During a time when we are physically separated from family, friends and our peers, technology helps to bridge the communication gap and encourage social connection from afar.
Although checking social media platforms, browsing the internet, and navigating video and audio streaming services are considered normal interactions, they also open doors of accessibility for others.
For Steven, a man with deaf-blindness, Facebook and email connect him with the outside world. “I communicate online because I like to talk to people … it is faster and easier (for me) to communicate.”
Deaf-blindness, a combined loss of hearing and vision, impacts access to information, communication and mobility. Born with Rubella, also known as the German measles, Steven is profoundly deaf, and blind in his left eye. He is legally blind in his right.
Professional intervenors connect people with deaf-blindness, like Steven, to other people and their community as a communication partner. Amy, one of the intervenors who supports Steven, has worked in the field for 17 years; 12 of those with DeafBlind Ontario Services.
Amy and Steven take a Total Communication Approach, which uses as many methods of communication as needed to facilitate the exchange of information. Steven uses Signing Exact English (SEE), a system of manual communication that strives to be an exact representation of English vocabulary and grammar. He also utilizes Braille and large print, along with large print notes for those with little experience with sign. In recent years, Steven has benefited from technological advancements, especially with respect to communication.
He uses an iPad and laptop on a daily basis to email, share on Facebook, converse through Facebook Messenger, and video chat with his family, friends, and intervenors. Steven also browses the internet to search areas of interest, co-ordinate plans and set his weekly budget.
According to Amy, “Steven likes a variety of ways to communicate with friends and family that do not live close to him. Without the internet and social media, Steven would not be able to socialize as often with everyone in his life and stay connected.”
Now, more than ever, these mediums are integral to Steven.
“I cannot go grocery shopping or out to buy the essentials for my apartment … I am ordering everything online. My sister can’t come visit (because of social distancing). Since I cannot use the phone to talk to people, my iPad and laptop are important for me to be able to stay in touch.”