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Happy Deafblind Awareness Month!

By: Abby Sienko
CNIB National Youth Council Member

In 2015, Canada officially proclaimed June to be Deafblind Awareness Month. Deafblindness (DB) is a dual sensory loss impacting hearing and vision. Only 1% of Canadians are DB. Congenital Deafblindness is when a person becomes DB before language development (3 months – 2 years of age). Whereas Acquired Deafblindness anytime after this. I am congenitally DeafBlind and the view I see is half the world. I am also hard of hearing. 

Navigating the world around me has its challenges since both my primary senses are diminished. I have learned various adaptive techniques to maneuver. I rely heavily on my white cane, hearing aids, sign language interpreters, sighted guides and intervenors. Intervenors are basically the 'eyes and ears' of the operation, where the person accompanying me describes the environment and provides minimal sign language interpreting. I utilize them when I’m in an unfamiliar environment or at nightly events. Abby walks along a lush green nature pathway and navigates with their white cane. Abby is turned away from camera.

While audiobooks are inaccessible to me, large print books and eBooks are. Audio descriptions and closed captions allow me to watch my favourite shows. 

I must have double the accommodations or 'different' accommodations when working with blind or sighted, Deaf or hearing groups of people. I use (tactile) sign language, large print text, closed captions, tactile navigation, and interpreters. 

As a person who is DeafBlind, I bring a unique perspective to the CNIB National Youth Council and our advocacy work. While there may be similarities between the blind and low vision community, being DeafBlind is vastly different. I am proud to be a part of the National Youth Council and amplify the voices of people who are Deafblind.

It makes me wonder what else is out there for Deafblind youth to initiate and establish a sense of community, network, and belonging. What supports do you provide and advocate for?