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Deafblind: Unique Communicators

To say that someone who is deafblind faces unique challenges when trying to communicate with others could be seen as stating the obvious. Yet is it? While many will have tried to imagine living without one of their key senses few will have tried to imagine what it is like to be without two. Yet for over 1,000 New Zealanders, living without sight and hearing is a reality.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind is the only provider of services and support to deafblind people to enable them to meet the challenge of deafblindness and maintain independence. The RNZFB believes that government should fund services to deafblind people although at present it is not.

Working with the Foundation is the consumer group DeafBlind NZ Inc, which has just elected the following people on to its committee. Max Comer, President, Huntly Terry Free, first Vice President, Auckland Don Birnie, second Vice President, Wellington Malcolm Haynes, Secretary, Hastings Graham Scahill, Treasurer, Whangarei On the committee are: Bruce Clough, Taranaki; Margaret Wiberg, Timaru; June Stead, Hastings and Gloria Campbell of Auckland. "We will be setting up cell groups in various areas so that the committee can keep in touch with deafblind members around the country. We also want to keep the issue of deafblindness in front of the community so that everyone understands the challenges people face and become aware of what they can do to remove barriers to people's full participation in the community," says DeafBlind Inc's new president, Max Comer.

Being deaf and blind is a unique disability that requires special methods of communication. It also calls for special skills if a deafblind person is to move safely around the community and workplace. And there are special adjustments that have to be made so that every day tasks can be completed.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind and DeafBlind Inc. will be working together over the next few weeks to raise awareness of the special needs of deafblind people particularly as Helen Keller Day approaches on 27 June.

Helen Keller Day acknowledges the challenges faced by deafblind people while recalling one of the most admired deafblind people of all time. Helen Keller was left deafblind when she contracted an illness as a two year old. However, she went on to graduate from college and became a champion of the under privileged and oppressed.


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