REGINA, March 23, 2020 – Two organizations devoted to serving the deafblind and deaf communities are applauding the Government of Saskatchewan today, after it was announced the province would commit $350,000 to deafblind and deaf service delivery over the next year.

The landmark decision makes Saskatchewan the first province outside of Ontario to provide funding for CNIB Deafblind Community Services (DBCS), representing a monumental step for Canada’s deafblind community, which many believe to be isolated and underserved.

“This is a milestone day for people who are deafblind not only in Saskatchewan, but across Canada,” said Kelly Kimens, Board Chair for DBCS. “In today’s environment where we are all isolated, we can only imagine what it must be like for someone who is both deaf and blind. This announcement truly puts people before systems.”

Currently, there are no specialized deafblind services whatsoever for Saskatchewanians who are ‘acquired deafblind’, meaning they lost hearing and sight later in life. While the Canadian Deafblind Association and Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (SDHHS) both offer some services in Saskatchewan, they are focused on the congenital deafblind, meaning people who were born with hearing and sight loss.

“The lack of professional support services for people who are deafblind in Canada is definitely a human rights concern, especially when a person needs a professional to facilitate communication at a medical or legal appointment,” says John M. Rafferty, president and CEO of CNIB. “Some people who are deafblind have no outside support from family or friends. That’s why our services are so important to the people we serve. This announcement sets a precedent that we hope other provinces will follow.”

The funding will allow DBCS to work in partnership with SDHHS to provide deafblind Saskatchewanians with one-on-one support from sign language interpreters and intervenors. (Intervenors are professionals who act as a deafblind client’s eyes and ears and help to alleviate the isolation that person may be facing.) The funding will also allow Saskatchewanians who are deafblind to access a 24-hour interpreter and intervenor line for emergency support.

The organizations plan to initiate these services in larger centres such as Regina and Saskatoon, and expand into other regions, including Prince Albert, in the future.

“We’re thrilled about this commitment from the Government of Saskatchewan,” said Nairn Gillies, Executive Director of SDHHS. “We’ve been providing support to our deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Saskatchewan for more than 35 years, but many of our clients also have significant vision loss that adds to the degree of difficulty they face on a daily basis. It’s imperative that we give them the specialized support they need to thrive.”