Frequently Asked Questions
Location / Program Basics
Where is HKNC?
The Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youth and Adults (HKNC) headquarters and training program are located on the north shore of Long Island, in the village of Sands Point in Nassau County, New York. It is 45 minutes east of Manhattan.
What is the average age of the students that attend HKNC?
The average age range of HKNC students is from 25 to 65 years old. At times there may be students younger or older depending on special programs and needs. For example, there is a two-week Young Adult Summer Program for high school students and an eight-week summer evaluation program for high school juniors and older adults. A one-week Confident Living Program for older adults is typically held each spring and fall.
How many students are on campus?
There are generally between 25-30 students on campus at any one time participating in the training program. Sometimes there may be additional students for short-term assessment or training.
How many staff are at HKNC?
There are approximately 125 staff working in different jobs including administration, case managers, teachers, interpreters, support services, field services and residential staff. The HKNC Residence has staff available 24 hours per day – 7 days a week.
Can I visit HKNC and go for a tour?
Yes, absolutely! Students and their families are encouraged to come for a tour to learn more about the program. To schedule a tour, contact your regional representative. To find your Regional Representative, click here.
Training / Classes
How long is the training at HKNC?
Initially, students participate in a six-week assessment period. One or two weeks prior to the end of assessment, there will be an Employment Planning Meeting (EPM) where results of the assessment will be reviewed by the student and staff and goals for training will be discussed. Each training period is 13-weeks and the length of training is based on the students’ goals and their ability to accomplish them. An average length of stay is six months. Students participating in our on-campus and off-campus apartment experiences may stay from 12 – 18 months. HKNC works with students to optimize their training when there are time constraints.
Can I get instruction to help me pass my GED?
HKNC does not administer the GED exam. The local library in Port Washington, NY offers GED preparatory classes and arrangements can be made for students to attend such preparatory classes there or at another location.
Is it possible to take college classes while attending HKNC?
Because each student develops individualized goals, some students may choose to take college courses while attending HKNC. Students can receive support from HKNC instructors to navigate the college campus and access the Office for Students with Disabilities. HKNC instructors can coach a student who may be new to college regarding good study habits. Students can use Able Ride, the local paratransit system to get to and from campus. Funding for the college coursework usually is paid through the state rehabilitation agency, the funding source for the student’s HKNC training.
Will HKNC train me for a job?
The HKNC vocational evaluator and the employment training specialist will assist you and your vocational rehabilitation counselor to identify a good job match based on your strengths, preferences, and the job market in your home area. To help confirm that your vocational goals are a good match, you and your instructors will likely schedule informational interviews with people working in your desired field, to help you learn more about the job. HKNC does not provide in depth training for a specific job however, you can participate in a variety of work experiences/internships with employers during your training. Transition planning to assist you in arranging for follow-up supports and services in your home community typically occurs two months prior to the completion of training.
When I return home, will HKNC help me find a job?
By completing the work experiences in New York, you will have additional experience for your résumé and a better perspective on your vocational goals for when you return home. Your HKNC team will provide ongoing support to your VR counselor and local job developer as they assist you in finding employment in your home community.
Is there a program for Older Adults?
Yes, HKNC is very aware of the increasing need for services to older adults who have a combined vision and hearing loss, both those whose primary means of communication is sign language; as well as those who do not use sign language. HKNC’s Older Adult Services offers nationwide consultation and technical assistance to consumers, age 55 and better, families, service providers, and other organizations providing services to this population.
In addition, HKNC usually hosts two Confident Living Programs (CLPs) at our headquarters in Sands Point, NY, each year -- one is held in the spring and one in the fall. Consumers spend 5 days with their peers learning communication and coping strategies in order to live more confidently as a result of their vision and hearing loss. They are introduced to independent living services, new technology and adaptive devices for their homes. They learn about audiology, low vision, and elder law issues. For consumers who do not wish to travel to New York, training can be provided in their home states in collaboration with local service providers.
For more information on HKNC’s services to older adults, please contact: Meredith Chillemi, Coordinator, Older Adult Services: firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to go to our Confident Living Program page.
Dormitory / Residence
Will I have a roommate?
Most students who attend HKNC will have their own room but it is sometimes necessary to share a room with a roommate. Each bedroom in the Residence typically has two beds, two dressers, two closets, two desks, and a bathroom with shower, toilet and sink. Bed linens and towels are provided for students and guests. When a new student arrives, the Residence staff identifies one or two “buddies” to show them around and introduce them to other students and staff. The buddies will sit with them at the same table during meals, and help them feel comfortable.
