Technology Assessment Video Series

a woman using a braille display with her laptop to go through emails. she sits next to a man wearing a hearing aid and has someone's hand on his back

The Technology Assessment Video is a five-part instructional video series focused on providing training and support to technology trainers who are working with people who are DeafBlind in an assessment or training situation. This project is in direct response to a critical need in the field of deaf-blindness for technology trainers who understand how to effectively assess and train individuals who are DeafBlind.

In this video series we offer tips and strategies to meet the unique needs of the DeafBlind population. As you watch the series, keep in mind that each person you work with is unique.  This series will not provide you with a “one size fits all” solution.  Rather than giving you a prescribed set of rules to follow, we will provide you with tips and tricks that will help you identify the best piece of equipment to recommend; whether it is a simple, low-cost phone amplifier or an advanced piece of technology such as a Braille Notetaker.  After watching this series you will be more adept at identifying the needs of each consumer and recommending the right piece of equipment.

Links to various resources to assist an assessor in the assessment process will be provided.  These include:

Video Modules:

Technology Assessment Video 1

This video provides how to prepare for the technology assessment.

Slide: A Guide to Performing a Successful Technology Assessment when Working with Individuals who are DeafBlind

Slide: Technology Video Assessment Series

Preparing for the Assessment

Video 1

Hello. My name is Bryen Yunashko (name sign Bryen). I am DeafBlind and a technology trainer. I have been training people within the DeafBlind community to use communication technology for many years. The continuing advancements in the area of communication technology has greatly impacted the DeafBlind community, mainly through providing increased access. I have benefitted in countless way. For example, because my phone has the ability to zoom in/out and connect to a braille display, I can use it anywhere I go.  This allows me to communicate and stay in touch with people on the go. These advancements in technology have led to federal and local initiatives that support DeafBlind consumers to purchase and receive training on communication technology.  The first step in a successful outcome is a thorough and well planned assessment. It is crucial we provide the right piece of equipment to each consumer.

Slide: Overview

This video series focuses on how to conduct a technology assessment for individuals who are DeafBlind.  In this video series we offer tips and strategies to meet the unique needs of the DeafBlind population. As you watch the series, keep in mind that each person you work with is unique.  This series will not provide you with a “one size fits all” solution.  Rather than giving you a prescribed set of rules to follow, we will provide you with tips and tricks that will help you identify the best piece of equipment to recommend; whether it is a simple, low-cost phone amplifier or an advanced piece of technology such as a braille notetaker.  After watching this series you will be more adept at identifying the needs of each consumer and recommending the right piece of equipment.

Slide: Preparing for the assessment

This video will help you prepare for your assessment. The video is divided into three sections:  First, how to gather information before the date of the assessment.  Second, how to prepare an assessment kit.  Third, how to prepare yourself to conduct a technology assessment.

Slide: Gathering Information

Prior to conducting the assessment, it is important to gather a few particulars about the individual.  Here are a few examples of things to find out before the assessment is conducted.  Personal background questions related to their hearing and vision loss. Are they low vision or completely blind? Deaf or Hard of Hearing? What is their preferred mode of communication? Do they use tactile ASL or distance signing? Where will the meeting be held and what is the environment like?  These pieces of information are helpful to have in advance of the meeting.

Slide: Determine the Consumer’s Preferred Mode of Communication and Necessary Accommodations

The DeafBlind population is quite diverse and there many ways in which people communicate.  Some use tactile ASL, while others prefer to use speech and speech read, still others prefer distance signing.

Communicating directly with the consumer in their preferred mode of communication is ideal. Matching the assessor to the consumer’s communication modes will result in the best outcome of an assessment. However, when this match is not possible, qualified interpreters experienced in working with people who are DeafBlind and familiar with the content can be utilized to ensure effective communication. 

This video is not intended to provide in-depth instruction on communication modes used by DeafBlind, but rather emphasize the importance of truly understanding your consumer’s communication needs and how they access information.  Here are a few of the most common modes of communication used by DeafBlind individuals:

  • Tactile signing
  • Close-Vision signing
  • Distance signing
  • Verbal (Spoken)

Verbal (Spoken) with assistive listening devices.  For example, a blue tooth hearing aid with a microphone.

After you’ve found out the consumer’s preferred mode of communication do not make assumptions.  Be aware that a consumer’s chosen mode of communication does not mean the consumer is fluent in that method.  Many DeafBlind consumers go through a transition from one mode to the next as their vision loss progresses and may still be working on mastering that particular skill-set. Make sure to stay flexible and give yourself plenty of time to conduct a thorough assessment.

Slide: Determine How the Consumer Accesses Written Materials

One last piece of information to gather before the assessment is to ask the individual’s preference for accessing written materials.  They might use large print or regular font or prefer written materials in braille.

Slide:  Building the Perfect Assessment Kit

While it is impossible to bring every piece of equipment with you when you visit your consumer, there are ways to build an effective kit. 

Slide: Items to Include for Documentation Purposes

Image of a notebook with a black marker, iPad, a tape measure, an eye glass, a portable CCTV, and a braille notetaker.

