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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf-Blind Reality: Living the Life
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I use both a cane and a dog, but only one at a time. I do not use the cane too much, now that I have a dog. My dog is a hearing dog but understands the guiding role, too. [Hearing dogs are trained to alert deaf people to certain sounds, such as a knock on the door or a telephone ring, but do not have guide training.] I use a cane when I go out without the dog but only in unfamiliar places. When I go out in familiar places without the dog, I just go as if nothing is wrong with my vision. It is not that I am uncomfortable with the cane; it is that I just know where I am and just want to feel “free.” I am quite comfortable with the cane and dog.

Being guided by a sighted person is fine by me, provided this person is able to guide well and knows what to do when something happens. It is important for sighted guides to know sign language, as well, because I want to be able to communicate with them. Not being able to communicate with a sighted guide frustrates me and can lead to problems when something doesn’t go the way I expect.

When strangers try to help by grabbing my arm and “steering” me, I simply reverse what they are trying to do and tell them what I want to do by grasping their upper arm or placing my hand on their shoulder for support. I tell them to walk in front of me or to the side so as not to be in my way. If they continue to grab my arm, I stop and just stand there and let them understand what they are doing wrong.

Melanie Bond

My husband does the shopping. Sometimes, I accompany him to the grocery store. Usually, he’ll pull the cart along, while I hold onto the handlebar. When I go to DB (deaf-blind) camps and on DB cruises, I do my shopping with the help of an SSP (support service provider).

I don’t have a problem taking a bus or paratransit, if a car is not available. I still have two good feet and don’t mind walking to wherever I want to go.

I love eating out! I love walking the 17.5-mile riverwalk/rail trail in Bay City, Michigan. I love searching the online library catalog, which allows me to order library books and place a hold on them so that those books are set aside for me. My husband usually takes me to the library to pick up my books and drop them off when I’m finished with them. I always feel confident, as long as I’m with someone. I enjoy knowing that I can get out and do things like everybody else, for the most part.

I used to be real good about taking my white cane everywhere I went. But whenever I go out with my husband, I never take my cane because he loves to hold my hand and guide me. The cane is nothing to be ashamed of, although I do wish we could personalize our canes by choosing our favorite reflective colors. At first, I did feel a little embarrassed about using such a bright red and white cane, but I quickly learned that using my cane was like parting a sea of people, so that the way before me was cleared. I no longer care what other people think about my cane, because safety should be the most important consideration for any person who is blind or deaf-blind.

I do like being guided by a sighted guide. It’s nice holding hands with my husband. It’s nice being guided by an SSP who knows how to guide deaf-blind people properly to keep them safe.

When strangers grab my hand and start to pull me against my wishes, I shake their hands off and tell them that I prefer to place my hand on the back of their arm, just above the elbow, and tell them where I want to go. It’s always so important to educate anyone that you come into contact with, so they can learn more about our deaf-blind culture and ways of doing things in the safest manner possible.

I can see myself moving to a deaf-blind community and possibly to an assisted-living center that would provide me with deaf-blind services and accessible communication, if I ever find myself without a mate. I would not want to depend on my siblings or my grown children to look after me.

Patricia Clark

In my teenage years, my disabilities were not severe enough to limit me in public. I was living at home with my parents so I did not deal with tradesmen or domestic shopping. Job interviews were horrifying and usually did not go well.

The years passed and I left home, and my sight and hearing became worse. The supermarket took care of domestic shopping, although I could not always find what I wanted or read the prices and could not ask questions, as I was unable to hear the answer. I simply found alternatives.

Appointments with the GP went quite well, but it’s surprising how many specialist doctors do not understand the word “deaf ” and just go on shouting when I ask them politely to write down what they want to say. In hospitals, I wear a badge that says, “My sight and hearing are impaired,” as it seems easier for receptionists and others to read the badge rather than listen to what I say.


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