I was on a working call this morning with Tracy Luiselli from the New England Deaf-Blind Center and of course we discussed the recent tragedy in Boston. Thankfully, Tracy and her family are safe. Sadly, there are those who perished in the bombing and those who were severely injured.
Tracy and I shared our sadness that our deaf-blind community, our country and our world have experienced so much sadness in recent years due to catastrophic events, some man-made and some caused by the force of nature. Of course we all know that we have lost too many beloved friends and colleagues in the deaf-blind community through accidents and illness.
It would be so easy for all of us to focus on the negative and allow it to become an excuse for not doing what we need to do and a reason to give up. However, I know that the deaf-blind community will not give up because there is so much to be done and despite the challenges so much to celebrate.
I want to share with you a celebration that our project experienced ths past week-end at the Kentucky Association of the Deaf-Blind Annual Conference. I want to share this with you so that the celebration can continue for you and your constituents.
Much of the focus of our agenda was on technology. Marilyn Trader, our Helen Keller Regional Representative joined us and brought one of her colleagues, Sharon Giovinazzo from North Carolina. Both of these women have so much knowledge and expertise to share and it just so happens that both have incredible energy and passion for the work that they do.
They were here to assist consumers and staff with the Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program. Many of the consumers attending live in more rural areas of our state and are older. Very, very few had a cell phone and none had an iPhone. To my knowledge, no one owns an iPad. Marilyn and Sharon were able to demonstrate the uses of items such as these and provide the consumers with an opportunity to practice using them. Representatives from Office for the Blind and Vocational Rehabilitation were there as well and will serve as follow-up support to the consumers.
The most awesome moment came when Sharon shared an app on her iPad that allowed the consumers to bring the evening sky (stars, moon, constellations) down to where they could see these things. The app works like a GPS system and when the iPad camera is turned up toward the sky an individual can see these things within arm's range. One comsumer with Usher Syndrome who is in his 50's could not remember what these things looked like from when he was a boy and started to weep when he saw the stars again after so many years. Another consumer with Usher Syndrome said, "My family sits out on the porch every night and when I ask them what they are doing they always say 'nothing' because they think I wouldn't be interested. Then they start talking about how many stars are in the sky and try to guess how many there are. I always tell them I don't know because I can't see them. Well ..... I can sure see them now!"
These are the moments that keep us motivated and keep us moving. These are the moments that are both profound and humbling for each of us.
Thank you so very, very much to those of you who were instrumental in securing funding for the Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program.
Diane Haynes, M.Ed.
Kentucky Deaf-Blind Project