Communication Facilitators (CFs) provide DeafBlind Oregonians, who communicate using American Sign Language through tactile or close vision methods, with access to make and receive video to video and Video Relay Service calls.
CFs also provide support to Oregonians who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing with a mobility disability in their arms or hands that affects their expressive communication. When a person on the video screen is unable to understand as a result, the CF uses their receptive skills to relay or convey the Deaf or Hard of Hearing person’s message.
CF services are available throughout Oregon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with no restrictions on the number, length, or type of video call. All video calls are strictly confidential and records of conversations are not maintained. Out of state visitors may use CF services.
CFs are not mandatory reporters. CFs are not employees of Bridges Oregon. CFs are independent contractors paid at a fixed hourly rate.
Special thanks to the following individuals and organizations for their role in the implementation of CF services in Oregon:
- aj granda
- Alisha Bronk
- Chad A. Ludwig
- Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization (CPADO)
- Jelica Nuccio
- Rian Gayle
- Roberto Cabrera
- Sammi Weethee
- DeafBlind Service Center (DBSC)
Requestors are encouraged to provide as much advance notice for canceling and rescheduling appointments. Bridges Oregon may address a pattern of recurrent cancelations with less than 24-hour notice or no-shows with the Requestor. If a pattern of recurrent cancelations with less than 24-hour notice or no-shows remains unresolved, Bridges Oregon may refer the concern to the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
Communication Facilitators (CFs) must provide at least 72 business hours’ notice if unable to complete a contracted assignment. In the event of an emergency with a need to cancel on short notice, the CF must notify Bridges Oregon and Mizaru immediately. Brides Oregon may address a pattern of recurrent cancelations with less than 72 business hours’ notice or no-shows with the Contractor, including, but not limited to termination.
If Requestor is a no-show, CF must notify Bridges Oregon and wait thirty (30) minutes prior to leaving the location of the contracted assignment.
CFs should assume all contracted assignments are active unless officially notified of cancellation by Bridges Oregon or Mizaru. CFs should access the Mizaru portal regularly to confirm assignment status.
Grievance Policy and Procedure (link)
Download brochure (PDF, txt)
Download brochure in Spanish (PDF, txt)
Sign up to become a CF: https://mizaru.worksuite.com/job-openings/nsnou-3-2/
Bridges Oregon will provide training and mentorship opportunities for CFs.
All CFs are required to complete and pass several online training modules, including:
- Introduction to CFs
- DeafBlind Culture and Language
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Policies and Procedures
- Ethics and Boundaries
- Sexual Harassment
- Mizaru Training
- Hands-on training with a mentor
Training will take up to a total of 40 hours, 32 hours are online and 8 hours are in person with a customer and experienced CF.
Communication Facilitator Pay Rates (PDF) (Spanish)
DeafBlind Washingtonians wanted equal access and an advocacy system to overcome barriers to communication and other needs. Several organizations like the Task Force on Deaf-Blindness, the Washington State Deaf-Blind Citizens, the Department of Services for the Blind, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Division of Developmental Disabilities convened to establish the DeafBlind Service Center (DBSC) in 1986. DBSC provides DeafBlind Washingtonians access to information using their preferred communication mode such as Braille, close vision, or tactile sign language.
The first Communication Facilitator program was created in Seattle, Washington, by Jelica Nuccio and aj granda, who are DeafBlind, under DBSC. People refer Jelica and aj as the “Founders of Protactile.”
Jelica Nuccio and aj believe that many DeafBlind do not have sufficient access to communication or information. Jelica pointed out that many DeafBlind individuals depend on family or any other person as a result. aj expressed frustration with the lack of autonomy. Jelica explained this is because society had not been inclusive (Autonomy is a term to define used herein to indicate that any individual with disability can be independent). Therefore, Jelica and aj decided to meet to improve the system by creating a language and system that DeafBlind people can use.
Jelica and aj created Protactile language used by DeafBlind people, not only to communicate, but to access information about visual elements of communication and their environment, e.g., people smiling, nodding, etc. Protactile led to the development of two different services designed to provide Deafblind persons access to communication and other sources of information, Service Support Providers (SSP) and Communication Facilitator. The current term for SSP is Co-Navigators.
