Rosemarie Tobin, the Diocese’s Consultant for People with Disabilities/Deaf Liaison, has a lending library in her office for teachers, parents
and faith formation leaders. (Franchesca Caputo photos)
Rosemarie Tobin, the Diocese’s Consultant for People with Disabilities/Deaf Liaison, has a lending library in her office for teachers, parents and faith formation leaders. (Franchesca Caputo photos)
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The Evangelist sat down with Rosemarie Tobin to talk about the different services the Diocese offers the deaf Catholic community of the greater Capital District. 

Tobin’s title with the Diocese — Consultant for People with Disabilities/Deaf Liaison — encompasses her role as helper to all. Tobin said although deaf ministry and disability ministry traditionally fall into separate categories, the Diocese merged the two due to the smaller size of the deaf Catholic community. 

“They’re different cultures,” said Tobin, who created the term deaf liaison to separate the two.

Although Tobin mostly receives phone calls in her office at the Pastoral Center related to sacramental preparation, faith formation and teaching people with disabilities, her hotline also serves as a helping hand for anyone looking for accommodations. 

But mostly, Tobin wears the hat of consultant, connecting parishes and schools with resources. For the deaf, she coordinates with a list of interpreters to make sure they can cover a Liturgy or special event, such as a wedding or funeral, upon request. Once the interpreter is connected with the parishioner, they go over what kinds of preparations need to be made, such as how many hours the service will last and what will be charged. 
“If it’s for a Liturgy the interpreter really should have the music beforehand, the readings. We would like to do the homily, but as much of the information beforehand, so they can be prepared,” Tobin said.  

Part of the problem is that there are few interpreters in the Diocese who know how to perform the Mass, Tobin said, adding “it’s a special skill. It’s a different way of signing.”  

According to Tobin, American Sign Language (ASL), is based on concepts and gestures, making English not only a second language, but a spoken language for the deaf. This translates to an entirely different reading of the Liturgy, something that takes time for an interpreter to plan for. 

“Their English skills are really basic, so they haven’t necessarily gotten that Catechesis they might have, so that’s an area we need to work on as a Diocese,” Tobin said. 

Among some of the resources Tobin has compiled, stands her omnipresent lending library, something teachers, parents, or faith formation leaders can lean on when looking for help. 

Tobin’s library, filled with visual and tactile guides created specifically with disability and age in mind, contain “Social Stories,”or books with an element of interaction, something crucial for those who learn through vision and touch. Tobin’s lending library covers a multitude of resources, from linear puzzles, dioramas, wooden blocks, to a beach ball with religious vocabulary words printed around it. 

Through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany website, under Disabilities and Deaf Ministry (https://www.rcda.org/offices/ disabilities-and-deaf-ministry), those seeking additional resources for accommodations can click on the last link on the left, Catechetical Disability Resources, to open Tobin’s Google Docs folder she developed. Inside, topics cover: Accessibility/Inclusion, Catechesis training through webinars, Mental Health, Sacramental Preparation, and USCCB Statements on People with Disabilities among other topics related to faith and disability ministry. 

“I’m there to empower the schools and parishes to be inclusive, to build a sense of belonging,” Tobin said, “We’re all in this together.”