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Government supports deafblind services

8 October 2001 Media Statement

Government supports deafblind services

New government funding for deafblind services is the first official recognition that deafblind people have unique support needs, Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

Ms Dyson said the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind would receive $325,000 a year in new funding to enhance its deafblind services.

Speaking at the 7th Helen Keller Deafblind World Conference in Auckland, Ms Dyson said she was delighted that the Government had officially recognised deafblindness was a unique disability.

"Deafblind people are not blind people who happen to be deaf. Nor are they deaf people who happen to be blind. They face unique challenges that require special methods of communication, mobility and learning."

Ms Dyson said the funding would enable the Foundation for the Blind to enhance the services it was already providing for deafblind people.

"The new funding will enable the foundation to provide more specialist support for deafblind people, and improve their access to general services."

Ms Dyson said deafblindness was relatively rare, and all service providers need to be trained to deal with it.

"Deafblindness affects around 15000 people in New Zealand. However, with an ageing population this number is predicted to grow. So it is essential that our general support services – teachers, therapists, doctors, home help services and so on – are all equipped to deal with it.

"The same is true for aged care providers. Older people are the biggest – but least visible – group in the deafblind population. Too often, they are isolated in their own homes without enough support, or moved into residential care where their dual sensory loss is not noticed or considered an inevitable part of growing old."

Ruth Dyson congratulated Deafblind New Zealand for hosting the Helen Keller conference, which is being attended by over 300 people from 46 countries, and for its efforts to get deafblindness recognised as a condition in its own right.

ENDS

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