Changing What it is to be Deafblind – Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880. She was stricken with an illness at 19 months, which left her blind and deaf. Keller overcame her disabilities to become a world-renowned writer and lecturer.

Following her sixth birthday, Keller was referred to Alexander Graham Bell, a pioneer in teaching speech to the deaf. After Bell examined her, he arranged to have a teacher sent to her from the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston.

Her teacher was Anne Sullivan, who was partially sighted, and had learned to teach a blind and deaf student to communicate using a hand alphabet signaled by touch into the student’s palm. Under Sullivan’s dedicated guidance, Keller learned at a staggering rate.

At 14, Keller enrolled at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City, followed by attending the Cambridge School for Young Ladies in Massachusetts. In 1900, she was accepted to Radcliffe, a prestigious women’s college in Cambridge. ​She was a determined and brilliant student and, while still at Radcliffe, her first autobiography, The Story of My Life, was published serially in The Ladies Home Journal and, later as a book.

In addition to her numerous published works, Keller began lecturing, with the aid of an interpreter, primarily on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind. Her lecturing engagements took her several times around the world, and she did much to remove the stigmas and ignorance surrounding sight and hearing disorders.

In 1956, Helen Keller visited CNIB’s National headquarters in Toronto. As a result of her support and encouragement, CNIB created its deafblind services program.

 “My life has been happy because I have had wonderful friends and plenty of interesting work to do,” said Keller. “I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. The wind passes, and the flowers are content.”