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Stony Brook woman assumes CEO role at Helen Keller Services

Susan Ruzenski is CEO of Helen Keller Services,

Susan Ruzenski is CEO of Helen Keller Services, with headquarters in Brooklyn and offices on Long Island. Credit: Tony Lopez

A Stony Brook woman was tapped as CEO of Helen Keller Services, a national nonprofit that offers vocational and other training to people with vision loss and with combined hearing and vision impairments.

Susan Ruzenski assumed the role Monday, after working as acting CEO of the organization since October.

"I just want to say how excited I am," said Ruzenski, who has worked for Helen Keller Services for more than 40 years. "It's my life career, and it's always been a great place to be."

As head of the Brooklyn nonprofit, Ruzenski oversees the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults, a national program headquartered in Sands Point, and Helen Keller Services for the Blind, a regional program with offices on Long Island and in Brooklyn.

The nonprofit shut its residential vocational program for deaf-blind people in March because of COVID. But it has been serving adults and summer campers digitally, using adaptive technology like Braille displays on iPhones and computers, interpreters on Zoom and those dispatched to assist in-person with tactile sign language or typing, according to Ruzenski.

In New York, face-to-face services have resumed for preschool and some training initiatives, she said.

Ruzenski said the nonprofit served more people in 2020 than in 2019, so it may incorporate some COVID-era programming after the pandemic ends.

"Being able to hook up on Zoom, there’s a lot of efficiencies I guess you could say, but yet, it depends on the person and their ability to access that type of environment," she said. "We're going to keep some of these practices … There's just more options, which is always a good thing."

Helen Keller Services has 250 employees and an annual budget of about $35 million, the nonprofit said.

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