Frequently Asked Questions

Communication / Culture

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 Adaptive Technology lab in the Training Building which you may use subject to availability. Your technology instructor will provide a password for you.

Your technology instructor will provide a password. 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.

HKNC has videophones and other phone equipment available in both the Training Building and each dorm room is equipped with a videophone. 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.

Yes, most staff use both visual and tactual ASL.

HKNC has a very diverse group of participants who have various levels of hearing and vision loss. Some participants use ASL, visually or tactually. Some 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 participant will hold an informal sign language class in the Residence.

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.

Yes, if recommended by the HKNC audiologist. More often, participants may have their own FM systems which are used with instructors during classes and with other students during social occasions.

One of the expanded learning options available to individuals participating in the HKNC 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 everyone 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.

Dormitory / Residence

Participants who attend HKNC will have a private room. Bed linens and towels are provided. Upon arrival you will meet with a “buddy” a fellow participant who can share information, show you around and introduce you to other students and staff. A buddy can be great companion at meals and a resource to you as you become more settled and comfortable at HKNC. .

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.

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. Your welcome packet will also share a detailed list of suggested clothing to bring.

HKNC is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including holidays. On observed holidays, participants do not attend classes, but the Residence is always staffed and meals are served every day. Some participants may choose to go home during the holidays. If you live in close proximity to NY, you 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. During any holidays special events and outings are planned.

In the Residence, there is a calendar of events that is accessible in several formats including large print, braille and electronically for everyone to read. Participants 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.

There is a fully equipped gym in the Training Building which can be used during specific hours with staff support.

No there is not a pool on campus but there are locations near HKNC to access the use of a pool.

Any orders shipped to HKNC can be sent in your name with the HKNC address. You will be notified when their packages arrive. Each participant has a locked box in the Residence Lobby for their personal mail.

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. You 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.

Participants may choose to attend off-campus events on their own. It is recommended that participants receive feedback from their 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. You are encouraged to contact the local worship community prior to coming to HKNC to find out about service times, locations and inquire about receiving transportation and interpreting assistance.

Yes, HKNC has an SSP coordinator on staff. As we are re-establishing some of our services since resuming on-campus services in November of 2021 we will be recruiting and training SSPs/Co-Navigators. 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, you can request an SSP through the coordinator.

Yes, you might have expenses related to extracurricular activities such as going out to eat or going on day trips. You may need money to purchase personal items from local stores. HKNC’s Accounting Office offers personal accounts where you can safely keep your money. These accounts are an on-campus account and are not linked with any bank.

Location & Program Basics

The Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youth and Adults (HKNC) headquarters and training program is 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.

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.

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.

There are approximately 125 staff members working in different jobs including administration, case managers, instructors, interpreters, support services, field services and residential staff. The HKNC Residence has staff available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.

Yes, absolutely! Participants 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

The assessment period is six weeks. One or two weeks prior to the end of the assessment, there will be an Employment Planning Meeting (EPM) where results of the assessment will be reviewed by the participant and their team, including the vocational rehabilitation counselor. Each training period is 13 weeks long and the length of training is based on the participants’ goals and their ability to accomplish them. The average length of stay is six months. Participants living in our on-campus and off-campus apartments may stay from 12 – 18 months. HKNC works with participants to optimize their training when there are time constraints.

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.

Because each participant develops individualized goals, some may choose to take college courses while attending HKNC. Participants can receive support from HKNC instructors to navigate the college campus and access the Office for Students with Disabilities. HKNC instructors can coach a participants who may be new to college regarding good study habits. Participants can use Able Ride, the local paratransit system to get to and from campus. Funding for college coursework is usually paid through the state rehabilitation agency.

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.

By completing the work experiences program 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. In addition, HKNC’s DeafBlind Employment Specialist might be available in your area to assist you with finding a job.

Yes, HKNC is very aware of the increasing need for services to older adults who have combined vision and hearing loss. We serve 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 five days with their peers learning communication and coping strategies in order to live more confidently with 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: Kristen Layton, Director, IRPD: klayton@helenkeller.org or click here to go to our Confident Living Program page.

Travel

Most participants with the help of their VR counselor and/or HKNC, book a non-stop flight to New York. Some individuals 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 the following day. VR will pay for your travel to HKNC but the support person’s travel expenses are determined on an individual basis.

HKNC suggests that you fly into the closest airport to HKNC which is LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and arrive before 3 pm. Sometimes John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) has more direct flights or better fares. Assistance with transportation from either airport may be arranged if needed.

If you are 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 you are 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.

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.

Yes. You absolutely 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.

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.

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 any 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 a shopping trip with you.

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. The telephone number for Delux Cab Company is 516-883-1900. The Residence staff offers a free ride into Port Washington on a regular basis. . They also offer a free ride to the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall for independent travelers two times a month.