Jeri’s House Fundraiser Update

In just four weeks, Jeri’s House will sponsor a Murder Mystery Dinner “Who Done it?!” in OKC and it promises to be a very entertaining and informative event! DeafBlind will be the 8 characters all having their own interpreter or SSP which will allow interaction between guests and characters to solve the murder mystery of the class reunion of 1965! Come on now! Go back with us in time to the good oh days of 1965!

We will space people out at the tables and make everyone as comfortable as possible! If the majority of folks are not comfortable, then we can decide June 1 to postpone to a later date. I need to get some feedback! Please let me know your thoughts about coming so I can get an idea about food and if enough folks are willing to come and support!As always, please continue praying for Jeri’s House that we stay in God’s guidance! Thank you!

National Interpreters Appreciation Day

The first Wednesday in the month of May is National Interpreters Appreciation Day. To all of the Interpreters who make it easier for Deaf, Blind, and Deaf-Blind to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ what is going on, a big Thank You from all of us at Jeri’s House!

There’s not an SSP (Support Service Provider) Appreciation Day yet because it’s still a new occupation but we can’t forget their valuable contributions to the lives of Deaf-Blind!

Joe Fallin, 11/11/1946 – 4/19/2020

Joseph Charles “Joe” Fallin, age 73, of Tulsa, Oklahoma went to be with the Lord on April 19, 2020 at St. Francis Hospital as a result of sepsis. He was born and raised in Tulsa and was a graduate of the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his law degree at Oklahoma University. 

He practiced law for over 40 years and was a champion for disability rights. In recognition of his work, he was named Advocate of the Year for 2005 by the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. He was a member of the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority Board for many years and he was President of the Oklahoma Council of the Blind for several terms. He was a member of Christ United Methodist Church and an active member of the Unity Sunday School class. He was an avid OU football and basketball fan, as well as a huge fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

He is survived by his loving wife, Allison; his brother, Richard Fallin; niece, Ashley Brady (daughter, Fallin and son, Laker); nephew, Brooks Fallin (wife, Sarah Jane) and Pat Fallin, the mother of Ashley and Brooks. Although he had no children of his own, he loved and was loved by Allison’s daughters and their families, Hillary Torres (husband, Luis and children, Miquela and Micah) and Nancy Koke (husband, Mark and son Jacob). He is predeceased by his father, Richard Fallin, mother, Helene Fallin and step-father Leo Gooch. 

A private burial will be at Floral Haven Cemetery in Broken Arrow, OK. A memorial service will be planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in Joe’s name may be made to: Oklahoma Council of the Blind, P.O. Box 1476, Oklahoma City, OK 73101 or Jeri’s House, Inc., P.O. Box 14192, Tulsa, OK 74159.

Helen Keller meets Anne Sullivan, her teacher and “miracle worker”

On March 3, 1887, Anne Sullivan (April 14, 1866 – October 20, 1936) begins teaching six-year-old Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing after a severe illness at the age of 19 months. Under Sullivan’s tutelage, including her pioneering “touch teaching” techniques, the previously uncontrollable Keller flourished, eventually graduating from college and becoming an international lecturer and activist. Sullivan, later dubbed “the miracle worker,” remained Keller’s interpreter and constant companion until the older woman’s death in 1936.

Sullivan, born in Massachusetts in 1866, had firsthand experience with being handicapped: As a child, an infection impaired her vision. She then attended the Perkins Institution for the Blind where she learned the manual alphabet in order to communicate with a classmate who was deaf and blind. Eventually, Sullivan had several operations that improved her weakened eyesight.

Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880, to Arthur Keller, a former Confederate army officer and newspaper publisher, and his wife Kate, of Tuscumbia, Alabama. As a baby, a brief illness, possibly scarlet fever or a form of bacterial meningitis, left Helen unable to see, hear or speak. She was considered a bright but spoiled and strong-willed child. Her parents eventually sought the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone and an authority on the deaf. He suggested the Kellers contact the Perkins Institution, which in turn recommended Anne Sullivan as a teacher.

Sullivan, age 20, arrived at Ivy Green, the Keller family estate, in 1887 and began working to socialize her wild, stubborn student and teach her by spelling out words in Keller’s hand. Initially, the finger spelling meant nothing to Keller. However, a breakthrough occurred one day when Sullivan held one of Keller’s hands under water from a pump and spelled out “w-a-t-e-r” in Keller’s palm. Keller went on to learn how to read, write and speak. With Sullivan’s assistance, Keller attended Radcliffe College and graduated with honors in 1904.

