SSP Video Series

This three-part instructional video series focuses on Support Service Providers (SSPs).

A man holding a bag of cheese and touching the hands of a woman signing. They stand in a refrigerated aisle of a grocery store.

What is an SSP?

A Support Service Provider (SSP) is a specially trained individual who provides information and access to individuals who are DeafBlind. The SSP is not an aide or a caretaker and does NOT do for the individual but rather provides access so the individual can do for themself. There are a number of strategies and techniques that are used to provide this access. The DeafBlind individual will determine what strategy or technique they prefer to use in any given situation. SSP’s should be well versed on all methods so that they may meet the needs of any DeafBlind individual they are working with.  

The main roles of an SSP are to provide:     

SSP Overview

This video discusses the meaning of SSP.

SSP Overview

Maricar Marquez

Video Transcript

Hello.  My name is Maricar Marquez.

What is an SSP?      

A Support Service Provider, commonly referred to as an SSP, is a specially trained individual who provides access to the community for people who are DeafBlind. This empowers the DeafBlind person to make decisions for themselves based on the visual, environmental and social information provided by the SSP.  Human guide assistance is another responsibility.  Additionally, the SSP is responsible to facilitate communication for the DeafBlind person.

Role of the SSP:        

We will now discuss the role and responsibility of an SSP. Please understand that not all programs are identical, but that there are commonalities among the guidelines and expectations we will present.  It is critical to remember that the primary role of the SSP is to empower the DeafBlind person to make their OWN decisions. The SSP is not there to “help” you, but rather to empower you to make decisions on your own.  The SSP can do a number of things.  The SSP can provide human guide, escort throughout the community.  They may perhaps assist you walking on stairs, elevators, across level playing fields etc. The SSP is responsible for providing visual and environmental information to the DeafBlind person.  For example, if shopping, the SSP may tell what an area looks like, they may notice a sign that says “50% off” and relay that to the DeafBlind person, they might convey who the people are who are milling about the store, or if by chance bumping into a co-worker sharing this information or facial expression, the way something or someone looks.  In some cases the SSP could provide transportation to the DeafBlind person.  Again, programs may have specific guidelines about providing transportation vs. the use of public transportation such as a cab, bus, train, or paratransit.  SSPs can provide access to printed materials such as reading mail, accessing bills, clipping coupons from a weekly circular, etc. SSPs are responsible facilitate communication or provide “light interpreting” in the community.  One example might be if a DeafBlind person goes to the bank, the SSP can facilitate communication between the bank employee and the DeafBlind person which is similar to interpreting between the two parties. 

SSP’s are there to provide access and to empower an individual to do for themselves.

There are a number of things that SSPs cannot do.  The SSP cannot teach the DeafBlind person to “do” things like cooking or gardening.  The SSP cannot assist with activities of daily living such as showering, bathing, grooming, getting dressed and the like. The SSP cannot only provide transportation between locations.  An example of this would be for the SSP to arrive at the persons home, drive the DeafBlind person to the store, wait in the car while the person shops and then drive them home.  This is not acceptable.

The SSP provides access to transportation ONLY when the individual requires other services such as:

  • Sighted guide
  • Communication facilitation
  • Access to visual information

If the individual does not require access to these services he or she should be able to other forms of transportation independently.

Maricar using an SSP to grab lunch at a local pizzeria.

Narrator: Maricar is guided into a pizzeria by an SSP.  The SSP explains that the restaurant is not that busy.  She informs Maricar that the man at the counter is looking at her and smiling.  She explains that to her left there is a beverage refrigerator with an assortment of waters and sodas and ahead of them is a display with various pizzas and calzones.  She then goes on to describe the various items.  Once Maricar has made her choice for lunch the SSP facilitates communication between Maricar and the restaurant employee.  She also shares information that the employee is smiling at her and placing the pizza in the oven.

To learn more about SSP’s please contact HKNC at [End of Transcript]

Personal and Professional SSPs

This video summarizes the difference between a personal and professional SSP.

Title Slide: Personal SSP VS. Professional SSP

I’d like to now discuss the difference between a personal SSP and a professional SSP. 

