What is Isolation? It can be many different things, but I am not going to talk about those. I am going to focus on Deaf-Blind isolation.
Very basically and briefly, deafblindness means a loss of both vision and hearing. That is the rawest definition, the specific range of vision loss and hearing loss vary greatly. Each person who is Deaf-Blind sees and hears things differently.
I have friends who are fully Deaf, with a minor vision loss. I have friends who use Cochlear Implants because their hearing is “attainable”, and their vision is poor. I also have many friends who are gradually becoming full blind while being deaf since birth. Deaf-Blind people are as unique as rare flowers in a florist shop!.
Now, isolation is very common among those who are Deaf-Blind, why? With vision limitations, one cannot see clearly what is happening around them. Then, toss in hearing loss, they can’t hear what is going on around them.
Before I go further: I want you to know that these observations are mine and mine alone. Each person who is Deaf-Blind has different experiences, environments and supports. What might be isolating to some people, may not be isolating to others.
To demonstrate, I will use myself. I mostly rely on my vision to get information of the environment: obviously with ASL communication, who is talking, reading books, clothing, road safety and such. My hearing is too far gone to be of any use. I cannot see clearly to lipread.
If a group of people are talking, I know who is talking, he or she is usually doing random gestures, but what they are saying is obviously lost. If some Deaf friends are signing, and I’m close by, I can usually catch on, but if I’m three feet or more away, I miss everything. If people are loudly arguing, <ASL sign> “me understand not”! 🙂 Sometimes that is good, and sometimes bad! 😉 For me, when people are talking about daily life, I miss out, and that is what is most isolating to me. Hearing friends, family, relatives, church, asking for directions on the street, etc. You get the drift.
Now, you all know the saying: different strokes for different folks. Means different Deaf-Blind people are isolated in different ways. Perhaps they feel isolated shopping or going to the bank or to the gym or running errands or playing games with kids or meeting friends, or meeting friends with different communication needs (remember many Deaf-Blind are ASL fluent, but there are many Deaf-Blind who lack ASL skills and use voice/hearing to communicate). These are just some isolating areas off the top of my head. There are countless more!
You are probably asking yourself, How can this isolation be solved so the Deaf-Blind person can lead a more inclusive life? It is quite simple, really. Provide Deaf-Blind people with Intervenors. An Intervenor is a professional who provides visual and auditory information to assist the Deaf-Blind person to make decisions and experience life to its fullest. They also help by guiding Deaf-Blind, providing additional information and environment cues. An Intervenor should be certified and a graduate of an accredited intervenor training program. One of Canada’s best Intervenor training programs is in Toronto, at the George Brown College-GBC. At GBC, students learn ASL, tactile ASL, two-hand manual (different points on your hand that represent a letter) and large print notes. These methods, and a few more, cover all ways to elevate isolation.
The intervenors help break the cycle of isolation. In Canada, outside of Ontario, there is a seriously lack of respect, understanding and knowledge of an intervenor.
Many agencies with Deaf-Blind consumers, outside of Ontario, hire people who are not certified intervenors, often providing on-the-job training, while certified intervenors who do try to find work are often overlooked. There must be more Intervenor training programs in Canada. More Intervenors, more opportunities!
Remember, the comments above are mine, and not necessarily shared for anyone else. I am pretty sure some Deaf-Blind people are going to be emailing me with angry comments that I missed something vital. I am not worried about that. The point of this blog should be clear: all Deaf-Blind persons across Canada should have access to Intervenors!
Intervenor: the Isolation Buster!