February, 2019
Welcome to Cristina Connections

Honoring our Partners in the Cristina Network
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." Helen Keller

“The greatest barrier deaf people have to the job market, is for employers to be open to hiring a deaf individual,” says Adele Agin, the director of Lexington Vocational Services in New York City. There are many myths and misconceptions about people who are deaf and their ability to access the workplace and advance on the job. Technology is very important for people who are deaf because it levels the playing field.”

Lexington Vocational Services works with deaf individuals to develop their own self advocacy skills so they know how to handle these hurdles. They learn to develop confidence to search for jobs and how to market themselves. The use of technology (computers, TVs, and videos) for job searches, resume building, and to develop and conduct mock interviews, provide important opportunities for people who are deaf to apply these tools to represent themselves. Only about one third of those getting their program’s services have computers in their homes.
“For us, working with the National Cristina Foundation has been amazing,” Adele Agin added. “The donors are just as happy as we are to get their help. The computer lab and the TVs we have gotten from the Foundation has made it possible to drop barriers to learning. We are able to enter into a deaf individual’s visual world and to guide them forward to achieve their own goals for themselves. People want to be empowered and to participate in their own life. To build the confidence in people who are deaf to be successful, they must have an opportunity to be part of their own career development. It must be a person centered process.”

“The National Cristina Foundation impacts us in so many different ways”, she added. "You give us access to each other. To be able to network with other agencies gives us a chance to relate to other groups in a non threatening way. We can help each other in our work, even if they have different missions than ours. There are so many other issues we have in common. Interacting with others teaches us solutions.”
N ote: Lexington Vocational Services is part of a group of services in New York City that the Lexington Center provides for people who are deaf. Others include the Lexington School for the Deaf (serving school age children), and the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center (serving children and adults of all ages). We recommend that you might want to follow this link for helpful advice prepared by the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center for those who might be concerned about dealing with hearing problems . https://lexhearingandspeech.org/impacts-of-untreated-hearing-loss
David Jeppson, the executive director of Computers for the Blind in Northern Texas reflects how he became interested in becoming an advocate for people who are blind. He relates that when he was a boy his dad brought home a nonfiction book about a boy who lost his sight in a firecracker incident. He reported that he then began finding other stories about the impact of blindness and searched for empowerment stories that helped people who were blind to engage with their environment and with people. He ended up in college acquiring a degree in orientation and mobility- important challenges for people who are blind. His life’s work was before him.

When David Jeppson became the Executive Director of Computers for the Blind several years ago, he continued the tradition that had been created prior to his tenure there which was to provide refurbished computers with assistive technology and other appropriate software at very low cost to persons who are blind or have low vision. These computers are refurbished by volunteers (in this all volunteer organization) and then are shipped at no cost to blind individuals who need them throughout the United States. Computers for the Blind joined the Cristina Partner Network in 2003. More recently they also became part of AFTRR (Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse), a community that was created within the National Cristina Foundations’ partner network.

David Jeppson describes why he is so passionate about making sure that people who are blind gain sufficient access to computers and related technology. “Technology is one of the most powerful tools to make it possible for living independently. The computers that the National Cristina Foundation and its partner organizations have distributed and that are used by our organization changes lives.” 
Looking at the benefits derived from the multiple ways that technology can connect people who are blind to the world, David likes to consider this connection in a holistic way. He prefers to view those connections within the inclusive mental model he calls a Philosophy of Barriers. This is considered within 4C thinking: C1 Competencies (or skills) one needs as a blind person, C2 Confidence, you develop confidence because you develop skills, C3 Collaboration with others, and C4 Careers  where you introduce skills blind people need to succeed in life. 

All together these make positive change possible and technology’s role, incalculable. Technology forms a circle of support within those areas as it opens up the world to blind people. Technology’s role is a very powerful one to support the relationship with that world.
Sharing and collaboration within the National Cristina Foundation is important to David Jeppson. He notes that, “Just as we receive equipment through the Foundation via its partner network who have shared donations with us they did not need, we will recommend to companies who have helped us that they can also send their technology donations to someone else who needs them in the Cristina Partner Network .” (It's paying it forward). He adds, “Our previous executive director who had been with the organization for many years told me to pay attention to the National Cristina Foundation.” I have learned to see why he said that.”
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