Saturday, June 22, 2013

Deaf Blindness Awareness Week

By Nurse Diane

The Silence is deafening.... This is a saying that I have used, usually when it is so quiet.  Last year we had a tornado rip through my neighborhood in the middle of the night.  The storm knocked out the power and there were no lights, no sounds of air-conditioning units humming, no traffic, not even a chirp of a cricket.   There were no streetlights, no moon or stars shining in the sky.  All that was left was a feeling of aloneness and fear.   This sensation was brief.  Soon people began starting generators, driving vehicles and dots of light began to appear, and life returned to normal.

Those who suffer from hearing loss and loss of sight do not have the luxury of experiencing a brief occurrence then returning back to sound and sight.  These amazing people have learned to adapt, to change and use other senses to survive and excel in the world.  Probably one of the most famous of the deaf/blind community is Helen Keller.
Helen was not born deaf or blind, she contracted an illness when she was 19 months old, probably meningitis, which took her hearing and sight.  This also affected her ability to speak as well.  Fortunately, her family was able to provide a personal teacher, Anne Sullivan, who was able to live with Helen and work with her, teaching her what is now widely known as sign language.  Helen's life is depicted in the movie The Miracle Worker.  In this movie, the pivotal moment is where Helen realizes that the movement her teacher has been pounding into her hand is actually the word for water. The realization that she has learned something can be seen all over her face as she races around trying to learn as much as she can as fast as possible.

Helen went on to become a world famous speaker and author.  She helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), worked for women's rights, the suffragette movement, worker's rights, and was an advocate for people with disabilities.  She met with several presidents, and other famous people such as Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell and Charlie Chaplin.  Helen Keller showed the world that being blind and deaf did not prevent her from being a valuable contributor to society.  Today, people who are blind or deaf do not label themselves as handicapped, but impaired.  Loss of one sense does not alter a person's usefulness in today's society.  In fact their contributions have proved to enhance it.   Ludwig van Beethoven, one of he most famous composers of all time, continued to write and perform long after he lost his hearing at a young age.  Claude Monet, one of the world's most famous artists, continued painting after his eyesight began to fail.

The purpose of this week is to make everyone aware that the loss of one's sight or hearing does not define a person as handicapped or helpless, and just as these people have learned to adapt and use the abilities they have, so must the rest of us learn to adapt and learn how to communicate and assist those affected so that everyone will be able to function at the best of their ability.

Things you can do to help:

Take a sign language class
Read to the blind
Work with training assist dogs
Donate time and money
Shop for a friend or neighbor

For more information see:

(Photos from Google) 

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