Helen Keller became a public speaker and author; her first book, “The Story of My Life” was published in 1902. She was also a fundraiser for the American Foundation for the Blind and an advocate for racial and sexual equality, as well as socialism. From 1920 to 1924, Sullivan and Keller even formed a vaudeville act to educate the public and earn money. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at her home in Easton, Connecticut, at age 87, leaving her mark on the world by helping to alter perceptions about the disabled.

A Deaf-Blind Dishwasher Achieves His Childhood Dream: Movie Actor

The New York Times

Robert Tarango, 55, is perhaps the first deaf-blind actor in a lead movie role.

Credit…Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

A Deaf-Blind Dishwasher Achieves His Childhood Dream: Movie Actor

Robert Tarango always idolized old-school leading men. Now he stars in a short film.

Robert Tarango, 55, is perhaps the first deaf-blind actor in a lead movie role.Credit…Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

By Corey Kilgannon

March 7, 2020

Doug Roland, a filmmaker, was walking home from a night out at 4 a.m. in the East Village when he saw a man standing on a deserted street corner in need of help.

After trying to speak to the man, Mr. Roland, 35, noticed he held a sign explaining that he was deaf and blind and needed help crossing the street. He then scribbled on a notebook that he also needed help finding a nearby bus stop.

“It was the first time I’d met a deaf-blind person and he just took my arm and trusted me, a total stranger on a New York street, to direct him,” recalled Mr. Roland, who instinctively used his finger to trace his end of the conversation on the man’s palm, with the man responding on notebook paper.

“There was a gift in every one of those exchanges,” Mr. Roland recalled. “In that chance encounter, there was an instant connection with someone from a community I knew nothing about.”

This occurred in 2011, but it stayed with Mr. Roland, who late last year released “Feeling Through,”

an 18-minute film inspired by that serendipitous meeting.

The film is a window into the largely unknown world of deaf-blindness. A late-night encounter on a New York street leads to a spiritual connection between a troubled youth and a deaf-blind man.

It is typically screened as part of a presentation called “The Feeling Through Experience,” which includes a panel discussion and a 24-minute documentary about making the film.

Instead of having an actor emulate the leading character’s deaf-blind condition, Mr. Roland was adamant about finding a deaf-blind man for the role, both for the sake of dramatic realism and as a statement about the capabilities of someone with what might seem a debilitating condition.

Expand image captioned Mr. Tarango, left, with Steven Prescod in a scene from “Feeling Through.” Mr. Prescod plays a teenager who helps Mr. Tarango’s character get to a bus stop.

Credit…Doug Roland Films

Knowing of no deaf-blind actors, Mr. Roland wondered about casting the very man he met that night, but all he knew was his nickname, Artz, and he could not locate him.

Serendipity struck again and led him to another deaf-blind man — a kitchen worker from Long Island with no acting experience. The worker, Robert Tarango, 55, is perhaps the first deaf-blind actor in a lead movie role.

By accompanying Mr. Roland to numerous screenings and presentations across the country, Mr. Tarango has also become something of a spokesman for the deaf-blind community, dedicated to educating the public.

Moviegoers may be familiar with “The Miracle Worker” — the 1961 film about Anne Sullivan, the blind tutor to Helen Keller — but remain largely unaware about coping with deaf-blindness.

“The only deaf-blind person most people have heard of is Helen Keller,” said Sue Ruzenski, executive director of the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, on Long Island.

“Doug’s film is groundbreaking in bringing to the fore in the mainstream media someone who is deaf-blind.”

For help making the film, Mr. Roland turned to the center, which works to increase awareness and break stereotypes about deaf-blind people being helpless or leading cloistered lives. It provides training in skills such as personal care, cooking and using a Braille device to operate a smartphone or computer, and helps to integrate people into mainstream jobs.

“No one had ever approached us about making a film starring a deaf-blind actor, and I have to say I was skeptical,” Ms. Ruzenski said.

Mr. Roland said that the story line follows two seemingly very different strangers who, despite obvious communication obstacles, bond and help each other, and that its message was “our capacity to connect transcends our differences.”

The center began searching for deaf-blind men across the country whom Mr. Roland could audition. It also provided interpreters fluent in tactile sign language, a form often used by deaf-blind people that allows them to communicate by feeling the hands of the person they are signing with.

After interviewing more than a dozen people, Mr. Roland had not found the right fit. Finally, an employee at the center finally said, “How about Robert?”

It was not an obvious suggestion. For 20 years, Mr. Tarango’s life had remained focused on his job in the center’s kitchen and on negotiating his often long, complicated commute on public transit.

But those closest to him knew his effusive and charismatic personality. So on a lark, they brought him in from the kitchen — still in his apron, his hands wet and his face puzzled.

“He thought maybe he was in trouble,” recalled Mr. Roland, who through an interpreter told Mr. Tarango about the film project, which would require several days of shooting.

