Deafblind and Thriving

In 1984, U.S. President Ronald Reagan issued an executive proclamation that reads, in part: "On June 27 we commemorate the...anniversary of the birth of Helen Keller, America's most renowned and respected deaf-blind person. Her accomplishments serve as a beacon of courage and hope for our Nation, symbolizing what deaf-blind people can achieve.”

Today, we continue the tradition of celebrating the courageous achievements of our Deafblind family, neighbors, friends and co-workers. We honor them and all who support their efforts to thrive.


Not all individuals with combined vision and hearing loss are like Helen Keller, who had no usable vision and hearing. Most people in the Deafblind community fall somewhere on the Deafblind Spectrum and have a perception of “what it means to be Deafblind” based on their disability, experiences and resources. Understanding the individual, as well as the disability, is the first step towards inclusion for this diverse community.

Image description: Two circles next to each other overlapping in the middle. The left is labeled “Hearing Loss” the right labeled “Vision Loss.” The space where they overlap is labeled “DeafBlind.”


Several Deafblind community partners demonstrate leadership in championing services and resources for individuals who are Deafblind. Ramona Rice, a Deafblind advocate in Utah, shared her experiences with these standout individuals:

AARON THOMPSON – Assistant Division Director & Rehabilitation Services Program Director at the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation

Image Description: Photograph of Aaron Thompson

"Aaron has always been open to ideas and suggestions where Deafblind people are concerned, especially in Utah's Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program. He has demonstrated great leadership by encouraging his VR counselors to be proactive in learning about the Deafblind community at our most recent community event. Many VR counselors told me afterward that before this event they had no idea what support or resources individuals who are Deafblind may have needed and were extremely glad Aaron encouraged them to attend. I like the fact that Aaron has been working to help improve the quality of life for individuals who are Deafblind.”

-Ramona Rice, Deafblind advocate

  • Utah's VR program provides counseling and guidance services to help individuals with disabilities achieve their employment goals.

GRETEL SAMPSON – Teacher of the Deafblind at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind

Image description: Photograph of Gretel Sampson

“Gretel is fantastic at bringing people together to support the Deafblind community. She is supportive of many community efforts to promote Deafblind awareness and does not look for personal recognition for her efforts. Gretel involves many families in her yearly event to help those who are struggling to support their Deafblind children. In addition, she works hard to acquire needed grants to fund teachers, staff and interpreters for Deafblind students at Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.”

-Ramona Rice, Deafblind advocate

EVERETTE BACON – Utah State President of the National Federation of the Blind

Image description: Photograph of Everette Bacon

“Everette is supportive of the Deafblind community's ideas and suggestions to improve services and resources for their community. He often shares his experiences on how he helps the blind community and makes thoughtful suggestions for the Deafblind community to succeed in our event planning. Everette is an open-minded and patient mentor for many, guiding them toward their desired goals. He loves to celebrate the successes of those he mentors. Everette never looks for credit and is extremely humble when recognized. Because of Everette's support and encouragement, I have succeeded in my personal goals."

-Ramona Rice, Deafblind advocate

  • The National Federation of the Blind coordinates many programs, services and resources to defend the rights of blind Americans, provide information and support to blind children and adults, and build a community that creates a future full of opportunities.


Long-distance communication for a person who is Deafblind can be challenging. In today's world, virtual connection is vital especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, programs like "iCanConnect" assist people in identifying creative solutions and the equipment needed to stay connected.

The Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides iCanConnect services, as well as other technology-based programs that support Utah's Deafblind community. The division also has wonderful trainers, Marnie West and Jerry Nealy under the supervision of Everette Bacon, who help individuals who are Deafblind learn new technology skills.

With both vision and hearing loss, the Deafblind community can miss out on social and environmental feedback. Protactile ASL allows the Deafblind community to explore the world and to communicate through touch. We’re proud that the Division of Services of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is making strides in inclusive communication, like Protactile ASL, for all individuals with hearing loss. Learn how Protactile ASL works in this YouTube video:

Direct link to YouTube video: