In 2016, the Fund approved a two-year grant of $76,000 to Deafblind Citizens in Action (DBCA), a small nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing access to education, technology, and employment for all Americans who are deaf-blind. The grant support would allow two successive six-person cadres of young adults who are deafblind to participate in DBCA’s program, Deafblind Young Adults in Action: Participating in the Policy-making Process (DBYAA). This leadership development program would grant these young adults the opportunity to develop their own leadership and self-advocacy skills by communicating with relevant federal policymakers about the education, employment, and technology accessibility needs of Americans who are deafblind.
Over the project’s two-year period, 11 deafblind youth participated in the DBYAA leadership program. These series of online leadership training and a week-long, in-person intensive leadership program in Washington D.C. provided participants with hands-on practice in crafting messages, role-playing exercises, and other leadership skills to develop their own career and life goals, as well as educational sessions centered around government structure. Program participants had unique opportunities to showcase their leadership skills during meetings with Verizon and various Federal and state agencies and extended their experience beyond the convening through continued advocacy work in their communities and representation at national and regional conferences.