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Helen Keller Day – Celebrating a Unique Disabilit

Media Release
26 June 2006

Helen Keller Day – Celebrating a Unique Disability

For an estimated 1,500 New Zealanders- a life without sight and sound is a reality shared with one of this century's most inspirational women – Helen Keller.

June 27 marks the 126th anniversary of Helen Keller's birth and celebrates a life dedicated to breaking the barriers of the unique disability that is deafblindness. Helen Keller championed the rights of the deafblind and encouraged their full participation in society.

Deafblind couple Helen and Steve are living proof that despite only having limited hearing and sight after both being born with Rubella, they are more than able to lead full, independent lives.

"If someone described Helen and Steve to you, you would think they were like anyone else; they're married, own their own home, enjoy socialising with friends and often babysit their nieces and nephews," says Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind's Deafblind Services Manager, Kerry Blackhall.

"Our deafblind members have varying amounts of vision and hearing loss, and with the right support they can break down the barriers of deafblindness and participate in society."

At the extreme end of the spectrum is 25 year old Stephen who is profoundly deaf and totally blind and can only use basic hand-on-hand sign language to communicate.

"While Stephen will never work he has achieved in his own way and participates in daily activities such as cooking classes, swimming and going to the gym which he looks forward to and enjoys," says Mrs Blackhall.

"Helen Keller was, and continues to be the shining light for the deafblind community. Her passion and her commitment to creating an independent world for deafblind people is a legacy we will always uphold.

"Through her work, our deafblind members have more opportunities to meet the challenges of their disability head on and are able to succeed in the communicating world,"says Mrs Blackhall.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind is the primary provider of support for deafblind people and offer a service that caters for a diverse group of people.

Like many other disabilities deafblindness relies on the understanding and acceptance of the wider community if those affected are to break the barriers of isolation and contribute in a meaningful way.

If you know someone who may be deafblind and would like more information about the services and support that is available, please contact the RNZFB's Deafblind Services by phoning 0800 24 33 33 and asking to speak with a Deafblind Co-ordinator.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind is the primary provider of rehabilitation services for 11,500 blind, deafblind and vision-impaired people, aged 1-105. Only one-third of the Foundation's annual operating budget comes from government sources - the rest must be raised.

ENDS

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