Tomorrow marks the 135th anniversary of Helen Keller‘s birth. I remember being fascinated by Helen’s story as a young child, full of wonder at how she managed to learn to communicate although she was deaf and blind. (Thought she was born deaf and blind? Check out the myths.) More recently, whilst exploring the d/Deaf/HoH world online, both out of interest as a hearing aid user and as “blogger-in-chief” of Open Ears, I came upon postings about Usher Syndrome, a rare progressive disease that affects both sight and hearing. They gave me a touch of the fear one could have about losing sight in addition to hearing, particularly if one uses sign language. In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the last week of June “Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week” — an occasion to raise awareness about deafblindness and highlight the contributions of those who have this disability. It has since spread to some other anglophone countries. As my contribution to this awareness week, I’d like to share two videos about young deafblind women with you. The first is a documentary produced by and about Brittany, who has been deaf and blind since she was two. She walks us through her life at school and shares her feelings about her disability and relationships with others.
The second is from Molly, who has Usher Syndrome. She has actually set up a charity, the Molly Watt Trust, to advocate and raise awareness about the condition. In her video she tells us about the consequences of being both deaf and blind on her everyday life.
Both are well worth watching and show different faces of deafblindness. There are many others of course, not forgetting those who in old age see their senses fade away to the point where they can no longer make use of them.