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NCDB 2020 Impact Report

February 2021

The National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) partners with 48 state/multi-state deaf-blind projects (SDBPs) and a network of national organizations to improve services and systems for children and young adults who are deaf-blind in the U.S. and its territories. Each year, we ask for input on our work and use the feedback to create positive change in the years that follow. 

In 2020, collaborative efforts led to significant progress and accomplishments that we’d like to share with our partners, families, and others with an interest in improving the lives of children and youth with deaf-blindness.

A major focus of NCDB’s work is to provide technical assistance (TA) in the form of high-quality information and support to SDBPs across four initiatives: (1) Family Engagement, (2) Identification and Referral, (3) Interveners and Qualified Personnel, and (4) Transition. To evaluate these efforts, we used a variety of methods, including surveys, interviews, fidelity checks, an external panel, and focus groups. Collectively, the findings help us build on our strengths, address concerns, and inform and guide future activities that better promote the use of best practices for serving children and young adults who are deaf-blind.

Evaluation Data

The following methods were used to collect evaluation data during 2020.

The Annual Survey: This survey of SDBP staff and national partners who receive intensive TA from NCDB was conducted in April by an independent program evaluator.

State Deaf-Blind Project Interviews: To gather more information about NCDB TA and program effectiveness, interviews were conducted with 12 SDBPs in May and June by an independent program evaluator.

3+2 Panel Report: As part of NCDB’s cooperative agreement, administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), we participated in OSEP’s 3+2 Review evaluation process. This comprehensive evaluation was conducted by an expert panel of reviewers who assessed evidence of our project performance and made recommendations to guide future work.

Key Findings: 2020 Annual Survey


  • Relationships between NCDB staff and SDBP staff are strong. Respondents are appreciative of the collaboration and helpfulness of NCDB staff.
  • NCDB’s revised website resources are comprehensive, useful, relevant, and informative. Several respondents commented on the website's accessibility, organization of materials and resources, usefulness of state-specific information, and up-to-date information.
  • Information from and consultations with NCDB staff are timely, relevant, of high quality, and useful for work with educators, families, and systems-change processes. Respondents praised the helpfulness and responsiveness of NCDB staff.


  • Many SDBP staff did not participate in the annual survey.
  • The differences between “informal information-sharing,” “information services,” and “technical assistance consultations” are unclear.
  • The “Open Hands Open Access” modules and the “Recommendations to Improve Transition Outcomes for Students with Deaf-Blindness and Additional Disabilities” have limited usefulness for some purposes, such as for coursework and online learning.

To read the full report, see NCDB Annual Survey Findings below.

PDF DocumentNCDB 2020 Annual Survey FindingsPDF Document|1.4 MB


Key Findings: 2020 SDBP Interviews


  • NCDB provides responsive, helpful services and high-quality, informative products.
  • Staff function well in multiple roles, including coordination, training, communication, information sharing, collaboration, and facilitation.
  • Staff are prompt, supportive, collaborative, and knowledgeable.
  • Staff are skilled in knowing who in the country has expertise in different areas and in linking SDBPs together to address issues.


  • There is a lack of national recognition and support for interveners.
  • A disconnect exists between special education and general education.
  • There continues to be a lack of awareness about deaf-blindness.


  • Add more products with case studies and videos demonstrating teaching strategies.
  • Create an introductory flyer, "elevator speech," or webinar about deaf-blind projects and who qualifies for deaf-blind services.
  • Provide more opportunities at the annual DB Summit conference to network, build skills, be energized, and expand knowledge.
  • Add additional mentoring, group training, universal TA, routine NCDB-initiated check-ins with each SDBP, regional liaisons, and greater leadership.
  • Reduce SDBP involvement in work groups. 

Key Findings: 2020 3+2 Panel Report

The 3+2 evaluation review panel considered evidence provided by NCDB in a briefing book and presentation and during a formal review meeting. Reviewers concluded that NCDB has met most project expectations during the first two years of the project.


  • Dissemination of high-quality information and resources
  • Engagement with SDBPs and national organizations 
  • Depth of organizational and staff experience


  • Without diminishing the role of interveners or NCDB’s focus on interveners, increase emphasis on the importance of qualified teachers as well. 
  • Consider the cultural and linguistic diversity of students who are deaf-blind and their families, and focus on the needs of children who have ethnic/minority backgrounds by producing materials that address diversity in the deaf-blind population and promoting culturally responsive TA.
  • Enhance the usefulness of data collections through the use of qualitative measures, and consider adding focus groups to identify gaps in products and initiatives.
  • Improve the efficiency and efficacy of products and TA, given new technologies and innovations.
  • Identify long-term goals for information dissemination and engagement using social media and website technologies.
  • Increase the emphasis on reaching a wider population (i.e., beyond well-known partners) when disseminating publications and products.
  • Collaborate with national groups and organizations that support students with significant disabilities, and focus on access and progress in the general education curriculum.

Major Accomplishments

NCDB initiatives and activities resulted in significant progress in 2020. For example, we greatly enhanced collaborative efforts with our national partners to address barriers identified by evaluations conducted in 2020 and prior years. Select a topic below to learn about specific accomplishments in that area.