As part of your assessment, you need to document existing equipment in the consumer’s environment.  For this, I recommend the following items in your kit:

  • Paper and Pen or electronic note-taking device to write down models and software versions
  • Magnifying glass, this can be either glass or electronic, to help you identify small-print model numbers
  • Thick marker pen that way if the person is low vision it will be easier for them to read
  • Tape Measure to measure devices, such as monitors or television screen sizes. This will also help in ensuring there is space for the new equipment

Slide:  Items to Include for Demonstration Purposes

Image: An iPad, a laptop, an iPhone, a dongle, a braille notetaker, a portable CCTV, an extension cord, a cable and a braille display.

Next, your kit should also include demonstration equipment.  Again, you want to keep your kit lightweight for easy portability, but you also want to make sure your consumer has a chance to evaluate equipment fairly.   Some suggestions:

  • Smart phones:iPhone and Android phone
  • Dongles and Cables:to connect devices to larger screens if available. This will give your consumer an idea of what the device looks like on a larger screen.As a note, dongles can be used with many different devices
  • Braille Displays: One small, lightweight, portable, perhaps 14 cell braille display and one large, possibly 32 cell braille display. You can also present the differences between braille displays and the more advanced braille notetakers
  • Computers- It is important to show a variety of available laptops and desktops

Let’s talk about the laptop computer in your kit.  Today, there are several operating systems available for computers.  There is Windows 7 and 8.  There is Apple Macintosh OSX, there is Linux with many variations.

You certainly do not want to carry a laptop for each operating system.  Not only would that be expensive to maintain, but certainly heavy to lug around!

To avoid this hassle I recommend using either virtualization or dual boot.  Either option allows you to house multiple operating systems within one physical machine, eliminating the need for you to carry multiple laptops from assessment to assessment.

Slide: Word of Warning: Consult Experts When Necessary

Now that you know about both virtualization and dual boot, I must provide you with a word of warning.  If you don’t have expertise in these programs it is recommended to consult an expert. If you proceed without consultation you risk corruption and potential loss of the data on your computer.

Slide: Virtualization and Dual Boot

Virtualization allows you to install a program that warehouses other operating systems within your current operating system. Here’s a more concrete example: if you are using OSX, virtualization will allow you to bring up a window and virtually run a Windows operating system.

The advantage of virtualization is that it allows you to run multiple operating systems while your computer is running the main operating system. The disadvantage is that some hardware that you are demonstrating may not be compatible in virtualization mode.

Dual boot is slightly different than virtualization.  With dual boot you actually install each operating system to the hard drive. Each is separated by virtual partitions in the hard drive. When your computer is booted a menu prompts you to select which OS you would like to run.  The advantage of dual boot is that each operating system runs natively on your laptop, thus preventing hardware incompatibility issues.  The disadvantage is that you must shut down and restart your computer to access each operating system.

III: Preparing yourself

Slide: Preparing Oneself for the Assessment

Now that you’ve determined the consumer’s communication preferences and built your beautiful assessment kit, it is now time to prepare yourself.

Slide: Clothing and Accessory Considerations

In most cases it is highly recommended that the assessor’s clothing strongly contrasts their skin tone. For example, I am fair skinned so I am wearing a black shirt. If you are dark skinned, consider wearing a grey or pastel color.  The contrast helps ensure that you and the consumer can effectively communicate. 

Not heeding this advice could result in miscommunications.

White clothing is not recommended.  White shirts and blouses are hard on the eyes. Most individuals with vision loss are highly sensitive to the color white.  Again, it is important to wear clothes that contrast to your skin tone.  It is also advised that you avoid clothing with stripes, polka dots, or other patterns.  Instead, wear shirts with a single solid color that contrasts with your skin tone. Stripes, other prints, and even buttons can cause visual noise and interfere with communication.

Also, you will want to consider avoiding anything that can be visually or tactually distracting including bright nail polish, dangling earrings, rings and bracelets and necklaces.  If you wear any of these items please remove them before the assessment. Taking these steps to prepare yourself sets you up for success.

Slide: Additional Considerations

Due to the close proximity that you may be sharing with your consumer you will want to be considerate of several things. First, be mindful of your nails. Keep them trimmed. Second, avoid any scents that may be offensive to the consumer including: perfumes, cigarette smoke and lotions. Third, make sure your breath is pleasant. If not, consider using gum or mints before your meeting.

It’s best to keep your appearance clean and neat.  The DeafBlind community is particularly sensitive to things that affect the five senses.

Slide:  Support Service Provider SSP

As an assessor myself, and as a person who is DeafBlind, I prefer to communicate directly with the consumer.  However, if I conduct the assessment alone I often don’t have access to environmental information.  For example, I might not be aware of the complete layout of the room, therefore I don’t have the best idea of space available to set up equipment or I might not see that the student struggling to read a braille display or squinting at a computer screen.

In order to have full access to the environment I always bring a Support Service Provider, or SSP. The SSP will provide you with important visual and environmental and information that will aid you in making your assessment and recommendation.  This guarantees that the consumer gets the best possible recommendation for their equipment. 

If you find yourself in a similar situation to what I just described, please consider bringing along an SSP to your assessments.

Slide: Conclusion

Now that you have everything you need to get ready for your appointment, watch our next video, “The Art of Conversation,” as we discuss how to ensure an effective interview. [End of Transcript]

Technology Assessment Video 2

This video prepares you for the assessment interview.

