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GA Activist Work For First Deaf-Blind Specific Legislation

A report from Richard LeMoine Wright.

Leaders in Georgia's deaf-blind community have struggled for equality for many years. Major progress was achieved last winter with the introduction of Senate Bill (SB) 248, the first legislation in Georgia history designed to specifically meet the needs for services for deaf-blind Georgians. If it becomes law, SB 248 would establish services that would assist with providing much needed technical assistance, training and resources for people who are deaf-blind.

photo of deaf-blind activists in a room.

Deaf-blind activists at the Georgia Capital.

The Georgia Senate reconvened last month. Georgia's Governor's Council on Disabilities hosts "Disability Day at the Capital" on Thursday, February 23, 2006.

If ever your help was needed to support this vital legislation, the time is now.

SB 248 contains powerful language because deaf-blind, blind and deaf activists were heavily involved in its creation. The bill calls for services that empower deaf-blind people to achieve "maximum independence and employment for individuals with both a hearing and a vision loss." The bill also addresses the issues that face deaf-blind youth, with an emphasis on the need for transition "from education to the workforce."

The bill calls for implementation of a statewide coordinator for "support service providers" -- SSPs. This coordinator would be responsible for educating communities across Georgia about the need for SSPs, as well as recruiting and training individuals to become SSPs. The bill would also provide for three other positions: one for education in the community, one for education in governmental agencies, and one for administrative support. All four new positions would work together as a team to coordinate, train and assist Georgia communities in becoming more accessible to deaf-blind Georgians.

Initially, SB 248 was referred to the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee for review, the first stage in a lengthy process. The I & L committee began meeting again in January 2006. If the bill is successfully reported out of the committee, its next stop will be the state Senate.

Susan Lascek of the Helen Keller National Center says that, now that SB 248 is written, read and referred to committee, it is crucial to get support for it in the Georgia General Assembly. "There are so many places that a bill like this can be held up," said Lascek. "To insure its passing, we need citizens to be aware of SB 248 and rally in support."

The authoring Senator, the Hon. Regina Thomas of Savannah, was recognized in 2005 by the Georgia Association of the Deaf-Blind during GADB's 11th Annual Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Event for her support and participation in SB 248. In her remarks at the event, Senator Thomas also encouraged concerned citizens to contact their legislators in support of SB 248.

At the 2005 Disability Day at the Georgia state capital, 18-year old deaf-blind activist Virginia Jordan emphasized that deaf-blind people are simply seeking better opportunities to become involved in society. "Deaf-blind people do want to work," she said. "We want to give back to the community. Passing SB 248 will help us become more independent by giving us a better chance of getting and keeping a job, along with many other opportunities." Jordan was not able to stay in Georgia to support SB 248; she began college at Gallaudet University in the fall. She says she "will be praying" for SB 248 to become a fully-funded law. She's encouraging every Georgian she knows to offer their active support.

Deaf-blind activist Mark Gasaway offers similar thoughts from his years working for equal rights for deaf-blind individuals. "It is vital," said Mark, "that the deaf-blind community is surrounded by supporters from all other disability communities; we must unite to let our legislators know that we support each other in our endeavors to make change happen. This deaf-blind legislation is necessary not only for those who are already experiencing deaf-blindness but for everyone who may develop signs of deaf-blindness later. Contacting your legislators is very, very important."

Visit Georgia's legislative website for information on SB 248. Send an email of support to Ralph Hudgens, Chair of the Insurance & Labor Committee, at ralph.hudgens@senate.ga.gov

Richard LeMoine Wright edits Focus, the quarterly newsletter of the Georgia Registry of Intepreters for the Deaf.


Certainly, the rise of diabetes happen at this time. Unfortunately, I am one of the millions who are type 2 diabetic. I am also deaf from birth. I am very concerned what to prepare myself for the worse whenever I would become blind at the late age. I support SB 248 to assist deaf-blind citizens for continuing to rediscover their new abilities in workplace and home office. Don't forgot that the late deafened elderly would also be partially blind or fully blind at the late stage of their lives. Please stand up and support SB 248 because of the health impacts in America. Thank you.... FF

I would like to share with other who may not know about my sister and my freinds who is blind. One of my freinds went blind when she gave birth to a twin babies. She had a lot of health problem. I am now helping with disable Blind Lady as a Part time job. I also help my sister Karyn Pettijohn whenever she needs me. Sabrina Toner is learning how to Sign Languages by Ellen Rice (ME). She is prepare herself. I am 100 percent supporting with the Deaf-Blind and Deaf Community as well. I am hearing impaired. I do have problem with one eye which we all need to prepare ourself in our health like Frania Franch Sonner said, I totally agree with you. I am so proud of Frania Franch Sonner. Great job girl. I will never forget all the good people. I am very proud of her what she believe and stand up to support the SB 248. We all need to prepare for our health in the future. I also have a sister is suffering blindess and has Degeneration Masculator and a lot of problem with disease that she is suffering. My sister Karyn Pettijohn is already blindness. She is having a diffcult time not knowing the blind-deafness like Fraia France said. We all need to stand up what we believe our rights and support SB 248 because of the health. My son Matthew is losing his visions but can hear very well but know ASL Sign Languages. He wrote a book about Helen Keller to be proud and support with the Deaf-Blind Community. I use to be a SSP. Ever since I have learn so much from Susan Lascek, Mark Gaseway, Bob Green and Everyone that I had a great opportunity to work with everyone who is my friends who is Deaf-Blind. I will always remember the good time and bad time. No matter how we work hard. I am very proud of Mark Gaseway himself show a real hero to show many of the Deaf-Blind that anyone can do anything they want to be. NEVER GIVE UP hope!! I believe in a dream. Anyone who can be posted anyone name and take a picture of each of the person who is suffering Deaf-Blind, late deafness-blind need to be noticeable and need to know who they are. We should write a story for each person who is suffering Deaf-Blind, Late Deafness. Some hearing person is blind but going to lose hearing. Sometime they are really not sure where they are. We are here to supporting everyone. My sister has suffering a lot health problem. My freinds Sabriana is blind. She has 4 children. I am working Part time job to help with the Disable woman who is Blind is not able to drive a car or see. I learn so much from the Deaf-Blind Camp and SSP Training. It was really AWESOME!! Classes to learn. It gave me a great opportunity to reach out other who may not know anything how to deal with this kinda of problem. We need to reach out people and we need to Stand up and support SB 248 because of the health impacts in America by Frania Franch-Sonner. We need to STAND UP what we bleive. I am very proud of each of the person who stand up for the Deaf-Blind Community. Great Job Mark Gasaway, Virginia Jordan, and Susan Lascek. The pictures are beautiful!!! I love it!! GREAT JOB!!! I proud of all of you. Stand up and keep on fighting for your rights. We are doing the right thing. By: Ellen Rice

This is wonderful news. My concerns are Deaf and mentally ill. No service for the Deaf in the state of Georgia. Dual Diagnosis and substance abuse go without treatment because of lack of service.
When will we catch up with other states as South Carolina,and Alabama? We have no group homes for the deaf mentally ill, we have no mental health for the deaf. We are ask to acept service with part time interpreters, so 75% we still don't know what is going on. We are not at ease to talk with a counselor through an interpreter.
Who is going to make a differance for us so we can be productive and part of a community?

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