Deafblindness is a condition in which a person has a combination of hearing and visual impairments causing severe communication, developmental, and educational needs. People with deafblindness often find themselves isolated and neglected. Deafblindness arising through illness, accidents or hereditary condition can happen to anyone in any stage of life. It’s important to remember that people with deafblindness also are as much a part of society as anyone else. Ensuring that they have maximum quality of life is very important so that their dignity and social well-being should not be downgraded just because of a disability. As a society and caregivers, we need to understand their needs of recreation and leisure as a need similar to any other person.
Following are some suggestions that can help you as caregivers in enhancing their social lives:
Plan outdoor trips and visits
Every once in a while taking a break from similar surroundings can bring a refreshing change. Even the fanciest homes can feel restricting if someone is forced to be confined to them. Make sure that you take the person with deafblindness for walks or visits to the local place of worship or zoos, parks etc. Even if a trip can only be organised once a month, due to personal work or family needs it does really make a difference. Why it’s important? Change in environment may help them come out from their shell which they retreat into due to isolation. People with deafblindness learn through real life experience, probability for which increases outside the home in company of other peers. Visits can be part of their education too. For example, if you are going to a zoo you can educate them about animals in the zoo.
Being around other people encourages people with deafblindness to develop their social skills that help them to make friends and integrate into the community. They are less likely to feel lonely or isolated if they have friends, caregivers and family to support them. They should be valued in their social circles and have the right to choose their friends and control in relationships. It is their right to take part in the community occasions. Many people feel bad or stigmatized to take the person with deafblindness to any special occasion even if it doesn’t require travelling for a long time. Friendship brings about a sense of belonging and we all like feeling needed, don’t we?
Give encouragement to pursue hobbies and extracurricular activities
Keeping the mind active is important for their health as much as it is satisfying. If possible, offer to introduce deafblind person to health focus type fitness programs or sports groups. These usually range from a more gentle activity such as water exercises, yoga and other kinds of exercises aimed at improving mobility and circulation, to more complex sports and games such as marathons and so on. Art can also be a means for relaxation and expression. Keenly observe and assess their intelligence and inklings and encourage the same.
Jobs and volunteering
There are many kinds of skills that a person with deafblindness can be trained in. Many skills are perfected by mere repetition of the task, however proper planning and observation should be carried out before engaging in any kind of skill. Analyse what s/he can do with ease and involve them in that. There are many vocational skills that are easy enough to be taught to people with disabilities like packing pens, jewelry making, paper quilling etc. Engaging in volunteering work that they can manage can bring in a feeling of contribution and self worth. For eg; volunteering to clean their premises or other community works Also if they get paid for any work, it’s meaningful income towards themselves or their families and a boost to their morale. It will help them to avail a place in the society in a dignified way.
Being presentable and well dressed has positive effects on a person’s psyche and boosts their confidence. This applies to persons with disabilities as well. One lady who is blind and runs a canteen in my workplace is always “dressed up” in the best she can. Initially I pondered why she did that when she can’t see herself but slowly I realized it’s because she knows others do see her even if she doesn’t!
Dowdy appearances are not okay for anyone then why should they be for a person with disability? Teach them to groom themselves and help them pick out things that they like. If they can’t on their own, then caregivers can spend some time to do that for them. However person with deafblindness may have limitations because of their vision and hearing but it should not be a limiting factor.
Spend quality time EVERYDAY
Love is a strong confidence booster. Just attending to needs is not sufficient for a person with disability. Do not isolate emotionally as unlike a sighted and hearing person, they cannot pick up on gestures and expressions. They rely on knowledge given by signs and touches. Genuine love and care help them to understand that they are significant too for someone. Even though communicating is often tough but expressing through actions and emotions is not. They may not always be able to reciprocate but they do understand it and feel it. So do not lose hope in giving your love and attention freely.
I know there is so much more that can be done and is being done by many of you. Share with us what more can be done from the society’s part to help people with deafblindness feel loved and accepted. We love to learn from your experiences!
(written by Sheryl)