Slide: A Guide to Performing a Successful Technology Assessment when Working with Individuals who are DeafBlind

Slide: Conducting the Perfect Interview

Video 2

Welcome Back! My name is Bryen Yunashko. In the last video we talked about the many ways to prepare for the assessment, including, how to gather pertinent information prior to meetings, determining communication preferences, building your assessment kit, and preparing yourself.

In this segment we will focus on the assessment itself, which entails two important aspects. We will start by talking about the assessment interview, and conclude by discussing how to appropriately assess your consumer’s technological needs.  Most assessments last between 1 to 1.5 hours. Some assessments will require longer meetings times, and might even require two separate appointments.

To ensure a successful meeting it is vital that the consumer feels comfortable.  There are a few things you can do to make sure this happens. First, develop good listening skills.  Second, ensure that all communication is clear. Third, make sure that your consumer is always “in the loop” and be able to identify when the consumer might have additional needs.

Slide: Arrival or Introductions

Remember, the first few moments of your arrival will set the tone for the rest of the meeting.  So, make sure you are warm and friendly from the get-go. Introduce your name and your name sign.  For example, “Hello my name is Bryen Yunashko, and this is my name sign.” If you have other team members with you, be sure to inform the consumer they are here too and introduce them one by one, explaining what their role is.  This ensures the consumer feels fully aware of their environment. Remember, the consumer might not be able to visually access the environment.

Ask the consumer what their name sign is and if there are others in the room, ask the consumer to introduce you to them.  Do not attempt to introduce yourself to the others on your own.  Give the consumer the chance to feel they are in control.  This will further ease their comfort.

Slide: Ensure the Consumer has Access to Clear Communication

Ensuring clear communication is pivotal. Once you and the consumer are seated, ask the consumer if communication is clear. If low-vision signing, ask if your signing is easy to read.  If you are using your voice, ask if you are speaking clearly or loudly enough.   If tactile signing, ask if they prefer to receive one-handed or two-handed signing. If one-handed, ask if they prefer to receive information with their right or left hand.

Also ask about environmental factors.  For example, is the consumer facing a window that is too bright for their eyes? Or is the background just too busy, or cluttered with too many objects? You may need to adjust your seating positions several times until clear communication is achieved. 

Remember, this is not an exact science. More than likely, you will have to rearrange your seating positions several times before you get it just right.  

Before starting the assessment make sure it is easy for all participants to access communication.  This means you might have to try out a few different configuration before you find one that is just right.

Beginning the Interview

Slide: The Art of Conversation

Before you begin the interview you want to make sure the consumer feels at ease.  To do this start with a little chit-chat to break the ice.  This helps the consumer to be more comfortable, but also helps you and the consumer to get used to each other’s mode of communication.  In addition to chit-chat you can let the consumer know what the evaluation process entails.  This will ease any worries they might have had about the interview.

While we have a standard set of questions to ask the consumer, you must keep in mind that each DeafBlind consumer presents with unique needs.  It is this fact that makes your interactions with the consumer all the more important.  The more information you are able to gather from the client, the better overall recommendation you will have for him or her.  Your insights will also help justify your recommendations.

This is why the conversation is the most critical part of the assessment, and why we call it an art.  There are four keys to successful conversation: listening, observing, documenting, and validating.  If you employ all four tips, there is no doubt you will have a successful conversation.

Slide: Observations

Take notice of the space you are in and ask open ended questions.  The environment can be inspiration for some great starting points into conversation. Don’t hesitate to ask the SSP to describe the environment to you.  This will help you know what to bring up in conversation.

Slide: Listening

Listening is a key component of conversation. Active listening shows that you are engaged and care.  As the consumer shares about their life, make sure to ask questions about those experiences. This demonstrates that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.

Slide: Validation

Validation is another critical component of artful conversation.  Consumers want to feel understood.  When they share about their challenges and needs, they want you to provide validation. When the consumer expresses concerns and needs, show that you agree with the consumer and that those concerns are valid and you will note them.

Unfortunately, many DeafBlind persons do not have access to communication or community to express their daily challenges.   As their advocate, you have given them the opportunity to express their concerns, be heard, and be validated.  Your validation will help them open up and share more about their lives.  It will also make them feel that their concerns are valid and legitimate.

Slide: Documentation

Make sure to take notes throughout the entire interview.  Think of your notes from the interview like a rough draft. When you return to your office, you can pull details from your notes and insert them into your formal report.  There are several ways you can take notes during the interview: paper and pen, laptop, braille notetaker, or digital voice recorder.  Whatever your method, don’t forget to let the consumer know you will be taking notes. Otherwise it might seem odd that the interview stops and starts.

Remember your notes are a dumping ground for information from your interview.  You want to take down as much information as you can.  Don’t forget to note the environment.  Was it too noisy, dark, or bright? How does the consumer communicate with their family, friends and the community? What are their technological needs? Do they have additional disabilities? The more notes you take down during the interview the better your final report will look because you won’t have missed any important details.

Slide: Conclusion

Now you have finished the interview and taken your notes. The next step is to perform a technical evaluation.  This will allow you to provide the consumer with the best possible equipment to meet their needs. [End of Transcript]

Technology Assessment Video 3

This video prepares the viewer to conduct the assessment.

