Photo by Aaron Newton
Jay Gense is the director for the National Center on Deaf-Blindness at Western Oregon University.
Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Aaron Newton
October 15th, 2013
MONMOUTH — The National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), one of seven centers that make up the Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University, was awarded a five-year, $10.5 million grant to operate as the national hub for deaf-blind research.
It’s almost becoming routine for the TRI to announce it has been awarded another grant.
The on-campus educational and human service improvement facilitator was awarded two separate grants just before the beginning of fall term.
Just last week, TRI received the newest grant from the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).
“We’re doing well. It kind of looks like we keep getting one after the other, but it’s just they get awarded at the same time,” Ella Taylor, TRI director, said. “Why we’re excited about this grant, quite honestly, is it recognizes us as the national center.”
Primarily functioning as a research and professional development consortium for its 20-year life as part of TRI, the NCDB now has a mandate through the OSEP to operate as the strategic center for the other 54 OSEP-funded deaf-blind projects around the country.
A teacher helps a deaf-blind student prepare his lunch at the Texas Deaf-Blind Project, one of 54 projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education, in Austin, Texas.
The NCDB was awarded the same grant in 2006, but without the national hub requirement.
Because of the groundbreaking work NCDB was doing, OSEP extended the funding for another two years, which ended this year.
Receiving the grant for a second straight cycle speaks volumes on the advancements TRI has made and the research conducted, Jay Gense, NCDB director, said.
“We’re bringing focus to and streamlining all of these state projects so that they are cohesive in their approach,” he said. “We’re also developing means, using technology, for all of these projects and others in the deaf-blind community to communicate with each other and problem solve together.”
Approximately 10,000 infants, children and youth in the U.S. are deaf-blind — almost 90 percent of whom experience additional disabilities as well.
In the past, deaf-blind children would be put into specialized schools away from their families.
That approach has been changing in the last 10 years, with more children being educated in their local schools.
With this positive trend, it also poses a training problem for school personnel.
“We’ll provide technical assistance and resources and all those types of things throughout the country, mostly with other state departments of education,” Taylor said. “A lot of it ends up going through how to train all of the teachers in a state on how to deal with children with this disability.”
Gense spent the majority of the summer compiling the necessary information for the highly competitive grant.
“It’s an incredibly time consuming process. We basically pitch our vision of what the national center — in our eyes — should be,” Gense said. “It’s crazy busy to get a project, even one that we’ve been doing, up and running.”
Gense and his team at NCDB will now take a hiatus from the research they’ve been conducting for the past 20 years and focus more on the development and information aspect.
“Now that we’re funded, the next five years will be spent on the implementation of activities,” Gense said. “We very much hope that five years from now there’s another award cycle and we’ll go through the same thing.”