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Oklahoma organization helps deaf and blind people achieve their potential

Cassandra Oakes founded the Sight-Hearing Encouragement Program to ensure that people who were deaf and blind would have an organization in Oklahoma focused on helping them achieve their potential. A conference is scheduled for this weekend in Midwest City.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: October 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm •  Published: October 13, 2012

People who are deaf and blind communicate through interpreters known as support service providers. These providers use voice and sign language to provide not only information on what's being said but also about environmental factors, such as what emotions people are showing.

Oklahoma has a lack of support service providers, said Jeri Cooper, an Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services deaf-blind specialist.

This weekend, 82 people will serve at the conference as support service providers for participants who are deaf and blind. More than 150 people from nine states are expected to attend this weekend.

People who are interested in becoming support service providers can learn more at the conference and also contact the rehabilitation services department to learn when trainings will be, Cooper said.

The Rev. Cyril Axelrod, a priest who is deaf and blind and from South Africa, will serve as the conference's keynote speaker, giving his presentation during lunch at 11 a.m.

Axelrod, speaking through an interpreter, said a person's disability is a gift from God.

Axelrod, who has been a priest for 42 years, lost his vision 12 years ago. He said when he lost his vision, nothing changed.

“I still go to do my work as a priest the same as always,” he said. “I've continued to help people to see value in their disability. If they're deaf or if they're blind, I feel like that is a gift for their life, and I want people to learn the worth that they have.”

Axelrod doesn't think about being deaf and blind. He thinks about other people's problems. Many people, regardless of what they're dealt in life, are imprisoned by their fear.

Axelrod said he feels a responsibility to help the world better understand the value of people who are deaf and blind.

“They're here for the good of the world and the well being of the world,” he said.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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