Thursday, June 30, 2016

Deafblind Awareness Week

What is deafblind?

Deafblind is a combination of deafness and blindness.

Some people think deafblind cannot hear at all.

Most deafblind people hear at least a little.  Most wear hearing aids.  Some wear CI's.  Which are cochlear implants.  The look like round disks on the head, often hid by hair. There are many different kinds as the technology improves.

What can deafblind people hear?

It varies.  Some can hear high pitched tones.  Some can hear low pitched tones.  Some can hear and comprehend sounds, or even most speech with their hearing equipment.  The continuum can be constantly changing, based on weather, health (sinus problems and allergies), environment, background noise, and more.  If there are loud, non-speech sounds, they are often picked up before speech, which cancels out the speech.  This occurs with, or without, hearing aids.

The blind part.

Again, this is as compound/complex as the hearing.  To be legally blind means less than 20 degrees of vision.  Which is a small vision field.  Basically, looking through a single toilet paper roll.  For some - this 20 degrees is crystal clear.  It may be only central.  Or only peripheral.  Or a combination.  And then, comes the sliding scale as to how clear it may, or may not be.  Which, like hearing, can vary based on weather, lighting, health, sinus problems and allergies), environment, and more.  Some people only perceive shadows.  Others, only shapes. While some can still read large and bold print.

What can deafblind people do?

Anything they want to.  Or, maybe it should be, anything others allow them to.  They can work almost any job.  If employers will hire them. Some are very detail orientated, and can see the fly on the shed, and not the dog on the floor in front of them.  About the only thing not possible at this point is a driving job.  And yet, self driving vehicles are closer every day.

What age do people become deafblind?

Every age.  From birth to older adult. A person may go deaf first, and then lose their vision later.  They may lose them both together.  Or they may lose their vision first, and hearing later.

Can older adults learn to live deafblind?

Definitely.  Hearing aids may help.  Braille may help.  Canes may help.  There are many types of equipment that will allow a deafblind individual to access anything they want. Including phone calls, internet, and independent travel and shopping.

What is the biggest hurdle for deafblind people?

Lack of transportation and safe ways to walk to grocery stores, doctors, and even somewhere fun to relax.

What is the second biggest hurdle?

Communication.  Some deafblind people talk, make phone calls, and go anywhere they want, with, or without, a cane. Others only email, and travel with, or without a cane.  Still others have enough vision to lip read, or use sign language.  Especially if they were deaf first, and learned sign language as a child.

What assistance does a deafblind person need?

Ask.  No two have the same needs.  Some are happy to talk on the phone.  Others prefer to only communicate by email or text, and read it in braille or print to fully comprehend the message. Most important, don't treat them different.  They have the same wants, needs, and desires as everyone else.