How tough is it to gain a degree in Architectural Technology? How hard is it to be a single father with three teenage children? Is the first day of a new school daunting for a five year old boy?
What about doing these things when you can't hear what people are saying to you and you can't see what's going on.
The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) and Deafblind New Zealand Inc are celebrating the achievements and amazing stories of the deafblind community on Wednesday 27 June by holding community events in Christchurch, Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin to mark Helen Keller Communication Day.
Helen Keller Communication Day will be observed around the world in honour of the renowned deafblind American author, political activist and advocate for deafblind people's rights. Helen Keller was an inspiration in her lifetime and her words and actions continue to provide encouragement and motivation to members of the deafblind community today.
"There are thought to be more than 1,500 New Zealanders whose deafblindness has a significant impact on their lives," says Teresa Bradfield, Head of Client Services at the RNZFB. "Deafblindness is a unique impairment that affects how people are able to communicate, get around the community and access information. Most deafblind people have some useful sight or hearing, although there are those like Helen Keller who are totally deaf and blind."
RNZFB deafblind member and Wellington Architectural student, Amanda Cameron, says that accepting her condition and learning to be more confident in herself has made her a stronger person overall.
"My greatest achievement in life is dealing with the emotional and physical effects of Usher Syndrome and learning to cope with it. I believe strongly in being open with family and friends as it really helps to deal with a condition like Ushers."
Amanda aims to be an Architectural Technician when she completes her studies.
Deafblind NZ Inc. Secretary, Warren Persson from Palmerston North, recognises the challenge of being a solo dad to three teenagers but does not let life get him down.
"I try to stay positive, to keep going and be a good role model for my children."
Warren relishes his role within Deafblind NZ Inc and says, "It is important that we speak for ourselves as deafblind people."
Jennifer Leggett from Waikato has three sons; a-six-year-old, an eight-year-old and a five-year-old named Toby. Toby was born with Infantile Refsum Disease, a neurometabolic disorder, which means he is deaf as well as blind. Toby started school this year which was a huge event for the family as children with Toby's condition have a short life expectancy.
"We didn't expect him to reach five years old, let alone go to school," says Jennifer.
Although it took a while as a family to work out how to cope with a deafblind child, Toby has taught Jennifer how to enjoy life.
"Before I had Toby, I didn't really enjoy the day. Now I have Toby in my life, every day is enjoyment. He makes me realise I have nothing to complain about." To find out more about Amanda, Warren and Jennifer as well as Terry Richards, a rapper who performs using sign language, and Carl Lintott, an artist who is also a deafblind community advocate, log on to the RNZFB website www.rnzfb.org.nz from 25 June.
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