June is National Deafblind Awareness Month!
National Deafblind Awareness Month takes place across Canada in June every year. During this month, Canadians can learn about the disability of deafblindness. In addition, Canadians can celebrate the achievements of deafblind people in their communities and throughout the country.
National Deafblind Awareness Month
Deafblindness is a complex disability that affects people in different ways. People who are deafblind have limited sight and hearing to varying degrees. For example, one person who is deafblind may have some vision and hearing they can use. In contrast, another person may have no vision or hearing. Alternatively, someone may have no vision but some hearing, or vice-versa. In short, people who are deafblind have a range of disabilities.
Moreover, people with different degrees of vision or hearing may read or communicate in different ways. The accessible formats people use to read may depend on their degree of vision and hearing. For instance, people who are visually impaired may read large print, and access computers using:
- Large fonts
- High-contrast settings
- Screen magnification technology
- Large monitors
- Website settings that allow users to enlarge text and images
In contrast, people who are totally blind may read Braille. Someone who is totally blind with some hearing may use a computer with screen reading software. Alternatively, someone with no vision or hearing can read a computer screen using a Braille display.
Similarly, people may use different communication supports. someone who is totally deaf with some vision may communicate in American Sign language (ASL) or by speechreading. In contrast, someone who is totally blind with some hearing may communicate by speaking, using a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Alternatively, someone who is totally deaf and totally blind may use ASL by feeling a signer’s movements. In addition, they may communicate using a computer with a Braille display. They may speak their side of a conversation while the person they converse with types. They can then read the other person’s typed words on the Braille display.
People may use combinations of formats or supports to communicate:
- In person
- By phone, Teletypewriter (TTY) or Video Relay Service (VRS)
- By email or text
Some people who are deafblind use assistive devices, such as white canes, or communication devices, such as hearing aids. Likewise, some people who are deafblind have service animals, such as guide dogs or hearing alert dogs. However, other people’s deafblindness is invisible. People who are deafblind cannot drive, but travel independently by bus, cab, or walking.
Many people do not have friends, family members, or colleagues who are deafblind. As a result, they may assume that someone who is deafblind cannot do every-day things, such as:
- Raise families
- Make friends and have fulfilling social lives
Furthermore, people may feel uncomfortable when someone discloses that they are deafblind. This lack of knowledge may lead to discrimination. For instance, someone may not want to hire a person who is deafblind. National Deafblind Awareness Month is a chance to help the public learn more about all the ways people who are deafblind contribute to their communities. People who are deafblind can live full lives. When they have access to the formats and supports they need to communicate, they can be fully involved in their work, families, and social lives. Raising awareness should reduce the discrimination that people who are deafblind may live with.
Happy National Deafblind Awareness Month to all our readers!