Funding increase to help people who are both deaf and blind

Related Story

JEFFERSON CITY — A new bill aimed at helping to provide training to those who work with people who are both blind and deaf, also known as Deaf-Blind people, has made it through the house and the senate. The bill is now sitting on Governor Jay Nixon's desk. 

If HB 1696 is signed into law, the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) will be able to gain up to $300,000 from the General Assembly.  

Those funds would be allocated to "lay the foundation for a statewide support service providers (SSP) program in Missouri."

MCDHH would need to request those funds on an annual basis. 

Emily Fry is the information program specialist for the commission. She said the exact number of people who are both deaf and blind in Missouri is difficult to pinpoint.

"One report from the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness states that more than 10,000 children and 50,000 adults are Deaf-Blind in the United States," Fry said. "A conservative estimate is that 2,000-5,000 Missourians are Deaf-Blind."

Opeoluwa Sotonwa is the executive director of MCDHH, and he said the number of people who are both deaf and blind is hard to identify because both of the disabilities vary greatly in severity. 

In a MCDHH release, the group said, "HB 1696 will provide grants for training and certification for SSPs and will help offset the costs to organizations that provide support services to Deaf-Blind persons. This will not only make SSPs more employable, but will help Deaf-Blind individuals to be successful in their independent lives and in the workplace."

MCDHH will be able to apply for funding beginning in the fiscal year 2018.