These videos were taken in the summer of 1990, when I was planning to do a presentation for orientation and mobiility specialists in Germany, and I wanted them to see what deaf-blind people can do.
So I approached two deaf-blind men --
John Foley, who became completely deaf-blind as an adult, and Jack Wright, who was born deaf and lost all his vision from retinitis pigmentosa as an adult
-- and asked if I could videotape them traveling in the community.
I had provided orientation and mobility training to them several years earlier, and they had been traveling in their community ever since.
They each graciously agreed to show how it's done!
I did not prepare the public, so what you see was spontaneous and unrehearsed. See if you can count how many of the communication techniques Jack and John and the public used!
Over the last 32 years, I used segments from these videos for presentations.
It is now 2022, and I realized I had never shared these precious videos outside of workshops, and thought it was about time that everyone can see and be inspired by what these intrepid travelers accomplished!
I am unable to find many segments, such as John's visit to the pharmacy to pick up his prescription, and Jack and I talking with the salesperson at the cleaners after her experience, but maybe some day those can be shared as well.
Jack feels that the risk of crossing driveways and residential streets with stop signs is acceptable.
I was surprised to see him raising his cane before starting -- he said that deaf-blind friends had suggested it.
Many years later, in 2011, research that Drs. Gene Bourquin and Rob Wall Emerson and I did indicate that this may not affect drivers when crossing streets with no stop sign, we didn't research how it would affect drivers at stop signs, like where Jack was crossing.
This segment is not audio-described: what happens is that Jack veers while crossing a driveway, and goes out into the street while thinking he's still on the sidewalk. After walking about 5 feet, he realizes he's no longer on the sidewalk, signs "wrong" and returns to the curb, walks across the grass to the sidewalk and resumes his travels.
Jack uses many of the same communication techniques that had been successful in other situations, but they are not successful this time.
An important part of the curriculum when teaching deaf-blind people to communicate with the public is to realize that even the best communication technique will fail sometimes and, importantly, it is not because the people are being rude or hateful.
The deaf-blind person must be resourceful and have back-up communication techniques -- see if you can count how many methods Jack uses before being successful.
He uses technology which was relatively new at that time, and which changed the lives of many deaf-blind people who could afford it.
Technology today is available to deaf-blind people in the United States through a national program, I Can Connect, which provides free equipment and training for deaf-blind people who meet the program’s disability and income eligibility guidelines.
The salesman is incredibly creative in coming up with ways to explain things to John, such as showing him batteries to illustrate the difference, and counting on his fingers when John doesn't understand his writing on John's palm.