University of Vermont

New Beginnings: Transition for the Vermont Sensory Access Project

After 31 years at CDCI, the Deafblind Project finds a new home

At the close of September, The Vermont Sensory Access Project (VSAP), formerly known as Vermont’s Deafblind project, finished its final days of being housed at the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion. Weeks earlier, VSAP’s project director Emma Nelson started her own new adventures out West with her family. As CDCI cycles through projects and personnel, there is a bittersweetness as we have to say goodbye to friends and permit room for new relationships and services to bloom.

VSAP, the DeafBlind Project, and Vermont

The Deafblind project came to CDCI in 1987 and has helped to augment services provided by the Vermont I-Team as well as other Vermont vision and hearing service-providing agencies. This U.S. Department of Education-funded project works to increase the capacity of educational and early intervention teams, including families, in order to improve the lives of Vermont learners who have vision and hearing impairments. This technical assistance and training also works to prepare individuals for success after school. 

The combination of hearing and vision impairment is often referred to as “dual sensory impairments” as well as “deafblindess.” In 2013, the project underwent a name change from the Vermont Deafblind Project to the Vermont Sensory Access Project. This change came about in order to use language that was more inclusive and centered around access instead of impairment. While the name changed, the goal, to serve all children who need specialized supports for learning related to combined vision and hearing loss, has always been the same.

Changing Tides

Challenges with funding for infrastructure and personnel often occur throughout the cycle of projects. The five-year cycle of this project’s funding ended in September of 2018. After a year of planning and problem solving, the project team decided the best way to support the more than 30 Vermont students who are Deaf-Blind was to support the New England Consortium of Deaf-Blind Projects.

What’s Ahead

This project will continue in the hands of the three agency partners who have been supporters of VSAP and the DeafBlind population, including Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, CDCI’s I-Team and I-Team Early Intervention projects, and the new lead agency for the state, 9 East- VT Deaf and Hard of Hearing. In collaboration with Early Intervention Part C and the Agency of Education, these entities will be working with the New England Consortium of DeafBlind Projects. This New England Consortium already includes Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. 

The new grant is led by Tracy Evans Luiselli at the New England Consortium, and Vermont’s Nine East Network's Greg Weisel is providing training and TA to Vermont schools.CDCI will continue to be involved with the work of VSAP’s newest iteration, especially through the work of the I-Team and I-Team EI projects. We are thankful for all of the opportunities, challenges, personnel, and expertise that hosting this project for 31 years provided, and we look forward to seeing it and our Center grow in the years to come.