Slide: A Guide to Performing a Successful Technology Assessment when Working with Individuals who are DeafBlind

Slide: Conducting the Assessment

Video 3

Welcome back, my name is Bryen Yunashko, my name sign is Bryen. Our first two videos taught you how to conduct a meaningful interview.  But you’re not done yet! It’s now time for the technological assessment.  There are four different aspects involved with the technical assessment.

Start off by gathering environmental information.  Second, you want to identify what the consumer’s technological goals are. Third, provide them with the opportunity to try out different equipment.  And lastly, you need to document all your findings.  After completing each of those four steps you’ll be able to make a successful recommendation.

Slide: Gathering information

But let’s begin with the first part of the technical evaluation, gathering information. 

Gathering environmental information is key to a successful recommendation.  For example, what do their home or office spaces look like?  Include factors such as lighting, noise volume, available space, furniture, etc.  Also, include the layout of the space. If you were to give them a large piece of equipment, would there be space for it? These are all things to keep in mind as you are making your notes.

Internet access falls under this category.  Do they have Wi-Fi at home? If so, do they know their password? If they don’t know this information, do they know who to contact to get their password?  Are they able to change settings in their router?

In addition to internet access, ask about tele-services.  Do they have a landline and/or cellular service? Inquire about their current service providers and ask if they’d like to keep their current companies or try a new provider? They might like to switch to Verizon, AT&T or Sprint.

It’s also important to take a current inventory of equipment they already have. They might already have a computer and a CCTV.  Make sure to make a complete list of equipment including model numbers. Don’t forget software counts as equipment too.  Regarding software, make sure to note the version they are using. This is important as softwares frequently release updates and they could be using an outdated version.  For example, they could have version 1.0, but you know that version 4.0 is currently available.

Lastly, ask them to do something very simple on whatever equipment they have.  They could, for example, send an email or make a phone call.  This gives you the opportunity to see how they use their current equipment.

Slide: Identify Consumer’s Technology Goals

It’s now time to identify your consumer’s technological goals.  It’s best to let the consumer volunteer their goals.  If the consumer does not immediately offer their own goals, you will want to work with them to develop clear technological goals. The consumer might already have equipment but they don’t know how to use it. Thus, one their goals could be receiving training to make efficient use of their current equipment.  From time to time the consumer might have a goal that is unrelated to your program.  If this occurs you’ll have to explain the parameters of your program.  If their goal does not meet the criteria for your program, make sure to refer them to an organization or individual that can help.  Remember, part of your role is to be an advocate for the consumer. This means that you should be a wealth of resources for them.

Slide: Demonstrate Equipment

It’s now time to demo different pieces of equipment that they could receive through your program. But before you do this, you should observe how they use their current equipment.  For example, if while using their cellphone you notice they have it extremely close to their eyes, this could be an area where you might have a piece of adaptive equipment to offer. Or they could just need more information about their device’s built-in features. If information is not enough, it’s time to put your kit to use!  You can demonstrate equipment that is related to their goal, and even equipment that might not be directly related.  Remember, you are the expert. The consumer might not know about certain types of equipment, so they won’t know to ask for it.  You can demonstrate various phones, softwares, laptops, screen readers, and braille displays. As a note regarding braille displays, there are generally three categories they fall into. There are small, portable braille displays, medium sized displays, and braille notetakers.  Each type has their own purpose.  As the consumer is using the equipment make sure to gauge their reaction.  If for example while they are using a braille display, you notice them struggling to read the braille output, this might mean they are not ready to use a braille display.  Instead of offering the equipment right then and there, you could refer them to braille training, and once completed they would be eligible to receive a braille display. 

Do not be afraid to discuss particular cases with your partner organizations.  Everyone’s ultimate goal is the same, to ensure the DeafBlind person has the equipment they need to be successful.  It’s impossible to bring every piece of equipment to their home. So, for some consumers this might mean setting up a follow up appointment at your office.  It’s often helpful for the consumer to actually feel the piece of equipment, especially if we are talking about TTYs or braille displays.  Each display has a different feel. Some displays might be harder to read than others.  You also can’t bring big screen TVs to a consumer’s house.  In this situation I typically ask the consumer to go to a store and try out three sizes: 60, 55, 40 inch, and report back with which they preferred.  All of this information is documented in my notes.

Slide: Documentation

It’s important that you document everything that you find out from your meetings. Make sure to identify your customer’s goals and figure out how they can use technology to improve their life.  And don’t forget to inquire where they will be using that equipment. Their home? The office? Or on the go? Do they have reliable access to the internet? What are their needs for mobile technology?

In addition to the environment, document your observations during the evaluation.  While using a screen were they right up next to it, or farther removed? Did they turn the lights off to be able to access a screen? What were their braille skills like?

Documenting all these observations will make compiling your final report and recommendations much easier.

Slide: Conclusion

Now you are done with your technological assessment.  It’s time for you to head back to the office and make your final report. Our next video will help you construct that report and make your best recommendation. See you next time. [End of Transcript]

Technology Assessment Video 4

This video discusses the next step in the evaluation process, the report.

Slide: A Guide to Performing a Successful Technology Assessment when Working with Individuals who are DeafBlind

Slide: Writing the Report

Video 4

Welcome Back. I’m Bryen Yunashko. In the previous videos we discussed how to prepare for an assessment visit, interviewing the consumer, and preforming a technology evaluation. This video will discuss the next step in the evaluation process, the report. We’re going to review how to put together an evaluation report that gets your consumer the best possible equipment and training that meets their needs. Before you dive in to writing the report you have some homework to do. You should check in with other programs and agencies to determine whether additional programs will benefit your consumer. It’s important to collaborate with partner agencies to determine the best outcome for your DeafBlind consumer. Throughout the rest of this video we will discuss best practices and guidelines.

