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WRIEC - Western Region Intrpreter Center

DeafBlind Outreach & Service Learning

Seabeck and Western Oregon University: A DeafBlind Service-Learning Project

Beginning In 2008, CM Hall launched a pilot project for WRIEC to train ASL-fluent students at Western Oregon University to become Support Service Providers (SSPs) and interpreters able to work with a variety of DeafBlind consumers. A DeafBlind Interpreting course is offered annually now at Western Oregon University and since 2008, over 100 students have enrolled in this course. Students interested in this course come from across all disciplines but the course qualifies for both ASL Studies and Interpreting majors, and as an elective for the Rehabilitation Counseling Masters programs.


Given that this is a regional grant, these students graduate and disperse, many within the Western Region and approximately 40% of the participants hail from Washington, near where a large concentration of DeafBlind community members reside in Seattle. In June of 2013, the Seattle Central Community College Interpreter Education Program closed and there is no other local resource training interpreters to work with DeafBlind people.


The course is "Part 1" of a two-part, nine-month training, culminating in nearly 180+ hours of preparedness to work with DeafBlind folks. The course's educational objectives include:


  • Understanding the diverse communication styles and modes DeafBlind people use
  • Using Tactile ASL, ProTactile, tracking, and/or signing in a restricted field of vision, &/or voice projection, etc.
  • Working as a volunteer sighted guide, i.e. a Support Service Provider and/or interpreter for DeafBlind people
  • Learning to appreciate and respect the unique challenges and lives of multi-dimensional DeafBlind people

Upon successful completion of "Part 1", motivated students continue on to "Part 2," and apply to go to Seabeck, the DeafBlind Retreat in Seabeck, Washington for one week at the end of August every year. The camp, nicknamed, "Seabeck" is coordinated by the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind and hosts 60-80 DeafBlind individuals as well as hundreds of volunteer SSPs for the week to ensure DeafBlind campers have a fully-accessible vacation experience. The students take repeated trips to Seattle, working with the Washington State DeafBlind Citizens organization, as well as the Seattle DeafBlind Service Center and attend and volunteer during many of their meetings and events throughout the year. The students also fundraise to cover transportation, meals and other trip-related expenses to Seattle and Seabeck..


This ongoing support has met with considerable success since Western's partnership began with the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, Seabeck, the Washington State DeafBlind Citizens organization, and the DeafBlind Service Center in Seattle. From 2008 to 2015:

  • 104 individuals have gone to Seabeck: 89 women, 15 men. 9 Deaf, 95 hearing.
  • 19 have since become RID certified, NIC or above
  • 32 have returned to Seabeck a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th time to volunteer
  • Over $36,100 has been raised to fund trip activities

To support this initiative financially, you can make a tax-deductible contribution online via the WOU Foundation website: Designate “Seabeck” for your gift designation under "Other."


In addition to the collaboration with the DeafBlind community in Seattle, this project has also received generous support from Western Oregon University departments, including the College of Education Dean, the Provost's Office, Public Relations, and has been the beneficiary of grant funds from the WOU Competitive Grants Foundation.


As a result of the student's in-deoth participation with DeafBlind people, students:

  • Have developed an increased awareness of the DeafBlind perspective in all other coursework
  • Seek out interpreting internships with a DeafBlind concentration
  • Increase in the use and promulgation of ProTactile and Tactile ASL
  • Return to Seabeck on their own as volunteers
  • Deaf students see Deaf interpreters and Deaf and DeafBlind leaders and begin to self-identify as Deaf interpreters

Interested interpreter educators who would like to utilize this curriculum and service-learning model are welcome to contact


Below is a sampling of photos from Seabeck. More photos and quotes from participants can be accessed here:


Here's a collection of great pictures from Seabeck, 2008-2015.


2012 Group Front2012 Group BackTactile Two Person BikePaddle Boat Tactile






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