Identification and Referral Initiative

  • As part of our efforts to engage national partners in assisting SDBPs in identifying children with deaf-blindness, we collaborated with six SDBPs and two CHARGE Syndrome Foundation state liaisons on presentations given at the Annual Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Conference in March. One was for Directors of Speech and Hearing Programs in State and Welfare Agencies (DSHPSHWA) members on the importance of early identification of vision and hearing loss. The other was a panel presentation on the experiences of families regarding the need for early vision and hearing screening.
  • To help state deaf-blind projects increase identification and referral in their states through systems change, we significantly updated and redesigned the Early Identification and Referral Toolbox. It is now easier to use and includes new activities and resources.

Family Engagement Initiative

  • Supporting families is a key responsibility of SDBPs. With input from SDBP personnel, including family engagement coordinators, we developed Providing Technical Assistance to Families: A Guide for State Deaf-Blind Projects. It provides information and resources to help SDBPs carry out essential activities related to supporting families.
  • We partnered with a group of SDBPs to assist them in exploring ways to identify and engage families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. As a result, the group has created a resource page on the NCDB website called Increasing Cultural Competency to help all state projects explore, define, and implement a set of practices to improve services for these families.

Interveners and Qualified Personnel Initiative

  • To support SDBP efforts to promote recognition and adoption of intervener services in their states, we started the “Training Interveners Group,” a peer-learning community with participants from 12 SDBPs, who meet regularly to discuss resources and strategies. This is helping them enhance the training, promotion, and use of interveners. The group also contributed to the development of a recertification process for interveners who have completed the National Intervener Certification E-Portfolio (NICE) and must recertify every five years to demonstrate continued competency.
  • Proficient communicators are increasingly recognized as a significant part of the population of children with deaf-blindness, but there is limited literature and guidance on educational strategies for them. As part of our 2020 Professional Development series on instructional strategies for children who are deaf-blind, we hosted a webinar called Meeting the Needs of Proficient Communicators. It was part of an ongoing collaborative effort between NCDB and a number of SDBPs to develop resources to meet the unique needs of this expanding population.

Transition Initiative

  • Poor employment, secondary education, and community living outcomes following high school for youth with deaf-blindness, particularly those with additional disabilities, have been recognized for many years. In 2018, NCDB published Recommendations to Improve Transition Outcomes for Students with Deaf-Blindness and Additional Disabilities. Since then, we have supported the use of the recommendations with SDBPs and other partners as they work to improve transition and adult life services for this population. Most recently, this involved the development of a peer-learning community with 20 SDBPs and three national partners (National Family Association for Deaf-Blind, CHARGE Syndrome Foundation, and Helen Keller National Center). The members are helping one another improve transition outcomes in states across the country. 
  • Personal experiences and advice can inform and inspire families, educators, and youth as they engage in the transition process. In the past year, we’ve continued to produce resources in this area, including “Transition and Adult Life Success Stories” (see entries about Jack and Alex) and tips for families (see the Transition section of Key Topics for Families).

Information Services and Technology

  • The NCDB website is a centralized resource for information about deaf-blindness in children and youth in the U.S. To respond to website visitors’ requests that we make it easier to use, we spent 18 months planning and developing a new site, which was launched in March 2020. It has extensive information about deaf-blindness and educational practices for children and youth who are deaf-blind, information and tools for SDBPs to use in their TA, and resources to inform and support families. 
  • In response to evaluation data and requests from SDBPs and others, we developed a new messaging plan to better inform the SDBPs and the general public about NCDB information, products, and services. The plan includes messaging strategies to help SDBP personnel stay up-to-date on information and resources that support their TA activities and provide information about deaf-blindness to families, educators, service providers, and others involved in the life of a child with deaf-blindness.

Technical Assistance

  • One of NCDB’s main goals is to assist SDBPs in effecting systems change in their states in each of the initiative areas (identification and referral, family engagement, interveners and qualified personnel, and transition). “System” refers to a collection of agencies and individuals and the regulatory structure and processes that guide how they function. Systems TA refers to activities that promote sustainable change in these entities and structures for children who are deaf-blind and their families. To better support this work, early in 2020 we published a comprehensive revision of our processes for supporting SDBPs as they engage in systems TA. For more information, see the NCDB Support for State Deaf-Blind Projects page.
  • We also supported systems TA by expanding Changing Systems: Moving Beyond Child-Specific Technical Assistance, a guide for SDBPs. It includes detailed information about establishing partnerships and conducting systems-change activities as well as information related to each initiative.

Looking Ahead

Over the next few years, NCDB staff are looking forward to addressing additional evaluation findings and building on our achievements to date. Future activities include the following:

  • Strengthening connections with national partners in all initiative areas
  • Increasing our collaborative work with SDBPs to improve services to families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • Raising awareness beyond the deaf-blind network of risk factors for deaf-blindness and the crucial need for early identification and referral to SDBPs
  • Increasing the knowledge of SDBP personnel, families, and others involved in preparing students for adult life about resources and strategies for supporting competitive employment
  • Exploring professional development options to train teachers and related service providers in deaf-blindness
  • Creating professional development materials