If I get sick or injured, what is the process for medical care?
The HKNC Medical department will coordinate with your home doctor if you become sick and in case of an emergency, will coordinate trips to the Emergency Room (ER) of a nearby hospital. Staff nurses are on campus 8 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide medical advice, first aid, discuss diets, and administer medications if needed.
What is the weather like in Sands Point, New York? Will it snow?
Long Island experiences four distinct seasons with often hot, humid summers and cold winters with snow likely. Bring clothing and gear such as an umbrella, hat, gloves and coat. HKNC Admissions Department will send incoming students a more detailed list of suggested clothing to bring.
What happens during holidays?
HKNC is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including holidays. On observed holidays, students do not attend classes, but the Residence is always staffed and meals are served every day. Students go home during the holidays in December. If the student lives in close proximity to NY, students may choose to go home more often. Please note that any time away from the training program needs to be approved by your VR counselor as HKNC continues to receive payment when you are home. During any holiday, staff and students plan special events such as parties in the Residence or dining at a restaurant.
What do students do in the evenings and weekends?
In the Residence, there is a calendar of events which is accessible in several formats including large print, braille and electronically for everyone to read. Students meet with Residence staff monthly to recommend the activities that they wish to occur for the next month. Activities during evenings and weekends include trips to local stores, restaurants, festivals, athletic events, beaches and New York City.
Is there an exercise room or fitness center?
There is a fully equipped gym in the Training Building which can be used during specific hours with staff support. Additionally, there is a track with a guide rail on campus.
Is there a swimming pool?
No there is not a pool on campus but there are locations near HKNC to access the use of a pool.
If I need to order something or have something shipped to HKNC while I’m there, how does that work?
Any orders shipped to HKNC can be sent in the student’s name with the HKNC address. Students will be notified when their packages arrive. Each student has a locked box in the Residence Lobby for their personal mail.
If I have a special diet I need to follow, can the HKNC cafeteria work with my dietary restrictions?
HKNC’s kitchen staff collaborate with the medical team to follow medically-prescribed diets and will do their best to accommodate other diets as well. Students are responsible for the cost of their favorite food items that are not stocked in the kitchen and are not medically necessary. Staff nurses are on campus 8 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss diets as needed. If you need to discuss your dietary needs, feel free to make an appointment with one of the nurses.
Can I attend worship services while at HKNC?
Students may choose to attend off campus events on their own. It is recommended that students receive clearance from his or her orientation and mobility instructor before traveling alone in the community. The Residence coordinators are familiar with several of the local places of worship and can help make connections. Students are encouraged to contact the local worship community prior to coming to HKNC to find out about service times, location and inquire about receiving transportation and interpreting assistance.
Does HKNC provide SSPs (Support Service Providers)?
Yes, HKNC has an SSP coordinator on staff. However, because the SSPs are not paid, their services cannot be guaranteed for all requests. In cases where a student would like to attend a community event or an outing that is not coordinated by staff, the student is responsible for securing their own SSP, either through the SSP coordinator or other means. A student is responsible for paying the expenses of their SSP during outings such as gas money, train ticket or meal purchase.
Will I need spending money at HKNC?
Yes, each student will need spending money for extracurricular activities such as going out to eat, or going on day trips. Students will also need money to purchase personal items from local stores. HKNC’s Accounting Office offers personal accounts where students can deposit money. The student accounts are in an on campus account and are not linked with any bank. A students’ case manager will review the Accounting Office’s hours of operation with new students. The maximum amount of money that can be deposited and withdrawn from the student accounts is $50.00 unless prior arrangements are made.
Will I travel to HKNC alone or with someone?
Most students, with the help of their VR counselor and/or HKNC, book a non-stop flight to New York and many fly alone. Some students may feel more comfortable traveling with a friend or family member. That can be arranged on an as needed basis. The companion can return home the same day or following day. VR will pay for the student’s travel to HKNC but the support person’s travel expenses are determined on an individual basis.
Which airport do I use to fly to HKNC?
HKNC suggests that students fly in to the closest airport to HKNC which is LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and arrive before 3pm. Sometimes John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) has more direct flights or better fares. Assistance with transportation from either airport may be arranged if needed.
How do I get from the airport to HKNC?
