IWF Newsletter

What is Independence Without Fear?

Independence Without Fear (IWOF) is a program for Maine citizens who are Deaf/Blind or have a hearing loss and a vision loss (dual sensory impaired).  The program connects consumers to resources and services throughout Maine.  These services assist people with their pursuit of employment or independent living as well as offering advocacy support and computer equipment.

IWOF has begun a project to identify the more than an estimated 20,000 people around the state who are Deaf/blind or have a dual sensory impairment. The main focus of this outreach effort is to make sure that people are aware of government funded services that exist on a statewide basis.

IWOF is supported by the Independence Without Fear Advisory Committee which meets every month.

Who is on the IWOF Advisory Committee?

The IWOF Advisory Committee is made up of consumers and service providers committed to improved services for Deaf/Blind or Dual Sensory Impaired people in Maine.  Some of the members include representatives from The IRIS Network, the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Division for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened, Disability Rights Maine, and the University of Southern Maine. 

What are some of the services that are available?

  • Independent Living to support people to remain at home and participate in their communities
  • SSP support
  • Computer equipment
  • Telephone equipment
  • Vocational Rehabilitation to help people find and keep employment

What is a SSP (Support Service Provider)?

A Support Service Provider (SSP) is a person trained to assist people who are Deaf/Blind or have a hearing and vision loss access their communities and activities such as shopping, town meetings, and medical appointments.  SSP’s do not perform cleaning, cooking, washing, errands, counseling, or interpreting.

IWOF is initiating the establishment of a state-wide Support Service Provider program through 2 day SSP trainings provided by the University of Southern Maine. If you know of anyone who is interested in SSP trainings please let us know.

Get to know one of our IWOF Advisory Committee Members: Patty Sarchi.

Patty is a Maine native born in Van Buren and raised in Bangor.  Patty relates that she was hard of hearing at birth, but it wasn’t until she was 5 years old that her parents recognized her as having a hearing loss.  Although encouraged to have hearing aids at an early age, Patty says she really wasn’t open to having hearing aids until her high school principal in Bangor suggested that she may be missing a lot in her classes and recommended hearing aids.  She went home and told her parents, “OK I’m ready”.  Patty said that for the first time she was able to hear “dry leaves under my feet, birds, a cat’s meow and my father tapping his spoon against his coffee mug”.

Patty was one of the founding members of Independence Without Fear which began in 2010.  She has also served as a member of the American Council for the Blind for 17 years and its President for 2 years.  She is a member of the National Federation for the Blind and has been involved with independence for people who are Deaf/Blind or dual sensory impaired as the National Chair on the Deaf/blind committee.

At the age of 27 Patty was told that she had retinitis pigmentosa and that she would eventually go blind, but it wasn’t until 2007 that she heard the term “Usher’s Syndrome ”. “Can’t run away from it so was just dealing with it, read about it, talked about it, got informed by other people in other places”. Since that time Patty has become a champion of independence for all people who are Deaf/Blind or have a dual sensory impairment.  Patty’s goal as a member of the IWOF is to make sure that all Deaf/Blind and dual sensory impaired consumers know about all the resources that are currently available in the state, make SSPs more available to anyone who needs their service, and to have all consumers come together as a group for support, socialization and political action.

Aside from her many roles as an advocate, Patty does take time to enjoy her 3 grandchildren, her two sons Christopher and Mathew, and her daughter Tammy who are all grown and living in Maine.

Send feedback and info to John Shattuck at jshattuck@theiris.org or Cassie Diplock at cdiplock@theiris.org .

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