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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf-Blind Reality: Living the Life

Scott M. Stoffel, Editor

9

Daily Life

While homemaking and running errands involve things most people take for granted, such routine activities can be a lot more complicated for people who are deaf-blind. A hearing-sighted person can pick up the phone and call a plumber when the kitchen sink leaks or hop in the car when it’s time for an appointment with the family doctor. But how would you handle these things if you had multiple sensory disabilities?

Some deaf-blind people are fortunate enough to have someone to help them with their daily activities, but many do not, and all have to rely on themselves sometimes. Even the most mundane tasks can create significant stress for people who are deaf-blind and require far more effort and problem-solving thought.

Here, the contributors talk about how they approach managing their homes and tending to errands.

Angela C. Orlando

Homemaking is a topic that makes me want to cringe. I’ve seen professionals and non-deaf-blind people talk about homemaking as an indicator of success. Barbara Walters marveled over how incredible a certain deaf-blind man was, simply because he could cook a meal.

Well, guess what? I don’t like to cook, and I don’t like to clean. It has nothing to do with ability and success. I’m just not interested. I’m never going to be. Yes, I can do it. I’ve lived in an apartment with other young women. I lived in an apartment with a man. I lived in a house with my husband and son. I took care of my home. I just didn’t like doing it. It has nothing to do with my disabilities. It’s just who I am. Some people like to do chores and some don’t.

I live with my parents now. It’s their home. My dad does the yard work and home repairs. My mother does most of the cooking and cleaning. My job is to care for my son, keep our rooms clean, and put away laundry. It works for me.

I’ve had training in cooking and cleaning. I have many kitchen gadgets to help me. For example, I have a George Foreman grill, microwave cooker for rice and pasta, and a microwave gadget that hard-boils eggs. I have Braille measuring cups, tongs for the toaster, other utensils, and long-armed oven mitts. People who are deaf-blind can use many of the same items that blind people use. We just need to avoid the “talking” ones.

I have Braille labels on food and cleaning items. These labels have both Braille and print. That way, my parents can put the labels on while putting away groceries. I rely heavily on these labels to identify what I need. Sure, I can use my sense of touch and smell. But there are some items I just don’t want to sniff.

I have an electric sweeper. It works on both hard floors and carpets. I don’t have to worry about sweeping messes into a dustpan. It goes right into the machine. I just remove the bag when it gets full.

I don’t cook and clean as much as I should. But I can. I’ve got the skills. I just lack the desire. Someday, my parents won’t be around to help me as much. That’s when I’ll have to do more of this on my own.

My parents drive me to appointments or shopping. They’ll take me wherever I need to go. They also help a great deal in getting my son to his many activities and parties or play dates.

Earlier this year, I began using our local transportation service to get to my ASL classes at Kent State. I ride on door-to-door service. They pick me up at my house and take me to the exact location I need to go. I’m the first deaf-blind person ever to use this transportation service here. They had a difficult time understanding my needs at first. They have to come into the building and tap me on the shoulder. It’s the only way I’ll know the bus is there (I have no vision and cannot hear speech now). They also must take me to the exact location and the exact same door every time. Otherwise, I won’t know where I am or how to find where I need to be in the building.


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