Canadian Helen Keller Centre

Canadian Helen Keller Centre

June 07, 2016 09:00 ET

June is Deafblind Awareness Month Across Canada

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 7, 2016) - Take a moment and think of all the things you see and hear each day. Whether it is news headlines on the Internet, a loved one's smile, your favourite song on the radio or a conversation with a neighbour - these seemingly incidental sights and sounds can be out of reach for people who have a combined loss of hearing and vision.

To recognize this dual disability, June is celebrated as Deafblind Awareness Month in communities across Canada. It is also the birth month of Helen Keller, an internationally recognized person who lived with deafblindness.

This June, following a national proclamation that was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2015, a committee of consumers, service providers and supporters are working in partnership for the first time to spread the word about deafblindness and make a wave from coast to coast. The group's goal for Deafblind Awareness Month is to come together to educate the public about the unique disability and the support available through intervenor services.

"People who are deafblind can live full, active and meaningful lives if they have the right support systems in place, such as the services of an intervenor," explains Jennifer Robbins, Interim Executive Director of Canadian Helen Keller Centre (CHKC), a founding member of the national alliance. "Intervenors are professionals trained to act as the eyes and ears of a person who is deafblind. They help individuals navigate their environment, communicate, make their own choices and achieve as much independence as possible."

While many people are familiar with Helen Keller's story, they are often unaware that her disability impacts an estimated one in 10,000 Canadians who are deafblind, including many who live in the Greater Toronto Area.

One of these individuals is Doug Milligan, who recently moved from Kingston, Ontario to Toronto. Doug lives happily and independently in his own home at CHKC's Rotary Cheshire Apartments, where he has access to on-duty intervenors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He is also able to book one-on-one sessions with an intervenor daily. With this support in place, Doug is socializing, learning and doing the things he feels passionate about, like writing. He is also becoming more physically active and enjoys walking, body building and hopes to connect with other athletes by getting back into dragon boat racing.

"All people who are deafblind should have the ability to make their own choices and build the vital life skills they need to be active members of their communities, whether they live in a Toronto apartment that offers 24-7 intervenor services or in any other city or town in Canada," adds CHKC's Jennifer Robbins. "With Deafblind Awareness Month initiatives from across the country now united, the abilities of this segment of our population and the importance of intervenor services are gaining more attention on a national scale."

Penny Leclair, a deafblind consumer from Ottawa, agrees.

"Deafblindness is just a concept to most people because it is difficult to imagine what people who are deafblind can do," says Ms. Leclair. "The national awareness initiative is extremely important. Isolation can be severe when you can't communicate with the outside world because you've lost a combination of hearing and vision. By educating the public, we are bringing awareness of the disability of deafblindness across Canada. We hope that our joint efforts will ultimately lead to similar levels of support in all provinces and increased levels of employment for the extremely capable Canadians living with this dual disability."

Please visit the national calendar of events for Deafblind Awareness Month to learn what is happening in your community.

About Canadian Helen Keller Centre

Canadian Helen Keller Centre (CHKC) offers training, intervenor services and affordable housing for deafblind consumers. It is Canada's only residential training centre for people who are deafblind and has played an important role in the lives of individuals, their families and the community since opening its doors in July 2001. Dedicated staff and instructors offer classes to improve skills needed for daily living, which facilitates independence and helps people who are deafblind care for their families and homes. CHKC also provides core programming in technology, orientation and mobility, communication and the use of an intervenor, a specially trained professional who acts as the eyes and ears of a person who is deafblind.

Customized for the varying needs of each individual, CHKC courses include orientation and mobility, communication, computer essentials, use of iOS devices like an iPhone or iPad, safe travel, cooking and kitchen essentials, household management and personal finance. Instruction is available in English, French, ASL and LSQ through one-on-one classes, group workshops, intensive residential stays and/or in a consumer's own home.

CHKC's Rotary Cheshire Apartments (RCA) is North America's only barrier-free independent living residence with intervenor services for people who are deafblind. RCA tenants are active adults and seniors who live independently in their apartments.

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