Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be blind and deaf? Here’s your chance to find out.
We invited visitors to Perkins School for the Blind’s Facebook page to submit questions for Perkins’ spokesperson Jaimi Lard, who was born deaf with severely limited vision. With help from her tactile sign language interpreter Christine Dwyer, here are Jaimi’s answers to those questions.
What’s it like to be deafblind?
I was born with very little vision and I have never heard anything because I am completely deaf. I wonder what it would be like to see and hear. My vision lets me read very large print and I can see shapes of people and other objects. I miss the details though. I do not see color either. I like loud music with bass because I can feel it. I cannot hear the rest of the music or know what the lyrics are. I wake up every day and go to work like most everyone else.
How do you communicate with others?
The best way for me to communicate with someone is using what we call tactile sign language. That means I must be touching the person’s hands to feel what they are signing. But I also use written notes with a pad of paper and a big thick black pen. Like everyone nowadays I use email, instant messaging and Facebook!
How do you decide what clothes you’ll wear every day?
It depends on the weather mostly. I choose clothes by how they feel either texture-wise or how comfortable they feel when I wear them.
What are your favorite activities?
There are many things I like to do. I enjoy boating like kayaking, going to the YMCA to work out and swim, going camping and sitting by an open fire, and I always enjoy time with friends. I like reading a book, like Reader’s Digest large-print books.
Do you have a guide dog?
I have several friends who are deafblind who love having a guide dog. It’s not a good fit for me. I honestly do not want all the responsibilities that go with owning a dog. I’ll keep using my white and red mobility cane and a sighted guide.
What kind of assistive technology do you use?
I have a computer that I use most. It has a special software program called ZoomText that lets me change the screen size, font and colors so I can see it. I also have an iPad. I can use Facetime if someone signs really slowly and they have on a shirt that will show the contrast of the skin color on their hands. I wish I could use a cellphone but I can’t see enough to use any of them.
What is your biggest fear?
I love to cook nice fresh food for my meals but my biggest fear is that the oven will catch fire and I won’t realize it right away. I love to invite friends over to cook together. It’s more fun and safer that way.
What’s the biggest misconception about people who are deafblind?
I believe many people think that deafblind persons have big cognitive disabilities and therefore are unable to work or have a job.
What’s your favorite part of your job as Perkins’ spokesperson?
The best part is being able to get out and visit new places and meet new people! I wanted to be a teacher when I was a little girl but college wasn’t a good fit for me. Now I get to be a teacher and help people young and old learn how we are all more alike than we are different. I love the videos in my presentation that show what I and other people who are deafblind can do.