You must be very careful to not let your bias influence your decisions. We all have a favorite product or brand that we personally consider to be most effective. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Apple people”, or “Windows people” or even “Linux people”.   It’s easy for us to be tempted to simply choose our favorite equipment to recommend to our consumer. However, there are many products that meet the same purpose but approach it in different ways. It’s important to understand the specific features that make a product unique and how those features can meet our consumer’s unique needs. For example two screen magnification programs. Each software has unique features that differentiates it form another software. A successful evolution involves you providing choices that give the consumer the most benefit. The same applies to operating systems. Today, Apple and Windows are some of the more popular operating systems.  Your consumer may want an Apple device but the software they want only runs on a Windows operating system. It may be better to recommend a Windows PC to maximize their ability. At the same time you have to consider their history and their learning curve. If a consumer has extensively experience using an Apple and has never used a Windows PC. You need to think about the time it takes for the consumer to learn a new operating system and the limited amount of training hours available. Again try not to let your personal biases affect your decision.

Your agency may have several experts on staff focusing on specific areas or may have a relationship with other agencies who have experts. Perhaps an expert on low vision equipment, audiology equipment, braille equipment or Independent Living. It’s a good idea to form a relationship with these experts and keep informed of the latest tech development in those areas. Most of us can’t be an expert in every area.

For example you just assessed a DeafBlind man. He has a Deaf wife and three hearing children. He needs a notification alert system to know when the doorbell or phone is ringing. You must be careful not to remove accessibility from his Deaf wife or hearing children. For this reason you might want to consult a independent living expert who can show you options  for equipment that will notify through vibration for the DeafBlind consumer, light flash for his Deaf wife and sound for his children. By consulting the expert you ensured that the consumer got the right piece of equipment for him and his family. It also helped you keep up to date with the most current trends in technology.

There are many different programs that can benefit your consumer. It can be complicated for you to know everything that exists our there.  However, knowing what programs can benefit your consumer and knowing how the rules work for each program will further help maximize the equipment your consumer can get. For example the NDBEDP helps DeafBlind consumer get free telecommunication equipment. However, within the program there is a rule that states that if there is another state run program exists that can provide the same equipment that program must be used to provide the equipment that you want to recommend. For example your state VR program may also be able to provide a braille display for your consumer.

Meaning you would have to ask that agency if they meet their eligibility requirements. If so they would provide that piece of equipment rather than the National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program.  However the NDBEDP might be able to provide the consumer with other accessories that voc rehab would not provide them with. By using multiple agencies and programs you can meet all of the consumers needs. If the consumer is unaware of how to use a computer, this program wouldn’t be able to provide them with training to learn how to use a computer. In this case you want to contact partner organizations to see if they would provide them with that training. Once trained, they might be eligible to receive equipment through the program. There’s a huge benefit to knowing what resources are available and partnering with agencies in the area so that you can best meet the needs of the consumer.

When you meet your consumer you may notice several things. That individual might have never met another individual from your program or agency. This makes you the first point of contact. You might notice that they asked for a braille Display but they don’t have the skills necessary to read braille. In this case you would want to find a partner organization that can provide them with the training to be able to read braille fluently. Once they have received this training they would then be eligible to receive a braille display from your program. If you notice that they need help in an area and not related to communication or technology you can still serve as a point of contact or referral for them. Say you notice that they need help using a cane. You can contact the state rehabilitation agency and refer them for orientation and mobility training. Again you’re serving as an advocate and a source of information for that consumer. Referrals also work in both directions and the consumer will be able to receive more services by you working together. Helen Keller national center has a list of partner organizations and resources throughout the country.  Feel free to contact them to receive that list. Remember, before you contact another agency to discuss consumer’s case you must ask for permission and authorization from the consumer. They have a right to privacy and the right to decide with whom their information is shared.

The time has come. You’ve done your homework, you found the best equipment for your consumer, and you conducted your assessment. Now it’s time to put together your final recommendation and your report. Each report should include four parts.   The first part is the answers to the formal questions that you asked in your beginning interview. The second part is the narrative, which is where you describe the consumer. The third are your recommendations for equipment and the fourth part is your training plan proposal. This report is of the utmost importance because it will serve as the foundation for every decision made there on out.  All stakeholders moving forward will use this report as a basis for their approval or denial of equipment, services, and training. That’s it is important to make your report as comprehensive as possible.

Formal Questions

In the formal questions section of your report he sure to notate their answers to the frozen set of questions provided by your program. The answers to these questions are aggregated and the data is used to justify the funds for the program. The government uses this statistical data to decide on the efficacy of the Equipment Distribution Program.   If your program is not collecting this data it is in jeopardy of being shut down.


Every consumer is unique. In the narrative section you get to tell your supervisor and other stakeholders why this individual deserves the equipment and training that can be provided by your program. Make sure in this section that your readers get a sense of who this individual is, make it as personal as possible. Make sure to include information about their personality, their challenges, and their triumphs. 