Title Slide: Professional SSP

Across the United States there are more than 30 SSP programs. These programs often provide training to individuals who want to become SSPs.  Each program has specific guidelines and expectations for SSPs when working with DeafBlind people.  The program will typically have a specified number of hours a DeafBlind person can work with an SSP in a given timeframe.   For example, one program may allow DeafBlind individuals 16 hours a month of SSP support.  One DeafBlind person may decide to allocate 4 hours weekly to utilize this support.  It should be noted that there are many communities without ANY SSP programs.

Title Slide: Personal SSP

Again, many communities have NO SSP programs available.  In these instances, HOW can DeafBlind people access their communities?  With no formal programs or very limited hours available how can DeafBlind people make this work?  DeafBlind people can recruit their own SSPs.  We refer to this as a “personal SSP.”  It behooves DeafBlind people to learn strategies on HOW to recruit SSPs.  One potential recruitment method might be to survey family or friends, members of your church, or individuals at community events to help identify prospective SSPs.  We will provide you with guidelines on how to recruit SSPs and how to establish and maintain relationships with them.  The onus of the training will be the responsibility of the DeafBlind person.  He/she will responsible for coming to mutually agreeable terms between himself and the SSP in terms of roles and responsibilities they are to perform.

Title Slide: Please refer to the SSP Fact Sheet for additional information including tips on how to recruit and maintain a personal SSP. [End of Transcript]

SSP Advocacy Strategies

This video discusses a few strategies to advocate for SSP services.

Video description: A close up of a woman signing into the camera.

Title Slide: Strategies that have been found helpful in advocating for and working with SSPs.

I would now like to give you a few strategies to advocate for SSP services.

Title Slide: 1. Be Aware of your needs and be prepared to explain them to others

First and foremost, you must be able to identify what your needs are.  Not only must you understand what your needs are but be able to articulate them.  One example may be what specific accommodations you need to communicate.  You need to be able to explain to the SSP what your expectations are and what kind of visual and environmental information is important to you. Not only is content important but how you want that information conveyed.  The SSP needs to know will you be using tactile sign language or perhaps an FM system and again how that SSP can accommodate those needs.

Title Slide: 2. Educate those around you.

You need to teach the SSP how to work with you. This time to educate the SSP, it’s really for that give and take where you really explain what your needs are.  Telling your SSP what you need and why is such an important piece so they will work with you effectively.  You may need to educate your family or boss about the value of an SSP and what you need them for.  You will need to be explicit in how this person benefits you in terms of accessibility to your environment and impact on your life.

Title Slide: 3. Be Aware of your Rights:

You will also need to be aware of what your rights are and what is and what is not protected under law.  The Americans with Disabilities Act is not 100% full proof.  It does not have specific language pertaining to SSPs.  However, there is hope that in the future amendments could be made to the ADA and language might be added to include the provision of SSP’s so that it might be strengthened.

Title Slide: 4. Consider the Viewpoint of Others

Remember we are building relationships between the SSP and the consumer and there are always two sides.  Try to look at both perspectives when working with an SSP.  When you explain your needs to an SSP do so tactfully, without yelling at the SSP. If the SSP doesn’t understand what you are trying to explain don’t get angry.  Maybe they are not familiar with the task at hand and simply don’t get it.  Just keep in mind that you might need to repeat yourself once or twice.

Title Slide: Advocating for an SSP at Work

You can advocate for SSP services.  For example, suppose your job calls for you to take a trip out of town.  You might be heading to a conference where an interpreter is provided for you and your boss expects that you will be able to travel alone.  You are an adept cane user, you have traveled independently before, you have excellent communication skills and perhaps a guide dog. So, your boss would expect you to go it alone.  You, however, may feel differently.  You might worry about getting lost.  You may not be comfortable in unfamiliar environments.  How would you find a restroom if needed or get to the conference center?  Logistically where is your hotel, where is your room?  How would you navigate the conference itself?  Explaining your concerns to your boss allows him to see your perspective and perhaps accommodate you. He may not even realize what he’s missing.  So tactfully explaining what your needs are could help you get what you need.

Title Slide: Advocating for an SSP in a Personal Setting

Regardless of whether an SSP is used in a personal capacity or a professional one you have the right to advocate for one to be independent.  Perhaps you are at the point where relying on your spouse or your children has become burdensome.  Or perhaps they are often telling you what to do rather than follow your wishes.  Advocating and accessing SSP services could afford you well needed boundaries.  Someone who could accompany you to community events, social gatherings, church or work. The use of an SSP could provide that independence. [End of Transcript]

Additional Resources