Deaf Self-Advocacy Training

Deaf-Blind Self-Advocacy Training Provides a Powerful Experience
By Elaine Ducharme, Diana Goldfarb, and Bonnie Kaplan


Deaf-Blind Self-Advocacy Training was presented on February 22, 2014 through collaboration between DEAF, Inc. and the Northeastern University Regional Interpreter Education Center (NURIEC). There was strong attendance at the training. Deaf-Blind participants came to improve their skills for effectively requesting communication access services for professional appointments, including medical appointments, a tax appointment, and legal appointments.

According to Elaine Ducharme, the Deaf-Blind Self-Advocacy Trainer, developing self-esteem and effective self-advocacy skills, and knowing what kinds of communication services are available are important for ensuring you get effective communication access for the services you need. The training covered the differences between types of interpreters, including the difference between qualified and certified interpreters and the different roles of interpreters, SSPs, and DBCAN Providers.

During the training, some participants shared their experiences and the struggles they face trying to get appropriate communication access for different services. Role-playing exercises between Deaf-Blind participants and the Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) provided the chance to practice the skills needed to tackle issues head on and to advocate for appropriate communication access services.

One of the memorable aspects of the training was its emphasis on a Deaf-only environment. It was an all-Deaf-Blind, all-Deaf day. The training was presented by Elaine Ducharme, DEAF, Inc.’s Director of DBCAN, a qualified Deaf-Blind Self-Advocacy Trainer. Communication access was provided by CDIs only. It was a very powerful experience.

The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind contributed generously to support communication access services (CDIs) for the event. A special thank you also goes to MassRID and Northeastern University ASL Program for providing coffee and breakfast for everyone.

Effective advocacy for interpreting services has been a long-time concern of Deaf Community leaders. With RSA funding support from 2005-2010, the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC) developed a specialized curriculum devoted to teaching deaf individuals to self-advocate for effective interpreting services. The content of the curriculum includes concepts of self-esteem and self-determination, ethics of working with interpreters, preparing for self-advocacy, and how to effectively tap resources.

The curriculum was first unveiled in 2010. Thirty master trainers were prepared to teach from the curriculum. They, in turn, provided training to more than 600 deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind consumers. The evaluation of these trainings will inform refinement of the curriculum during the 2010-2015 grant cycle. Consumer education activities continue through the Consortium Regional Centers.

The curriculum is described in detail with additional information on the NCIEC website.

On May 23, 2011, Lillian Garcia Peterkin presented a webinar on the DSAT curriculum. You can view this webinar on the National Clearninghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials website.

For more information, please contact Bonnie Kaplan at or 857-366-4197 VP/Voice.

  • Contact

    Regional Interpreter Education Center
    American Sign Language Program
    405 Meserve Hall
    Northeastern University
    Boston, MA 02115
    617-373-8262 voice
    857.366.4195 VP and voice
    617-373-3065 fax

    Northeastern University Regional Interpreter Education Center