlind.  

As a long time Arizona resident, Jonathan enjoys the outdoors, and family related activities.  He is a resource for you, your family members, and your employer to solve challenges related to communication, transportation and independent living skills.

Leah Neumann 

Leah Neumann headshotRegion 9 DeafBlind Specialist, Hawaii
1953 S Beretania St #5A
Honolulu, HI 96826
516-460-1743 Direct
808-650-2594 VP
516-580-4515 Fax
leah.neumann@hknc.org

Leah Neumann joined the HKNC family as a DeafBlind Specialist in Hawaii on January 6, 2019. She is the coordinator of the National DeafBlind Equipment Distribution Program in this region. She serves the Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Her connection with the DeafBlind community began after receiving her B.A. in Communication Disorders and Deaf Studies at State University of New York at New Paltz in 2012. Leah’s previous employment includes working as an educator for the Deaf in New York, California and American Samoa. She also has experience working as a Support Service Provider in San Diego, California and at the Seabeck DeafBlind Retreat.

As a DeafBlind Specialist, Leah can provide consumers with the following services: career exploration, job development, job seeking, skills training, on the job supports coordination, summer youth career exploration and work experience, vocational consultation, work adjustment, supplemental braille instruction and tutoring, tactile American Sign Language. She also provides assessments, installations and trainings for the National DeafBlind Equipment Distribution Program in her region. 

Laurie McBride

Laurie McBride headshotRegion 7 DeafBlind Specialist, Iowa
P.O. Box 141
Mason City, Iowa 50401
516-418-0101 Direct
641-428-0015 VP
516-580-4513 e-Fax
laurie.mcbride@hknc.org

Laurie McBride is the DeafBlind Specialist for state of Iowa. The focus of services provided fall under Job Development such as online job searching skills, support in online job applications and job interviews, including solving transportation challenges and ensuring reasonable accommodations are provided by employers. Also, as a DBS, she can provide information and resources to family members, employers and local vocational rehabilitation counselors.

Originally from Ontario, Canada, Laurie worked in Iowa as a Graphic Designer for almost 20 years. Since 2015, Laurie has worked as a contract trainer with the Helen Keller National Center for the National DeafBlind Equipment Distribution Program (or iCanConnect) providing consumers training in telecommunications equipment, while attending college and university to obtain her Bachelor’s degree in Human Service.

Laurie has learned to adapt to different workplace environments with her hearing loss, and now with combined hearing and vision loss. Her experience is a helpful tool in her DBS position which allows her to share examples of successful strategies and tasks that she has accomplished. Her personal experience as a DeafBlind person shows consumers and potential employers that people with vision and hearing loss can live AND WORK in their community. Self-advocacy has been an important tool in finding her own jobs and adapting her career path. Using these personal assets to assist other DeafBlind consumers in finding and retaining employment will result in the right fit for both employee and employer.

IA-DBS Services Provided:

  • Job Development
  • Customized Employment
  • Supported Employment Job Coaching
  • Job Follow-up
  • Non-Supported Job Coaching

Ryan Odland

Region 5 DeafBlind Specialist, Ohio
Text Only: 516-566-7641
VP: 612-999-2612
ryan.odland@hknc.org 

Aaron Waheed

Aaron Waheed headshotRegion 6 DeafBlind Specialist, Texas
Text/Facetime: 516-751-6038
VP: 512-256-3077
aaron.waheed@hknc.org

Aaron Waheed is the Helen Keller National Center DeafBlind Specialist (DBS) for the state of Texas. He hails from Minnesota and is new to Texas. His passion is to help people with their ability to take charge and care for their own well-being, their own health and discover the power of self-advocacy to thrive in their own communities. As DeafBlind Specialist, Aaron is prepared to utilize his own skillset to implement employment support and advocacy in order to receive information from and referral for anyone who is hearing and vision loss and/or DeafBlind individuals.

Aaron has extensive background as a DeafBlind and Deaf-Plus intervener, mentor, Deaf Interpreter (DI), Support Service Provider (SSP), program manager, and supervisor. Aaron has worked with group homes, non-profit organizations, such as People Incorporated, Anu Family Services, Camp Sertoma, and DeafBlind Services-Minnesota. And as a teacher and a paraprofessional as well at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf and Metro Deaf School for over ten plus years. Aaron has a BA in Psychology from Gallaudet University and M.Ed in Educational Psychology-Special Education in Deaf and Hard of Hearing from the University of Minnesota.