Here’s an example, suppose my narrative read like this: Jane Smith is a DeafBlind woman who is low vision. She is the single mother of a 5-year-old daughter. She commutes to her job via the city bus. She works every day from 4 AM to 10 AM. While out of the house she has access to a cell phone. Unfortunately the text on the screen is too small for her to read. This means she’s unable to be in contact with her daughter’s babysitter.

As you can see in this example she’s very relatable. And the nature of her story will make your supervisor more inclined to approve the request for a equipment and training.

Equipment Recommendations

It’s now time to make your recommendations for equipment. In your report you need to separate each piece of equipment onto its own line. In addition each piece of equipment needs its own justification, or explanation as to why that piece of equipment is needed for that consumer. Sometimes your justifications will need to be extremely detailed.

For example: you might want to provide your consumer with screen magnification software. And the ones that you’re recommending might be more expensive than others that are available. But you know that the one you’re recommending has the features that will meet the consumer’s needs. Be sure to mention that the other cheaper software’s do not have the same features. Take another example. Suppose you would like to buy a consumer an external keyboard that could connect with their tablet. In your justification make sure to mention the consumer is not able to see the on-screen keyboard and needs the tactile support of an external keyboard. The more thorough your justification the easier it will be approved.

Training Plan Proposal

Similar to your equipment recommendations, each request for training must have a justification. When you meet the consumer you must assess their current skill level in a multitude of areas. Use their current skill level as the basis for future training. Remember that each area of training will occupy its own line and require its own justification. Your justifications will serve as the rationale for providing or not providing training to the consumer.  Your proposal will also serve as a jumping off point for the trainer to make their lesson plan that is customized to that consumer.

Review Recommendations With Consumer

If possible, It’s always best to review your report with your consumer before you send it off,.  This will save you a lot of time in the long run. After you’ve made your equipment recommendations send them back to the consumer to verify that the order is correct. You might have written down that they want an AT&T cell phone, however when you check in with the consumer they let you know the they’d really like cell phone serviced by Verizon. Finding this out before you submit your report will save you a lot of time in the long run.  By not reviewing your recommendations with the consumer you are potentially delaying receipt of their equipment and training.  Don’t forget to also review their training plan, ensuring that they agree to every aspect of the plan.


You’ve done it. You’ve made the perfect report. I’m sure by now you realize how important it was to be meticulous at every step of the process. By meeting with the consumer, consulting experts, and finally putting all the pieces of the puzzle into one final report you’ve done your part in ensuring that the consumer receives the equipment and training that will serve them best.  All your work will surely pay off.  We’ll be sure to include templates at the end of this video. So, what’s left to do?  Hit send. And now you’re done. [End of Transcript]

Technology Assessment Video 5

This video focuses on the benefits of using an SSP, if you require such services, during an assessment.

Slide: A Guide to Performing a Successful Technology Assessment when Working with Individuals who are DeafBlind

Slide: Working with a Technology Support Service Provider (SSP)

Video 5

Hello! My name is Bryen Yunashko. Today we will be focusing on the benefits of using an SSP, if you require such services, during an assessment.  Before I go on, I’d like to break down the acronym SSP.  It stands for Support Service Provider.  Their role can be boiled down to empowerment. It is their responsibility to empower the DeafBlind consumer to receive information.  They do this by relaying visual, environmental, incidental, and auditory information. The SSP also functions as a human guide.

The SSP can also facilitate communication for light, non-substantive interactions.  For example, asking the front desk the location of a particular room.  However, the SSP is not an interpreter.  The SSP’s goal is to provide us with information so that we can make our own decisions.

Slide: Technology SSP: Role and Responsibilities

Now that you have a grasp on the general concept and role of a Support Service Provider, we’ll be shifting gears into discussing how to use an SSP during a technology evaluation.  In addition to the responsibilities I just mentioned, there are a few added roles they perform in an evaluation; as a quick example they might be responsible for setting up equipment or telling you what is displayed on a screen. Many trainers will find that their particular program or agency provides them with SSPs. If you are unsure, I suggest asking your program director if SSP services are available.

Again, I must emphasize that a SSP is not a substitute for an interpreter. They serve in completely different functions. If in the past you relied on interpreting services, you will most likely still need an interpreter for future assessments. If for example your primary mode of communication is American Sign Language (ASL) and your client doesn’t know ASL, you will require the services of an interpreter.  The interpreter is there to provide communication access, while the SSP is there to provide visual and environmental access.

Now you’ve got an idea of what it looks like to have an SSP during a technical evaluation. Next I’d like to focus on three topics, “preparing for the assessment,” “the technical evaluation,” and “training.” Let’s start with preparing for the assessment. 

Slide: Arrival and Preparation

There are many ways you could arrive at the assessment. You and your SSP might meet before hand and drive to the client’s home together. Once there, your SSP can guide you to the front door. Once here, make sure YOU ring the door bell or knock. It is not the SSPs responsibility to do this. They will simply guide your hand to the door bell or door and it is up to you to do the rest. There are several reasons for this. One is that the SSP is there to empower you to be more independent. Two, if you go back to that house for a second appointment you will already know where the door bell is. Let me show you an example of how hand guiding works.

Slide: Demonstration of Hand Under Hand Technique to Locate a Door Bell

Video of one hand placed under the hand of another guiding to a door bell.  The hand on top releases and rings the doorbell.

