The role: Intervenors act as the “eyes and ears” of individuals who are both deaf and blind, says Stuart Wiseman, an intervenor with DeafBlind Ontario Services. “We provide the visual and auditory information necessary to enable the person who is deafblind to interact with other people and their environment.” He says intervenors aren’t caregivers. “We assist our clients with communication and life skills to become more independent.” The philosophy of intervenors is “Do with, not for.”
Salary: The salary is often in the low-to-mid $40,000 range, says Roxanna Spruyt-Rocks, executive director of DeafBlind Ontario Services. She says the salary has increased a lot over the past decade, when it was about $9 an hour. “Given it’s an emerging profession, as it gains more recognition and more specialized training is implemented, the salary will continue to increase over time.”
Education: Intervenors need to become experts in communication modes such as Signing Exact English, Adaptive Interactive Tactile Sign Language, American Sign Language or Fingerspelling. Ms. Spruyt-Rocks says people who are born deafblind often have additional cognitive and physical disabilities, as well as other medical issues, which means intervenors need to be trained to address those additional needs. Ontario’s George Brown College offers a two-year intervenor for deaf-blind persons program and B.C.’s Douglas College offers a 300-hour deafblind intervention certificate program. DeafBlind Ontario Services also has its own programs, including a certified congenital deafblind specialist certification.
Job prospects: An intervenor is a relatively unknown career, says Ms. Spruyt-Rocks, “and it’s one that’s in demand.” As the largest employer of intervenors in Canada, she says DeafBlind Ontario Services employs more than 200 trained intervenors. It hires between 30 and 40 intervenors each year, both in full-time and part-time positions. Ms. Spruyt-Rocks said they hired 50 intervenors last year as part of an expansion, including new locations. “We’re confident that these numbers will continue to grow,” she says.
Challenges: Learning the different communication systems is a challenge for people pursuing a career as an intervenor. “However, this is also one of the greatest and most interesting things about the job,” Mr. Wiseman says. Intervenors also need to find way to bond with their clients so their communication is successful.
Why they do it: Intervenors obviously enjoy helping and caring for other people. DeafBlind Ontario Services recently did an employee survey that showed they enjoyed helping people achieve their goals and seeing them learn and grow, says Ms. Spruyt-Rocks. They also enjoyed the camaraderie of working with their clients and other intervenors. “I chose to become an intervenor simply because I enjoy it,” Mr. Wiseman says. He was a student landscaper for DeafBlind Ontario Services and once he started interacting with its clients, he was hooked, and eventually became an intervenor.
Misconceptions: Intervenor aren’t just interpreters for the deafblind. “An intervenor must be whatever is necessary to support the individual’s independence and help them understand the world around them,” Mr. Wiseman says. He also says there’s a lack of awareness about this profession. “I don’t think people realize there is a career here because in the past it was a volunteering position and often lumped together with caregivers.” There are also misconceptions about the disability itself. Many people don’t realize that the clients are both deaf and blind.
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