Aaron is excited and looks forward to working with the DeafBlind community in Texas. His view of a DBS is one that fundamentally helps develop a mastery of self-advocacy as a valuable and powerful tool that can help improve and benefit a DeafBlind individual’s life and prospects.

Aaron Waheed was featured during Deaf History Month to recognize those who invested in providing self-advocacy skills training throughout the community.

UNT

 

Texas Workforce Commission UNTwise Credentials include:

 

  • Job Skills Training
  • Job Placement Training
  • Job Skills & Soft Skills Training
  • Ethics of Informed Choice

James Poteet 

Region 10 DeafBlind Specialist, Washington
Helen Keller National Center [HKNC]
1200 12th Avenue South, Suite 175
Seattle, WA 98114
Direct: 206-518-9871 | Text Only: 206-476-0862
james.poteet@hknc.org

Before coming onboard as Washington State's DeafBlind Specialist, James worked with Deaf and DeafBlind communities in various roles over the past eight years in California, including four years in case management, advocacy, comprehensive job development, placement, and retention services. He specializes in working with queer and trans individuals, individuals with lived behavioral health experiences, and individuals who are neurodivergent. James is currently finishing up his thesis for the Master of Social Work degree at California State University, Sacramento, which is also where he graduated with his bachelor's degree in Psychology.

Karlee Wascher​

Karlee Wascher headshotHelen Keller National Center [HKNC]
DeafBlind Specialist, Field Services
Phone: 516-241-2772 (Voice/Text) | VP: 906-580-4508
karlee.wascher@hknc.org

Karlee Wascher is an DeafBlind Specialist (DBS) serving Michigan and Ohio. A DeafBlind Specialist is available to work one-on-one with consumers in their state to become successfully employed in a career commensurate with skills, preference and experience. Additionally, a DBS will provide critical follow along services to support the plans of consumers who have completed their training at HKNC and return to their home communities ready and motivated to work.

In 2019, she completed her Master’s in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and became a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist. Upon completion of the degree, she began working at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital located in Illinois. In November of 2019, she began employment with HKNC as a DeafBlind Specialist in Michigan and Ohio.

She earned a Bachelors of Science in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from Northern Michigan University & Masters of Arts in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy from Western Michigan University. She is very passionate about this field and helping others and beyond thrilled to be a part of the HKNC team.

Christine Telford

Christine TelfordHelen Keller National Center [HKNC]
DeafBlind Specialist, Massachusetts
Direct: 781-257-2000 | VP: 617-865-4509
christine.telford@hknc.org

Christine Telford is the DeafBlind Specialist for the State of Massachusetts. She works with DeafBlind individuals in their home communities providing O&M and Employment Services. She specializes in soft skills training and resume development.  

She is an experienced DeafBlind Specialist, and Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist. She grew up on Long Island and then attended Towson University’s Deaf Studies Program, received a certificate in sign language interpreting from Community College of Baltimore City, and a Masters of Rehabilitation of the Blind from University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has worked in the Developmental Disabilities and Vocational Rehabilitation field specializing in Deaf and DeafBlind services.  

 In Maryland, while working as the DeafBlind Specialist at the Division of Rehabilitation Services, Christine worked closely with CRPs including HKNC. The primary focus of the role was the expansion of community resources for the DeafBlind. Additionally, she provided one-on-one employment services and case management services for the entire state.  Her proven track record in the vocational rehabilitation field offers deep evidence of her passion and dedication to the DeafBlind community. Over the past 12 years she has been an ally and advocate of communication rights and the right to informed choice. She credits the community for providing her with the hands on training and direct experience necessary to succeed and grow in this field. 

 

Joann Rushing

Joann RushingHelen Keller National Center [HKNC]
DeafBlind Specialist, Illinois
Mobile: 516.269.2062 | VP: 815.386.5081
joann.rushing@hknc.org

Joann Rushing joined the HKNC team in 2020 as the DeafBlind Specialist in Illinois. She provides one-on-one and group-based direct service to consumers, identifies service gaps and unmet needs of consumers and provides information to HKNC regional representatives and community partners.  She assists consumers and employers in the areas of vocational rehabilitation development through the Milestones contract with an emphasis on employment.  Her responsibilities include: job readiness training, development and placements, job retention and coaching services, assistive technology assessments, independent living skills training, and job soft skills training.  She also advocates for individuals’ rights to make their own decisions and provides support for individuals to work and thrive in the community of their choice.  