Upon entering the house, things might be a little chaotic. After all, many new faces just entered the client’s home. Make sure that you take the lead in making introductions. First, introduce yourself. Then introduce your SSP and interpreter.  As you are introducing the team make sure to include what their roles are. This ensures that everyone is informed and on the same page.

Once introductions have been made ask the consumer where they’d like everyone to sit. At this point the consumer might take it upon themselves to guide you. This is perfectly acceptable, as it is their home. The SSP should follow behind to monitor and make sure there is nothing dangerous in the environment.

After you’ve made yourself comfortable, have the SSP describe the room to you. They should include things such as window location, room layout, furniture, including chairs, sofas and TVs, and anything else in the environment. Be sure to tell the consumer what the SSP is doing and don’t forget to include why they are doing it. Explain that environmental information is only used to assist with the evaluation process, this will help them feel at ease.

Slide: SSP’s Role During the Assessment

It’s now time for the assessment. During the assessment the SSP will relay key pieces of information about the consumer. The information provided will influence your equipment recommendations.  In particular, the SSP should provide you with information that falls into three categories: the environment, how the consumer is interacting with the equipment, and lastly, how the environment, technology, and the consumer come together.

Let’s take a look at how to provide environmental information at the onset of an assessment.

Slide: Providing Environmental Information

The SSP should begin with describing the physical environment.  He or she should include the room layout, making sure to include if there are any sunlit windows that might make it hard to see, as well as auditory information. There could be ambient noise that would interfere with the consumer’s hearing aid. Some pieces of technology have audio output, and the presence of noise might make it inaudible to the consumer. In addition to layout and noise, it’s important to ask the consumer if anyone else lives with them; perhaps another adult or other children. All of this information will affect your recommendation.

Now let’s move on to providing observations about the consumer’s behavior and how they interact with the equipment.

Slide: Providing Observations about Consumer’s Behaviors

As the assessor, it’s important for you to know how the consumer is behaving, or interacting, with the technology.  Let me give you some examples of consumer behavior you would want to be aware of. You would want to know if the consumer is sitting too close to the screen. This information can help you give suggestions for improving their ergonomics. You might also notice that the consumer isn’t a skilled typist, but instead, they are hunting and pecking for each key. If they are a braille user, you want to know the speed at which they can read braille. They might be struggling to read.  All of this information can be given by the SSP and will affect your recommendation.

It’s also important for the SSP to inform you of how the consumer is reacting and responding to you. With this information you are able to alter and tailor your approach to that consumer. For example, if they are getting bored and seem like they already know the info you are presenting, you could move on to another topic they might not be familiar with.

Later in this video we’ll give you several tips on how the SSP can relay this information in an effective and appropriate way.

Slide: Video Demonstration: A trainer using an SSP to receive visual and environmental information while conducting a technology assessment.  The assessor is introducing the consumer to a Braille Notetaker.

Slide: The SSP is located behind the trainer and has her hands on his back mimicking the movements of the consumer.  She draws the outline of the Braille Notetaker on the trainer’s back and places her fingers on the device just as the consumer has.  She follows his movements. 

Trainer: So on your right hand you have, as you know there are 6 dots in the braille cell, so we have those, dots 4, 5 and 6.  And then there is dot 8, and dot 8 is actually the 4th button and that is the enter key.  Then there is a gap there in the middle.  And then your left hand you have dots 3,2 and 1.  And then over to the left you have dot 7, which is also the backspace key.  And then under that, you go move your hands down a little bit.  Let’s see where you are at.

SSP: SSP has drawn the notetaker on the trainer’s back and is moving her hands to the locations that the consumer’s hands are going to on the actual notetaker.  She has moved her hands off the trainer’s back to the back of the chair to indicate that the consumer’s hands are no longer on the notetaker.  This let’s the trainer know he has to re-direct the consumer back to the location on the notetaker he is describing next. 

Trainer: You’re back up on the keys?  Go ahead and move a bit under the key and you will feel there are a bunch of little buttons. 

SSP: She is moving her hands all around the top part of the notetaker and feeling around, indicating the consumer does not have his hands on the little buttons that the trainer is referring to. 

Trainer: Just down a little bit from the keyboard itself.

Consumer: Oh, I see now.

Slide: Please go to the Helen Keller National Center webiste for additional information on Touch Signals.

Slide: Touch Signals: A Personal Perspective by Ashley Benton  

Touch Signals: An Overview

These resources can be found in our resource section

Slide: Providing Environmental Information Related to the Technology Recommendations

Now it’s time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Let me give you a quick example of how environmental information can affect your tech recommendation. Let’s say you think it would be best to recommend a CCTV for your consumer. You can ask the SSP to scan the room and see if there is any space for it.  If it appears there isn’t room it, you can begin a dialogue with the consumer. Let them know that you’d like to supply them with a CCTV, however there appears to not be any place to put it. You can ask the consumer if they’d be willing to make space for it before the next appointment. All of that came from one piece of information from the SSP that there wasn’t any space for it.  Those are the three key areas I wanted to go over with you.

Slide: Confidentiality and Privacy Protocols

Before we go any further, I’d like to take a minute to discuss confidentiality and the consumer’s right to privacy. It is your responsibility to inform the SSP that all information shared during an assessment is confidential and is not to be shared with anyone.

