In 1992, the Intervenor Organization of Ontario, in partnership with other intervenor services providers across the province took part in an “Intervention Task Force”. This task force was intended to investigate and review intervenor services in the province of Ontario and was comprised of members from both acquired and congenital sectors, and from both children’s services and adult services. The task force looked at all areas relating to intervenor services in Ontario, including; education and training of intervenors, funding of intervenor services, and the profession of intervenors (regarding standards/regulation), among other areas. In the early 1990’s, the field of intervenor services in Ontario underwent a significant push toward professionalization, coinciding with the development of the Intervenor Program at George Brown College. Following the task force’s investigation and review of intervenor services in Ontario by this task force, a series of recommendations were developed and a report was written, with the goal of these recommendations to support further development, growth, and professionalism within intervenor services in Ontario.
A copy of this report surfaced approximately one year ago, during a research project on the history of deafblindness in Canada which the Canadian Helen Keller Centre had undertaken and which I was fortunate to work on. The contents of this study are currently housed at the CHKC Training Centre, in the “Mae Brown Memorial Room”, in honour of Mae Brown, the first person with deafblindness in the British Commonwealth to graduate from university. History is something that belongs to each one of us involved in some way in the field of deafblindness and is constantly evolving, thanks to the hard work of numerous passionate individuals involved in deafblindness, and we as a field should take a great deal of pride in this unique history. The following report recommendations reflect only a small piece of the history, but it is my hope that by openly sharing information on the history, as a field, we can create a dialogue surrounding the history and work toward better preservation and dissemination of information about this incredibly important area of this diverse field. You may find some of these recommendations are no longer applicable, while others may spark a new interest for you. Regardless, I hope that you enjoy reviewing these recommendations and will take pride in how far we have come as a field.
Note that in the report recommendations, the hyphenated spelling of “deaf-blind” has been maintained for historical purposes and preservation efforts, as this spelling was considered most appropriate during this time period.
1. In the province of Ontario, intervention be recognized as a basic right and a necessary service required for persons who are deaf-blind, and be available in both English and French.
2. The Ministry of the Attorney General recognize the right of deaf-blind persons to intervention services during the legal process. The services provided by the intervenor should be carried out in the consumer’s preferred mode of communication and where necessary adapted as required. Intervention services should be governed by the Code of Ethics of the Intervenor Organization of Ontario and should be accepted by the courts as a legal right of access to information.
3. The Ministry of Colleges and Universities support college-level intervenor training programs and consider establishing satellite-training programs/courses in all regions of the province. The ministry should ensure that all such programs and courses are available in both English and French.
4. The Ministry of Colleges and Universities develop a process for the assessment and evaluation of the current college intervenor program to ensure that it meets the needs of the community.
5. The Ministry of Colleges and Universities support an application for an intervenor apprenticeship program in both English and French.
6. School board intervenors receive at least 70 hours of orientation before they commence work with each student who is deaf-blind. Individualized training in communication skills should be in addition to this orientation.
7. Boards of education consult with the Ministry of Education Deaf-Blind Resource Services Consultants, the deaf-blind student(s), and family member (or guardian/advocate) concerning the selection of school board intervenors.
8. Standards be established for instructors in intervenor training programs. These standards should be established in collaboration with the Intervenor Organization of Ontario, consumers, and service providers.
9. Training programs for instructors/facilitators in intervenor training programs be required and have as an entrance requirement appropriate previous experience in working with persons who are deaf-blind in the context of core subjects such as deaf-blind communication systems,
orientation and mobility, safe travel techniques, and technical aids and devices.
10. The Government of Ontario recognize and support the further development of the professional organization of intervenors, the Intervenor Organization of Ontario (I.O.O.). This professional organization should have at least the following responsibilities: offer professional certification to intervenors, be aware of current hiring practices, make recommendations regarding salaries and working conditions, establish a code of ethics, recommend the duties and responsibilities of intervenors, and provide professional development opportunities.
11. The Ministry of Skills Development and the Ministry of Labour include the profession of intervenors in their catalogue.
12. The Office for Disability Issues in collaboration with the Secretary of State establish public awareness programs about deaf-blindness and its implications. These programs should use a wide variety of media (braille, large print, video text, voice, sign language, pictograms, etc.) in order to reach the widest audience possible.
13. Studies in deaf-blindness be incorporated within appropriate related programs at the university level- for example, in health and medical sciences and in specialist teacher training.
14. The Government of Ontario establish an information service for consumers, family members, service providers, government departments, and other interested groups to collect and disseminate information on all intervention services available in Ontario to persons who are deaf-blind. This information service could be located within the Office for Disability Issues.
15. The Office for Disability Issues act as a referral service for consumers complaint issues.
16. An appropriate ministry establish a central registry of intervenors whereby deaf-blind individuals and the community can access qualified intervenors for the services they require.
17. The Ministry of Community and Social Services review and inventory its current service areas to deaf-blind persons or all ages and consolidate them into a single service department under one administrative authority that would encompass and ensure universal services to persons who are deaf-blind. This would enable the ministry to provide streamlined, equitable, and consistent funding of intervention services.
18. The Ministry of Community and Social Services appoint one program supervisor per region to be responsible for the supervision of all ministry-funded intervention services within his/her region. The regional program supervisors should meet at least twice a year to ensure consistency of service quality, quantity, and delivery throughout the province.
19. The Ministry of Housing establish in the provincial Building Code architectural standards to accommodate persons who are deaf-blind and review the Building code to eliminate sensory barriers. To establish barrier-free environments, the ministry should consult with consumers and service providers to better understand the needs of persons who are deaf-blind.
20. Retrofitting of government facilities include the elimination of sensory barriers as well as physical barriers.
21. The Ministry of Health expands it Assistive Devices Program to include all technical devices that may be of assistance to persons who are deaf-blind and to ensure that funds are provided for training consumers in the use of the devices they have obtained through the ADP.
22. The Ministry of Education, school boards, and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities ensure that all required specialized access equipment and supplies, including text-based devices, be made available to their deaf-blind students. Considerations should also be given to establishing a lending library for demonstration and experimentation.
23. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and other ministries that provide essential services (legal, medical, housing, etc.) allocate targeted funding to ensure that intervention services are available to individuals requiring them.
24. Funds be made available for employment counseling and placement services for persons who are deaf-blind.
25. Funds be made available for supported employment of persons who are deaf-blind.
26. All ministries fund intervention services on an equal basis according to the amount and nature of required/requested services.
27. That funds be provided for the expansion of intervention services to deaf-blind persons who at present are under-served or are not being served at all- for example, seniors, Native people, residents of northern Ontario, Franco-Ontarians, and those on waiting lists for service.
28. All ministries follow a provincial pay scale for intervenor services as recommended by the Intervenor Organization of Ontario.
29. The Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Education establish direct funding as a right to deaf-blind persons over the age 18 for hiring intervenors for intervention services.
30. The Government of Ontario provide funding to support research on deaf-blindness (and the publication of such research) and the development of programs, program materials in both English and French, and technical devices designed specifically for persons who are deaf-blind.
31. The Ministry of Education Alternative Funding Program include sufficient funds for initial and ongoing training of school board intervenors and stipulate that these funds be used for those purposes and, in addition, that funds be made available for trained supply intervenors.
Laura is a Project Coordinator on the history of deafblindness in Canada and an Intervenor with the Canadian Helen Keller Centre. She is a graduate of the George Brown College Intervenor Program and is currently Vice-President with the IOO and a member of the ISHRS Marketing and Communications Sub-Committee.