On Wednesday June 1, I spoke in the Manitoba Legislature on a Ministerial Statement about Deaf-Blind Awareness Month. My comments are below:
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, June, this month, deaf-blind awareness month, is an important time for us to pay attention to those who are deaf‑blind; individuals with a substantial degree of both hearing and vision loss, the combination of which results in significant difficulties in accessing information, in pursuing educational, vocational, recreational and social goals.
It's estimated that there are about 460,000 deaf-blind individuals in Canada. This is a very substantial number. My father, in the last few years of his life, lost both his sight and his hearing, so I have some personal experience of the impact of losing both sight and hearing.
He was legally blind as a result of acute macular degeneration. His hearing was almost zero without a hearing aid. His hearing loss may have been in part a result of his experiencing a months-long bombardment at Anzio in Italy during the Second World War.
The latter is a reminder of the side effects of war and of what is happening today in Ukraine. His last few years, when he was deaf-blind, were very frustrating ones for him, though he compensated and he persevered in spite of the challenges.
Doing what we can to help those who are deaf-blind, or at risk of becoming deaf-blind, is vital. It is one reason why I've been calling on the government repeatedly to address the long wait-lists for cataract surgery, and why I've been reading so many petitions to ensure those who are older have access to cochlear implants and hearing aids when they need them.
Those who are deaf but do not have access to cochlear implants or hearing aids are at higher risk of becoming isolated and, later on, of having dementia.
For those like Helen Keller who was born deaf-blind, support is critical to enable them to pursue their educational, vocational, recreational and social life goals. We must never stop doing all we can to provide the best support possible for those who are deaf-blind.