How do deafblind people cope?

Disability International.


Condensed from Review of European Federal Republic of Germany.

Many people would have mixed emotions if if they entertained the thought that one of their acquaintances had become deaf and blind, which would not be a surprising reaction considering that most information about the environment is taken in through the eyes (about 80 per cent). And then there is that which is received by the ears.

In what way then, does a deafblind individual, having neither a sense of hearing nor of vision, grasp his, or her environment?

As a deafblind person, I rely heavily on two of the remaining faculties, my sense of smell and sense of touch.

My sense of smell is my only possibility of gaining distant impressions of events happening around me. There are many more sensations our noses are able to provide us with than people think.

For example, when the air is clear and warm on a sunny Saturday afternoon, people will keep their windows open. So, going for a walk with my guide, I happen to learn, without being obtrusive, what some families are having for lunch.

This sense of smell can also tell me whether I am alone in a street or not. Somebody will be smoking a cigarette, someone else a cigar or a pipe. Sometimes you will be aware of a person who has had "one too many."

I very much like sauntering through a big department store. Here there is the smell of bread, cakes, and pastries. Then the meat products will give themselves away. At still another place, the aroma of sweets will dominate. I could list many more examples of the pleasure that a deaf/blind person can derive from being in a big department store.

Waiting in a crowded barber shop need not degenerate into boredom either.

It is interesting to identify different sorts of after-shave lotions and shampoos. By means of one's nose, it is easy to discover whether there are waiting customers reading newspapers. It should also be pointed out that particular garments have smells of their own.

Also. by the sense of smell I can gather travel impressions. On a certain train journey. there is the disagreeable smell of lignite as the train travels through a particular area, and other distinctive industrial odors at places along the line. I have no need to ask my guide where we are because my nose will let me know,

On another journey, I enjoy sitting on an express train and rolling along between Brandenburg and Potsdam with the windows open. There is a rather long stretch, which gives a wonderful smell of water, woods, and meadows, so that I feel like getting off the train and wandering about in the countryside.

A deaf/blind individual who is resolved to getting something out of life must also make use of his tactual sense and train his "feeling" to take advantage of all possible tactual sensations. In the street again, cars passing by at great speeds will stir the air to such an extent that the air stream and dust whirls up and affects pedestrians.

Heavy vehicles on the road cause vibrations that can be sensed, even indoors. Being out of doors and on the streets offers opportunities for further "training" of one's tactual sense.

One can learn to know the type of stone a building consists of, whether a fence is wooden or iron. Even the different species of trees and flowers, which have been planted to improve the appearance of the street, have their own "tactile" identity.

When I go out for a walk, unintentional physical contacts will often be made as well. These contacts, even though they might be unpleasant, can provide "information." Have you been jostled by a fat or thin person, bad or good-mannered? Was the person tall or short?

When loud music is playing in a hall, I notice it very well because of the vibrations emanating from table tops and from the floor. This applies in particular to resounding drum beats. Certain kinds of wood seem to be just made for it. Any violinist can demonstrate this property with his/her wooden instrument.

It is my hope and wish that these words may reach as many relatives of deaf/blind people as possible, so that the lives of deaf/blind individuals may become more varied and interesting.

This document is from,

A-Z to Deafblindness