Prior to joining HKNC, she served as the DeafBlind Outreach Program Director at the Chicago Lighthouse for 17 years, Joann worked with the employment department staff to provide support for DB individuals who were referred by VR services.  She also managed the iCanConnect Program for nine years maintaining the database, provided telecommunications assessment, training for consumers on the use of technology, and troubleshooting to resolve issues related to technology.   

Prior to working at the Chicago Lighthouse, she was the Program Coordinator for 12 years at Options Center for Independent Living in Bourbonnais, IL.  She advocated for people with disabilities, especially for the Deaf community, provided independent living skills training, worked with community agencies setting up interpreting services, provided training to consumers on the use of TTY’s provided through the ITAC program, as well as training her community 911 center on how to use the TTY. 

In addition to her years of work experience, she is fluent in ASL and experienced in various alternative methods of DeafBlind communication.  She’s received professional training working with individuals who are DeafBind from HKNC which includes:  Enhancing Services for Older Adults with Vision & Hearing Loss, Employment-The Ultimate Goal, The Magic of Technology, The Power of Independence-Technology for a DeafBlind World, and Telecommunications Equipment Training for Teaching DeafBlind Individuals.   

Joann’s favorite motto to live by is THINK before you act – is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary, is it kind

Kacie Weldy

Kacie WeldyHelen Keller National Center [HKNC]
DeafBlind Specialist, Indiana
Direct: 516.269.1233 | VP: 317.286.2701
kacie.weldy@hknc.org

Kacie joined the HKNC family in November 2020, and she provides to the consumers of Indiana, the opportunity to:

  • explore and identify careers through Discovery,
  • educate and enhance personal management and employment skills during Job Development,
  • continue skills training, interviewing skills, and resume building during Job Searching and Seeking,
  • along with coordinating creative on the job supports, summer youth career exploration and work experience, vocational consultation, and work adjustments,
  • education and training for agency staff members of best practices and means of inclusion and accessibility.

Kacie has over 20 years of work in advocacy both locally and nationally with DeafBlind individuals and service dog handlers, along with being active in numerous related organizations as a DeafBlind person herself. Kacie’s personal experiences allow her to connect and have a unique perspective of the individuals she works with and provides solid credibility with potential employers that DeafBlind individuals can and will be contributing and gainfully employed citizens within their communities.

Kacie earned her A.S. and B.S. in Organizational Leadership and Supervision from Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis and has completed the Indiana Partners in Policymaking training program by the Indiana Governors Council for People with Disabilities. Kacie is currently working towards achieving the Certified Employment Support Professional certification and also continues in professional development training to better serve those she works with.

Kacie looks forward to working with and being a part of empowering DeafBlind individuals, educating both agencies and employers about DeafBlindness, and her long term goal is to see a long standing and sustainable Co-Navigator program come to fruition within the state of Indiana.

Robert McLendon

Headshot of Robert McLendonHelen Keller National Center [HKNC]
Region 4B DeafBlind Specialist, Tennessee and Kentucky
Direct: 516.243.5083 | VP: 615.645.0973
Robert.McLendon@hknc.org

Robert McLendon has 26 years of experience working with individuals who are blind, deaf, hard-of-hearing, DeafBlind, and with multiple disabilities in Alabama. His initial experience collaborating with HKNC was at the Southeast Transition Institute for Young Adults who are DeafBlind camps in Knoxville, TN and in Raleigh, NC. He has an Master’s certification in Teacher of the Visually Impaired from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Robert was an Educational Specialist and has Master’s degrees in Special Education from Jacksonville State University and Bachelor’s degree from Auburn University.

At HKNC, he is serving as the DeafBlind Specialist for the states of Tennessee and Kentucky providing one-on-one services to consumers who are DeafBlind for the purpose of achieving their goals, such as but not limited to the list below:

  • Consultation and collaboration with CRPs, Providers and Vocational Rehabilitation Services to provide the same successful outcome for our state consumers
  • Career Exploration, Job Development, Job Seeking, Skills Training
  • Employer and on the Job Supports
  • Collaboration with the State Deaf-Blind Projects to provide transition services
  • Pre-Employment Transition Services
  • Support for Youth with Work-Based Learning Experience
  • Vocational Consultation, Work Adjustment Services
  • Assist with the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program