Community struggles with the lack of communication and technology, but can overcome those challenges with research and awareness.
Dorothy P. Braziel
A leading activist in the deaf-blind community shared her story with more than 50 faculty members and students Wednesday evening in the American Sign Language department of Nail Technical Center.
Kim Powers, who has been deaf since birth and began losing her sight as a child, is president of the Deaf-Blind Association and a board member of the Deaf-Blind Service Center of Austin.
She used sign language during her lecture, while an interpreter vocalized her remarks to the audience. A service support provider, or SSP, relayed the crowd’s feedback – such as laughter or questions – and described the room’s layout by tracing pro-tactile gestures on Powers’ back.
Powers was born deaf and diagnosed with Usher Syndrome at 11. The syndrome is caused by a defective inner ear and is paired with gradual vision loss.
“When it comes to the deaf-blind culture, people think everyone’s the same,” Powers said. “But that’s really not the case. There are so many different issues that come up.”
She has starred in an award-winning series on The Silent Network called “Kim’s World.” The show featured her doing activities that included going to the zoo, riding an elephant and snow skiing.
Powers is an avid supporter of deaf-blind camps that provide social events and experiences such as skydiving. The camps teach deaf-blind individuals they can do things that people without those disorders can.
Powers, for example, has gone rock-climbing in Maryland.
So far there are eight camps around the country, with more to come, she said.
She emphasized the importance of the camps and other resources.
“Eighty percent of the deaf-blind community might be clueless and feel very isolated because of lack of information or technology,” Powers said.
To avoid feeling isolated, deaf-blind individuals should explore the many ways they can communicate with the world, she said.
Available communications range from finger spelling to tactile communication, which requires the deaf-blind individual to lightly place their hands on the hands of the person signing. More advanced technology includes braille devices such as the wireless Sense U2 and Focus 40, which help deaf-blind individuals adapt to a more tech-savvy lifestyle.
Service support providers can help with everyday tasks, including doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping and paying bills.
Powers said students who want to learn more about communicating with a deaf-blind person can take an American Sign Language class or watch a video on YouTube. Students can also do research online or talk to the ASL department at this college.
“A lot of this information has become proliferated all over the place, and people are finding out more and more about it,” Powers said.