HHS Recognizes Deafblind Awareness Week with Events

June 20, 2022

HHS is celebrating Deafblind Awareness Week, June 26–July 2, by hosting two awareness events and highlighting its programs and staff who work with the deafblind community.
The Blind Children’s Program (BCP) will host the first-ever HHSC Deafblind Awareness Week Art Show: Empowerment Through Art with an in-person art opening on June 24 from 10–11 a.m. in the North Austin Complex. The art opening event will feature:

  • BCP deafblind children’s artwork.
  • Professional artwork and a prerecorded art talk from deafblind artist Mary Dignan.
  • Live speeches from Keisha Rowe, associate commissioner of Rehabilitative and Independence Services, Joanie Cooksey, BCP manager, and a BCP deafblind participant.

“The artwork displayed represents just a small sampling of the potential and talent that deafblind Texans possess when given equal access to communication supports, information and other supports based on their unique needs,” said Sarah Karmacharya, BCP policy and program development manager.
The artwork will be on display in the NAC June 24–July 8. The art show is open to all who are interested. To register, visit the registration webpage.
BCP will also host a Virtual Art Opening celebrating Deafblind Awareness Week on Microsoft Teams Monday, June 27 from 11–11:45 a.m. The event will feature:

  • Remarks from Rowe and Cooksey.
  • Prerecorded Art Talk from Mary Dignan.
  • Photos from the June 24 Art Opening Event.

The webinar is open to all who are interested. To register, visit the registration webpage.

Hands-On Learning

BCP works with deafblind children in many ways to help them grow their independence skills and realize their potential.

Ten deafblind children enrolled in BCP services attended a weekend camp April 22–24 in Center Point at the Children’s Association for Maximum Potential (CAMP) Camp. CAMP staff and BCP deafblind specialists collaborated to develop individualized activities for each child to match their unique needs due to their vision loss, hearing loss and any additional disabilities.

CAMP focused on increasing a variety of skills for the children who attended with their families and siblings, including fine and gross motor skills, communication, choice-making and independent living skills. This was achieved through opportunities such as wood painting, ceramics, horseback riding, archery, outdoor cooking, canoeing and much more.

“The camp represented a unique opportunity for deafblind children and teens enrolled in BCP services,” Karmacharya said. “Children who are deafblind may not have many opportunities to engage in ‘typical’ camp activities due to their combined sensory impairments and unique communication needs.

“It was an opportunity for families throughout Texas to connect with other families who have a child like theirs and share advice and resources. Ceramics created during the weekend will be showcased in the art show.”

On June 4, the BCP team hosted a direct skills training focused on art and independent living skills. Children who attended had an opportunity to learn about and improve their independent living skills and fine arts skills. They created salt dough magnets, jewelry and decorative steppingstones. This art will also be displayed in the art show. Check out this video of the skills training.

“Hands-on skill trainings are very important for children who are deafblind as they may not learn the same skills that children who do not have combined vision and hearing loss learn through observation and imitation,” Karmacharya said. “Children who are deafblind often need direct instruction in these areas and repetition of activities many times to learn the same skills. Parents and caregivers play an integral role in BCP services and trainings as they carryover activities and skill areas highlighted in hands-on trainings into the child’s everyday routines.”

Deafblind Awareness Week is observed the last week in June and always includes June 27 — Helen Keller’s birthday. Keller was the first deafblind person to earn a college degree in 1904 and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

To learn more, visit the Deaf Blind with Multiple Disabilities webpage or visit the Blind Children's Vocational Discovery and Development Program webpage. For questions, email the Blind Children’s Program.