Indiana State University Newsroom

Blumberg Center receives multi-year grant to provide services, support for deaf-blind Indiana youth

November 13, 2013

An Indiana State University resource center has received a five-year grant to continue providing services to caregivers of young Hoosiers who have both vision and hearing impairments.

The Blumberg Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Special Education received new grant funding for the Indiana Deaf-Blind Services Project. The center, housed in the Bayh College of Education, focuses on research, program development and outreach activities to benefit people with exceptionalities. The $1 million, five-year grant program extension will allow the center to continue providing resources, services and training to educators and family members of children and young adults who have combined hearing and vision impairments. The issues range across a spectrum, from low vision and mild hearing impairment to complete vision and hearing loss.

"When we get called, it's typically because of communication or behavior issues, and a lot of time behavior is tied into the fact that kids have no usable way of communicating with the people around them or they're not included in activities and participating in things like the other kids are," said Lisa Poff, program coordinator for the Indiana Deaf-Blind Services Project. "We refer to deaf-blindness as a disability of access."

The Indiana Deaf-Blind Services Project provides services and training to educators and family members of persons from birth through 21 years of age. The project offers training and on-site technical assistance, as well as support for families of children who are deaf-blind to focus some of the more specific challenges they face, along with collaborating with other families and advocating for education and improved services.

"About 80 to 90 percent of what you learn and what you know is based on incidental learning, and that comes from your distance senses, which is vision and hearing," Poff said. "When you close that down, you pretty much limit that child to what is within range of their hands in terms getting information about what's around them."

The new grant, which is for about $210,000 per year, calls for additional focus on improving the transition outcomes for deaf-blind youth, Poff said. In Indiana, students over 14 years old are considered "transition-age" and their educational program should address their needs for being successful as they move from high school to postsecondary education or a career, Poff said. Nationally, fewer than 20 percent of adults who are deaf-blind are employed and only 5 percent live independently.

"Part of the new grant is to make sure we have identified what those needs are for them ... and try to provide resources and training that will help improve their outcomes," Poff said. "The outcomes for kids who are deaf and blind are pretty dismal in terms of what happens after they graduate."

During the next five years, Poff hopes to increase services to family members of deaf-blind youth so they can more actively participate in educational and life planning for their children. She also wants to expand the use of technology (including the project's website, Facebook and distance learning) so that more people can access resources online, including the resources that are located in the project's resource library at Indiana State.

She also hopes to increase awareness and collaboration with local agencies across Indiana, such as First Steps or Arc of Indiana, which may be in a position to identify children and youth with vision and hearing impairments who could benefit from resources in the Indiana Deaf-Blind Services Project. Currently, caregivers and educators of more than 200 young Hoosiers receive support through their initiative.

"We're really hoping to grow the resources here in Indiana," Poff said. "With another five years, we can get more information, resources and training to the people who are directly working with the students in the schools, so they will have in-house expertise."

Photo: Interior of University Hall, which houses the Blumberg Center within the Bayh College of Education

Contact: Lisa Poff, program coordinator for Indiana Deaf-Blind Services Project, Blumberg Center, Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University, 812-237-7679 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

The $1 million, five-year grant program extension will allow the center to continue providing resources, services and training to educators and family members of children and young adults who have combined hearing and vision impairments.

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