Working DeafBlind

Living DeafBlind in Iowa | Clip
Oct 18, 2021 | 7 min

Rodenna Frank is a DeafBlind individual. She is completely deaf and blind on the spectrum. She lives in Marion, Iowa, where she is a wife and mother. Rodenna also works part time at the local Pizza Ranch where she washes dishes. Iowa PBS met up with Rodenna in her home and accompanied her to her place of work.



Narrator: Rodenna Frank was born in the Philippines and it took a while for her family to realize she was deaf.

(At home, Rodenna signs with her interpreter.)

Rodenna: My parents never knew I was deaf until I was 3 years old. But she would call my name many times, but I would never answer her and that was when she took me to the doctor, my mother. And the doctor said that I was deaf.

(Outside, Rodenna walks with her interpreter.)

Narrator: When Rodenna was 9, she began attending elementary school and learned Sign Language. But when she was 10, Rodenna began having trouble with her vision.

Rodenna: When I started having vision problems I couldn't read my mom's signing. So she put my hands on hers and she started to communicate with me that way.

(A diagram outlines Usher 1F Syndrome.)

Narrator: Rodenna has Usher Syndrome, a condition where a person experiences partial or total hearing loss and vision loss that worsens over time. She became completely deaf and blind.

(A photo shows Rodenna and her husband in a park.)

Narrator: Today, Rodenna, or Ro as most call her, lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband Dave. Together they raised two children.

(A photo shows her son's family.)

Rodenna: We have one boy and one daughter.

(In a photo, Rodenna smiles with her adult daughter.)

Rodenna: My husband signs with me, yes, and my daughter as well. My son is so-so. He communicates some. Well, he can read my signs but he prefers to use a lot of spelling when he signs to me and communicates with me. So it's more finger spelling than signs.

(A photo shows Rodenna and Dave in a park.)

Narrator: Ro is very independent. When her children were young she homeschooled them with help from her husband.

(At home, Rodenna signs with her interpreter.)

Rodenna: Yes, I homeschooled my own children for six years, six years from eighth grade to eleventh and twelfth grade. We did videotape classes and then I would check their work and my husband together we would check their work.

(At a pizza restaurant, a co-worker takes Rodenna's temperature as a COVID-19 safety measure.)

Narrator: Ro also works part-time at Pizza Ranch in Marion working in the dish room.

(She holds out her walking stick and heads behind the counter.)

Rodenna: I know my way from outside through into the dish room and I know my way around.

(In the dish room, she feels around the shelves.)

Sometimes if the things aren't in their regular place I need to ask somebody to help me find that item.

Narrator: Ro hopes that by her working as a deafblind individual, others will understand how capable she and people like her can be.

(She stands at a sink and turns on the faucet.)

(At home, Rodenna signs.)

Rodenna: I want them to see that deafblind people like me, they can do their jobs well.

(The interpreter walks her to work.)

Narrator: Ro works with the help of an interpreter who takes her to and from work and stays with her to help her communicate with her co-workers at Pizza Ranch. Transportation is the biggest challenge for Ro.

(Rodenna sits at home.)

Rodenna: I want to be able to start using transportation to get to my work and be independent that way.

(At work, Rodenna washes dishes.)

And I would like for people in the dish room to be able to work with me and communicate on a very basic level without an interpreter there.

(Rodenna feels the sides of a container in the sink.)

Narrator: Ro enjoys getting out and working at Pizza Ranch, but her home is her happy place where she has many hobbies.

(At home, Rodenna uses a keyboard with braille pins.)

(Smartphone sends Ro's text messages to her braille device.)

Rodenna: I can do things and I am able to use the computer with Braille. I use the iPhone with other people also. I enjoy knitting, cooking and reading library books from the library at Iowa Department of the Blind.

(Rodenna uses her keyboard.)

(Adaptive device speaking.)

Narrator: Technology has helped Ro communicate with her family and friends.

(​​Rodenna signs with Dave.)

Dave: So yes, she is able to communicate and text to pretty much anybody she wants to and she is a great help. You can communicate with your family in Florida and message them, do both emails or text messages. Yeah. We do FaceTime with family down in Florida, with my husband's help. I can't do it alone because I can't see the screen on the phone.

So it works well, it does. But it's great for her. It gives Ro an opening into the world that she would not otherwise have.

(Rodenna washes dishes at work.)

Narrator: From the outside, living deafblind looks difficult. But Ro insists her life is, as she calls it, normal. (At home, Rodenna signs with her interpreter.)

Rodenna: There's just not a whole lot to share about myself. I do things other people do. It's an average normal life.

(​​A photo shows Rodenna smiling with her family.)