Take a moment and think of all the things you see and hear each day. Whether it is news headlines on the internet, a loved one’s smile, your favourite song on the radio or a conversation with a neighbour—these seemingly incidental sights and sounds can be out of reach for people who have a combined loss of hearing and vision.
To recognize this dual disability, June is celebrated as Deafblind Awareness Month in communities across Canada. It is also the birth month of Helen Keller, an internationally recognized person who lived with deafblindness.
This month, following a national proclamation that was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2015, a committee of consumers, service providers and supporters are working in partnership to spread the word about deafblindness and make a wave from coast to coast. The group’s goal for Deafblind Awareness Month is to come together to educate the public about the unique disability and the support available through intervenor services.
“People who are deafblind can live full, active and meaningful lives if they have the right support systems in place, such as the services of an intervenor,” explains Jennifer Robbins, interim executive director of Canadian Helen Keller Centre (CHKC), a founding member of the national alliance. “Intervenors are professionals trained to act as the eyes and ears of a person who is deafblind. They help individuals navigate their environment, communicate, make their own choices and achieve as much independence as possible.”
While many people are familiar with Helen Keller’s story, they are often unaware that her disability impacts an estimated 65,000 Canadians who are deafblind, including many who live in British Columbia.
“All people who are deafblind should have the ability to make their own choices and build the vital life skills they need to be active members of their communities, whether they live in a Toronto apartment that offers 24-7 intervenor services or in any other city or town in Canada,” said CHKC’s Jennifer Robbins. “With Deafblind Awareness Month initiatives from across the country now united, the abilities of this segment of our population and the importance of intervenor services are gaining more attention on a national scale.”
Please visit www.dbco.ca for the calendar of events (under ‘News’) for Deafblind Awareness Month to learn what is happening in communities across Canada.