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Life has its funny moments

Our eyes and ears take in an incredible amount of information from the world around us. Can you imagine no longer being able to use these senses? This is a reality for many Australians who are affected by the dual disability of deafblindness.

People who are deafblind have various combinations of hearing and vision loss. This may range from being hard of hearing and partially sighted to being totally blind and profoundly deaf.

Steve Ripley, 47, from Claremont Meadows, grew up with severe-profound deafness and uses sign language and speech to communicate. When he turned 30 his vision began to deteriorate as well.

"Deafblindness has presented many frustrations for me over the years, but my involvement with Vision Australia has enabled me to learn effective techniques to improve my communication and daily living skills, it has made a huge difference to me," he added.

As a teacher at TAFE, Steve is faced with a mountain of paper work everyday. From teaching plans to study material, there is a lot to get through and Steve uses a number of different technical aids such as extra lighting, magnification and voice or braille output software to help him keep on top of things.

"People see me with a Guide Dog and automatically assume I am fully blind. Confusion reigns when they then see me using sign language with friends or interpreters. I arrived at a seminar one time and the facilitator's first question was 'How does your dog interpret for you'? Deafblindness does have its funny moments!" he laughed.

Perhaps the best known person who was deafblind is Helen Keller. Helen was born in 1880 in the United States and inspired people around the world as she told her personal story of what it is like to be deafblind. Today her legacy lives on.

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