The 2015 Oregon Legislature directed the Oregon Department of Human Services to identify social, health, and educational gaps and disparities experienced by the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing community through a statewide Community-based Needs Assessment. The Oregon Department of Human Services contracted with Western Oregon University to collect and analyze the data into a report for legislative review during the 2017 session.
Chad A. Ludwig formed Bridges Oregon on July 5, 2017 to address the gaps identified in the Community-based Needs Assessment report. A few members of the DeafBlind community collaborated on a legislative proposal culminating in House Bill 3205 (link) during the 2019 session for Communication Facilitator services in Oregon. Also, DeafBlind advocates and a community based Legislative Advocate Core Team agreed with Mark Hill, president of Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization (CPADO), and added to the proposal that those with a physical disability that limits their expressive communication can receive CF services.
The enactment of House Bill 3205 into law expanded the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s Telecommunication Devices Access Program to include the provision of Communication Facilitators. The Oregon Public Utility Commission awarded the contract to Bridges Oregon in April 2022 after the organization submitted a successful bid in response to the Request for Proposal for CF services, which became available in January 2023.
DeafBlind people have a unique way to communicate with people. They are heavily using touching language like ProTactile, Tactile, Close Vision Signing, or Print on Palm. There are modifications for some people who need more assistance or preferences like speech. The ProTactile (PT) is a new language for DeafBlind people to use. PT is different from tactile by giving more touch based than visual based. Tactile is using ASL or PSE. Some DeafBlind people will prefer using Print on Palm. It is when you use your fingers to draw the alphabet on your hand.
Deaf and hard of hearing individuals with additional disabilities are referred to as “Deaf Plus” or “Deaf+”. About 40-50% of Deaf children and adults experience one or more additional disabilities. Deaf Plus individuals utilize various language modalities to best fit their communication needs.
The service is for those with a mobility disability in their arms or hands that affects their expressive communication and the nature of the disabilities listed can affect expressive communication.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
- Cerebral Palsy
- Duypuytren’s Disease
- Ganglion Cysts
- Motor Neuron Disease(s)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson Disease
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Rheumatoid arthritis e.g., hands.
- Trigger Finger(s)
- Others relating health or medical condition(s) that may cause the mobility disability in their arms or hands that affects their expressive communication.
- Oregon DeafBlind Project reported working with 147 families in a state that has a DeafBlind child from birth to 21.
- Helen Keller National Center reported approximately 350 DeafBlind registered in their national database reside in Oregon
- At this time, we do not have data on how many DeafBlind and Deaf/Hard of Hearing with additional disabilities reside in Oregon.
- The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions (NARUC) estimates that 70,000-100,000 people living in the United States are DeafBlind.
- Considering that around 55% of deaf people have additional disabilities according to the U.S. Census, it appears that many DeafBlind and deafdisabled people are not receiving support from Vocational Rehabilitation or their additional disabilities were not identified within the Vocational Rehabilitation system.
- Research shows “48% of Deaf children had one or more additional disabilities.” Nelson, C., & Bruce, S. M. (2019, June 14). Children who are deaf/hard of hearing with disabilities: Paths to Language and Literacy. Education Science. Retrieved November 17, 2022. (link).
- Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization (CPADO) believes 44% of Deaf community has Cerebral Palsy.
More resources are available here.
- How do I request Communication Facilitator services?
- How do I become a Communication Facilitator?
- If I visit Oregon, may I use CF services?
- Yes, you may use the CF services when you visit Oregon. Please click here to make your request.
- Who can request CF services?
- Deaf or Hard of Hearing with upper mobility disabilities
- Where can I find DeafBlind Group Meetings in Oregon?
- How can I get a tablet or smartphone to use with CF services?
- The Telecommunication Devices Access Program loans tablets or smartphones. Visit www.tdap.oregon.gov for more information and to apply.
- A CF can bring an iPhone or iPad for you to use during the appointment.