I’ve been working with a gentleman who is deaf and blind for about 3 months now. His name is Bert Smith and he is receiving braille lessons but has had no exposure to technology. Recently, he received a Brailliant BI14 and an iPhone SE2020 through the Helen Keller Foundation. The goal was to allow him to communicate via text message.
After a few months, we were still very much in the beginning learning stages. We have almost gotten the sequence of sending a message down. Even though he doesn’t know how to read and respond to the new messages, he is very excited about talking to everyone while getting assistance to read responses. This has opened up the opportunity to communicate with the young adults at his church with whom he is very popular.
Karen Maxton, Bert’s interpreter, has noticed an increase in Bert’s language and storytelling skills. Bert’s original mode of communication outside the deaf community was using index cards with his Perkins Brailler. His braille teacher mentioned that when Bert was asked to write notes about his day, he would tell them he was too tired and it was too hard. This is no longer the case.
We are beginning to see a real growth and a new desire for life in Bert. He has even taken up macramé again. He made me a beautiful keychain and he is creating crosses and plant hangers.
Probably the most impactful moment of Bert’s training so far was when Karen and I had tell him that his braille teacher, and dear friend, passed away. This hit Bert very hard and we cried together. Even with the bad news, Bert still wanted to work on his newfound communication skills. Bert found his pastor was in his list of contacts and wanted to send him a message. Karen made a phone call to Pastor to let him know what was going on. Bert was able to text his pastor and tell him his friend has died so they could pray together over text. This wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the opportunity for us to work together.
- Terese Goren, ATS, Workforce Innovation Center
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