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Lending your eyes and ears

From: The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind

Lending your eyes and ears - communicators with a difference

Have you ever wondered how would you communicate if you had limited hearing and sight?

How would you keep up with current affairs, your university courses, business meetings, the gossip down the street, or where your favourite Super 12 rugby team is placed in the division?

Feeling isolated yet?

We take our everyday communication for granted, but these simple activities pose many challenges for those in our community who are deafblind.

Without the support of specially trained ‘communicators’ our deafblind neighbours, friends and family will always be isolated, even by those closest to them.

Helen Keller Communication Day on the 27 June is the day the public can show their support for the deafblind community in New Zealand.

Traditionally observed on Helen Keller’s birthday, Helen Keller Communication Day/Week is promoted world-wide to increase people’s understanding of deafblindness.

Supported by Deafblind NZ Inc and the Royal Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB), Helen Keller Communication Day 2002 aims to inform others of the importance of having specially trained ‘communicators’ in the lives of deafblind individuals.

“Communication is vital to us,” says Max Comer, President of Deafblind NZ Inc “We rely heavily on those people in our lives who can act as our ears and our eyes, but at the moment there are not enough communicators available to New Zealanders who are deafblind.”

Mr Comer says the deafblind value communicators who will visit them at home and help with accounts, correspondence and telephone calls and escort them on shopping trips, visits to the doctor, leisure activities or when they go to work. In the case of younger members, communicators play an essential role in connecting them with their teachers, their peers and extra curricular activities.

“We’d like those who are interested in registering as volunteer communicators to contact us through the RNZFB 0800 line (0800 24 33 33),” says Mr Comer.

“From there, they will be given more information about the role and have training in the special communication techniques from the Co-ordinators RNZFB Deafblind Services.”

Gloria Campbell, Practice Advisor, RNZFB Deafblind Services reiterates the importance of communicators. “Communication is a necessity. It is the key that enables a deafblind person to have full participation in New Zealand society, without it New Zealanders who are deafblind are isolated.”

“Many families, communities and groups are unaware of the services available to them and how they themselves might be able to help the deafblind person in their life,” says Ms Campbell.

“It is important that people know Deafblind NZ Inc and the RNZFB can offer support, services, training and advice to those who need it.”

Communication is essential in every sphere of life, so New Zealanders who are deafblind ask you to remember their unique challenges and consider being a ‘star’ in their lives on Helen Keller Communication Day 2002.

- ends -

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