Deaf-Blind Blog: Christine’s “Tactile the World”
I just discovered a new blog that was set up earlier this week by a Deaf-Blind blogger named Christine (aka “Coco” and “Tactilejunkie”). It looks like she is going to describe her own experiences as a woman with Usher’s syndrome in the process of adapting to her gradual loss of vision. She also has some links to various sites on Deaf-Blindness that should be helpful to anyone who wants to educate themselves about the Deaf-Blind community. She also says that she welcomes anyone to send her relevant information on Deaf-Blindness.
I once read somewhere that about 2 percent of people born deaf have Usher’s syndrome or become blind due to some other cause. (Someone correct me if I have my numbers wrong.) Many people with Usher’s syndrome start losing their vision during their late teens and early 20s — in other words, at exactly the time they have gone off to college. But sighted deaf people often exclude deaf-blind people. Sometimes this might happen intentionally because they don’t want to have to adapt to their needs. But other times, even good-hearted sighted deaf people who pride themselves on being “open-minded” and “welcoming of diversity” may still exclude deaf-blind people, not because they mean to but because they don’t know enough about deaf-blindness to recognize a barrier when they see one, or to realize when they themselves are creating barriers to keep them out. Or a sighted deaf person may mean well but feels awkward and uncomfortable because they’re not accustomed to interacting with a deaf-blind person–and that might subsciously influence them to avoid the deaf-blind person without even realizing they’re doing it.
If we want to create a deaf community (or a Gallaudet University community) that is truly welcoming for deaf-blind people, then we each need to start with ourselves. Look within yourself: how much do you know about deaf-blindness? Could you be creating barriers to their participation in community life without even realizing it? For example, if you throw away your TTY because you now use video phone for everything–then what happens if you someday make friends with a deaf-blind person who can only call using a TTY?
Keep an eye on Christine’s new blog. It’ll be interesting to see (feel?) where it goes next.