Participatory Curriculum Development to Meet Community Needs: Open Hands, Open Access: Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules

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Human rights, human dignity and full participation in the world for all people, including people who are deafblind, are treasured ideals of Deafblind International. The mission of organizations like DBI involves the cultivation and sharing of community knowledge for the benefit of all. In this report, we share insights from a 4-year effort to develop a multimedia, open-access curriculum that was created with the involvement of over 220 collaborators, including family members of people who are deafblind, teachers, interveners, technical assistance personnel, interpreters, and people who are deafblind themselves. Although this initiative was based in the United States, the Canadian model of intervention is reflected in the thinking of the authors and within the learning activities. The name of this curriculum is indicative of the spirit of its creation: Open Hands, Open Access: Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules or OHOA. The ultimate purpose of OHOA is to create deeper awareness, knowledge, and skills of the practice of intervention with students in their home communities. Despite the diverse international approaches to defining the disability of deafblindness, there is globally acknowledgement that deafblindness is a unique disability, and people who are deafblind are both rare and heterogeneous (Nelson & Bruce, 2016). The experience of being members of a “rare” and complex disability group, combined with the very real challenges of having dual sensory losses, often means that children who are deafblind do not have access to educational staff members who know how to provide them with appropriate supports in local schools (NCDB, 2012). Interveners – specially-trained paraeducators for individuals with deafblindness who provide environmental, communication, and social support within educational and community settings – have been recognized by parents and professionals alike as unique personnel who provide high-quality direct support to individuals who are deafblind (McInnes, 1999; McCann, 2015). Although the intervener practice has been developing both internationally and nationally, most school systems do not formally recognize the role of interveners and there are few intervener training programs in the United States (NCDB, 2012).


This paper was presented at Concurrent Session 17 (Education for children with visual impairment and additional.multiple disabilies or deafblindness), ICEVI Day Program (August 22, 2016), WBU-ICEVI Joint Assemblies, Orlando Florida.

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