Helen Keller’s Enlightenment -Vocational Rehabilitation for the Deafblind

photo of keller helenSometimes a condition can become entirely associated with a person who suffered from it, and one of those is the vision characteristics of the Deafblind. It will be forever associated with Helen Keller, someone many of us learn about in school. This connection is used to promote awareness and understanding for people with Deafblind symptoms every year with the Hellen Keller Deafblind Awareness Week, which supports the legally blind in a number of ways.

Helen Keller Deafblind Awareness Week

Hellen Keller was born in Alabama in 1880, who suffered an unknown illness at just 19 months old that left her both deaf and blind. Modern medical assessments of the descriptions of her illness lead experts to believe she could have suffered from Meningitis or Haemophilus influenzae, but the exact causes of the Deafblind symptoms she suffered from the rest of her life can never be certain.

Despite the challenges of the condition, Keller went on to become an author, activist and lecturer. With the support of Anne Sullivan, who taught her to read and write along with many language skills, Keller attended Harvard University, becoming the first Deafblind person in the United States to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

helen keller went on to become an author, activist and lecturerShe learned to ‘hear’ others using her fingers, which she held on to the lips and throat of the person she was talking to, known as the Tadoma method. Keller wrote 14 books over her life, was a champion of the American Foundation for the Blind and became an avid political activist, campaigning for a diverse range of causes including women’s suffrage and labor rights, eventually becoming a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Her passionate advocacy for people with disabilities and other causes including birth control made her world famous, and she was in demand for speeches and lectures everywhere. By the end of her career, she had given thousands of speeches in twenty five different countries. Her autobiography has been translated into a successful play and movie, and she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most important people of the 20th Century.

By living life in the way that she did, as an activist, an author, a lecturer and more, she redefined what suitable jobs for the Deafblind were then and are today. Her determination to push through the perceived limitations of what others thought her capable of remains as an inspiration to people with Deafblind symptoms today.

protect the eyes of the deafblind peopleThe Hellen Keller Deafblind Awareness Week was first held in 1984 and continues proudly today with the same goals. The week is designed as a national advocacy campaign to recognize and celebrate the achievements and capabilities of people who are Deafblind. This includes celebrating businesses who employ those with Deafblind symptoms and helping employers provide vocational rehabilitation for deafblind people that can make so much difference to their confidence and quality of life.

How does Deafblind Happen?

The definition of Deafblind is a patient with both visual and hearing loss to the extent that they cannot be accommodated by either deafness programs or blindness programs, but requires more extensive care. It is a condition that occurs mostly in children, although it can develop in adulthood as a result of other medical complications.

The causes of Deafblind symptoms vary considerably. Some develop Deafblind symptoms at birth, caused by issues including prematurity, several congenital symptoms, complications in childbirth and more. Like Helen Keller herself, some develop Deafblind Symptoms as a result of severe medical issues including Meningitis, Brain Injury and several inherited conditions. Again, while this onset of Deafblind is most common in children, it can affect anyone of any age. Because the causes of Deafblind are often serious in themselves, people with Deafblind often suffer from other cognitive, physical or other disabilities and have additional healthcare needs.

deafblind usually happens in childhoodDeafblind symptoms vary for each individual, with around 23% legally blind and a further 10% totally blind. However, while those with 20/200 vision make up a significant number, around 60% have vision loss that falls within functional and progressive.

It is a similar situation with hearing, around 30% have severe to profound hearing loss, with 60% ranging between moderately severe to functional hearing loss. Individuals may have better hearing than vision and vice versa, and the exact composition of each loss will define the experience of life the Deafblind patient has.

Vocational Rehabilitation Resources for the Deafblind

When we talk about vocational rehabilitation for the Deafblind, the first question is often about what suitable jobs for the Deafblind would be. While there are some limitations in terms of mobility, people with Deafblind have proved highly adaptable to many different jobs, and with modern assistive technology for the Deafblind and the ability to work remotely from home, there are opportunities for everyone.

While the Helen Keller Deafblind Awareness Week is focused on the United States, there are resources around the world to help and people with Deafblind symptoms wherever they may be. Here are some to help you find the information and assistance you need close to home.

vocational rehabilitation resources for the deafblind

International Agencies

Deafblind International

A not-for-profit organization ran by volunteers from around the world dedicated to the needs of people with Deafblind, their families and the service providers who help them.

The World Federation of the Deafblind

A global organization that champions the rights and needs of those with Deafblind symptoms around the world. Provides valuable information on the global state of the Deafblind and the organizations working to help them.

Country Specific

National Center on Deaf-Blindness

Bringing together a network of projects for Deafblind children across the U.S. including every state, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the Pacific Basin, and the Virgin Islands. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Helen Keller Services

Offering support and a range of services to help people with Deafblind across the United States.

Deafblind UK

A UK charity that offers support, education and other services to help those with Deafblind symptoms in the UK.

Deafblind Information Australia

Brings all the information and support available in Australia together for easy access for those with Deafblind symptoms. Funded and supported by a number of government agencies, it is the state support hub for anyone in the country.


The Deafblind and Sensory support network of Canada provides information and a range of services to help Deafblind and other sensory challenged people obtain the best quality of life possible.

vocational rehabilitation resources for the deafblind

We see many awareness weeks for various medical issues looking to raise awareness to gain better treatment, diagnosis and other solutions. The Helen Keller Deafblind Awareness Week is something quite different, as it sets out to raise awareness of the issues facing those people with Deafblind in living life to their fullest.

From promoting the idea of vocational rehabilitation for the Deafblind to challenging stereotypes of suitable jobs for Deafblind people, this week is a celebration of achievement and overcoming adversity in incredible ways. By seeking to educate employers, this week can open up new opportunities for people with Deafblind looking to boost their confidence and abilities through vocational placements.

Helen Keller herself redefined what people with Deafblind symptoms could achieve, and today her legacy continues as each year we celebrate the incredible contributions and lives of the deafblind today.

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