Deafblind project granted more than $1 million in federal funds

The Center for Assistive Technology and Inclusive Education Studies (CATIES) was awarded a $1.3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education.

CATIES will be partnering with the New Jersey Consortium on Deafblindness (NJCDB) in training educators to fully satisfy the educational needs of the deafblind.

CATIES received the grant for its mission to train those who teach the deafblind.

Jerry Petroff, project director, said, “The main people of the project are deafblind. It specializes in this disability. Everyone thinks of Helen Keller. She is an exception. Most of our kids, they have complex educational needs.”

In the next five years, the grant will allow CATIES to host training sessions, which Petroff summarized as “bringing training to the schools” for educators and all those affiliated with the deafblind community.

The project is a collaboration of five experts in the field of deafblindness in New Jersey. They specialize in aspects of deafblindness such as childhood education, deafblind infants, families and community of the deafblind and deaf culture.

According to Petroff, the project is finite in details but outcome-based.

“This project is to build a community of practice that will have influence on the faculty in the state of New Jersey,” he said.

Lynda Coetz, a deaf culture specialist on the project, said, “We have to make an effort to understand deafblind kids. We go in to bring teachers to understand their needs.”

She pointed out that though schools may say a deafblind student can see or hear, the question should be whether they can understand what they see and hear.

To directly serve the deafblind community, a workshop is being designed to assist those with cochlear implants, a device that provides an alternative to hearing. This workshop will help implant recipients make sense of sound.

Petroff said, “I have faith that in the next five years we are going to shine. I can’t say how thrilled I am. We are planning the future of deafblindness.”