During an assessment numerous topics and personal matters are brought up. Some of the topics require the utmost sensitivity and might be even be a tad awkward to engage in.  You might need to ask for a private conversation with the SSP to ask about the state of the home.  For example, you might notice that the house is a mess and that there is quite a bit of damage.  But it’s best to ask these questions to the SSP in private as not to offend the consumer.

From your conversation you might learn that there are children that live in the house who are typically rough with equipment. With that in mind you can make a recommendation for a piece of equipment that is durable.  Above all, be respectful of their home and their privacy. After all, we are guests in their home.

Slide: Using an SSP when Providing Training on Technology

Note: If you are both an assessor and trainer, you’ve had the opportunity to watch this entire video. If you are only a trainer, I suggest you start this video from the beginning as the topics covered also pertain to training.

During training you will depend a lot on your SSP to provide you with information. Before beginning the training it’s important that you prioritize and tell the SSP what information you’d like to receive. Your SSP is responsible for taking in and storing as much as information as possible, so that when you want to receive the information they are ready.

Let’s talk about some of the ways you can use an SSP during a training session. First, we’ll go over setting up the equipment.

Slide: Setting up the Equipment

Setting up the equipment is your responsibility. That being said, your SSP is there to provide support.  Once you take a piece of equipment out of the box, the SSP can guide you to where to set it down. They can also make sure that the equipment isn’t on the edge of a table and likely to fall off.  The SSP might also tell you that there is a glass of water nearby, so you can then move it to a safe distance. We wouldn’t want to damage any of the equipment.  SSPs can also be helpful when you’re dealing with multiple parts. If you lose track of a particular part, just ask the SSP to help you locate it. And just as a reminder, make sure to use “hand guiding” so that you can be the one to pick up the lost part. As a refresher your hand will be on top of the SSPs, and they will guide your hand to the appropriate place. Also, using hand guiding, your SSP can locate a power socket for you to plug in the equipment.

Once you are done setting up, ask the SSP to visually scan the area and make sure there are no loose or dangling cords that someone could trip over. We wouldn’t want to create a safety hazard in the consumer’s home.

Those are just a few things to keep in mind when setting up the equipment.

Slide: Documentation

Let’s talk about documentation. After you’ve completed setting up the equipment, jot down the model and serial numbers of the equipment you have out. Later, you’ll be required to give these number to your program office, so they can be put into the database. If you are unable to see or access that information, you can ask the SSP for support.

This information is import not only for record keeping but for the equipment’s warranty as well.  If the equipment is damaged and it is still under warranty, you’ll need to provide them with the serial number to the device.

Next, we’ll discuss how to configure your equipment.

Slide: Configuration of Equipment

Certain equipment requires the assistance of a sighted individual for its initial configuration. If, for example, you are installing a specific piece of software and a dialogue box appears on the screen and you can’t access it, you can ask the SSP for their support in navigating the prompts.  Also, some computers and tablets have a “Set Up Wizard” that typically asks for user information, including name and email. In that moment you can let your SSP provide support for the consumer. The consumer can provide assistance in using the set up wizard.  If the consumer can’t type the answer, then they can give their answers to the SSP who will enter them on the device.

Slide: Role of SSP During Training

Now that the equipment is set up you’re finally ready to begin the training.  During the training you will want your SSP to provide you with a lot of information. You’ll want to know things like how are they sitting, holding the device, reading braille, etc. 

This might be a good moment to teach the consumer about the importance of ergonomics. Good ergonomics will allow the consumer to use the equipment appropriately and comfortably.

Let me give you another example of how to use an SSP during training. Let’s say you are trying to teach the consumer how to press two keys at the same time. You would first demonstrate and then ask the consumer to perform the task. Now, you could either put your hands on top of the consumer’s and track their movements, but that might interrupt their process and throw them off. An alternative is for the SSP to let you know if they are on the right keys or not. If not, you can intervene and guide them to the right keys. 

During the training you will be receiving a constant flow of information from the SSP. If the SSP is using Tactual ASL with you, this might interfere with your training. To avoid interference, you can use Tough Signals. This system allows for back channeling between you and your SSP. You might be familiar with either Pro-Tactile or Haptics. Both systems allow you to communicate without using words and thus not interfering with the training session.

By utilizing touch signals you can get a lot of information about your consumer and the environment. You can also set up your own preferred signals to be used during the training. If the SSP is unfamiliar with touch signals you can give them a quick overview before beginning the training. After several sessions together, you and your SSP will develop your own code and set of preferred signals. Remember, you control the amount of information coming to you. Make sure your preferences are given to the SSP so they can meet your needs.

Slide: Conclusion

Now I’m sure you can understand how an SSP can support you in making the assessment and training successful. Here’s just a quick review of how to effectively work with your SSP. Prior to the appointment, make sure establish a good working relationship with SSP. Let them know your priorities and preferences of how to receive information. Also, ensure they understand their role in the appointment. Work closely with the SSP to develop touch signals to be used during the appointment.

Similar to how technology is always changing, your priorities when working with different consumers will change too. Make sure to keep your SSP abreast of what your current priorities and preferences are.  If possible, hire the same SSP for all evaluations and trainings. This will cut down on confusion and help you make better use of your time. It will also help your consumer have a better experience.

That’s it for now. We hope you enjoyed this video. [End of Transcript]

Additional Resources