If a student is flying alone, an HKNC staff member will meet them in the baggage claim area at the airport. Every airline offers assistance from the plane to baggage claim if needed. If a student is traveling with a support person or family member, HKNC can arrange for a driver from Delux Car Service to meet them at the baggage claim and drive them to HKNC. For travel to and from the airport for vacations or home visits, a student is asked to pay $75 each way to cover the cost of transportation.
Can my family come to visit? Where will they stay? How much does it cost if my family comes to stay? Can my children visit me at HKNC?
Family members are welcome to visit on the weekends and stay in the HKNC Residence depending on the availability of rooms. The cost is $50/per person, with a three day limit. Children under age 18 are not allowed to stay in the Residence. There are several hotels in the nearby community.
Can I bring my dog guide?
Yes. Absolutely, you can as long as the dog has been trained by a certified dog guide program. There is a large fenced dog run on the HKNC campus where dogs can be exercised.
How will I learn to navigate the campus and buildings?
During the first day of orientation, your case manager will provide a tour of the Training Building and introduce you to staff. During the next few days, staff members will support you by guiding you to your classes and to the Residence. The support will continue until you are able to navigate the campus independently by yourself.
How will I get to the store if I run out of toothpaste or personal items?
The Residence staff provides transportation to local stores in the town of Port Washington 1-2 times a week after classes. You can take advantage of this service to get personal items you need. Residence staff will check in with you when you first arrive to determine if you need to pick up any personal items and will arrange to take you shopping.
Is there para-transportation that I can access independently to go shopping or to travel around Long Island and to New York City?
There is no paratransit service that goes directly to the HKNC campus. The local town of Port Washington is about 3 miles away where the Long Island Railroad provides direct access to New York City and the towns in between. In Port Washington, students can also access the Able-Ride paratransit system for rides to places on Long Island. To reach Port Washington by taxi costs approximately $8/trip alone (single, one way). The cost will be cheaper if there is more than one passenger. HKNC provides a voucher that you can use to reduce the cab fare by half. The telephone number for Delux Cab Company is 516-883-1900. The Residence staff offers a free ride into Port Washington on Wednesdays which stops at two local shopping centers and on Main Street. They also offer a free ride to the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall for independent travelers two times a month.
Communication / Culture
Should I bring my computer?
It is recommended that you bring your own computer, especially if it is a laptop. This will allow you to use the computer with accessibility preferences set to your liking. A virus scan will be run on your computer to keep the HKNC network running safely for all users. If you receive any training on your computer, changes can be performed on your system while you are attending class. If you do not have a computer, there are computers in the HKNC Library in the Training Building as well as the Residence Building which you may use, subject to availability. Your technology instructor will provide a password for you.
Will I have Internet access at HKNC?
The entire campus at HKNC is equipped with Wi-Fi access. There are also LAN ports in the rooms in the Residence Building. If you need a LAN cord, please ask your adaptive technology instructor.
Should I bring a videophone or other device to keep in touch with family/friends?
HKNC has videophones and other phone equipment available in both the Training Building and Residence Building. Please ask your adaptive technology or communications instructor or Residence staff for further details. Many students have videophone software on their own computers, tablets or hand-held phone devices.
Do staff use American Sign Language (ASL)?
Yes, most staff use both visual and tactual ASL.
I don’t use sign language, and need to learn. Will there be other students who can communicate with me?
HKNC has a very diverse group of students who have various levels of hearing and vision loss. Some students use ASL, visually or tactually. Some students use their hearing with amplification from assistive listening devices. HKNC strives to provide staff support to assist with communication between two individuals who use different methods of communication. Sign language classes are offered in the regular training program and occasionally a student will hold an informal sign language class in the Residence.
Do instructors sign for themselves or use an interpreter?
HKNC instructors and staff are also a very diverse group, with instructors who are deaf, blind, DeafBlind, and hearing-sighted. In most cases, instructors can sign for themselves. HKNC also has several interpreters on staff to help facilitate communication when needed.
Are FM systems provided in the classroom?
Yes, if recommended by the HKNC audiologist. More often, students may have their own FM systems which are used with instructors during classes and with other students during social occasions.
How do I interact with other people who are also DeafBlind?
One of the expanded learning options available to students participating in the HNC Program is the tremendous amount of peer learning and peer support that takes place outside the classroom. Meeting others and learning about their communication methods, experiences and different cultures can foster a team-building spirit among the students and lead to lasting friendships. Staff is also available to offer support and explain the different ways of communicating. HKNC is a place where questions can be asked and feeling openly expressed without judgment.