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Enid disability advocate named DeafBlind Awareness Week spokesperson

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

 ENID, Okla. – Employment is the primary goal for Kristi Bingham from Enid, who was recently named official spokesperson for 2024 DeafBlind Awareness Week in Oklahoma.

Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired and their DeafBlind Services staff selected Bingham for the honor which celebrates the life of American author, lecturer and humanitarian Hellen Keller who was born June 27, 1880.

SBVI is a division of Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

“I’ve been a client off and on throughout life and familiar with it since I was in high school,” Bingham said. “My goal is to go back to work and be able to enjoy working. I’m looking forward to getting a job so I will have more income and not having to struggle every day.”

Bingham was born In Enid in 1975 with cataracts that blinded her right eye and left some vision in her left eye. She developed childhood glaucoma by age 4 and totally lost vision in both eyes by age 15. 

“I started learning Braille at Oklahoma School for the Blind at age 4,” Bingham said.

She later finished Braille training as the first student in a pilot program at  Enid High School in 1991.

OSB is also a DRS division.

“I lost 50 percent of my hearing in 2014 or 2015 in a work-related accident,” Bingham said.

Bingham travels with her black Labrador dog  guide Derek who was trained by Guiding Eyes for the  Blind in New York.

“Derek is an asset because having him gives me a greater sense of independence and freedom,” Bingham said.

DeafBlind Services Program Specialist Kelley Gutierrez provides Bingham with guidance and counseling. Bingham receives job search assistance and has gotten a professional clothing voucher.  

SBVI purchased hearing aids and a laptop for Bingham with a cordless keyboard, touch screen and JAWS software in addition to JAWS, which stands for Job Access with Speech. This screen reader provides speech and Braille output for computer users who cannot see screen content or navigate with a mouse.

She previously worked with SBVI counselor Sandy Evans to accomplish her employment goals.

Debi Trout, an SBVI Orientation and Mobility Specialist, assisted Bingham in updating her mobility cane skills.

Rehabilitation Teacher Deitra Woody, who is now a SBVI counselor, provided independent living skills training.

Tanya Skelly was Bingham’s assistive technology specialist.

SBVI also paid for Bingham to receive specialized training at the Helen Keller National Center in Sands Point, New York from October 2022 through November 2023. The center is the only comprehensive national program in the U.S. exclusively for youth and adults who are DeafBlind.

HKNC evaluated Bingham’s independent living, orientation and mobility, vocational,  technology and American Sign Language skills and developed a customized training program in 13-week increments that focused on goals for needed improvement. The center assisted her with job search immersion rather than periodic training so Bingham could develop faster.

“Kristi did reception work at HKNC,” Gutierrez said.” Everyone talked about what a good phone voice she had. She is pleasant. Even though she doesn’t see, she observes things and is aware of the  situation around her. She has a good memory and can recall conversations and details.”

The dream job Bingham trained for and seeks will enable her to continue serving others.

“I want to be able to help people when they need it and love to be around people – maybe as an Oklahoma School for the Blind dorm parent or at a hospital,” she said.”

At Helen Keller National Center, Bingham helped a young participant with vision, hearing loss  and Charge Syndrome, a rare disorder that affects multiple organ systems.

“She had an outburst and spiraled out of control, but I was able to talk with her and calm her down,” Bingham said. “If I could help her, then that was what I was going to do. There were a number of times I had to do that (with others) over the years.”

“If I ran into somebody who was losing their sight and didn’t know where to turn, I would steer them toward their local (Department of) Rehabilitation Services and let them know there are so many opportunities and options for whatever they need,” Bingham said.

In addition to her job search, Bingham enjoys spending time with friend John Moe, swimming and riding horses. Her latest project is growing a garden with tomato plants, squash and strawberries.

SBVI will host a DeafBlind resource fair from 1-4 p.m. on June 27 to celebrate Keller’s birthday. The public is invited to the free event at Metro Tech’s Springlake Campus at  1900 Springlake Drive in Oklahoma City, 

Oklahoma City’s EMBARK bus on Route 22 goes every 30 minutes during the day to Metro Tech Springlake Campus. For safety reasons, SBVI advises riders to ride past Metro Tech and get off once the bus turns around to avoid crossing the street. EMBARK’s Route 22 map is available at:

“Events like our resource fair help DeafBlind people build connections, learning something new or possibly find a new product that could change their lives,” Gutierrez said.

For more information about the resource fair or DeafBlind Services, phone 580-447-3083 or


SBVI’s DeafBlind Services provides advocacy, information and referral, evaluation, guidance and counseling services, and training in alternative daily living skills for individuals who are DeafBlind. Clients are legally blind or have progressive visual disabilities that will result in legal blindness and severe to profound hearing loss or significant difficulty communicating in home or community settings. There are no age requirements, but the program primarily serves adults. Tactile, vibratory and other equipment that helps people in receiving and communicating information is available through programs including ICanConnect.

SBVI is a division of Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, which has employment programs for job seekers with disabilities. The agency assists employers in finding qualified workers and provides career counseling, training, job placement and other services to build skills and qualifications needed in the workforce. DRS served 96,178 people with disabilities in 2023.

Oklahoma 2024 DeafBlind Awareness Week spokesperson Kristi Bingham uses a braille keyboard provided by DeafBlind Services in DRS’ Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired as her dog guide Derek relaxes behind her. Bingham’s current goal is finding employment in the Enid area that will put her skills and experience to work.

For more information

Jody Harlan, DRS Communications Director

Cell: 405-203-1318