Combined sight and hearing loss is more common than we think with an estimated 394,000 people now considered to be affected by dual sensory loss. Deafblind Awareness Week runs from 26 June to 2 July. During this time, Deafblind UK and other charities aim to raise awareness of people like John who are living with dual sensory loss.
John from Birmingham was born with a 50% hearing loss and, after being diagnosed with Usher Syndrome Type 2 as a teenager, his sight gradually deteriorated. He is left with just 3% vision which is fragmented with parts missing. He wears two hearing aids and relies a lot on voice and digital equipment as well as his guide dog, Daisy and an army of supportive friends and family.
John doesn’t let his condition get in the way of his love for sports and keeping fit. “I am lucky enough to have a guide runner who lives locally and we run together each week.”
Back in 2010, John’s world changed forever when a friend introduced him to climbing. “I loved it from the very beginning! I immediately wanted to take it further and it wasn’t long before I was invited to join the Great Britain Paraclimbing Team,” said John.
“I climb with a sighted guide who gives me all the information I need about the route. They will describe the positions of the holds in relation to a clock face, for example “pinch hold at 2 o’clock”. As I wear hearing aids I can use a radio microphone to hear what the guide is saying to me,” continued John.
In 2015, John realised a dream he could never have imagined and became the first blind person to summit the Eiger. John says that he felt “totally elated” and enjoyed the challenge of not only the climb, but the entire project, including sourcing support, finances and equipment.
John has been reselected for team GB in 2017. National sight and hearing loss charity, Deafblind UK is supporting him by recruiting a specialist volunteer to drive him to climbing centres and to be his Belayer (someone to anchor the end of the rope) and sight guide.
John has received support from Deafblind UK for over 20 years and appreciates the regular calls to check he is OK. He always looks forward to receiving a birthday and Christmas card, saying “it’s reassuring to know that there is someone there, thinking of me.”
Lee Bolland, Director of Community Services at Deafblind UK said: “John is an inspiration to us all and we are proud to be able to support him in his paraclimbing success. We support people to do the things they want to do without being held back by sight and hearing loss. It’s great to see that he’s found ways to get around his disability and, despite having very little sight or hearing, he has done things that many of us could only dream of!”
Deafblind UK provides the practical daily-living support that so many deafblind people need, like providing home befrienders, organising social groups, and providing help and advice. Find out more at deafblind.org.uk.