The DeafBlind program provided 843 hours of direct services in FY20, most of which occurred prior to the onset of the pandemic. The majority of those service hours consisted of American Sign Language (ASL) classes, taught by DeafBlind instructors to groups of Lighthouse employees in the workplace. These classes are crucial in promoting and fostering communication with sighted and hearing employees and their DeafBlind coworkers. Our DeafBlind Community Classes serve the broader DeafBlind Community in Seattle, also including some Lighthouse employees. DeafBlind participants have opportunities to connect with others in the community, learn leadership and presentation skills, get information on a wide range of subjects, and support American Sign Language Interpreters and Support Service Providers to develop skills working with DeafBlind individuals. In addition, we provided several hours of orientation & mobility training to DeafBlind employees so they may build skills to travel independently and safely.
The impact of the pandemic on the DeafBlind Program cannot be understated, as our annual DeafBlind Retreat and DeafBlind Community Classes were immediately shut down in February 2020 and have not resumed. ASL classes and technology training have also not resumed at this time. Several DeafBlind employees have returned to work recently, and limited interpreting supports are being made available, but additional services are still minimal due to the ongoing pandemic.