When Mr. Tarango, ever the dedicated worker, countered that it might interrupt his weekday kitchen shifts, staff members told him they would gladly excuse him from work.

“He said, ‘In that case, let’s take a month to shoot it, or a year,’” recalled Mr. Roland, who immediately saw that Mr. Tarango shared Artz’ brand of humor and charisma.

Landing the role was a twist for Mr. Tarango — who rather than speaking, communicates almost exclusively by sign language. His daily life had been anchored by his job washing dishes, serving food and stocking shelves. But now, here was an offer that was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

Growing up deaf but sighted in Arizona, Mr. Tarango idolized old-school leading men like John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Burt Lancaster and longed to be a film actor himself — a hope that dimmed when he began losing his sight in his 20s because of Usher syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.

“Suddenly, I was being asked to star in a movie,” he said with the help of a translator.

Relying on translators while shooting the film in New York City a year ago, Mr. Tarango developed a bond with his co-star Steven Prescod, who plays Tereek, the troubled teen who helps Mr. Tarango’s deaf-blind character, Artie, to the bus stop.

“When I met him and realized there were people out there who were blind and deaf, I was like, ‘How does that even work?’” recalled Mr. Prescod, 27, who learned that Mr. Tarango, like many deaf-blind people, gets assistance from trained guides and use alternate ways of adapting and communicating.

“He helped me as an actor and definitely inspired me as I acted alongside him,” Mr. Prescod added.

Growing up in Brooklyn, Mr. Prescod was arrested at 16 on armed robbery and assault charges, and pleaded guilty to a deal that spared him a lengthy prison sentence in lieu of a rehabilitative theater program.

The program, he said, helped him create an autobiographical, one-man show that was viewed in Manhattan in 2014 by Prince William, who gave Mr. Prescod his contact information and an offer to help get the show produced in London.

At a recent screening of the film in Manhattan, Mr. Tarango was cheered heartily as he joined Mr. Roland and Mr. Prescod in a panel discussion.

Also enjoying the spotlight was Artz — Artemio Tavares, 39, of the Bronx — whom Mr. Roland finally located only after casting Mr. Tarango.

Mr. Tavares remembered their 2011 meeting clearly, but it was merely one of his constant encounters with strangers he approaches for assistance as he navigates the city alone by public transit, to shop, socialize and take classes.

The charismatic Mr. Tavares communicates with his own New York accent, gesturing boldly with the confidence of a rapper, and relies upon a friend or guide who knows sign language to experience such places like the Museum of Modern Art or Lincoln Center.

Mr. Tavares wears a button announcing that he is deaf and blind and keeps placards handy asking for help finding various bus and subway stops. He can sense an arriving subway train by the breeze it creates in the station, and once aboard, he can feel the train stopping at each station and count the stops until his destination.

Mr. Tarango also navigates public transit mostly by memory and the use of his cane, even while strolling along narrow train platforms.

Mr. Tarango lives independently with a deaf roommate. When he cannot get a ride with a co-worker, he has a commute that can take up to three hours each way and requires a cab, two buses, a train and a shuttle bus.

On a trip home one recent weekday, after taking a cab, two buses and the Long Island Railroad, he approached a taxi stand, scribbled his address on a piece of paper, and handed it to a cabdriver.

He has several trips lined up to appear at screenings across the country with Mr. Roland, who is raising money to expand the film a full-length feature.

“Maybe I could transition to become an actor,” Mr. Tarango said. “I’ve worked in a kitchen for so many years, so I pray I can get picked for another role.”

end of article

What’s happening? People with Disabilities Awareness Day 2020



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People with Disabilities Awareness Day. The 25th Anniversary. Reach out and make it great!

For 25 years, telling your story has been the most powerful way to engage and inform elected leaders at People with Disabilities Awareness Day at the state Capitol. Thank you. This year, our date is Tuesday, March 10, 2020.
You may have heard most space inside and outside the Capitol is not available, due to construction. This means no exhibitors, entertainment or space for 900+ people with disabilities and supporters. That’s OK. We still have creative ways to share stories and keep the PWDAD spirit alive.
Can we count on you? Whether you’re a person with a disability, a supporter, an exhibitor, an employer or a community partner, we can reach out together at the Capitol with our calls, emails, success stories, notes, videos and social media on or near March 10.
Click here to find your legislators, contact us and sign up on the tab at the top of the page for Awareness Day updates — and watch for tools you can use coming soon! Insert #PWDAD2020 on your favorite social media to find and join Awareness Day conversations. Connect. Reach out. And please continue to tell your powerful stories.
Jody Harlan, Communications Director
Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services
Communications Office
Toll Free: 800-845-8476 | Ofc: 405-951-3473 | Cell: 405-203-1318 |

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Empowering Oklahomans with Disabilities